Mitzpe Ramon, Israel

Photo: Avi-Yotham [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Avi-Yotham [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
You’re on top of the world. Or so it seems. You’re standing on the edge of a massive crater. The wind is whipping your hair in every direction. When you first woke up and parted the curtains in your room, the morning mist was so dense you could barely see beyond your verandah. Now the golden rocks are starting to glisten as the sun rises higher and higher. You still can’t see the bottom of the crater–who knows if you’ll be able to even after the fog clears. But the steep cliffs are still pretty impressive.

You’re in the Ramon Nature Reserve, the largest national park in Israel. It’s part of southern Israel’s Negev desert, which was covered by an ocean hundreds of millions of years ago. The crater you’re standing over is Ramon Crater, one of three created by erosion in the desert. It’s high walls surround a deep valley. Clay hills are vibrant shades of red and yellow. The lowest point, Saharonim Spring, contains the crater’s only natural water source. It’s common to see onagers and Nubian ibex by the spring. And, if you look closely, fossils are everywhere.

You’re staying in Mitzpe Ramon on the northern edge of Ramon Crater. The small town began as a military outpost and was turned into a camp for highway workers. Now, due to the stunning scenery and the high air quality, eco companies and free spirits call the area home. Don’t worry though, you can still enjoy the laid-back atmosphere from a luxury hotel. The Beresheet Hotel sits 800 meters above sea level at the edge of the crater. A golf cart picks you up from the parking lot to drive to you to the two-story buildings that blend in with their rocky surroundings. Huge windows everywhere overlook the crater. And on-site activities–the pool, the solarium, the Turkish bath, and the jacuzzi packages at the spa–are all geared toward relaxation.

Photo: Hotels chain Isrotel
Photo: Hotels chain Isrotel

You can relax later though. As dull as it sounds, start at the Mitzpe Ramon Visitor Center, which provides an interesting history of how the crater was formed and an observation deck with breathtaking views. Follow the Albert Promenade, a half-mile trail filled with sculptures and a bird balcony, where birds fly beneath, instead of over, you. Then leave the crowd behind to go for a hike to see “The Carpentry,” black volcanic rocks that look manmade. Go rock climbing or rappelling along the canyon walls. And book an astronomy tour for after dark. Since the area is so isolated, it has the darkest skies in Israel. You’re bound to see a shooting star.

As you start to head out-of-town, you’ll pass camel crossing signs and see the other reasons that nature lovers flock to Mitzpe Ramon. The area is known for its artisanal cheese makers and boutique wineries. Visit Kornmehl Goat Cheese Farm to see the goat herd being fed and milked. Stop at Na’ot Goat Farm to sample their soft and hard goat cheeses. And don’t miss Rota Winery, known for both its metal sculptures and Cabernet-Merlot blend. Combine the wine and the goat cheese for a perfect picnic lunch.

Whether it’s the fresh air, the gorgeous views, the farm-fresh meal, or a combination of all three, you’re starting to dream of moving for a simpler life. Better finish up, or you’ll start to check out real estate.

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