October 25, 2016
Israel Off the Beaten Track: The Stunning Negev
The Negev is a stark and beautiful desert region in southern Israel. Covering more than half the country’s total land area, it has unique geological features, interesting archaeological ruins, great outdoor activities and even a wine region.
One of the highlights of the Negev is Masada, a 2,000-year-old fortress on the edge of a high, desert mesa with incredible views of the Dead Sea. Built during the first century B.C. by Herod the Great, it became an important site of Jewish resistance during the first Jewish-Roman War (66–73 A.D.). We arrange for our clients to take a cable car to the top of the plateau to explore the ruins of the fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Another favorite activity in the Negev is exploring the ruins of towns built by the Nabateans (who also built Petra) along an ancient incense route. From around the third century B.C. to the second century A.D., traders brought prized frankincense and myrrh from Oman and Yemen to the port in Gaza, from where it was shipped to Europe.
Artisans of Leisure can arrange touring of the extensive archaeological remains of Avdat and Mamshit—two of several towns along the route that together comprise a UNESCO World Heritage Site—which include caravanserais, city gates, bathhouses, guard towers, houses and churches.
Travelers interested in the more recent history of Israel enjoy visiting Kibbutz Sde Boker, the house-museum of David Ben-Gurion, the statesman who founded Israel in 1948.
Nearby is the nascent Negev wine region. Despite the arid conditions, vineyards have been successfully established here over recent decades. We can arrange private touring in the region, including seeing vineyards and visiting wineries that produce wines from locally grown grapes such as Barbera, Chardonnay and Petit Verdot.
Artisans of Leisure can also arrange a trip to the Bedouin market in Be’er Sheva (Beersheba), the largest city in the Negev. Bedouins are a semi-nomadic Arabic tribe that have lived in the region for thousands of years. The Bedouin market started in the early 1900s as a livestock market, but today vendors sell a host of items including scarves, carpets, and spices of many colors, flavors and scents.
Farther south are perhaps the most striking geological formations in the Negev: three gigantic erosion craters known as Makhtesh Katan (Small Crater), Makhtesh Gadol (Big Crater) and Makhtesh Ramon (Ramon Crater). At 25 miles long and 1,640 feet deep, Makhtesh Ramon is particularly remarkable.
Perched on the lip of Makhtesh Ramon, the Beresheet resort offers incredible views and five-star luxury. Guests can relax by the outdoor infinity pool overlooking the rugged outcroppings and deep depression, which turn a rainbow of colors at dawn and dusk.
We can also arrange hiking and other activities in and around the crater. Another option is an excursion to En Avdat National Park, a steep-walled desert canyon with a waterfall and pools of water fed by perennial springs.
Deep in the south of the Negev near the city of Eilat is Timna Valley Park, a geological site with stone pillars and arches, multicolored sand and the remains of an ancient copper mine that was active for thousands of years.
Artisans of Leisure can arrange soft-adventure activities throughout the Negev. Guided hikes, camel rides, bike rides, four-wheel drive and ATV tours are great ways to explore the rugged landscapes.
Contact Artisans of Leisure to start planning a private, customized Israel tour.