Negev

Moonscape inside the Machtesh Ramon crater

The Negev is a large desert that covers the entire southern half of Israel. The least populated area in Israel, it is a home to (among others) the nomadic desert people known as the Bedouin. The Negev offers some truly breathtaking scenery and is home to some fascinating sites and places.

Cities

Other destinations

Understand

The Negev is the southern region of Israel, covering 55% of the state's territory and inhabited by some 379,000 Jews and 175,000 Bedouins (Bedouin is an ancient word referring to the term Desert Man). Contrary to the usual view of a "desert," the Negev is not covered with sand. Rather, it is a melange of brown, rocky, dusty mountains interrupted by wadis (dry riverbeds that bloom briefly after rain), and deep craters. The area was once the floor of a primordial sea, and a sprinkling of marine snail shells still covers the earth here. Aside from the natural wonders, the Negev plays host to a great number of ancient sites, displaying the rich history of this crossroads of trade between Asia, Africa, and Europe.

Get in

By plane

Domestic flights to Eilat fly from Ben Gurion airport or Tel Aviv's Sde Dov airport. There are seasonal charter flights to Eilat from several European cities.

By train

Frequent trains connect Tel Aviv, Haifa and Ben Gurion airport to Beer Sheva, with an extension to Dimona, but no further. A longer train line from Tel Aviv to Eilat is planned to be completed in 2017.

By bus

Be'er Sheva is served by bus from Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. Buses to Eilat travel from Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa. Towns and villages throughout the Negev are connected by bus to Be'er Sheva, but service could be infrequent.

If you're flying into Ben Gurion Airport and want to head straight to Eilat, you would better get on a short train ride to Tel Aviv Hagana station and board a bus to Eilat from nearby Tel Aviv central bus station. Advance reservation is available on buses to and from Eilat, and there are also night buses.

There are no laws concerning the number of people allowed on buses, so drivers will often pack the bus as full as possible, and you may end up with a young soldier sitting on the floor next to you, with his large semi-automatic poking you in the leg. It is recommended that you call and book your seat in advance in order to avoid standing for your whole ride. Booking on Egged is also available by internet.

You better avoid the busiest travel times, in particular Sunday mornings and Thursday afternoons (when soldiers travel to and from weekend vacation).

Get around

By car

Three main highways cross the Negev from north to south:

The two-lane highways are generally in good shape. The distance across the Negev from Tel Aviv to Eilat is around 360 kilometers, covered by Egged express bus in 5 hours.

Hitchhike

Hitchhiking in the Negev is relatively safe. Northern to Mitzpe-Ramon and particularity around Beer-Sheva there is a big Bedouin Population. It would be smart to think twice before going taking a ride on a Bedouin car due to their generally extremely unsafe driving culture and possible questions about their car's legal status, although it could be a unique experience.

See

Haluza ruins

Do

Hike

The Negev is full of hiking trails open for the public. Very good and detailed hiking trails maps(in Hebrew) are available in every hiking store in the big cities and in some gas stations (90-110 Shekels).

Going for an independent hike is free, safe and sometimes the view is more impressive than in the national parks. Just keep in mind a few safety rules before you start:

Eat

Sleep

Most of the kibbutzim on Highway 90 have guest houses and offer inexpensive and charming rooms, and meals in their common dining rooms.

Stay safe

Nearly all of the Negev is an extremely arid desert that sees rainfall at most a few times a year. While winters can be pleasant, with temperatures hovering around 20°C, summers can be fierce with temperatures commonly over 40°C, but in the afternoon and at night there is a comfortable temperature drop. The climate in the Negev is dry without hardly any humidity. Bring a large amount of water and register your plans at the nearest police station before going offroad for your own safety, as flash floods are likely to happen if rain does fall, and some parts of the Negev serve as the IDF's main training area.

When hiking in the Negev dehydration can be a problem, this is a hot arid area, Drink at least 1L of water per person per hour.

Go next

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Monday, January 19, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.