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The Negev is Israel’s largest geographic region, lying in the south of the country. The Negev features a desert climate but has many different regions with different characteristics. An example of this is the Western Negev, which has more flora and green areas, which is nothing like the central Negev, which has a crater landscape. The meaning of the word Negev, which is mentioned in the Bible, is “south”, and part of the spice trail, one of the known ancient trade routes, passes through it. The existence of archeological sites and ancient cities in the Negev – Avdat, Mamshit, Halutza and Shivta – led to UNESCO’s declaration of a global heritage site in the area. As a desert region, the communities are diverse and besides kibbutzim and communities, one may find hermit farms that have become common in recent years. These farms are agricultural farms where you may find boutique cheeses, wines and other food products alongside arts and crafts from local artists. The Negev is very large and offers a wide range of activities. If you intend to visit the region, these are some recommended sites:
The Western Negev – bike trail between Be’eri and Tze’elim.
The Western Negev features more green areas and a landscape that combines desert, streams and woodland. In recent years, a cycle path of about 30 km length has been built and is suitable mainly for experienced cyclists, although other cyclists will enjoy it too. The trail’s terrain is mostly flat, which allows for comfortable riding for people who are in not top physical shape. It is one of the most picturesque and famous cycle trails in Israel and passes through woods, fields and streams. The trail is marked and maps of the trail may be purchased at Kibbutz Be’eri.
HaMakhtesh HaGadol (the great crater) and HaMakhtesh HaKatan (the small crater)
While the most famous crater in the Negev is the Ramon Crater, HaMakhtesh HaGadol and HaMakhtesh HaKatan near the town of Yerucham are of striking beauty. Their size and scale are what make them unique. From the vista at Mount Avnon, near Yerucham and on the edges of the crater, you can look at one of the more beautiful landscapes in Israel. If you are accompanied with children, you can find at the center of the crater activity for children in the form of color sand filling. A unique experience that few know and are aware of in Yerucham is the ability to eat with residents of the town, who tell you their life stories as you eat. The project, which is called the Yerucham cuisines, is a community project and is certainly recommended.
Kibbutz Sde Boker
From Yerucham, you can continue to Kibbutz Sde Boker, where you can visit the hut of David Ben Gurion, the founder of the state and its first prime minister. Tours and workshops are conducted at the site and you can see the hut just as he left it upon his death in 1973. Near the kibbutz is Midreshet (college) Ben Gurion, the burial site of David Ben Gurion and his wife Paula. The grave overlooks Wadi Zin, one of the prettiest areas in the Negev, and the site shows a film about David Ben Gurion’s life. In the hamlet itself you may find the Desert Research Institute, one of the world’s leading research institutions in the fields of solar energy, water, biotechnology in agriculture and architectural design. Many inventions that affect your life originated from these institutes. Trips to the institutes may be organized in advance, by contacting Ben Gurion University.
The Shanti House
Five minutes’ drive from Midreshet Ben Gurion is the Shanti House. The Shanti House, which started in Tel Aviv, is a home for teenagers in distress. The founders of the foundation decided to establish a compound for children from the region in the desert. Their highly impressive complex in the desert is designed like a beautiful modern desert palace that is surrounded by olive trees, a horse farm and vineyards. You can stay overnight at the site if you want, hear the stories of the teenagers and visit this unique palace.
Visit to hermit farms
The Negev is crisscrossed with various hermit farms that offer visitors a glimpse of the lives of the settlers at the sites. Usually, these farms are disconnected from all communities and subsist on crops and in-house manufacturing. These farms include the Orlia Farm, Carmey Avdat Farm, the Olive Desert Farm, where you can stay in teepees, Shivta Farm and many others.
Extreme desert activities
The Negev is also a great place for extreme activities. Activities that are offered to visitors include hot air ballooning, sand skiing, abseiling, jeep trips, hikes, ATV tours and more. There are many operators throughout the Negev who will be only too happy to offer you activities that are to your liking. Check them out in advance.
Festivals and events
Desert Arshram holds various medicinal, therapy activities and workshops every weekend. It is worth checking out and coming to one of the site’s activities. The Desert Love Nights Festival is a festival of music, meditation and workshops that are held in the summer months. Desert Sounds and the Desert Reggae Festival are just two of the many music festivals that are held in the Negev. The Indinegev Festival, which is held in the Sukkoth holiday, has become one of the best known music festivals in Israel and it attracts young bands and independent artists for three days of music with thousands of participants – this is Israel’s Woodstock.