Mitzpe Ramon is a town in the Negev Desert of Southern Israel. Most visitors to the Holy Land pass Mitzpe Ramon on their way to the Dead Sea or stop briefly to see the town’s most important attraction – the Ramon Crater. Mitzpe Ramon is located on the northern edge of the Ramon Crater, the largest erosion cirque in the world. In Hebrew “mitzpe” means lookout and the town of Mitzpe Ramon literally looks out across the Ramon Crater. It is a small isolated community, surrounded by spectacular natural beauty. Mitzpe attracts tourists that want to venture into the desert and artists who come to be inspired but the Negev’s dramatic landscape and endless starry skies.
The Birth of Mitzpe Ramon
In the early 1950s, a group of workers was sent to Southern Israel to construct Route 40, the country’s north-south intercity highway. The workers were accommodated at the Independence Camp established where Mitzpe Ramon stands today. A group of young families settled permanently in Mitzpe Ramon and established a cooperative agricultural settlement. In 1957 the government came up with a plan to develop the settlement, build homes and support employment by opening quarries, industrial plants, and tourist sites in the area. By 1961 the town had 370 residents and 180 homes were built to accommodate an influx of new immigrants from India, North Africa, and Holocaust survivors from Europe. It was not easy to live in the fledgling community with the harsh desert conditions, limited food supplies, hardly any amenities, and only prefabricated asbestos barracks for the new settlers.
Conditions improved in the early 1970s and the town had a population of about 1,400 people. Mitzpe suffered a blow to the economy when the new Arava Road was constructed redirecting traffic on route to Eilat to bypass Mitzpe. When the Ramon Army Airbase was built nearby in the 1980s Mitzpe Ramon grew and by the end of the 1990s, the town’s population had swelled having absorbed arriving immigrants from the former Soviet Union. The original route 40 to Eilat is now considered the scenic route and brings travelers through Mitzpe Ramon once again.
Why Visit Mitzpe Ramon
The main reason to visit Mitzpe Ramon is as a base for exploring the Negev Desert and the Ramon Crater. The Mitzpe Ramon Visitor Center is a good place to start. There are many opportunities for desert safaris, extreme sporting adventures in the Ramon Crater, cycling, hiking, and mountain biking. Visit nearby ancient ruins dating back 2,000 years, take a camel ride in the desert, or see the Ramon Crater from the Albert Promenade. Mitzpe Ramon and the surrounding desert are perfect for star-gazing thanks to the lack of city light pollution in the desert. There are star-gazing tours at night that leave from Mitzpe Ramon and 5km west of Mitzpe Ramon is the Wise Observatory overlooking the Ramon Crater. Mitzpe Ramon is home to several bed and breakfasts as well as hotels like the luxury Beresheet Mitzpe Ramon Isrotel where each room has views of the desert. You could even have a Bedouin experience and stay overnight in the desert.
Mitzpe Ramon hosts festivals and musical events throughout the year. The Artist Quarter is home to creative artists who come to Mitzpe Ramon for the isolation, pristine surroundings, and to escape the rat race. Mitzpe Ramon has gained a reputation as a spa destination where people come to relax and recharge their batteries. You can enjoy spa treatments, or attend a yoga retreat or spiritual workshop in the desert. The town’s Spice Route Quarter is another magnet for people seeking positive energy and spiritual surroundings. See local animal life at Bio Ramon, home to 40 species from the Negev, or visit the nearby Alpaca Farm. Believe it or not, the Negev also has several excellent wineries where tours and tastings are available.