Written by Zvika Gasner Koheleth 13-Aug-2020, Photography by Angela Hechtfisch
Mitzpe Ramon how to get
Mitzpe Ramon is a small city in the south of Israel with a papulation of 5,000 people. It is approximately 2 hours drive from Tel Aviv area. You start your journey by driving road #6 South, and about 20 km. before arriving to the city of Beer-Sheva (the capital of the south) , we take a left turn to the east using road #40 South. The roads are pretty comfortable, and it is worth mentioning we pass by the village of Sade-Boker, the desert retreat of David Ben Gurion, Israeli 1st prime minister and considered as the state founder. Ben Gurion dream was to “Make the desert bloom” by populate the “Negev”, the Israeli desert, as the true realization of the Zionism movement.
Mitzpe Ramon general info
The city of Mitzpe Ramon was originally created in the late 60’s as a middle point in the road between Tel Aviv and the city of Eilat, a trip that took about 5 hours, BUT after the making of road #90, Mitzpe Ramon lost his strategic position. Still, “Mitzpe Ramon” lies on the bank of the cliff of the “Ramon crater”, the world’s biggest crater of its kind. Its surreal desert feel and the beauty of the crater makes it a worldwide known mind blowing attraction. The crater was also awarded by the International Dark-Sky Association in 2017, and night stars spectators come from all over the globe to appreciate its unique clear sky no clouds conditions 300 days a year with NO artificial lights (cars, houses etc’). At Ramon there is also the Israeli biggest astronomy observatory which is maintained and conducted by Tel Aviv university astronomy department, BUT is open to the general public only once in 2 year on a given open-door night. (check for opportunity schedule online). The crater has several track trails that can last between 15 minutes walk and up to a 6 hours journey. Obviously, it is NOT recommended in the summer high season between June-July-August to pick one of these long walking courses, when temperatures can reach up to 45 Celsius degrees in the shadow, even though humidity can be extremely low thanks to the fact that it is a desert surrounding.
Mitzpe Ramon visitors centre
On the top edge of the Ramon crater cliff stands for over 40 years the tourist visitors center. Between the years 2012-14 it was under serious reconstruction and nowadays it is open again for the general public. It’s focus is on two topics which are incorporated into one another: Ilan Ramon, the 1st( and only by now) Israeli Astronaut onboard Nasa’s “Columbia” shuttle, and had been killed in the shuttle return trip to earth in 2003, and the geological story of the crater itself. These two subjects have been stitched together by the idea of the night stars sky. Onboard the Columbia mission Ilan Ramon made this correlation by quoting John Lenon of the Beatels
“You may say I’m a dreamer But I’m not the only one I hope some day you’ll join us And the world will be as one”
…To maintain the drama and surprise, the actual switch from the first topic to the last, will be kept here as a secret to avoid any spoiler.
The visitor’s center is highly recommended. The full visit takes a complete hour and definitely worth the effort.
Ramon Crater walking trails
The following are the potential Ramon Crater walking trails, with differences in length, time and difficulty:
“Saharonim” – 5 km. about 3 hours walk.
“Harut (cone)hill” – 3km. about 2 hours walk.
“Carpentry(sawmill) hill” – 1 km. about 20 minutes.
The creating of the Ramon Crater
Because of a small crack in the rock it is sometimes formed in the structure of an arch.
The rainwater penetrated into cracks and widened them. In the limestone the crack depends on the melting of the limestone and grows slowly, but when the water reaches the sandstone layer they easily sweep away the sand.
This creates a situation where the layer of chalk is still standing on a pile, but the sand beneath it is no longer there. When the chalk can no longer carry its weight it collapses and enlarges the crack that has meanwhile become a crater. For a period of millions years the weathering process will continue and enlarge the crater even further. This process creates this unique crater structure, that has equivalent also in the “Big” and the “Small” crater in Israel, but is extremely unique worldwide.
“Bereshit” Mitzpe Ramon
Do you know the ad: “Carlsberg, probably the best beer in the world”…well, “Bereshit” (Genesis in Hebrew), is probably the best hotel in Israel. We know that such a comparison can NOT be made, but a combination of the best sits in the house for crater cliff view becoming one with nature, perfect chef food, and a total solitude accommodation makes the “Bereshit” hotel simply an incredible sensation.