Makhtesh Ramon is the world’s largest natural crater, and it’s located is Israel’s Negev Desert. It was formed hundreds of millions of years ago by water erosion. The area is huge, so we took an off road tour in a Land Rover to explore the depths of the crater. This area is rich with human and geological history, and we had a great guide named Adam Sela who explained some of that history to us. Adam is extremely knowledgeable about the desert and made our experience much more enjoyable than if we had tried to explore on our own. The best part of the day for me was getting to rappel down the crater. I’ve never done that before, and it was exhilarating! You can also hike, camp, and go stargazing at night.
Hiking Masada at sunrise was totally worth it, and I recommend it to everyone who asks. Later in the day, you can take the cable car if you don’t want to spend 45+ minutes with aching calves. It will be far less rewarding, though, and you’ll miss the beautiful sunrise over the Dead Sea. At the top, you can see to see the beautiful, rugged mountain landscape of the Israeli desert for miles. You can explore the ancient fortress and learn about the history that took place there. The ruins still define rooms, palaces, and churches atop the towering mesa.
Sunrise is usually anywhere from 5:30-6:45 am depending on the time of year, so plan to get up early! We woke up at 3:45 and were staying less than 15 minutes away. Plan for 1.5 hours to check in, get a map, and hike to the top. Then plan for another hour at the top marveling at the sunrise, taking pictures, and wandering around. The trail up is called the Snake Path because of its windy twists and turns. There is railing and stairs on much of it, but be prepared for about an hour of steep walking and stairs. Of course, after that, the journey down is a breeze!
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Floating in the Dead Sea is a bucket list-worthy item for sure. Resting in the Judean Desert, it’s the lowest point on Earth and also the saltiest body of water. Ten times saltier than the ocean, no macro organisms can survive in it, hence the name. People have been visiting the desert oasis for thousands of years to float, use the spa-quality mud, or just marvel at its beauty.
Over the last 50 years, the water level has decreased so much that the one Dead Sea is now in two main sections. People travel from all over the world to bathe in the mineral-rich muddy waters found in the larger northern basin, while we floated in the crystal clear turquoise waters of the smaller southern basin. Bring a newspaper to get the iconic Dead Sea photo, and enjoy yourself!
A few tips:
- Don’t shave for several days before getting in the extreme saline water. I cannot emphasize this!
- Bring a swimsuit you don’t mind getting messy. The mud and salty water can stain it.
- Be extra careful not to get any water in your mouth and eyes.
- It’s only recommended to stay in for about 20 minutes.
- Rinse off at a beach shower immediately afterward.
While you’re in the Dead Sea area, you should also:
- Visit the Ein Gedi desert oasis and nature reserve
- Hike the mountain fortress of Masada
- Get a massage at a nearby spa – there are lots of them!