We just experienced an amazing Negev jeep tour and it was an adventure of a lifetime with a three day overnight trip to the desert. I can’t wait to share with you all the details complete with some amazing pictures.
Our Negev Jeep Tour
We started from the town of Dimona just west of the Dead Sea. From there we drove to the Tamar stronghold (Metsad Tamar in Hebrew), an ancient Roman fortress on the northern edge of the Negev Desert. Today the ruins still contain remnants of the original stone walls, an inner courtyard, and clearly recognizable rooms.
We continued driving through the Judean desert and crossed the potassium conveyor belt. A 20 km. long structure used to transport valuable potassium minerals mined from dead sea mud to processing plants that will eventually convert it into valuable fertilizer to be exported all over the globe. It was truly an unexpected site in the middle of the desert.
Interesting fact: Israel is one of two of the largest exporters of potassium based fertilizer in the world.
Next stop on our Negev jeep tour: “Rosh Tzurim” or “top of the Rocks” offering splendid views of the Dead Sea below. Atar provided us with a fascinating explanation of the ongoing movement of the African tectonic plates along the Great Rift Valley and their historical impact on the geography of the region. The northern section of the Great rift is actually the Jordan Rift Valley, running from just north of the Dead Sea to Beit Shean and Mount Gilboa, while the Arava desert runs along the border with Jordan from south of the Dead Sea to the southernmost point in Israel; Eilat and the Red Sea.
On to the Perez desert stream bed, where we stopped to view the beautiful rock formations and dry cisterns. It actually becomes a waterfall during an extended rain. From there we headed towards the Small Crater (Makhtesh Katan in Hebrew), also known as the Hatzera Crater. We actually walked into this unique erosion type crater as the road was washed out. It is one of three such craters in Israel, together with the Ramon and the Big Crater. Once inside the Hatzera, we learned about its geological formation and the unique conditions required for the formation of erosion type craters such as the ones found specifically in the Negev.
Interesting fact: The Israel Negev is only one of two places on Earth with erosion type craters.
Our first day of jeeping and touring was concluded with a view of the Hatzera stream and waterfall and finally the Zin River and waterfall. Originally, we planned to camp outdoors overnight but the weather forecast called for a strong overnight rain. We changed our plans and decided to spend the night in a Khan; an open style Bedouin camping experience inside of a large hard canopy with canvas sides. It was a compromise with wanting to “rough it” in the natural outdoors of the desert, but staying dry. Night time temperatures in the desert can drop to near freezing; which is tolerable if you stay dry. We enjoyed a wonderful evening BBQ meal as we sat around a fire and enjoyed delicious grilled food, telling jokes and discussing the previous day’s events. As an option, you can request your guide Atar to arrange for full accommodations with prepared meals at a genuine Bedouin style lodge, local Bed & Breakfast, or other country style lodging of your preference.
Negev Jeep Tour day two: We decided to start our second day with a trip back to the Zin River bed and much to our amazement it was flooded with raging water. Up close, the sheer power of the water was astonishing and reminded me just how dangerous a flash flood zone can be.
We continued our tour northward to the Judean Desert and stopped at Yair’s ascent and Bokek. Here we enjoyed breathtaking views of the southern Dead Sea pools and Ein Bokek resort area. Yair’s ascent is named in honor of Yair Peled, an Israeli paratrooper commander, who created the ascent himself, but was later murdered by Bedouins in a remote part of the south western Negev, close to the border with Sinai, in the 1950’s.
Our Negev Jeep Tour concluded with a visit farther north in the Judean desert to the Clay River (Nahal Hemar) offering panoramic views from above. For me, it was the Grand Canyon of the Middle East with steep gorges cutting through the hard clay soil and river bed at the bottom. In spite of the overcast skies, it was a majestic sight nevertheless.
All in all it was a great experience spending a few days in the desert on a jeep. The sheer thrill of riding in an open jeep and seeing some of the hidden sites only accessible via off road vehicles was truly special. Our driver and guide Atar was very knowledgeable about the history and geology of all the places we visited. Not only was this a fun experience but an educational one as well.
I would highly recommend booking with Atar if you are interested in any type of jeep or hiking tour. Click to view the tours that Atar offers. He is a licensed tour guide and can offer private tour packages for all ages in any part of the country from Eilat to the Golan Heights and points in-between.