Julie Israel 6 Comments

The Negev Desert makes up half of the land area of Israel, covering the southern half of the country. It is a dry, barren landscape but surprisingly there is a lot to do here. Go hiking, camel trekking, and believe it or not, wine tasting!!

One of the best ways to see the Negev Desert is on a road trip through Israel. Sure, you can fly from Tel Aviv to Eilat in 45 minutes, but it is much more scenic to drive. We did both. We flew to Eilat and then drove back.

Driving through the Negev Desert

There are two main roads running through the Negev Desert. The faster but less scenic road is Highway 90, which runs north-south along the border with Jordan, and along the eastern edge of the Negev Desert. The preferred road to take is Highway 40, a winding road that runs through the middle of the Negev Desert and has a lot more to see and do along the way. If you are going to be driving through the Negev Desert, this is the road you should take.

Negev Desert Road

The roads in Israel are well-paved, in perfect condition, with an abundance of street signs. We found it very easy to drive here. In fact, many of the roads were in better condition than those we have in the US.

Driving Negev Desert

On the drive, there are two things you have to watch out for: camels and tanks. No joke. Part of the drive goes through a military training area and this is where you could meet a tank crossing the road.

Beware of Tanks in the Road

Beware Camels in the road

Best Things to See in the Negev Desert

The Desert Scenery. For most of the drive, it will be yellowish-tan sandy mountains stretching out in all directions. It’s quite beautiful and it is a landscape that is very unique from many other parts of the world.

Negev Desert Scenery

Makhtesh Ramon.  Makhtesh Ramon, a giant crater in the Negev Desert, is Israel’s version of the Grand Canyon. The best views are from the lookout at Mitzpe Ramon. Many say that this is one of the highlights of the Negev Desert.

Makhtesh Ramon

Jeep and Camel Tours. Desert Eco Tours, a company that we hired for our two day excursion to Petra and Wadi Rum in Jordan, also offers jeep and camel tours of the Negev Desert.

Ben-Gurion Grave. Located in Sde Boker are the graves of David and Paula Ben-Gurion. David Ben-Gurion was the first Prime Minister of Israel. Their graves overlook spectacular desert views, some of the best views we saw in the entire Negev Desert. To make the visit even more memorable, a family of ibex walked right in front of us.

Ben Gurion Grave

Negev Desert Israel

Baby Ibex

Negev Ibex

Timna Park. Hike among strange rock formations and explore one of the world’s earliest copper mines. Timna Park is located just north of Eilat.

Wine Route. Located just north of Sde Boker is Negev wine country. Grapes can grow here with state of the art irrigation systems, producing both red and white wines. A recommended winery is Yatir Winery.

Hiking. Ein Avdat National Park is one of the best hiking locations in the Negev Desert. Hike through desert scenery to a surprisingly cold pool of water. The National Israeli Trail spans the entire country from north to south. The portion of the trail through the Negev Desert is supposed to be one of the most stunning. For more information about hiking in the Negev Desert, visit the Negev Trails website.

Masada. While Masada isn’t in the Negev Desert, it is just beyond it. It is one of Israel’s most popular tourist sites. With enough time, you can combine a tour of the Negev Desert with a visit to both Masada and the Dead Sea.


If you have any questions about driving through the Negev Desert, or if you want to share your experience, let us know in the comment section below.

More Information about Israel and Jordan

Read all of our articles about Israel in our Israel Travel Guide.

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Things to do Negev Desert Israel

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Comments 6

  1. I went on a Desert Eco Tours four hour jeep ride through the desert near Eilat and it was very worthwhile. Unlike other jeeps, they stay on the gravel roads and don’t trample plants and make marks on the desert. You get to see wild animals and beautiful scenery that you wouldn’t see from the main road. And FYI Masada is nowhere near route 40

    1. Post
      Author

      We really liked our experience with Desert Eco Tours, too. And I say that Route 40 is a winding, less direct road to Masada, but recommend it because it is so scenic. Cheers, Julie

  2. Hi!
    Love your page on your trip to Israel/Jordan! Has definitely been very helpful in planning mine !
    One question regarding this road trip that you took through the Negev Desert, is a regular tourist car good enough for this road ?
    How long did it take you from Massada to Eilat ?
    Thank you in advance
    Best
    Tévy

    1. Post
      Author

      Yes, a regular car/sedan is fine. The roads are well marked and in great condition. It takes 4.5 hours if you drive directly there. With stops, add on a few more hours depending on what you choose to see. I think it took us between 6 and 7 hours to get to Masada. Cheers, Julie

    2. Regular car is good enough. Of course 4*4 gives you more options. Masada ( technically in the Judean Desert as distinct from the Negev, and nowhere near Rte 40) to Eilat is about 3 hours.

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