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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
JERUSALEM: For information about Jerusalem, read our article Best Things to Do in Jerusalem. We also have a guide on how to visit Temple Mount and Dome of the Rock.
ISRAEL & JORDAN ITINERARY: In our 10 Day Israel and Jordan Itinerary, learn how to visit the highlights of both countries, with travel tips and essential planning information.
WADI RUM, JORDAN: Journey through Wadi Rum in photos and how to hike to Jebel Arch, a challenging hike with incredible views along the way.
Read all of our articles about Israel in our Israel Travel Guide.
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