Negev Desert Facts and Geography
Where is the Negev desert located?
The Negev Desert is located in the south of Israel. It is the largest geographic area in Israel and occupies 60% of the country. Its boundaries were never clearly defined and changed throughout history. It covers roughly the area that spans between Beer-Sheva and Eilat. Its total area is 12,000 square meters (4,600 square miles).
How big is it?
The total area is 12,000 square meters (4,600 square miles), which is about 60% of the area of the state of Israel.
What are the Boundaries of the Negev Desert?
Current (Modern) boundaries:
The boundaries of the Negev Desert, as we know it today, are mostly political. In the north, it is a line going from the southern tip of the Dead Sea passing through Beer-Sheva and ending at the Northeastern corner of the Gaza strip. In the west, the boundary is the border with the Gaza Strip, in the south with Egypt and in the east with Jordan. It makes a near-perfect triangle shape.
Numbers 34:3 ” Then your south quarter shall be from the wilderness of Zin along by the coast of Edom, and your south border shall be the outmost coast of the salt sea eastward”.
The topic is complicated and much debated. However, it is clear that the “Biblical Negev” consists only of the northern area of what is called today the Negev desert. In the north, the border is a line going from the southern tip of the Dead Sea, passing north to Beer-Sheva, and going all the way to the Mediterranean Sea. In the east, the Arava valley. In the south, a line passing roughly through the Scorpions pass, Sde Boker, Nitzana, and El Arish (Egypt).
The northern boundary is the Beer-Sheva valley, which is the valley separating the Judean mountains and the Negev mountain. In the east, the boundary is the Arava valley (The southern part of the Jordan valley rift). In the south, it is Eilat (Head of the Gulf of Aqaba). The western boundary is with the Sinai desert but is not clearly defined.
What are the main regions of the Negev Desert?
Northern Negev: The altitude ranges from 70 m in the west and rises gradually to around 300 m in the easy. The landscape is mostly rolling hills and flat areas. There are not many natural attractions in this area. The exception is the most amazing wildflower blossom in Israel that usually occurs in the 1st half of February. It is hard to plan for it because the timing changes each year slightly, but if you are in Israel during this period, it’s a big “Must See”.
Central (High) Negev: The altitude ranges from 400 m in the Northwest and rises gradually to 600-1000 m. (The highest point is Mount Ramon rising to 1037 m ASL). The landscape is rocky with sharp peaks and deep narrow gorges. It also includes the three famous craters. Most of the natural attractions and beautiful hiking trails are located in this region.
Southern Negev: A mostly flat area, with altitude around 300-500 m, that covers the area roughly south and east from Makhetsh Ramon. The area is vast without any major attractions for hikers and nature lovers.
Arava Valley: A narrow valley that runs along the Jordan valley rift from the Dead sea all the way to Eilat. It is usually considered a separate geographical area, and we will not cover it here.
Eilat Mountains: A very small and dramatic desert area at the southern tip of the Negev desert. It has a different look and feel compared to the rest of the Negev. It is considered by some as part of the Sinai desert and not the Negev. The region is a paradise for hikers, and we cover it separately here.
What is the weather in the Negev Desert?
The Negev desert is dry and hot. But there is a big difference in precipitation between the north and the south, and a big difference in temperatures between higher and lower elevations.
Eilat is the southernmost location and is at sea level altitude:
♦ Daytime temperatures stay over 25° (77 F°) from April to November (8 Month!)
♦ Annual precipitation is 17 mm (Less than 1 Inch!)
Central (High) Negev in altitude of 800 meters (2,500 feet):
♦ Daytime temperatures stay over 25° (77 F°) from May to October
♦ Annual precipitation is 78 mm (3 Inches)
♦ These statistics change gradually as you move from North to South and from West to East.
Conclusion: During the peak of the winter (December – February), The best conditions are south, where chances for rain are near zero and temperatures are very pleasant. Out of this period, it is better to go northwards and higher for more hiking friendly temperatures. However, all regions of the Negev Desert have good hiking weather between December and March.
Is the Negev Desert mentioned in the Bible?
YES! It mentioned 39 times in the Bible:
- Abram’s wanderings (Genesis 12:9; Genesis 13:1, 3; 20:1)
- Hagar meeting with the angel (Genesis 16:7, 14)
- Isaac (Genesis 24:62) and Jacob (Genesis 37:1; Genesis 46:5)
- Moses sending the spies (Numbers 13:17, 22)
- Amalekites dwelt there (Numbers 13:29)
And many more…. Check Bible Hub for a full list.
Where to stay (For Hiking and nature explorations):
We recommend three options:
Midreshet Ben-Gurion has an excellent location right in the center of the Central Negev. It is a pleasant settlement with a population of about 2000 people. Accommodation options are a hostel and a bunch of B&B’s in a variety of levels. There are two small restaurants (Pizzeria and a delicious Sandwich Bar) and a grocery store.
Mitspe Ramon is located a bit south of the center (Compared to Midreshet Ben Gurion). It is a small town with a population of about 10,000 people. Accommodation options include starts from Hotel Bereshit, which is considered one of the most luxurious and exclusive hotels in the country and ends with several hostels with everything in between. There is a fair selection of dining and a big supermarket.
Lonely Chalets: If you want peace and quiet and to soak yourself in the desert atmosphere, there is a good selection of Chalets (B&B’s) isolated far from any settlement. Some are luxurious, and some are very simple. The downside is the lack of a grocery store and dining options.