Makhtesh Ramon

Ramon Crater (Makhtesh Ramon) Road Trip

An itinerary that includes the most important landmarks in and around Makhtesh Ramon (Ramon Crater) combined with interesting short walks.


  • Total net driving  distance: 60 Km
  • Total Net driving time: 1½ Hour.
  • Total itinerary time: 1-2 days.
  • Can be combined with a drive to Eilat.
  • Recommended Period: Not in the summer!! Best period December-April.
  • Possible hikes near the route: Mount Ardon

Over a short distance of just 60 Km you will visit an amazing group of desert highlights

Main Attractions:

  • Lots Cisterns: Visit this remote site of 17 ancient water cistern dated to King Solomon’s period (10th century BCE).

  •  Mount Ramon: Visit the highest point in the Negev desert and take a short hike to the touching memorial site for the 7 Columbia shuttle astronauts.

  • Mitspe Ramon: An easy walk along the Makhtesh promenade.

  • Minsara: The “Minsara” (Carpentry) is a unique geological phenomena. A hill covered with natural square rocks that looks like a pile of wood in a carpentry.

  • “Cone” Hill: A steep climb to an impressive view point in the heart of the carter.

  • Ammonite Wall: Explore hundreds of 90 milion years old fossils.

Map of the Road Trip

Makhtesh Ramon Touring Map

Click the map to download it in full quality


You can purchase for just 6$ a set of Detailed maps and GPS files for the short hikes and Dirt roads along the drive. Maps included in the download pack are:

  1. Mount Ramon and Lots cisterns short hikes.
  2. Mitspe Ramon and Carpentry Area.
  3. Dirt roads in the Makhtesh map.
  4. “Cone Hill”  view-point short walk.
  5. Mount Saharonim short hike .
  6. Ammonite wall short walk.

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Makhtesh Ramon – Introduction

What is a “Makhtesh”?

  • Crater – A roughly circular depression in the ground usually caused by volcanic activity, impact or explosion.
  • Makhtesh – A crater-like formation created by erosion

The word “makhtesh” is the Hebrew word for a Mortar and Pestle. The geological landform was given this name because of its similarity to a grinding bowl.
There are only 7 such craters in the world, all of them located in the Land of Israel(5) and the Sinai desert(2). Of the 5 located in Israel, two are very small ones near the top of mount Arif. That leaves us with the 3 main Makhteshim (craters):

  • Makhtesh Ramon: It is the largest makhtesh in the world. Over 40 km long, 10 km wide and about 400 m deep. It is also the most famous and by far the most visited since the main road #40 from Beer S­heva to Eilat is crossing it.
  • Makhtesh Hatira (called also the “Big” Makhtesh) is the 2nd in size. 14 km long, 6 km wide and about 400 m deep. It is much less popular than it’s “bigger brother”, but not less beautiful.
  • Makhtesh Hazera (called also the “Small” Makhtesh) is the 3rd in size. 7 km long, 5 km wide and over 500 m deep. Because of it’s small size, it easier to understand the Makhtesh phenomena as you can see almost its complete outline in one view.

The crater  was created 220 million years ago when oceans covered the area. It is full of unique geological formations such as clay hills known for their fantastic red and yellow colors and forms. Black Basalt hills that are remains of an ancient active volcano which erupted thousands of years ago, polygonal prismatic columns of quartzite, fosils and more….

How was the crater formed?


Lots Cisterns

Ancient cisterns from king Solomon’s period

Borot Lotz, Negev Desert
Lots Cisterns By yandud , Hamal Photography / Wikimedia
  • Starting point: On road #171 near the junction with a Blue marked dirt road.  (GPS: 30.503353, 34.609570) . (1)
Road #171 crosses the highest area of the Negev Desert. A relatively flat area at an altitude of 800-1000 meters. because of the altitute, the area is relativly colder and gets more precipitation compared to other areas in the desert. Therefore is richer in flora and fauna. It even get occasional snowfall during some of the winters.
  • Drive North on the Blue marked dirt road for about 1 Km unit you reach a parking area and a campground. (Use the “Lots Cisterns and Mount Ramon Map” from the download pack for easier orientation and for the short walk).
  • From here there is a 4 Km, circular Red marked trail that passes near several of the 17 cisterns.
The Lots cisterns, are a series of 17 manmade water-holes, dug during King Solomon’s period (10th century BCE). Today, 3000 years later, they still get filled with water each winter.
  • We recommend to walk right (West) on the Red marked trail for about 1 Km and retrace you steps. In this shot section you will pass by 5 cisterns.

Mount Ramon Short Hike

A short hike to a view-point on “Karny Ramon” (Horns of Ramon). A group of 7 Black hills rising from the bottom of the crater. Each hill is named after one of the 7 astronauts that died in the Columbia space shuttle crush in 2003

Karne Ramon view from Mounr Ramon shot Hike

  • Return to the main road. Turn left and drive 1.1 km until a junction with a Red marked dirt road. (GPS: 30.506696, 34.621439) (2)
  • Use the “Lots Cisterns and Mount Ramon Map & GPS file” from the download pack for easier orientation and the short walk.
  • Turn right and drive 1.3 Km on the Red marked dirt road until the parking area.
  • The dirt road is not in “great” condition, but still decent with any passenger vehicle. The last few hundred meters are rougher and it is recommended to make them on foot.
  • From the parking area starts a great 3 Km short walk. Follow the Red trail to the summit of mount Ramon. The highest point in the Negev Desert (1037 m ASL). From the top we descend to the edge of the Makhtesh cliffs where we get a dramatic view on the eastern area of the crater with the 7 black Basalt hills dominating the scenery.  The trail now follows the cliff until the memorial site. From here there is a truly amazing view on the crater below.
On February 1, 2003, the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated upon reentering Earth’s atmosphere, killing all seven crew members. Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli astronaut was One of the crew members on board. The fact that Ilan’s last name is the same as the biggest Makhtesh in the word lead to the idea to set up a memorial site in the area. The specific spot was chosen, because it has an amazing vista on the 7 black hills that rise from the base of the crater just below. Each hill is named after one of the seven astronauts.
Horn of Ramon with Astronouts names
  • From the memorial site return on the Black marked trail to the parking.

In memory of Ilan Ramon


Mitspe Ramon

Visitors Center and the Makhtesh Cliff Promanade

The visitors center hanging on the cliff avove the Ramon crater
Ramon Visitors Ceneter By Dr. Avishai Teicher / Wikimedia
  • Getting there:
  • Drive about 30 Km to Makhtesh visitors center. (GPS: 30.609357, 34.806044) (4)
  • Use the “Mitspe Ramon” Map and GPS file from the download pack for the short walk and orientation in the area.

On the edge of the Ramon Crater cliff sits the visitors center, a mandatory station before a visit to the Makhtesh area. The visit includes an observation from a panoramic observation window. A dynamic and interactive exhibit that combines videos and a 3D model of Makhtesh. Another section is dedicated to the story of Ilan Ramon (The first Israeli astronaut). It includes an exciting films and a display of exhibits from his journey to space. It recomended to book ahead of time. Phone: +972-8-6216859
  • After the visit we recommend going on a short walk along the crater’s cliff to the Camel mountain lookout.
  • The walk is about 3 Kilometers (back and forth 1.5 Km) and very easy to follow with the map.
  • Just walk west along the clear path parallel to the crater cliff marked with INT markers. After about a kilometer the path gets narrower and is marked Black. About ½ Km further you reach the lookout balcony of Mount Camel. An impressive view on the whole Makhtesh.

The “Minsara” (Carpentry)

A geological gem near the main road

The Carpentery in Makhtesh Ramon
The Carpentery By Dr. Avishai Teicher / Wikimedia
  • Getting There:
  • Drive on road #40 to (GPS: 30.621332, 34.843270) (6.5Km), turn tight on the Green marked dirt road and drive ½ Km to the parking space. (5)
  • From here there is an easy short trail to tour around the site.
The “Minsara” (prism or Carpentry) hill that rises in the heart of the Ramon Crater is covered with sandstone columns with straight sides, that look like wooden boards cut out in a carpentry shop. As you walk, you’ll discover the prisms, most of them with 4-6 faces, some sticking out of the ground at a right angle while others scattered across the slope.
How were the prisms created?
They are the result of a rare geological phenomenon: into the sandstone hill, a hot magma penetrated from the depths of the earth and melted the sandstone. The rock bulged, and after cooling down, it shrank and cracked, creating the prisms that we see today.

“Cone” Hill (Givat Harut)

A fantastic 360° vista in the heart of the Makhtesh

Cone Hill, Makhtesh Ramon
Cone Hill By ekeidar / Wikimedia
  • Getting There:
  • Get back to road #40, turn right and Drive 5 Km to (GPS: 30.594367, 34.886424) (6)
  • The next section of the road trip is on marked dirt roads that are suitable also for a standard passenger car. Use the “Makhtesh_Ramon_Dirt_Roads” Map and GPS file supplied in the download pack for easier navigation.
  • Turn left and follow the Red marked dirt road for about 4 Kilometers, until a junction with a Black marked dirt road.
  • Turn left and follow the dirt road for 700 m.
  • On your left you will see “Be’erot” campground, which is the only orgnized lodging option inside the crater.  On site you can rent a matres and sleeping bag for 10 NIS. There is also a Kiosk offering refreshments. (Tel: 08-6280404 ext.1, mail: beerot@netvision.net.il)
Beerot Campground - The only availble lodging inside Makhtesh Ramon
Beerot Campground by Dogrit [Creative Commons]
  • Shortly after the campground you will meet a junction with a Red marled Dirt road.
  • You are now a few minutes drive from the trail-head of the Mount Ardon Hike. Highly recommended if you got the time and energy!!

 

  • Turn right a and follow it 1 Km until a junction with a Back marked dirt road.
  • Continue straight on the Black marked dirt road for 1.1 Km until a small parking area where the quality of the road deteriorates and it not longer suitable for a passenger car.
  • (This section is easier for navigation  with the GPS file supplied with the download pack)
  • From here starts the short 2.4 Km way and back short Hike (1.2 Km each way) to the top of the “cone” hill.
The hill has an almost perfect cone shape. It rises steeply 70 m from the Craters’ base provide an amazing 360° vista on the Makhtesh and on the mighty Ardon Mountain rising just in front of it to the north.
  • Use the “Cone Hill” Map and GPS file supplied in the Download pack for easier navigation on th short hike.
  • Continue by foot on the Black marked dirt road until a junction with a Blue marked path. Turn left and walk on it until a junction with a Red marked path. Turn right and start climbing gradually to the bas of the “cone”. Look on your right for the narrow steep path that goes to the top.

Mount Saharonim

Walk on the southern “wall” of Makhtesh Ramon

Saharonim Mountain Makhtesh Ramon, Israel
Saharonim Mountain By Galgilgal / Wikimedia
  • Getting There:
  • Drive back to the main road #40 on same way you came. (6)
  • Turn left and drive 1.4 Km until a junction with a Green marked dirt road (7). GPS: 30.585540, 34.891516)
  • Turn left again onto the Green marked dirt road and drive about 3 Km until a “T” junction with a Black marked dirt road. Park here for the short hike to Mount Saharonim.
  • It’s a 4 Km way and back Hike (2 Km each way).
  • Use the “Mount Saharonim” Map and GPS file from the download pack for easier navigation.
Mount Saharonim is “knife” shaped ridge and is actualy a section of the southern “Wall” of the crater. The trail follows the ridge just below top on the northern side giving great views of the crater along the walk.
  • Walk about 500 m south along the Black marked dirt road. Turn left onto a Green marked path. The path climbs steeply on the ridge, then levels and follows the ridge. Follow it as long as you want and retrace your steps.

Ammonite Wall

A short walk to explore Explore hundreds of 90 milion years old fossils

The Ammonite Wall
Ammonite Wall by By Tomerfiliba / Wikimedia
  • Getting there:
  • Drive back to the main road #40.
  • Turn left and drive 1.4 kilometers until a Red marked path meets the road from the right. (GPS: 30.583155, 34.887354) (8).
  • From here use the “Ammonitim Wall” Map and GPS file from the download pack for the short walk to the Ammonite Wall.

Ammonites are an extinct group of marine molluscs closely related to living octopuses, squid, and cuttlefish. The earliest appeared during the Devonian (400 Million years ago), and the last died out during the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event (66 Million years ago), Because of this, Amonites are excellent index fossils, used to link a specific rock layer to a specific geological period.
The rock face of the Amonite Wall in the Ramon Crater contains hundreds of ammonite fossils from around 70 Million years ago!!
  • To reach the Ammonite wall, just walk 700 m along the Red Marked Trail.
  • On the way back, after about 150 m, notice a Green marked path to your left.
  • For the enrgetic hikers, this is excelent detour!!
  • The path makes a short, but steep 120 meters climb to the top of the nearby summit for another breathtaking view of the Makhtesh.

10 Cool Facts About Ammonites