A giant erosion depression in the dry and rocky Negev Desert in southern Israel, the Makhtesh Ramon is an enormous crater and geological anomaly that exposes layer upon layer of multi-hued sandstone and volcanic rock carved into dramatic cliffs and plateaux. Exploring the area in a 4x4 with a local guide offers access to remote off-road sections, and a chance to see the crater from a variety of viewpoints as you learn about its unusual formation and its flora and fauna. Finally, you’ll try your hand at rappelling down a sheer cliff face into the depression below.
Your private driver-guide will pick you up at your hotel for your half-day tour and take you out into the desert — an enormous expanse of rocky brown, yellow and ochre terrain that covers almost half the country. Riding in a 4x4, you’ll soon get off-road as your guide takes you to a number of quiet lookouts from where you can see contrasting views of the crater.
Along the way you’ll learn about the unusual geological processes that led to the formation of the Makhtesh, a dramatic erosion depression 40 km (25 miles) long, about 10 km (6 miles) across at its widest point, and 500 m (1,640 ft) deep. There are only a handful of known examples of this type of formation in the world and the Makhtesh Ramon is the largest of its kind.
As well as enjoying striking views that change dramatically with the position of the sun, you’ll learn how plants and animals survive in this stark landscape, why the rocks can be vastly different hues, and how ammonite fossils the size of tractor wheels were once found in the area.
Once you’ve had a good overview you’ll meet your climbing instructor who’ll give you a safety briefing and instructions on how to rappel down the rocky cliff face into the crater, around 12 m (40 ft) below. You’ll be fitted with a helmet, shown how to use the rope system, and will set off on an adventurous descent. The descent only takes around five minutes to reach the bottom and there is a path nearby that takes you back to the top.
At the end of the session your driver-guide will take you back to your hotel.
Depending on the time of year the desert can be either cold or very hot, so bring suitable clothing, including closed-toe shoes with a good grip, as well as sunscreen and a hat.