Negev

9 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in the Negev Region

One of the greatest natural sights of Israel is the Negev desert. It is an amazing place that occupying more than half of the total territory of Israel and this area is full of beauty.

Negev is a majestic land in which ancient wonders come to life: after the burned sands you will meet fertile lands, the daytime serenity of the desert is replaced by unprecedented liveliness at night. These mysterious intriguing contrasts attract all who are not indifferent to adventures.

Almost all the routes in the desert are devoted to the study of wildlife. In addition, safari through the Negev desert is the best chance to get acquainted with the mountain monasteries, archaeological finds, to feel the cordiality and hospitality of the Bedouins. All these factors make it possible to travel in the desert, even in winter. You just need to choose either more dynamic excursions on jeeps or measured, close to ancient traditions, on camels.

1. Shivta

In the northern Negev on the south of Israel there are the ruins of an ancient Nabatean city Shivta (ancient Subeita). In 2005 the Shivta National Park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The ancient history of the park begins in the first century BC. During the Byzantine period Shivta reached its peak of development and became the center of the region. Its size has increased to 10 hectares and all trade routes pass through it. There are many temples and churches in Shivta. But the oldest is the “South Church”. It was built in the year 350 and then rebuilt several times. In the VIII century AD Shivta was abandoned.

Research and excavations at Shivta National Park began in 1870 and continued until 1959. In 1960 Shivta was opened to visitors.

Due to its remoteness from other inhabited places Shivta is well preserved. Visitors can see a lot of interesting things here.

Location: 55 kilometers southwest of Be'er Sheva

 

2. Nitzana

A few kilometers from the present-day Egyptian border in the southwest of the Negev desert are the ancient ruins of Nitzana.

Nitzana begins its history from the first century BC. At that time it was a small inn which served pilgrims and merchants who traveled to Sinai and Egypt along trade routes.

As time went on Nitzana became a successful and prosperous city of the Nabataeans on the "Incense Road". The city was divided into two parts: upper and lower.

Upper was at the top of the hill. There were found the ruins of powerful walls and towers. They defended the castle built in the fifth century AD. Its dimensions were impressive for that time: 40 meters wide and about 80 meters long.

Lower was the one that was at the foot. During the excavations there were found the ruins of three churches, living quarters, pools and wells. The area of  the city was about 40 acres.

From the lower part of the city to the upper one could only get one way - climbing the steep well-protected stairs.

Existing for several centuries Nitzana suffered the fate of all Nabatean cities. During the Arab attack in the 7th-8th centuries, Nitzana, Shivta, Mamshit, Halutz and Avdat were destroyed and abandoned.

In 2002 the territory of the ancient city of Nitsana was declared as a National Park.

 

3. Be'er Sheva

Beersheba is a small town in the south of Israel, which is more than 3 thousand years old. It is called the “well of the oath” - it was here, according to the Bible, that Abraham dug a well to water his flocks.

Today it is a popular university city, and local authorities are doing everything to make it attractive for tourists. There are no typical for Israel bridges and beautiful old buildings, but in the historical center there are surprisingly many good restaurants. The most famous attraction in the city is of course the Well of Abraham, and there are two very colorful markets: the urban food market and the Bedouin one where you can find traditional Bedouin products.

15 km from Beersheba on the hill of Tel Sheva there are the ruins of an ancient city of the 10th century BC. Now there is the Tel-Beer-Sheva National Park (listed as a UNESCO heritage site in 2005). Ancient Beersheba was an important Canaanite, and later the Jewish center lying on the caravan route from Palestine to Arabia. The sanctuary of the god Yahweh, erected by Isaac, hydraulic structures, the ruins of a Roman fortress and a pagan temple have survived here. In the days of King Herod, a huge palace stood on a hill.

 

4. Museum of Bedouin Culture

The Bedouin Culture Museum is a large ethnic museum dedicated to the culture of the nomadic peoples of the Middle East was founded in 1985, becoming a part of the museum complex "Joe Alon Center ".

The museum aims to preserve the cultural heritage of the Bedouins whose traditions are gradually being destroyed by modern civilization. It has an interesting and rich collection of jewelry, clothing, household items and a variety of objects that give an idea of the Bedouin lifestyle and culture. Here you will learn about the various Bedouin tribes of the Negev. Inspection of the museum collection is accompanied by an informative lecture.

The museum also has a small cafe where you can eat after the tour and try traditional Bedouin cuisine - a variety of flat cakes and other food.

In general, the Bedouin Culture Museum makes a favorable impression - inside it is very interesting, and any person interested in the Bedouin culture will spend a lot of time here, examining ancient artifacts of nomadic tribes.

Location: Kibbutz Lahav, Joe Alon Centre, 20 kilometers northeast of Be'er Sheva

 

5. Avdat

The ancient Nabatean city of Avdat was built on top of a hill near the trade route, the so-called "Incense Road".

The town was named in honor of the ruler Abadas, who ruled the city, and was buried in it. During his reign, the city included the Nabataean temple, paddocks, a pot workshop, and residential buildings.

After some time, the Roman Empire achieves the desired and captures the great Nabatean city Avdat. A little later, the same fate befell the rest of the Nabataean cities in the Negev.

In Avdat, the Roman Empire builds a coaching inn, a temple of Abadas and burial caves.

The temple stood for about 200 years, and then was rebuilt into a church, next to which a baptistery was built for those who accepted Christianity. After another hundred years, the second church appeared next to the first church. Christianity has become the main religion in the region.

The Roman Empire did not exist here for long. Islam came to Nabatean cities, completely destroying some of them.

In the early 1800s the park excavations have been started, which lasted until the mid 1900s.

In 2005, UNESCO listed the Avdat National Park as a World Heritage Site.

In order to fully understand and feel the power of the acropolis, you can watch a short film about the history of Avdat. It is shown free of charge at the entrance to the National Park. Also there are archaeological finds and layout of the city.

Location: 65 kilometers south of Be'er Sheva

 

6. En Avdat

In the Negev desert, a little before reaching Mitzpe Ramon, there is En Avdat National Park, beloved by all visitors of the desert.

As you approach the canyon sand-colored landscapes become greener. The Qing Creek, which flows through the park created a waterfall and several pools. The stream breathes life into the desert!

Here you can meet the kings of the rocks - mountain goats. They jump in the mountains, occasionally going down to the stream to quench their thirst.

You can wander around the En Avdat National Park endlessly. The beauty of the bizarre and unique views of the mountains is surprising at every turn.

Climbing up the stone steps you can enjoy magnificent views.

The canyon is a few tens of thousands years old. In ancient times, this ancient oasis was used by the ancient Nabateans, who conducted caravans through the desert and built the ancient city of Avdat.

In En Avdat National Park there are two routes available for visitors: 

Light (circular) - length of about 4 kilometers.

Difficult - longer and more beautiful: from the lower parking to the top. To save time and effort when choosing a complex route, you must leave a second car on the top parking. The long route is one-way, you cannot go back.

Location: 65 kilometers south of Be'er Sheva

 

7. Mampsis

Seven kilometers east of Dimona in the northern part of the Negev desert there is Mampsis (Hebrew "Mamshit," Arabic "Kurnub"), the ancient city of the Nabataeans. 

Mampsis was founded in the first century BC. The location on a hill near the trade route (Incense Road) made the city the financial and strategic center of the region.

Excavation and restoration of the ancient city began in the late XIX century and continuing to the present day.

Visiting Mampsis National Park, you should pay special attention to:

The City Gates. The powerful covered gates to the city were located between two two-story watchtowers. On the first floor of the towers was a guard room, and on the second - a guard area with guards. The total length of the defensive walls of the city is about 900 meters.

The Manager's House. It is the largest two-story building in the city. At the entrance to the house is a spacious hall. In the house there are also special rooms for guards and servants, as well as storage rooms.

Church of St. Nilus. The mosaic floor of the church has preserved well, you can see the inscription which roughly translates: "God save Nilus, loving Jesus, who created this building, and keep the members of his house." This church is one of the oldest in the world.

Church of the Saints and Martyrs. Like in the Church of St. Nilus the floor is decorated with mosaics, which dates back to the fourth century AD. The hall is decorated with columns and crosses. During the excavations there were found boxes for the burial of relics and the baptistery - a font for the ritual of baptism.

You can walk around the Mampsis National Park for a long time, each building has information boards. Those who come to the Negev to have a rest can stay overnight. The overnight place is equipped with a shower, drinking water and electricity.

Location: 42 kilometers southeast of Be'er Sheva

 

8. Sde Boker

Sde Boker is a kibbutz on the Negev hill, founded in 1952. Located 30 kilometers north of the crater Ramon.

In 1953, the first Prime Minister of Israel, Ben-Gurion, returning from Eilat, drove here, and he really liked the kibbutz. The head of state saw a prospect for all of Israel in the development of settlements in the Negev. About the desert, Ben-Gurion said: "It will conquer people if people do not conquer it," and bequeathed to bury him in the desert.

During periods of his departure from political activity (1953–55, 1970–73), David Ben-Gurion lived constantly in this kibbutz. In 1970, the prime minister resigned and permanently settled in Sde Boker.

During his years in the kibbutz, the ex-pime minister helped young people - he worked as a cattleman, and at his leisure he studied languages and wrote books and articles on historical topics. He not only took out the manure, but also was engaged in watering, plowed. In one of his letters, he described this situation in such a way that one can bring all possible assistance to the state without heading it.

Ben-Gurion and his faithful wife and comrade Paulina are buried on a steep slope above the valley of the Qing River, from where a breathtaking view opens.

Location: 50 kilometers south of Be'er Sheva

 

9. Makhtesh Ramon