Makhtesh Ramon (often known erroneously as the Ramon Crater) is a geological wonderland, representing a window into the earth’s surface, which beckons us to explore a world of magma, fossils, dikes, sills and colorful sandstone.
The Makhtesh Ramon is often erroneously referred to as the “Ramon Crater” – which would imply that it was formed by a meteorite. But rather, the Makhtesh Ramon was formed by a series of geological activities spread over more than 100 million years during which a ridge was eventually undermined, and swept away from within to reveal the landscape we see today. Because this phenomenon was first identified in Israel, the Hebrew word Makhtesh has become a geological term used internationally to describe this type of landform.
See more photos of the Ramon Crater here.
Visiting Makhtesh Ramon
The best way to begin a visit to Makhtesh Ramon is with a view from its rim next to the Visitors’ Center on Route 40 adjacent to the town of Mitzpe Ramon. After taking in the view, enter the Ramon Visitor Center (admission charged) to learn more about the remarkable geological story in front of you. The Visitors’ Center can also provide you with a brochure with a map of Makhtesh Ramon and additional information to help you visit the Makhtesh Ramon. Most of the Makhatesh is not directly wheelchair accessible, but the visitors’ center is, and there are some great views along Road 40.
Camel Mountain is roughly a 15-minute walk west from the Visitors Center along the rim of the Makhtesh. Its name is derived from its shape, remarkably resembling a camel.
Exploring Inside the Makhtesh Ramon
From the Visitors’ Center drive down Route 40 into the Makhtesh to explore several sites “inside”, including the “Carpentry Shop” or Prisms, Nahal Ramon and the Amonite Wall.
The Carpentry Shop or Prisms
Located 800 meters off of Route 40 between kilometer markers 92 and 91, the Carpentry Shop is a former sandstone hill that was “baked” by heat from inside the earth’s crust, which caused the sandstone to crystalize and take on the appearance of prisms or alternately woodchips.
Nahal Ramon is the stream bed, usually dry, which drains Makhtesh Ramon. Park the car just south of the bridge near kilometer marker 90 on Route 40 and walk to the stream bed below/behind you. When you reach the stream bed turn left or west and then walk 100-150 meters to view the colorful sandstone formations that reveal geological stories of the region.
The Amonite Wall
The Amonite Wall is a remarkable cluster of fossils just south of Makhtesh Ramon’s southern wall. Amonites were a large spiral shaped mollusk, similar to a chambered nautilus. Lying roughly 900 meters from Route 40, near kilometer marker 84, park at the sign for the Amonite Wall and follow the marked trail. The trail extends beyond the Amonite Wall, so in order to spot it (not to miss it) start looking to your right after about 800 meters.
Star Gazing in the Makhtesh Ramon
The desert’s lack of ambient light makes Makhtesh Ramon an extraordinary place for star gazing either unassisted or at the astronomical observatory. This is one of the secrets of the Negev in Israel.
Other Attractions in Makhtesh Ramon
The nearby town of Mizpe Ramon is the local center and base for exploring. Other attractions in Makhtesh Ramon include an alpaca farm, sculpture garden, hiking, jeep tours, mountain biking, rappelling and Bedouin hospitality (coffee, tea, pita bread — for groups, by reservation) all of which can be arranged through the local hotel – The Ramon Inn located in Mitzpe Ramon. Nearby are Sede Boker – David Ben Gurion’s home and grave and the Ein Avdat reserve.
The crater’s only campground, the Be’erot campground, allows you to take your visit to the crater even further, situated in the heart of some of the makhtesh’s most beautiful trails. Like many other campgrounds, the Be’erot campground provides tourists the opportunity to sleep under the stars inside Bedouin hospitality tents.