5 Ways to enjoy the Negev desert

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A desert might not seem like the best vacation destination in the world, but the Negev desert has a lot more to offer than just sandy dunes and sunshine. Covering nearly half of Israel’s landmass and home to uncountable hidden secrets and scenes of beauty, the Negev desert truly is the heart of Israel. If you come to the country and don't spend at least some time exploring what it has to offer, you'd be doing yourself a disservice.


But what exactly is there to see and do? Read on to find out.


Camel Rides

Take yourself back in time with a camel ride through the Negev desert. There is no better way to experience the sheer scale and beauty of the Negev than from on the back of one of these magnificent animals, just as millions of pilgrims have through millennia.


There are many different companies that offer safe, comfortable camel tours with experienced handlers. These groups often take predetermined routes that show off the natural splendor and majesty of the area. If you're looking to take some unforgettable photos while in the Holy Land, a camel ride through the Negev is sure to provide some choice opportunities.


ATV Tours

Are camels a bit too sedate for your tastes? Do you prefer your rides to have a bit of kick? Then consider joining an ATV tour! These high octane tours will have you exploring the back trails and hills of the Negev, using the power of an all terrain vehicle to get up-close-and-personal with spots other tour groups would have to enjoy from a distance.


Shivta

Shivta houses the astounding remains of a 6th century Byzantine city. These ruins, dotted with monastic churches, cisterns, still-paved streets, and assorted dwellings have to be seen to be believed. Remarkably well-preserved, you'll swear you've been transported back in time as your explore the remains of this ancient city. There is no entrance fee to Shivta, it is a public treasure. You're free to take in this ancient site at your own pace, or join a guided tour that will add additional illumination and historical context to your visit.


Shivta is so unique, it was given status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in recognition of its historical importance.


Museum of Bedouin Culture

The Museum of Bedouin Culture makes for an interesting stop while you're exploring the Negev. Located about 20km north from Be'er Sheva, the museum includes a number of interesting exhibits showcasing the Bedouin way of life. In addition to artistic works and cultural touchstones, you can take an up-close look at authentic clothing, textiles, and jewelry as well as examples of Bedouin agriculture and engineering. The Museum provides an excellent overview of the nomadic tribes of the Negev and contextualizing them in modern Israeli life.


En Avdat

A true oasis in the desert, En Avdat is one of the Negev's most striking natural wonders. This spring is located in a barren area dominated by sheer cliff-sides that seem almost totally devoid of life. But water from four separate springs combines together to create a secret, tranquil pool in the middle of the canyon creating a scene straight out of a dream. The effect is completed each morning and evening when wild ibexes in the area come down for a sip, an image of resilience and life in the midst of adversity.


Be'er Sheva

Known as the "city of the Patriarchs”, Be'er Sheva is one of the Negev's most prominent destination. One of the largest cities in Israel, Be'er Sheva is worth a visit just to sample the culture alone. While the city might not seem like much on first blush, there is a lot for the curious tourist to explore and experience. Major attractions such as Abraham's Well, Tel Sheva, and the ruins of a Chalcolithic settlement from the 4th millennium BC are obvious highlights, but more off-beat attractions exist too. Be'er Sheva is a city steeped in culture, combining Israeli, Bedouin, and Ottoman sensibilities, offering some of the most unique culinary and cultural experiences available in Israel. Check out the Thursday Bedouin Market for handmade treasures you literally can't get anywhere else in the world.

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