Makhtesh Ramon is the world’s largest makhtesh. The makhtesh or natural crater is a unique geological formation, indigenous to the Holy Land which is 40 km long, 2–10 km wide and 500 meters deep. It’s shaped like an elongated heart. A small town, Mitzpe Ramon, with the Ramon Observation Point, is located on the northern edge of the crater.
Hundreds of millions of years ago, the Negev desert was covered by an ocean. When the two tectonic plates (the Arabian and African plates) collided, hills and mountains were formed by the force of pressure. This caused the waters to slowly recede northwards leaving behind mountains and hills. The mountain was slowly flattened by the water and climatic forces. Approximately five million years ago, the Syrian-African Rift Valley was formed, with rivers changing their course from west to east, carving out the inside softer and newer rock of the mountain until it formed a crater. The crater bottom continued to deepen at a much faster rate than the surrounding walls. As the crater deepened, more layers of ancient rock were exposed some being up to 200 million years old.
Makhtesh Ramon contains a diversity of rocks and sands known for their fantastic red, purple, brown, green and yellow colors and forms. Impressive mountains rise at the borders of the crater. The hills at the south-eastern edge of the makhtesh were once entirely covered by spiral ammonite fossils, ranging from the size of snails to that of huge wheels. Only smaller fossils can be found here today.
There are many marked, easy to follow, trails all around the makhtesh and above, that can be hiked by foot or followed by bikes, cars, and jeeps. Best season to visit is winter and spring.
Ruins of a large stone structure, known as Khan Saharonim, is located in the makhtesh. It is one of many posts along the ancient Spice & Incense Routes from Petra to Gaza, used by the Nabateans more than 2,000 years ago.
Ein Saharonim Spring is the only natural water source in the makhtesh, therefore drawing an abundant range of wildlife including onagers (wild ass), hyrax, fox, deer, hyenas, ibex and many species of wild birds including vultures.
Mitzpe Ramon has six hotels and dozens of B&B establishments. Isrotel opened a luxury hotel, the Beresheet (Genesis) Hotel only 5 years ago.
By bus, taxi or guided tour.