Words simply cannot do this natural wonder justice. This immense depression is 40 km (25 miles) long, 10 km (6 miles) wide, and at its deepest, it measures 2,400 feet. Because it's a phenomenon known only in this country (there are two others in the Negev), the Hebrew term makhtesh is now accepted usage. By definition, a makhtesh is an erosion valley walled with steep cliffs on all sides and drained by a single watercourse.
You can take a 1-km (½-mile) walk along the Albert Promenade, which winds westerward along the edge of the crater from the visitor center to a cantilevered observation platform hanging over the rim. This is not the time to forget the camera—the view is overwhelming. The promenade is fashioned from local stone, as is the huge sculpture by Israel Hadani, the back of which faces the town and represents the crater's geological layers.
With the crater as a magnificent backdrop, the Desert Sculpture Park exhibits a collection of 19 huge contemporary
sculptures. The park took shape in 1962 with the work of a group of prominent national and international sculptors under the direction of Negev artist Ezra Orion. Their idea was to add to the natural stone formations with geometric sculptures of similar design. Ibex often wander through the area. To get here, turn off the main road near the gas station at the sign marked Ma'ale Noah.
For a look at one of Makhtesh Ramon's geological wonders, drive down into the crater to see the Carpentry Shop, a hill of black rocks that appears to have neatly sawed edges. Long ago, the sandstone was warmed by volcanic steam and split into the shapes seen today. A wooden walkway protects this fascinating area from travelers' feet.
Another of nature's works is the Ammonite Wall, on the right as you finish the descent into the crater. The rock face, actually part of the crater wall, contains hundreds of ammonite fossils, which look like spiraled rams' horns. From here there's a 5-km (3-mile) hiking trail, suitable for more experienced hikers.