Planning Your Time

The main attraction in Israel's south is the resort town of Eilat, the country’s beach playground. Its attractions are sand, sun, and surf, and it's the place for a few days of scuba, snorkeling, and sunbathing. Some desert excursions like Timna Park are nearby, and it’s also easy to arrange a day trip to Petra, in Jordan, from Eilat.

However, if you don’t care for the beach, or if you love the desert landscape, consider a couple of days in Mitzpe Ramon instead. About an hour’s drive south of Beersheva, and perched on the edge of a vast crater 40 km (25 miles) long, Mitzpe Ramon offers abundant outdoor activities. Ecotours, mountain biking, and Jeep trekking, as well as guide-led hiking to take in the history and science of the area, are among the options. You can explore nearby sites including Sde Boker, the desert home of David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first prime minister, and the remains of the ancient Nabatean city of Avdat, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Israel's wine industry has put down some roots in the Negev, and you can visit wineries such as Carmey Avdat.

Most Negev sites open at 8:30 am and close by 4 pm in winter and 5 pm in summer. Keep in mind that outside Eilat, restaurants close early on Friday for the Jewish Sabbath, and since the main meal of the day is served at noon in the desert, lunch may be history if you arrive after 1:30; roadside diners close at around 1:30 pm.

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Fodor's Essential Israel: with the West Bank and Petra

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