Beauty off the beaten track

A place where energetic adventure tours set the scene for sublime stargazing, the Negev Desert is undoubtedly one of Israel’s hidden gems

Israel is a destination for the ages, from the ancient and majestic sights of Jerusalem and Nazareth, to high-tech Tel Aviv, with its electric atmosphere, chic nightlife and chilled out beach scene. Israel is a melting pot of people, cultures, traditions and religions. What many don’t know about is the unique and luxurious experiences waiting in the Negev Desert. Located in the south, the region offers a variety of options for those who want to enjoy everything from adventure tourism to pampering themselves in an amazing spa hotel. 

A great place to base yourself for a luxury desert retreat is Eilat, Israel’s southern-most city. It is located on the Red Sea, with 10km of shoreline that offers more than just beautiful beaches. The water is clean, clear and refreshing, with loads of activities to enjoy, such as scuba diving, paddleboarding, water skiing, windsurfing and parasailing. Eilat has a great range of luxury hotels, with opulent spas offering a superb variety of treatments. This setting allows for easy exploration of the surrounding desert and mountains – returning to supreme comfort when the day is done. 

Eilat isn’t the only city in the desert, nor is it the only place for relaxation and adventure. In fact, you could easily base yourself in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem and still immerse yourself in this remote wonder, as the Negev Desert is a mere 90-minute drive from Israel’s two largest cities. And Israel’s brilliant year-round weather means it’s all about outdoor life. 

So, what’s the best way to experience the Negev Desert? Here are a few ideas to get you going:

Jeep tours – This has to be the ultimate way to explore the Negev Desert. With the region so unfrequented by tourists, a jeep tour offers a fun and exhilarating way to experience a landscape rich in fascinating sites and natural interest. 

Astronomy  – The clear skies of the Negev Desert make it the perfect place to view the night sky. No light pollution, and the clear, clean air brings the celestial marvels sharply into focus. You can even make it more unforgettable by having a unique dining experience under the night skies, which can be easily organised. Astronomy tours take place with a knowledgeable guide equipped with a powerful telescope, and you’ll be able to see the Milky Way, observe planets and simply gaze into the beauty of infinity. 

Adventure and antiquity – The Negev Desert is an adventurer’s playground, with amazing natural landscapes that are home to many ancient, archaeological sites. Those who want to embrace their inner Indian Jones will find much to see and do. One archaeological treasure not to be missed is Masada, located on top of a mountain on the shores of the Dead Sea. The ancient fortress was originally constructed by King Herod in 31 BCE as a winter palace and carries a rich historic significance.

The Dead Sea – The lowest region on Earth, sitting an average of 430 metres below sea level. The Dead Sea is a hyper-saline body of water eight times saltier than any ocean – naturally, this makes you more buoyant and floating comes with ease. The other result of this salty sensory sensation is the renowned health properties of the mud, water and air. The tradition is to cover yourself in mineral-rich mud and float away, a very relaxing way to enjoy one of the world’s best natural spa options. It is believed that Cleopatra loved to indulge!

The Ramon Crater – The world’s largest erosive crater. Created 250 million years ago, prehistoric remnants are preserved here amid the somewhat lunar landscape. The Ramon crater is also a great place to observe desert wildlife, including the Ibex.

Suite dreams 

These are just a few of the wonderful experiences to be had in Israel’s Negev Desert. But where to stay while all this unfolds? A magnificent range luxury accommodation awaits, below is just a small selection.

Sunrise yoga at the Six Senses Shaharut

Opening in the spring of 2021 is the new Six Senses Shaharut. Modern and elegant in design, it is set within the Negev Deserts dramatic cliffs and created to blend in beautifully with the desert environment. This hotel offers a spa with the best available treatments, spectacular culinary options and unique activities. The Beresheet Hotel, part of the Isrotel’s Exclusive Collection, offers luxurious rooms with breathtaking panoramic views of the Ramon Crater. This ultra-luxury hotel offers exceptional spa facilities, as well as activities such as tennis, archery, bike or hiking tours, along with horse riding and yoga. The main city by the Dead Sea is Ein Bokek, which is home to a great variety of hotels – most with luxuriously extensive spas. One of the best is the five-star Isrotel Dead Sea Hotel & Spa which is located on shores of the Dead Sea and has its very own private beach. 

Of course the desert is just one part of Israel. If your intrigue has been piqued there are plenty of opportunities to stay in exquisite boutique hotels chains and luxury villas in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem or the green north which is fast gaining a reputation for its fine wine. 

Further information