An ancient geological code
Standing here today in the extreme arid desert and the barren landscape, it’s hard to imagine that it all started with a river. Rivers, to be exact, giant rivers which flowed here 130 million years ago (or so) and brought huge amounts of sand to the beaches of a long-gone ocean. Sand which turned into soft sandstone.
Thanks to a unique sequence of events that span over tens of millions of years, these layers were covered by harder marine rock, folded and lifted as an island, levelled by erosion, tilted, and finally washed away to the dead sea form a closed valley sounded by cliffs.
Craters from asteroid strikes and calderas from volcano implosions or explosions only require one (catastrophic) event to create them. That is why both are very common all around the world. The Sequence of events that creates Makhteshim requires several processes to occur in the right order and over very specific periods of time. That’s probably why only 7 are known around the world.
A Makhtesh for every occasion
Five of the Makhteshim are located close to each other in the friendly Negev Desert (the 2 others are in Sinai, just across the border). That means you can easily pick the best Makhtesh for you, depending on what you like to do and what you want to see.
Want an easy stroll along the cliff to soak in the sunset? The Albert promenade and the sculpture garden at Mitzpe Ramon are the spot for you, located just steps away from the boutique hotels and local restaurants of the town. The town is also the ideal starting point for the 8-day Ramon loop trek that is the newest of the long trails of the region. Looking for a challenging day hike which will take your breath away physically and emotionally? Try HaMakhtesh Hakatan (the Small Makhtesh) and let us know if a 400 meter climb up the vertical cliff seems small to you.
Are you a morning person? How about the cloud falls at mt. Avnon, overlooking Makhtesh Yeruham…? You can also cross this Makhtesh along a geological discovery trail and walk through a fossilized coral reef from the Jurassic period. Just remember to make it back to the town of Yeruham in time for a homemade dinner.
Home to an abundance of life
The Makhteshim are home to some of the more magical creatures of the desert- Onagers and Gazelles roam the flat plains and spend the hot hours under the shade of the Acacia trees. Ibexes dominate the cliffs and can reach all but the most isolated ledges. Those are the ones where Vultures will build their nests.
Humans have lived in and travelled through the Makhteshim for thousands of years. An ancient settlement on the edge of Mitzpe Ramon was home to a family of semi-nomads 3000 years ago, and the famous incense route crosses the Makhtesh nearby on its way to the city of Avdat.
No matter when you come and for how long, you’ll want to visit at least one of these amazing non-craters, so you’d better learn how to pronounce MAKHTESH.