The desert’s hot and dry climate allows a long hiking season. The Negev highland region in particular, being a higher land, is an inviting destination almost throughout the year.
The ideal period spans from October to May. In this season daytime temperatures are pleasant and nights are either chilly or very cold. Rain seldom falls but when it does it can get quite brutal and accompanied by massive floods. A desert-flood is a mighty sight that requires utmost vigilance.
If you follow the weather forecast and equip yourself in accordance you should encounter no problems.
September and June can also be suitable for hiking though warm and warmer days may really take the fun out. Follow the weather forecast to see if temperatures aren’t too high.
July and August are way too hot and are not recommended for a visit to the trail.
Crowds flow south mainly in Pesach (Passover) and Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles). While it never gets too hectic on the trail itself, it does mean that you should book your accommodation well in advance for these dates.
Other festivals have almost no impact on the number of visitors to the Negev highland.
– During some of the festivals busses may run iregularly or not at all and that’s a fact to consider when planning your trip.
There are a few places along the trail where you can have a meal or at least buy some snacks (see list below), and all accommodations offer breakfast and dinner, so normally you don’t need to carry with you more than lunch for the day.
While Midreshet Sde Boker and Mitzpe Ramon have restaurants, most of the other places just cater for their guests. If you’re not expected anywhere, food will not wait for you there. Sometimes that means you won’t be served at all though usually it just means that you’ll have to wait for the cook to be found and for the food to be cooked.
– In case you’re vegetarian, vegan or sensitive to any ingredients do remember to mention it in advance.
Cooking for yourself is both fun and recommended, just keep in mind that sharing your dinner with the wildlife is wrong. Always keep your provisions sealed and your leftovers out of the animals’ reach and never leave your waste anywhere but in the designated bins.
There are barely any running water and certainly no taps in this part of the Negev, but you can fill your bottles at any village and in service stations. These present at the beginning and the end of each day, so you needn’t carry more than a day’s supply.
The recommended minimum is 3 litres a person a day. You should definitely consider taking more than that on hot and long days.
The Negev Highland trail is very accessible as it meets road No. 40 on several occasions, practically at about the end of every day.
The bus company serving the area is called “Metropoloitan” and its central in the south is located at the city of Beer-Sheva.
To get to the head of the trail at Merhav Am, you need to take line No. 55(link) that operates between Dimona and Mitzpe Ramon. Lines 58, 64, 65, 160 from Beer-Sheva main terminal connects with 55 at different points.
You may also hop on one of the many service taxis running between Beer-Sheva and Dimona.
Throughout the trail you can take lines 64(link), 65(link), 60(link), all operating between Beer-Sheva and Mitzpe Ramon.
– There is no public transport available in Israel from Friday afternoon until Saturday evening.
A taxi from Dimona to Merhav Am should cost you about 150 Shekels. From Beer Sheva about 250 Shekels.
You wouldn’t find one neither in Mitzpe Ramon nor in any other of the villages.
Many travellers hitchhike along road No. 40 and between Merhav Am to Dimona and Yerucham.
It’s never an entirely safe option though it may be the only one if you’re moving about in the weekend.
If you do choose to try your luck, its highly recommended to do so in pairs and to keep cautious.
With the exception of the Bedouin villages, all the restaurants, kiosks and service providers along the trail accept credit cards. The Bedouins haven’t the infrastructure for that and will only take cash in shekels.
You can find ATM’s in Mitzpe Ramon, Midreshet Sde Boker and in service stations. That said, these are small places and you should better withraw your shekels in advance in bigger places such as Beer Sheva and Dimona.
Foreign Money and Exchange:
Foreign Currency is not particularly respected by locals and is rarely accepted.
You can change money in banks though you should expect significantly low rates. The post office is a better option yet frequent long lines are discouraging. Otherwise, very few exchange booths serve the Negev and like anywhere else in the world exchange rates tend to be lame or non-existant due to lack of competition.
To get your money’s best value, exchange it in one of Israel’s big cities.
Accommodation and food cost around 200 shekels per person per day. If you’re camping and cooking for yourself this should go down to as little as 50.
Admission fees are on average 15 shekels per person per day.
Public transportation to or from the trail cost about 30 shekels.
Special activities’ costs depend on the season and on the number of participants.
Costs for accommodation and food not directly on the trail are generally higher and differ from place to place.
You’ll find signal throughout the trail except for in a small section south of Mitzpe Ramon. If it so happens that right when you’re there you need to make a call, just walk a couple hundred meters in any direction or climb up a little until you see the network is available again.
The Bedouin villages (as yet) don’t have any access to internet. Everybody else does and some places provide free wifi or a password in exchange for consumption.
Postal services are available in Midreshet Sde Boker and in Mitzpe Ramon. Post offices are closed on Friday and Saturday. Opening hours during the week depend on the day.
The Negev highland is alltogether safe for travellers and annualy sees thousnds of people hiking its paths with ease.
You should be aware that opportunists will rejoice at the sight of your unattended bag, so keep your precious belongings with you at all time. If you use a tent for camping keep your stuff inside the tent when sleeping.
The desert is home to some of the most venomous species on the planet. Snakes, spiders, centipedes and scorpions will all, as a general rule, clear the way upon seeing you coming. Don’t follow them and don’t annoy them. Avoid turning stones over and putting you hands in holes.
In case of emergency of any sort dial 1 0 0 and you will immediately be answered by an operator that will then direct your call to the appropriate emergency service.
Note: The trail crosses some terrains used by the IDF for practice. Though no live ammunition is used, you should still coordinate your passage on weekdays.
You won’t feel out of place as female traveller on the Negev Highland trail. In some parts attitudes are a little old-fashioned but this will probably only translate into men treating you with a little more respect.
In fact, when visiting a Bedouin village, a woman has the opportunity to meet the Bedouin women and to see life “behind the scenes” the way no man from outside could ever do.
While no complaint was ever registered, caution is always advised anyway. If you go solo, it is advised to let someone know your day’s itinerary beforehand.