You'll feel like an extra in a sci-fi movie when exploring the massive Makhtesh Ramon Nature Reserve. The landscape resembles Tatooine (the fictional desert planet in Star Wars) and the wide, open spaces, far from city lights and crowds, are equally suited to those seeking solitude or an activity-triggered adrenaline rush.
Developed in the 1960s and still rapidly expanding, the industry and university hub of Be'er Sheva (Beersheba) is the major city in the Negev. The only compelling reason for travellers to visit is to transfer between the train service that comes from the north and the bus services heading south.
Part of the Great Rift Valley that runs for some 5000km from northern Syria to central Mozambique, this austerely beautiful and sparsely populated desert stretches from the Dead Sea to the Red Sea and has as its backdrop the majestic multi-hued Jordanian mountain range known in Israel as the Edom (Red) Mountains.
The most isolated of the Nabataean towns, Shivta was founded during the early Roman period (1st century BCE). Its ruins date from the Byzantine period (4th to 7th centuries CE), when it was an important stop on the caravan route between Egypt and Anatolia. They include churches, houses, tiled streets and an impressive irrigation system.
Much easier to reach than Shivta, Mamshit National Park is the ancient city also known as Memphis or Kurnub. It is the smallest but best-preserved Nabataean city in the Negev. Overlooking Wadi Mamshit, the settlement dates from the 1st century CE; it was later used by the Romans.
Eilat is surrounded by jagged, red-rock mountains created by the tectonic movements of the Great Rift Valley (Syrian-African Rift). The desert environment, blazing with glorious colours (especially at sunrise and sunset), is home to a huge variety of wildlife, flora and fauna. Hikers will want to head for the Eilat Mountains.