Dominating the surrounding desert, the beautifully preserved ancient Nabataean city of Avdat served as a caravan stop on the road from Petra to the Mediterranean. Highlights include a Roman bathhouse, catacombs, several 4th-century churches, a pottery workshop and a Byzantine wine press.
Named after the Nabataean monarch Obada, Avdat – 650m above sea level – was founded in the 3rd century BCE. Prosperous throughout the Byzantine period, the city was deserted following an earthquake in 630 CE and the Muslim takeover of the Negev six years later.
Buy your tickets at the visitor centre next to the petrol station, where you can watch a 10-minute film (in 10 languages) about the Incense Route. Then visit the nearby Byzantine-era bathhouse before driving up the hill (or walking on a steep path) to the ruins of the city.
On Rte 40, Avdat lies 10km south of Sde Boker (Midreshet Ben-Gurion) and 23km north of Mitzpe Ramon. Metropoline buses 64 and 65, ply the route between Be'er Sheva and Mitzpe Ramon, passing by twice hourly from Sunday to Thursday and hourly on Friday until late afternoon.