When my guy said “Let’s go into the desert this week-end, down South”, I was more than thrilled! When he then added “I found these offers for spa and cool hotels”, I felt less enthusiasm. As I didn’t quite imagined us laying in a jacuzzi while staring at the hot empty desert…
So I upgraded our experience by choosing a more ecological alternative (I’m moderately ecological in the day-to-day life, as the most I can do is turn off the lights when I leave a room, separate paper from plastic and keep the streets clean): the Desert Shade Eco Lodge (around 50 euro/night) in Mitzpe Ramon (Negev Desert, Israel).
Oh boy, where we in for a treat or what? The place had an interesting access road – when arriving there, my better half said “Are you sure this is the place?” I wasn’t, but the GPS was pretty determined. The parking lot was a dusty round place in which strange looking metal buildings, old used tires and a decrepit car with no windows welcomed us.
We entered a long tunnel covered with leaves that got us to a magnificent view. The Makhtesh Ramon (Hebrew: מכתש רמון; lit. Ramon Crater/Makhtesh) opened in front of us as wide as it could (it is pretty big, as wiki quotes: “The crater is 40 km long, 2–10 km wide and 500 meters deep, and is shaped like an elongated heart”). We have received the same warm welcome from the several mud buildings – I’m exaggerating, though, they were more like huts – nicely placed to offer a perfect view towards the crater.
We checked-in and got our two big red towels and extra-used bed sheets. The owner was either half-drunk or very bored – either way, we chose to ignore it. We got a hut in the first line.
The room was relatively big (about 6 sqm); it had two simple beds, big pillows, four windows and a door that didn’t close (“Should we leave the valuables in the car?” we wondered…). The walls were made of real mud, there were bottles inserted in it – for strength, I imagine – the floor of pieces of limestone. The interior was dusty, had a nice carpet made of ants (yeap, real ants), a fan, one plug (we used to charge or our phones) two strange looking curtains (one being purple didn’t help). The walls were to grey and depressing – ecological indeed. Oh, and it had a fire alarm on the ceiling.
The strong wind dissipated the 40 ºC heat. Good! We reluctantly agreed to stay (I was still evaluating the other options I’ve seen on booking.com when choosing this one…), then visited the shower and the toilet area.
We went around the crater later that evening; we have taken several pictures of the Sculpture Garden (little the internet has to say about it) in spite of the heavy wind that made the dust of the crater cover us in fine orange mist. We then unsuccessfully tried to find a place to go out. Mitzpe Ramon on a Friday evening is dead (the Shabbat kicked in).
During the night, we heard the rats running around the roof of the hut and felt their impact because the mud of the ceiling who fell on us.
Overall, we have considered it an interesting experience. I would recommend it for one night only, as the starry sky during the night was amazing and incomparable with what you could see in other – more city like locations.