Scorpion pass (Maale Akrabim] road serpentines

Craters Land Tour

A short but dramatic drive!! Cross the “Big” Makhtesh, Go on a few desert Short Hikes and the drive down the historic Scorpion Pass.

Road Trip Metrics
Distance35 Km
Duration½ Day
BestDec - Apr
PossibleOct- May
Full Description

Over a short distance of just 35 Km you will visit an amazing group of desert highlights mostly “off the beaten track”!!


  • “Big” Makhtesh: Drive across the Crater, explore colored sands and climb up (Short hike) to the Makhtesh wall for some great views.
  • Yorkeam Spring: Visit a beautiful desert spring and take a short hike in the Hatira Canyon.
  • “Small” Makhtesh: Go on a short and easy walk to a dramatic viewpoint on the edge of the cliff above the “Small” Makhtesh.
  • Scorpion Pass: Amazing view on the Arava Valley and the old road to Eilat.
  • Possible hikes near the route: Akev / Havarim


Makhteshim (Craters) Land road Trip map

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  • Hiking Maps for each short hike.
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  • GPX File for each short hike.
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  • Crater – A roughly circular depression in the ground usually caused by volcanic activity, impact or explosion.
  • Makhtesh – A crater-like formation created by erosion

The word “makhtesh” is the Hebrew word for a Mortar and Pestle. The geological landform was given this name because of its similarity to a grinding bowl.
There are only 7 such craters in the world, all of them located in the Land of Israel(5) and  the Sinai desert(2). Of the 5 located in Israel, two are very small ones near  the top of mount Arif. That  leaves us with the 3 main Makhteshim (craters):

  • Makhtesh Ramon: It is the largest makhtesh in the world. Over 40 km long, 10 km wide and about 400 m deep. It is also the most famous and by far the most visited since the main road #40 from Beer S­heva to Eilat is crossing it. (We will not visit it during this road trip)
  • Makhtesh Hatira (called also the “Big” Makhtesh) is the 2nd in size. 14 km long, 6 km wide and about 400 m deep. It is much less popular than it’s “bigger brother”, but not less beautiful. This gives an advantage of a more “intimate” experience. We will drive across it and visit a few interesting sites.
  • Makhtesh Hazera (called also the “Small” Makhtesh) is the 3rd in size. 7 km long, 5 km wide and over 500 m deep. There are a few features that makes this lesser known Makhtesh the most impressive:
  1. It has an almost perfectly round shape.
  2. It is the deepest.
  3. It is relatively small and therefore you see almost all of it in one look.
  • We will take a short and easy walk and stand on the edge of the cliff on the crater’s wall for an overwhelming view of the Makhtesh!!


A view from mount Avnon on the big Makhtesh, negev, israel
The Big Crater
  • Getting there:
  • Starting point: Yerucham (GPS: 30.988664, 34.923494)
  • Drive to Mount Avnon lookout (GPS: 30.971814, 34.981020) (7 km)
  • Just next to the parking there is a fantastic view-point over the whole crater.
  • Continue driving down to the Makhtesh bottom and follow the road until a small car park. (GPS: 30.951220, 35.025525) (8.5Km).
  • Use the “Big Makhtesh” Map and GPS Link from the eBook for the short hike and orientation in the area.

Colered Sand from The Big MakhteshJust a few meters Northwest to the car park is a small hill with “colored sand”. A popular activity in Israel is to make with it a small “sand bottle”, so we recommend to come prepared with an empty glass bottle and make by yourself a great Israeli souvenir for free!!
After a short visit to the colored sandhill, you can go on a short but exciting 3­­­­­-4 Km short hike.


The “Snapir” at the Big Makhtesh

A short, but “real”  hike climbing the walls of the Makhtesh

  • It is recommended to use the “Big Makhtesh” Map and GPS file from the download pack.
  • This is a short hike with some great desert views!
  • Cross the road and climb the east wall of the crater on the black marked path until reaching a junction with a Green marked path and the INT. (Israel National trail)
  • From this point, you can make 2 back and forth short walks.
    1 – Follow the INT going south along the edge of the cliff above the crater for as long as you want and return to the junction. (Great views on the crater)
    2 – continue on the black marked path over the ridge and then up to the next summit.
  • From the summit, you have a great view east on the Hatira ridge and west on the “Snapir” (fin) ridge you just crossed. (The ridge received the nickname because it resembles the shape of a fish fin).
  • Retrace your steps to the junction and go down on the Green marked path back to the car park.


Ein Yorkeam

A great picnic spot and an option for another short hike

  • Getting there:
  • Drive just 2 Km to our next stop. (GPS: 30.940873, 35.036387)
  • Use the “Yorkeam” Map and GPS Link from the eBook for the short hike and orientation in the area.

Follow the green marked path going east for about ½ Km until you reach the Yorkeam spring.
This is a fantastic spot for an extended break, and during the winter and spring offers also a good swimming opportunity!

Ein Yarkam is a seasonal spring in the upper part of the Hatira wadi, east of the “big” Makhtesh. The spring is “active” mainly during the winter and early spring, filling a large pool with water up to 5 meters depth. Towards the end of the summer, only a few water puddles remain in the lower part.
Ancient steps were cut in the wall of the northern bank of the wadi, which was probably used to take drinking water from the pool. Near the spring are also ruins from the Byzantine period that served as a security point.
After the visit to the spring, you can return to the vehicle or continue further down the wadi for about 1.3 km along the green marked trail. Walk until you reach a tall dry waterfall nicknamed “Nakeb El Yahud” (Arabic for “The pass of the jews”). The view from the top of the waterfall down to the canyon is impressive.

Maale Palmach, Hatira Canyon
Hatira Wadi By ekeidar [CC BY-SA 3.0]Wikimedia
“Nakeb El Yahud” – How it got its strange name?  A Palmach platoon was in the midst of a long 21-day journey from the Judean Desert to the Negev. It was the winter of 1944, the British Mandate ruled in Palestine. Because the platoon did not want to be discovered by the British In the open areas of the Rotem Plain, they were forced to deviate from the route they had planned. After passing through a few wadis, the company reached a “dead-end”,  facing a huge dry waterfall rising to the right and a high cliff blocking the path to the left. What to do? Out of lack of choice, they climbed the canyon cliff that was considered impassable until then by the Bedouins living in the area!! so, they named it “Nakeb El Yahud” (Pass of the Jews). Today it is called “Ma’ale Palmach” (Palmach Pass). Nowadays, a metal ladder and cables serve the hikers on the path that goes along the canyon.


Hiking to the small Maktesh, Negev, Israel
Small Mkhtesh By Mboesch [CC BY-SA 4.0]/Wikimedia

A short hike to an amazing view-point the Makhtesh

  • Getting There:
  • Drive on road #206 until the junction with the minor road #227 (GPS: 30.963291, 35.049315) (3 Km).
  • This minor road used to be the main road from Beer Sheva to Eilat until 1954 when road #40 was constructed.
  • Turn right and drive until (GPS: 30.932605, 35.142557) (11 Km).
  • Use the “Small Makhtesh” Map and GPS Link from the eBook for the short walk and orientation in the area.

From here it’s a 2 km easy hike along the red marked dirt road. Pay attention that after about 1.5 km you have to fork right to an unmarked dirt road!! (As the red path goes left)
All of a sudden the amazing view of the whole “Small” Makhtesh open up. Wow!!
Absorb the views and retrace your steps to the car.


Scorpion pass (Maale Akrabim] road serpentines

Scorpion Pass By IsraelHikingMap [CC BY-SA 4.04]/Wikimedia

The historic main road to Eilat

  • Getting There:
  • Drive just 3 Km further on the road to the head of the Scorpion Pass. (GPS: 30.910166, 35.132370)

  • It is now hard to believe that this minor road used to be the main road to Eilat until 1956.
  • From here, you have a great view east down to the Arava valley and to the Edom mountain in Jordan across the border.
  • It is also the spot of a very tragic event from 1954, the “Ma’ale Akrabim massacre”:

The Ma’ale Akrabim massacre, known in English as the Scorpions Pass Massacre, was an attack on an Israeli passenger bus, carried out on 17 March 1954, in the middle of the day. Eleven passengers were shot dead by the attackers who ambushed and boarded the bus. One passenger died 32 years later of his injuries, in a state of paralysis and partial recognition. Four passengers survived, two of whom had been injured by the gunmen. Read further in Wikipedia

  • Our Original trip continues to the Arava down the road. However, It now closed for traffic due to road conditions!
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