Israel’s small size is packed with diverse landscapes. From the craggy cliffs in the deserts to the meadows of the Goan heights. This combination makes it an ideal country for road-trips. While driving in Israel, you get an incredible mix of natural phenomena, unique settlement forms (Such as Kibbutz and Moshav), a history that spans back thousands of years and biblical sites. Here are some of the best roads to take!
Road 40 – Dramatic desert scenery
Road 40 is 300 kilometers long, making it the second-longest road in Israel. It starts 50 Km north of Eilat and ends near Tel Aviv. The northern sections of the road are very monotonous, without any unique views or attractions. We will focus on the fantastic 150 Kilometers crossing the Negev Desert, from Tlalim Junction until the Arava Valley. This is a true desert road-trip with dramatic scenery all along and plenty of attractions on the way. To name just a few: Ben Gurion shack in Kibbutz Sde Boker, Ancient Avdat, Makhtesh Ramon, and the Arava Valley.
Road 12 – Entering Eilat through the back door.
Road 12 is only 73 Kilometers long. Connecting Road 40 to Eilat on a longer route than the more common road 90 alternative (It takes just an additional 10 minutes). However, the desert scenery along the road and the sudden appearance of the Red-Sea are breathtaking! The first 35 Kilometers are flat and dull, but then, suddenly, the road enters the craggy colorful landscape of the Eilat mountains range. The colors change sharply between Red, Brown, Black, and white. However, the climax is when suddenly the deep crystal blue of the Red-Sea appears below between the mountain summits. Two highly recommend stops along the road are the Red Canyon and the Mount Yoash observation point.
Road 98 – Crossing the Golan Heights
Route 98 is the main longitudinal highway in the Golan Heights and is about 100 km long. The road starts at Maagan junction near the Sea of Galilee, at an altitude of 200 meters below sea level. It then crosses the Golan Heights from south to north, parallel to the border with Syria, and ends at the lower cable car station in Mount Hermon (altitude of 1,600 meters ASL). It is a delightful drive, especially in late winter and spring, when the open landscape is lushing green and dotted with wildflowers. The recommended direction is from south to north, having the snow-capped Hermon summit dominating the view in front of you.
Road 3866/386 – A scenic drive to Jerusalem.
A very scenic and quiet alternative to the busy highway number 1. This 25 Kilometers winding road connects Beit Shemesh to Jerusalem, arriving at the capital through the picturesque Ein-Karem neighborhood. The narrow, but well-maintained roads climbs the Judean mountains with great views all along. There are plenty of picnic spots along the way. It is not a drive that I would make a special effort to take. But if you are driving from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem, be sure that take this detour!
Road 225/227 – The lesser-known Makhesth
Makhtesh Ramon gets all the fame, mainly because it’s the biggest, and the main road to Eilat passes through it. This leaves his two little brothers the “Big” and “Small” Makhtesh “off the beaten track”. This neglect is unjustified. These two craters are not less impressive, and roads 225/227 that pass through them make up a great road-trip with dramatic scenery and some short and exciting hikes. The drive starts in Yerucham and ends at the head of the Scorpion pass.