HaMakhtesh HaGadol (The Big Crater) is located near Yeruham in Israel’s Negev desert. The Hebrew word makhtesh means “mortar grinder”. The Big Crater got its misleading name in the days when the even larger Ramon Crater was still uncharted. Measuring 23 square miles, it’s the second largest natural crater in Israel. The Negev has five of these craters out of seven in the world. There are also two in Egypt and some similar formations in Jordan.
What is a “Makhtesh”?
A makhtesh is a geological landform, unique to the Negev desert of Israel and the Sinai peninsula of Egypt. It is formed where a hard outer layer of rock (limestone and dolomite) covers softer rocks (chalk or sandstone). Erosion removes the softer minerals which are washed away. A makhtesh has steep walls of hard rock surrounding a deep closed valley. The area is usually drained by a single dry river bed.
What to see at HaMakhtesh HaGadol (The Big Crater)
A visit by car to the Big Crater can include the following attractions:
- Mount Avnun: A sweeping, panoramic view of the Big Crater from the western rim, almost a half mile above sea level and about a quarter mile above the floor of the crater
- The petrified trees (fossilized tree trunks in which the organic remains have been replaced by minerals)
- The “Big Fin” (northern ridge of the crater)
- The “Small Fin” (short climbs to hills near the eastern rim)
- The Colored Sands Park near the eastern rim where visitors can enjoy the colored sands and rock formations in the area
Originally posted at Israel and You.