Welcome to the Central Arava where the friendly desert awaits you.

Desert tourism in the Arava region offers plenty of attractions and caters for local visitors and tourists from abroad. Exclusive field trips amidst  breathtaking arid landscapes, high standard desert khans, accommodation options and outstanding desert hospitality. The Arava Tourism Community invites you to enjoy a unique desert experience, tailored to suit your requirements.

"The Friendly Desert" is a new concept to promote Israeli 'Desert Tourism'. The Israeli desert stretches along a small geographic area, with magnificent unique landscapes, hardly influenced by human activity. The region displays impressive geological phenomena and unspoiled landscapes, alongside a rich human heritage of ancient cultures, left behind in an abundance of remains of ancient sites and the remains of ancient agriculture.

Dr. Shahar Shilo, one of the initiators of the 'Desert Tourism' concept in Israel and a senior adviser on tourism in the Arava region, explains that unlike many other deserts in the world, the Israeli desert offers accessibility and comfort, is friendly, safe and welcoming. These factors contribute into making the Israeli desert a prime, fascinating, innovative and accessible desert destination for several reasons:

  • Its proximity to Europe and international airports within a relatively short drive. Today the Arava region is even easier to reach, with the opening of the new Ramon International Airport in the Arava.
  • Israel is classed as one of the most clearly marked countries in the world. The Israeli desert is clearly marked with hundreds of safe hiking trails at a variety of difficulty levels, to suit all types of visitors.
  • Personal safety and security. Israel has one of the world's best rescue units and advanced medical services, available to all tourists.
  • Most of the desert offers coverage to several cellular networks.
  • The desert offers plenty of attractions and adventures, suitable for all ages and budgets. The communities are friendly welcoming and mostly bi-lingual. [English-speaking].
  • The dry desert climate and usually clear blue skies contribute to the region being a sought-after astronomical site, and when darkness descends, all you have to do is raise your head to the sky to quickly spot a falling star or meteor shower (and of course make a wish).

Tourism in the central Arava relies on extensive trends and processes both local and global. The agricultural crisis in the 1980s led the rural residents to seek an alternative source of income. At the same time, additional entrepreneurs, who were also aware of the increasing number of visitors, viewed this as an opportunity to open new businesses that would fulfill the needs of the tourists (additional activities). From here onward, businesses began to spring up, such as jeep tour companies, restaurants, activities centering on the farm environment, art stores and attractions. The government acknowledge the phenomenon of country-style tourism in the year of 1992 and the Ministry of Tourism began to allocate budgets to employ an advisor in this sector and establish a support system. Country-style tourism is distinctive in its location (wide-open spaces, country settlements and communities), its function (based on the lifestyle of the community, open spaces, contact with nature), its size (small businesses, small buildings and communities) and its management (developed and managed by the local community).

In 1996, the Bloch and Shomron families in Ein Yahav established the first guest rooms (Zimmers) in the Arava. This was the first inkling of another way of thinking and developing another source of employment and income for the residents, besides agriculture. In 2000, the late Shay Ben Eliyahu, Head of the Regional Council at the time, decided to establish a Department of Tourism within the Regional Council. Expansion and development of this branch of tourism turned the region into a significant tourist destination in Israel and a central area of non-agricultural employment. The council’s leadership took upon itself the goal to establish and develop tourism as a suitable solution to the population problem (the absorption of new members and children returning to live in the region) and as another means of employment, or extra livelihood, for the existing populace.

Tourism in the Arava relies on three main principles in accordance with the structure of successful desert tourism. Isolation, Customization and Unity with nature. Desert tourism, rustic and developing, abundant in hiking paths, nature reserves and breathtaking landscapes, alongside attractions suitable  for the whole family and varied types of country-style overnight lodging options suited to the guests needs. The Nabatean Incense Route, acknowledged by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in July 2005, also passes through the region.

The Arava offers approximately 350 Zimmers. Vacationers choose to visit the area mainly due to the unique landscapes, serenity, tranquil atmosphere and abundance of hiking trails in the region. The main tourist season in the Arava is between September to May and the average annual occupancy rate stands at approximately 30%. In recent years we have been able to marginally extend the tourist season, mainly due to the swimming pools in the communities, which are available for guests' enjoyment, without limitation.

An estimate of the economic contribution of tourism in the central Arava stands at over 31M shekels, which was the estimate of the planners in 2007.

Printable Map: Attractions in the Central Arava (PDF)>>





The Bloch and Shomron families from Ein Yahav established the first country-style guest rooms (Zimmers) in the Arava.


Establishment of the tourism department by Gil Selwin and Ossi Nir with the professional assistance of Moish Even Nir- organizational consultant, Shachar Shilo – tourism consultant and Avi Korns – advertising consultant.


“Arava Attraction” events are held for the very first time. Later on, Arava events are opened to model airplanes and radio-controlled planes, in the spirit of the vision of the late Gilad Livni, who was the CEO of the Arava Development Company.


The cornerstone was laid in Tzukim.


The advertising agency Tzur Chachmon coined the slogan, “When was the last time you explored the Arava?” and it accompanied tourism ads for many more years (a small anecdote: pupils from a school in the north of Israel were asked to analyze the sentence in a grammar test and discuss an exchange of the words Arava = Ahava [Love]).


Ceremony of declaration: Zukim is declared a community of Ecotourism.


The Incense Route was acknowledged as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


The “Arava Walk” event takes place for the first time as a joint venture of the Sport and Tourism departments.


Inauguration of the cycling route project - “The Incense Route by Bicycle”.


The Shizaf Reserve is officially acknowledged as a Nature Reserve.


Declaration of cooperation between the two Arava regions, central and southern, in the framework of which, the first yoga event in Israel, “Yoga Arava”, takes place.


The film festival takes place in the Arava for the first time.


Inauguration of the Vidor Arava Visitors' Centre.


IBB guest room ranking project occurs for the first time in the Arava. Twenty locations are ranked.


The Artists’ Village in Tzukim is officially opened to visitors.


The Arava is partner in branding the tourist product “Friendly Desert Concept”.


The Go Arava website is launched www.goarava.co.il


The Go Arava website is launched in English en.goarava.co.il


The Tourist, the Tour Operator and how the two communicate

Tourism in the Arava relies on three main points of focus. The Supplier, the customer and the communication between the two.

  • The tour operator and the tourist product supplier, Support and assistance to entrepreneurs who intend doing business in tourism (consulting, coaching, accompanying, incubators and business plans). A central contact point for existing tour operators in the Arava who are mainly guest room proprietors, catering business owners, owners of attractions, tour guides and other tourist-reliant entities such as artists, owners of galleries and other semi-tourist services. Developing a comprehensive regional strategy and implementing it among tour operators, developing appropriate training and enrichment programs, providing courses and professional advancement opportunities. Combined with development, progression, accessibility and expansion of the existing product packages such as bicycle routes, hiking paths, signage, forming collaborations to include existing products. Managing  a Regional Tourist Committee to ensure the ongoing work in the region progresses efficiently and to improve the flow of information.
  • The tourist (customer). Providing tourists accessibility to tourism  products, identifying relevant products sections and expanding target audiences (producing brochures, maps, websites, Facebook pages, a customer database, reservation center, info stations, niche events).
  • The communication between the two (marketing). Providing a marketing umbrella, exposing the region and marketing it nationally and internationally, as leverage for promoting tourism in the region. This is done through PR, advertising, marketing, tours for the media, producing events, managing the website and the tourism Facebook page and representing the tourist operators at Tourism Exhibitions.


Additional Data

  • Approximately 350 Zimmers in about 60 venues. 47 for lodging only, 6 khans, 6 combined sites, 1 mobile lodging site. Division according to settlements - 2 in Idan, 15 in Hatzeva, 16 in Ein Yahav, 2 in Sapir, 9 in Tzofar, 7 in Tzukim and 8 in Faran.
  • Approximately 200 tour operators who are proprietors of Zimmers and hosting sites, catering and restaurant facility proprietors, attraction and point of interest operators, tour guides, artists and artisans providing services to tourists.
  • The main tourist season is between September – May, however in the past few years the activity has been extending into the summer months mainly due to the swimming pools in the communities.
  • The average annual occupancy rate is approximately 30%, mostly during the holidays and on weekends. This data is a general estimate which relies on mathematical extrapolation because the lodging sites do not convey reports on a regular basis.
  • The distribution of those working in tourism is diverse and lacks any unique attributes (age, education, additional income).
  • Tourist consumers in the Arava consist mainly of domestic tourists. Families with children, desert tour enthusiasts, jeep drivers, for the most part an established consumer base. The current opening of the Ramon airport at Timna poses challenge to the region and dictates the preparation of the tourist sites for international tourism. This is included in the framework of the “The Friendly Desert” project in collaboration with the neighboring councils and promotion by the Ministry of Tourism.