We knew we wanted to stay near the Dead Sea and Negev Desert areas of Israel for several reasons. First, the Dead Sea. I've wanted to see the Dead Sea for as long as I can remember and I wanted to make the most of it. Second, I've never spent much time in a desert in my life. Sure, I've been to Las Vegas, but that's totally different than this kind of desert vacation.
So, when I started researching places to stay, I saw there were a good number of large resorts on the shores of the Dead Sea. Zac and I are not generally large hotel people and try to stay away from resorts. Plus, they were incredibly expensive and got mostly poor reviews. So that left me scrambling a bit. I Googled "interesting places to stay near the Dead Sea" and somehow found the Negev Camel Ranch. I think this was some lucky searching because this seemed perfect for us.
Here's the deal. The Negev Camel Ranch offers 1-4 hour camel rides in the Negev Desert. And they offer inexpensive lodging along with some meal options. The lodging is very basic, square huts with several windows, several beds and basic lighting scattered amongst the property. There are really clean common bathrooms, a common kitchen and a common area/reception room. It's a lot like camping only hard sided rooms instead of tents. And camels. The camels stay in a pen area right outside your hut and you can see and hear them all the time. Don't worry, they're actually quite quiet and seem to go to bed pretty early.
I first want to say how much we loved this place. It was exactly what we were looking for. Off the beaten path and a little bit quirky. There was a bit of confusion when we arrived because the fellow at the counter didn't speak much (if any) English and we speak no Hebrew or Arabic. Some guys who were waiting for their camel rides tried helping out and ordered us a tea to sit and relax while we wait to check in. This tea would become a hallmark of our time here. While we drank our tea the owner of the ranch came and got us all settled. We took our time relaxing in the common area and sipping our tea and listening to the excited people who were regaling one another with tales of their camel rides. The owner took Zac to our hut and I finished relaxing just a bit longer.
Our hut had 5 single beds which was perfect for sitting our packs and clothes on while we stayed on two of the beds. The room was big enough for both of us to do yoga each morning and we had room to just sit and hang out. The camels were just outside our front door and we could hear them groan and gallop around. It was enchanting.
We took advantage of the meal service for dinner our first night and breakfast our first day. You need to book these at least two days in advance and you really, really should. The dinner was vegetarian and based on what a camel shepherd would have for his dinner in the desert. This was no nonsense but extremely tasty food served with a refreshing lemonade and followed by some more herbal tea and dates. This was a thoroughly great way to start our stay at the Negev Camel Ranch.
Breakfast the next morning did not disappoint as we were served several large rolls, hard boiled eggs, tomatoes, cheese, etc. This was so delicious and enough food that we were able to bring some with us for lunch! The owner was even nice enough to give us little bags for the sandwiches we made with our leftovers. It was perfect!
The next meals we took full advantage of the common kitchen and made everything ourselves. Had we not been trying to save money, we surely would have booked in for another dinner and breakfast in our time there. The other great thing about staying at the Negev Camel Ranch is you get to meet fellow travelers. We had several great conversations with people while making our breakfast/lunch and dinners. One of the other travelers was also kind enough to clean our dishes one morning.
There was a lot of activity going on on the ranch but it never felt hectic. Most everyone who stayed there took a camel ride (we did not) and really enjoyed themselves. The owner and his wife are super nice people and have done a great job with making everyone feel welcome. The bathrooms are super clean and we always felt right at home. We spent a fair amount of time doing work on wifi which meant being in the common room, but that also meant drinking really good herbal tea and funny responses from the owner to our many questions.
We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at the Negev Camel Ranch and we would definitely do it again. We did, however, leave feeling really sandy and dirty, but then again it's the desert. Oh and the camels can sometimes snore. But somehow it's cuter than when your spouse does it.