The trail can be driven in any vehicle and includes short walking sections.
The starting point is at the Lotan junction at the intersection of the Arava road (Route 90) and the road to Mitzpe Ramon (Route 40). From there you will drive west on Route 40 on the section called Ma'ale Grofit. After passing near the observation point at Har-Ayit (to which you will return towards the end of the day), you will continue until you meet Route 12 at Neot Smadar Junction.
To the right of you is Kibbutz Neot Smadar, which is outstanding in its abundance of vegetation. A colorful building stands in the kibbutz. This is the "House of the Arts" which hosts workshops of artists of various types. Near the kibbutz is also the vineyard of the most southernly grown wine grapes and winery in the northern hemisphere. At the junction is the Neot Smadar Shop, which sells agricultural products, dairy products, the winery, and the House of the Arts. You can also arrange a guided, paid tour on the kibbutz. From the shop at the junction, you will continue south on Route 12, about 6 km until the right turn to the road leading to the Ovda Valley, to the air force base in the valley and to the town of Shaharut.
A 6 km drive will take you to a trail with red markings to the left (east) and next to a sign of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority announcing your entry into the Shayarot Cliffs and Nahal Yitro. On the dirt road, you will notice dune riders sliding down the slopes to the right. As you continue, you will see larger dunes, until after about 2 kilometers, to the great dune, where you can get out of the car and climb, surf, roll, and play in the dunes.
The sand granules are surprisingly thin. The composition of the sand is unusual: about half of the grains that make up it is not quartz sand but tiny limestone fossils from the sea. After your time in the dunes, you will return to the road and continue another 2.5 km until the road divides to Shaharut on the road from the road leading to the air force base. At this point, you will turn the car around. Next, to this point to the east, you will see a compound surrounded by a low fence. This is the 'Tiger Shrine' - a unique prehistoric site. An explanatory sign accompanies. On the eastern fringes of the Uvda Valley, a large concentration of archeological sites from different periods was found, indicating an ancient agricultural settlement and activity.
On your way back to the Arava, you will stop at the Har Ayit observation point. It is recommended to arrive in the afternoon when the sun from the west illuminates the Arava and the Edom Mountains. You can see the dunes that flow from the Edom Mountains to the Arava, in the Jordanian settlement of Rahma, in the fields and in the kibbutzim Yahel, Neot Smadar, Lotan and Ketura.
From the observation point, you will continue down the road until you reach the Arava road and then head north to Yahel or south towards Yotvata and Eilat.
Written by Assaf Holtzer
Photographer: Dafna Tal for the Israeli Ministry of Tourism