Travel guide Lonely Planet has named the Negev desert as one of its top destinations of the year.
The Negev, which covers most of southern Israel, appears in second place on its annual list of ten top regions to visit. The desert area is in the company of Corsica, in France, Mustang in Nepal and the Palawan archipelago in the Philippines.
The travel guide explained its choice of the Negev by referring to a planned new airport at Timna and tourist development including rail connections, describing it as a chance "to experience the desert as nature intended".
"For decades the Negev was regarded as nothing but a desolate desert," said Lonely Planet. "But today, this region is a giant greenhouse of development. Think eco-villages, spa resorts and even wineries."
Development of the Negev region was a cornerstone of early Zionism, with Israel's first Prime Minister expressing the importance of making it bloom. David Ben-Gurion and his wife retired to an area of the Negev called Sde Boker and were buried there.