The town of Yeruham in Israel’s Negev Desert, a 20-minute drive from Beersheba, is not exactly on the top of anyone’s list of must-see destinations in Israel. But the city is not without its attractions — most notably, the multi-colored sands of the country’s largest crater — and can now boast the brand-new Desert Iris Hotel, which rivals any property in the northern Negev, including in its much larger and more famous metropolitan neighbor.
The fruit of an ambitious joint project of municipal leaders and and private investors, the Desert Iris is an impressive boutique hotel with four-star aspirations. Displaying creativity and imagination, the developers transformed the abandoned corporate offices of a chemical conglomerate into a welcoming property comprising mainly garden-terrace suites.
Nearly all of the hotel’s guest units (40 out of 47) are suites, and each one can sleep up to four. The queen-size bed in the master bedroom is luxuriously comfortable, with a pampering duvet. The bathrooms are exquisitely designed, with shower stalls featuring multiple showerheads, a convenient hairdryer, and Dead Sea mineral amenities. There is a coffee and tea station — plus mini-refrigerator — and a work area. The in-room safe is large enough to accommodate laptops.
Each room even has its own 32-inch LCD TV, with limited cable channels. One feature at the Desert Iris that I have not encountered anywhere else in Israel is a dedicated channel on the television set that monitors the hotel’s well-equipped children’s playroom. Adults have access to a fitness room boasting the latest Nautilus equipment, while everyone can enjoy the swimming pool (with separate kiddie pool) and poolside lounge chairs.
Free Wi-Fi extends to all units and common areas, and there are two computers available for guest use. The complimentary breakfast buffet is up to big-city standards, with plenty of hot dishes and an omelette station. For guests wanting additional luxury and amenities, there are two Exclusive Suites in an adults-only wing overlooking the spacious lobby, which also boasts a handsome fireplace.
The lobby also accommodates a bar and cafe that serves light repasts in an al fresco dining area. The Desert Iris will be the first to admit that its dining options for more substantial meals is not yet up to the level of its breakfast; but the hotel has partnered with the city to provide guests with a very pleasant alternative: another initiative of the town is the “Culinary Queens” — hostesses who serve up delicious home-cooked feasts in their homes. Authentic ethnic cuisine is what is on offer, predominantly Moroccan and Tunisian, although Indian is in the works, and possibly Persian and Russian.
Published rates: Room rates (double occupancy) at Desert Iris Hotel range from $170 to $320 in peak season and holiday periods. Single occupancy for Israel solo travelers is lower. Tourists are exempt from VAT. Book directly with The Desert Iris Hotel or try Expedia.
Text and photos by Buzzy Gordon, who was a guest of the hotel for purposes of review.