Once a tiny kibbutz on Israel’s southernmost shore, Eilat is now a major attraction for locals and tourists alike. Eilat is a city based around tourism, with fun activities for everyone. Spend your time sunbathing, diving, hiking nature trails, or hopping the border for an adventure in Jordan or Egypt! Whats more, the city sees less than ten days of rain a year – so you’re practically guaranteed some sunshine regardless of the season.
There are 51 hotels in Eilat, ranging from youth hostels to luxury. In addition, Eilat has an abundance of fine restaurants, nightclubs, and VAT-free shopping. The sun-splashed city of 60,000 residents is especially popular with tourists from across Europe – and is growing in popularity with international tourists since the addition of its new international airport.
Eilat is also a great launch-pad for a trip to Jordan – read our guide about visiting Petra from Eilat for all the details!
Swim with Dolphins
Eilat’s main attraction is its glimmering sea – filled with some of the world’s best aquatic life. The Red Sea is one of the best places in the world for snorkeling, diving, and other water sports. No fewer than 13 licensed diving centers dot Eilat’s beaches, along with nine water-sport clubs. You can take a course or introductory dive (ages 12 and up). Or go parasailing, rent a motor-boat, kayak or raft. If you prefer, explore the sea from the deck of a cruise ship or glass-bottom boat. Consistent strong winds and calm seas make Eilat one of the world’s choice spots for kite-surfing and wind-surfing. And the great year-round temperatures mean it’s possible to take advantage of these activities throughout the year.
At Eilat’s Dolphin Reef, home to a school of bottle-nosed dolphins, visitors from age eight and up can snorkel and dive. Meanwhile, those 10 and up can swim with the dolphins! The reef is a tranquil place to watch the playful clowns from a gently rolling dock. Or unwind in one of three music-infused relaxation pools (for adults only).
Visit the Underwater Observatory
The Underwater Observatory is Eilat’s #1 attraction. Sharks and sea turtles swim in large open-air tanks, where crowds gather during feeding time. This observatory provides a window into the colorful fish and rich corals of the Red Sea. Eilat’s impressive coral reef extends 1,200 meters (a little more than half a mile) along the shore. It’s complex and delicate ecosystem houses more than 270 species of coral and 2,500 types of underwater creatures – some unique to the Red Sea.
Explore the Desert
Those wanting to delve into the surrounding desert will be delighted with the granite mountains and surrounding canyons. Choose from different levels of hiking trails as well as rappelling, and jeep tours in the Negev Desert. You can take in the scenery with a camel-ride at the Bedouin-run Camel Ranch.
A 21-kilometre (13-mile) ring trail has recently been built around Eilat – perfect for bikers. Most of the trail is ideal for families, while the winding part through the mountains offers a challenge for serious bikers. The bicycle trail within the city is now under construction, expected to reach as far as the Peace Promenade at the Gulf of Aqaba over the next few years. Eilat’s Botanical Garden and Organic Farm recently added a rain-forest exhibit – no small feat in a city that only gets rain about six days a year.
Birdwatchers also flock to Eilat, a key stopover for migrating African and European birds. The International Birding and Research Center monitors the visiting birds. Guided tours are available, as well as a 2 week session for volunteers during the autumn and spring migration. Here you’ll see hundreds of species from Asia and Europe, as well as resident species. Keep an eye out for steppe eagles, sparrow hawks, white storks, black-cap warblers, flamingos, and European bee-eaters.
Don’t miss the Hai Bar Nature Reserve, an 8,000-acre sanctuary for many rare and endangered desert creatures. You can see leopards, cheetahs, hyenas, gazelles, and ostriches. Looking farther into the sky, the What’s Up observatory offers a glimpse of globular clusters, far-off galaxies and different types of nebula. And, about 25 km north of the city is the amazing Timna National Park, home to the world’s oldest copper mines.
Experience a Desert Festival
In addition to year-round attractions, the number of festivals and events in Eilat is growing each year. January hosts the Red Sea Classical Music Festival and International Belly Dancing Festival. In March, check out the Chamber Music Festival. During the month of June, celebrate the Pride Festival for the LGBT community. And in August, the 25-year-old Red Sea Jazz Festival is not to be missed!
With temperatures soaring up to 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit) in the summer, Eilat’s Ice Park offers some frosty relief. Aside from the Olympic-size rink, the complex houses a 400-seat theater for ice shows, a “snow” play area, and an adjacent shopping center. The city also boasts Ice Space, an ice sculpture exhibition and snowy play area overlooking the Gulf of Eilat marina.
Special thanks to Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, from whom this article was adapted. Source