Eilat, once a strategic, Israeli military outpost, has restyled itself into an international beach resort. The town of around 85,000 residents sits perched at the northern end of the Red Sea, within walking distance to Egypt and within sight of Jordan and Saudi Arabia. The resort, popular with European tourists, is relatively unknown to North American travelers.
Eilat offers a relatively safe, secure environment for those traveling alone. The seaside town is located more than 200 miles from the tensions in Tel Aviv and other Mid-East cities and surrounded by desert.
Accommodations in Eilat range from lavish, beachfront resorts to a traditional Israeli kibbutz. The resort hotels, which are clustered along North Beach, include the five-star Hilton Queen of Sheba Resort, the 500-room Herod’s Palace Hotel and the four-star Astral Seaside Hotel, a smaller (96-room) place to stay with an excellent location at the end of the beach. For those seeking a more traditional Israeli experience, Kibbutz Eilot offers simple accommodations two miles from the resort area at the edge of the desert.
What to See in Eilat
The beach is the primary attraction in Eilat, but by no means the only thing to see. The primary beach is North Beach, the 1.2-mile stretch that is home to the major resort hotels. Dive and snorkeling enthusiasts will also want to travel down to South Beach to see its dramatic and colorful coral formations.
In addition to sun and watersports, visitors to Eilat that venture off the beach can enjoy a variety of natural and cultural attractions. Among these are:
Negev Desert – This arid expanse has changed little since Biblical times. The desert, part of the Great Rift Valley that extends into Africa, can be seen via scenic trail hikes, camel treks and guided jeep tours.
Kings City – This biblical theme park combines roller coasters with Bible stories. Visitors can enjoy the thrill rides, view desert wildlife and plants, and bone up on their Old Testament tales.
Eilat Underwater Observatory Marine Park – Located about five miles south of the resort area, this popular attraction allows visitors to view the unique marine and plant life in the Red Sea without getting wet and is open daily.
Restaurants in Eilat
Among the most popular restaurants in Eilat is Pago Pago, a floating restaurant in the Eilat lagoon that’s a destination in itself. The specialty here is seafood, steaks and sushi. Other favorites include Ginger for Asian food and Eddie’s Hideaway for Continental cuisine.
Not all of the good food in Eilat is found in restaurants. The resort town is known for its excellent falafel (a popular Middle Eastern dish made of deep-fried mashed chick peas or fava beans), which is served from street stands throughout the resort area.
Eilat offers a plethora of duty-free shops, selling top international brands at attractive prices without the 17 percent tax you’ll find in Tel Aviv. Among the popular shopping centers is Mall Ha Yam (Mall of the Sea), a giant shopping emporium located at the edge of the beach.
Getting to Eilat
Eilat is just a 50 minute flight away from Tel Aviv International Airport and connections from New York City, Los Angeles and Toronto. Visitors to Israel from the United States and Canada require a valid passport that is valid for at least six months past your arrival date. No visa is required for stays of less than 90 days. If you are planning to visit nearby Aqaba, Jordan or Taba, Egypt, you will need additional documentation.
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