I had the lowest expectations about Eilat. To be fair, I doubted I would like it all. But I had to go anyways, as I was on my way to Jordan and it was the easiest place to cross the border without a pre-arranged visa.
To read more about my experience in Jordan, check my post “All the places to visit in Jordan for the ultimate adventure.”
Since I had to go by it anyways, I thought of staying along to see what the hype was all about. But I couldn’t help asking myself what I, lover of nature, silence and culture, currently immersed in the sophisticated Jerusalem, would be doing in a right-in-your-face resort city that has developed to the point of being nicknamed Eilat Vegas.
To find out more about Jerusalem, read my post “Traditional and alternative things to do in Jerusalem.”
After having spent three very intense days in Eilat before entering Jordan, I can say that, despite all my pre-assumptions, I really enjoyed Eilat – to the point that I was actually sad to leave. I can finally see why Israelis rave about it, and I’d wholeheartedly recommend it as a fantastic destination for a long weekend or a short holiday.
What’s so special about Eilat to make me fall in love with it? Read on to find out why I love Eilat.
Why I love Eilat
The weather is nice, year round
Eilat knows no winter, and hardly gets any rain. The average temperature in winter time is 21 degrees. It does get very hot during the summer, but then the waters of the Red Sea are a good way to escape the heat. I visited at the end of March and it was simply perfect.
There’s some really cool beaches
I am a beach expert. After all, I come from Sardinia and that says a lot about me. I enjoyed the beaches in Eilat, where they spread over 13 km of coast and give amazing views of the surrounding Edom Mountains. Some beaches are fully supervised with lifeguards, easily accessible even to family with small children, and there’s even some that cater to religiously observant people.
Three beaches have received the Blue Flag, meeting international standards of environmental management, water quality, safety and services. There even is a beach, called Dolphin Reef, that has become home to various cats (and dogs) who are nicely taken care of and hang out among tourists. To a cat lover and beach goer like me, this is a great bonus!
It’s water sports paradise
Most beaches in Eilat offer water sports. Diving is the most obvious options for those who enjoy observing marine life, as well as snorkeling. As it gets quite windy, kite and wind surfing are very popular in the area.
My favorite, though not a water sport proper, was the crazy shark. A speed boat pulls an inflatable mattress that seats up to 6 persons, twisting and turning. Holding on is hard work, by the end of the ride, my entire body ached. But it was possibly the most exhilarating experience of my life.
It’s a great place to observe marine life
Located right on the Red Sea, one of the most incredible places on earth for the variety of marine life, it is quite obvious that Eilat is a great place to observe marine life. Divers have an incredible choice of spots in the area.
Those who don’t dive can go to south of Coral Beach, where the Underwater Observatory is a fantastic place to learn more about marine life. There is a shark pool (the largest in the Middle East), and guides that give great insights about the local underwater life. Besides, the view from the observatory tower are stunning.
It’s a stone’s throw from incredible desert adventures
I love deserts, the silence and emptiness that characterize them. I have seen many deserts – including Wadi Rum in Jordan, Atacama in Chile, and the dunes of Huacacina in Peru. Needless to say, one of the reasons to go to Eilat is to experience the Negev Desert, where it is located.
All it takes to be fully surrounded by the emptiness and silence of the desert is a short drive from the city. There, it is possible to find great hiking trails (this is where the Israeli Trail, which goes all the way up to the border with Lebanon, starts), bird watching opportunities, and it is possible to rent buggies to enjoy a bit of fun in the desert.
One of my dreams is to hike the entire Israeli Trail. After failing at hiking part of the Jordan trail, and having learned a lot from that experience, I would like to go back to Israel and give this a try!
To read more about my experience on the Jordan Trail, check my post “Why I hiked the Jordan Trail(and failed).”
It’s near the amazing Timna Park
At about 25 km north of Eilat, Timna Park is a great archeological site where the world’s earliest copper mine is located. But there’s more than ancient mine at Timna Park: the site is also home to some beautiful geological formations, such as the Natural Arch, the Mushroom, and Solomon’s Pillar.
It is possible to hike and bike in Timna Park, but the site is actually quite spread out, and there hardly is any shade anywhere. Plan to carry lots of water and wear a hat and sunblock.
There’s lots of music festivals
Throughout the year, there’s a wide range of music festivals that take place in Eilat. Jazz festivals take place twice a year, in the winter and in the summer, at various venues in town. But there’s also the Eilat Beer Festival, with live performances by Israeli and international artists, and the Oriental Dance Festival, with more traditional middle eastern music.
It’s shopping paradise
I am hardly a shopaholic, but there are so many beautiful boutiques in Eilat that I could hardly resist the temptation to shop. The good news is that Eilat is a free port, so there’s no VAT added on prices, which makes it significantly cheaper than the rest of the country.
It’s packed with delicious restaurants
I hardly travel for food, but being Italian I am used to really good food, and I can be an extremely picky eater. This is to say, I know what good food is supposed to taste and look like. I tried many various restaurants while in town and the food was consistently fresh and full of flavor.
My top choices were Pastory, an Italian style restaurant that makes the most delicious fresh pasta and desserts; Colonia, which prepared delicious fresh salads and seafood; and the Fish Market, where I found a fantastic, easy going atmosphere and super tasty seafood and fish.
The nightlife is thriving
I don’t think I have ever had such refreshing, inventing, inviting, and simply beautiful to look at cocktails such as those of Fifth Avenue. This trendy cocktail bar and restaurant is an absolute must when in Eilat! There’s also a bunch of easy going pubs that play live music. Three Monkey is very popular in town, but I wouldn’t pass on Paddy’s either.
There are some fabulous accommodation options
Such a popular destination as Eilat is packed with great accommodation options. I stayed at King Solomon Hotel and enjoyed a very spacious and comfortable room, with a fabulous view over the city (and the sunset was spectacular). The breakfast buffet was outstanding.
Although most options in town tend to be expensive, there are a few hostels which are more budget friendly, such as Arava Hostel, and even a camping site.
Here’s a post that will explain how to make the most of a trip to Israel.
Have you ever been to Eilat? What was your favorite thing to do there?
Legal Disclaimer: This article is written in partnership with The Tourism Board of Eilat, of whom I was a guest. All the views and opinions expressed are my own and based on my personal experience. The views expressed are honest and factual without any bias.