If you’re looking for guaranteed sun, great activities and luxury accommodation, Eilat should be your first port of call. Israel’s southernmost city is packed with a wide array of things to do, so that families of all ages will be entertained.
What to do
Eilat is ideal for kicking back and sleeping on the sand but there is also a huge range of activities to get involved in if you are the more adventurous type. You can go on jeep tours in the desert, or camel treks in the wilderness. You can go quad biking in the sand dunes, or if that sounds like too much heat for you, watersports line the beach every few steps, from waterskiing to wakeboarding.
Eilat is possibly best known for its amazing snorkelling and scuba diving areas so take a trip to the coral reef and see countless tropical fish, as well as sea turtles, octopuses and oysters.
Dolphin Reef, too, is a particular favourite of most visitors. It’s an ecological site with a natural atmosphere and secluded beach, where you can observe dolphins in their natural habitat. Even if you don’t opt to swim with dolphins yourself, you can dangle your legs into the water off the jetty and watch the glorious creatures swim right up to your feet.
Where to stay
The hotels in Eilat are mostly big, bold and luxurious, from the Princess, moments from the border with Egypt, and the Royal Beach, which boasts beautiful views of the Red Sea from each of its 353 rooms.
The Queen of Sheba has a seafront pool and adjoining shopping mall. Agamim is often the kids’ favourite – mainly because you can choose a room in which you can jump off the decking and swim directly into the main swimming pool.
Best of all, those new to Israel will be astounded by the Israeli breakfast that awaits them in the morning – you’ll never quite see a spread like it outside of the country.
Where to eat
Due to kosher restrictions, most restaurants are divided into ‘milky’ or ‘meaty’. Many of the best restaurants are linked to hotels, including the Ranch House under the Royal Beach, which is famous for its tasty chicken wings.
At the Queen of Sheba, Chicago is home to mouthwatering steaks, chicken salads, burgers, lamb chops and chunky French fries – but be warned, it can be quite pricey.
Shato, which offers a fusion menu combining flavours from East to West, turns into a cool bar with a trendy vibe after midnight. Il Pentolino, a laidback Italian, is more affordable and less touristy as it is set a little back from the busiest areas.
It is generally not worth renting a car as Eilat is so small you can practically walk everywhere. There are also plenty of taxis but make sure you agree a fee first or ask the driver to put the meter on to avoid getting ripped off.
When to go
Eilat is particularly popular with sunseekers as it is sunny all year round but the summer can be sweltering. The place can be rather quiet if you visit out of season – so for the most vibrant feel, visit during Christmas, February half-term and other school holidays.
Three things we like
- The amazing ‘tayelet’ – a huge sidewalk by the sea – is full of market stalls, selling everything from bikinis and shorts to drinks, crêpes and candy floss at great prices. There are shisha bars and karaoke cafés for entertainment.
- The great shopping mall, which has a huge ice rink and snowdome at its centre, is ideal for keeping the family entertained.
- The airport is right in the middle of Eilat, but it’s not noisy or disruptive. In fact, it’s rather a spectacle – you can watch the private planes come and go, including that of regular visitor Roman Abramovitch.
Something we don’t like
While many people stay in Eilat for weeks without feeling the need to venture out, it is a few hours’ drive from mainland Israel. So if you have itchy feet, you can’t just drive to a neighbouring city – it’s quite isolated. But that’s what makes it a proper holiday, right?
If you want to visit a bar, Three Monkeys has a fabulous resident band that plays every night, with a dancefloor, delicious cocktails and the perfect outside spot for people watching.
Your hotel can also organise bespoke day trips, the most popular being to Petra, Jordan, which is a historical sight every visitor to Eilat must make time to see. If you are prepared for a more tiring trip, you can also take a tour to Cairo and back.
High50 insider tips
- You can’t fly directly to Eilat, but many airlines, including British Airways, EasyJet and ElAl, all fly to Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv. From there, you can take a bus, taxi or rental car on the five-hour drive to Eilat. Or you can fly, with Israir, Arkia and ElAl airlines all flying there.
- Unless you’re Jewish and observant, avoid going to Israel during the Passover festival. Jews have strict food restrictions during this period. Many will travel from around the world to Israel, and stay in kosher hotels to be able to eat more freely. This means that during this eight-day festival, prices are hugely inflated and restaurants, bars and beaches will be very busy.
Need to know
- The currency is shekels.
- Eilat is two hours ahead of the UK (GMT +2).
- It’s really, really hot, so make sure you always carry drinking water with you and be wary of dehydration in high temperatures.
- On Friday nights and Saturdays, it’s the Jewish Sabbath so many restaurants may be closed.
- Hebrew is the local language, but everyone speaks English. A simple ‘Shalom!’ will get you far.