The perfect add-on to a Jerusalem vacation
Eilat holidays are the perfect way to relax after the intensity of a Jerusalem vacation.
A small town on the shores of the Red Sea, Eilat is the southernmost point in Israel. It’s a world away from the intellectually and spiritually intense, historically replete Jerusalem – Eilat is all about two things: fun and nature!
Here, you can snorkel through stunning coral reefs, scuba dive with dolphins – or just sit on the dock and pet them. Cruise the Red Sea at sunset. Explore the maritime depths at the world famous underwater observatory. Hang out at the beach. Water ski, para-glide, or take a hike to see Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt – from one spot.
Here are some highlights of our family's recent Eilat holidays:
Coral Reef Nature Preserve – This beach front nature preserve is one of the nicest beaches in Eilat. Get there early (it opens at 8:30 am) and you'll beat the tour groups and nab a place under the shady awnings. For 25₪ you can rent snorkeling equipment which allows to fully appreciate the coral reef and colorful wildlife. There's a shallow area for younger kids and deep water areas at the end of the two long piers. Some areas are roped off so people won't damage the coral. A nice plus – for a small fee, you can rent lockers for your stuff. Despite all the other fun stuff we've done, snorkeling at Coral Reef remains one of my kids absolute favorite memories.
Admission: 30₪ adults; 16₪ children. Tel: 637-6829
View of Coral Reef Nature Preserve from the sea.
– Unlike most aquariums where the fish are in the tanks and the people walk about, at the observatory, it's the people who are in the "tank", observing fish in the wild.
The observatory is built underwater in the midst of a coral reef. You can walk around looking out the windows and marvel at the fish, sea urchins, and other creatures that inhabit the sea. There is also a cruise in a specially designed boat that has you sitting under the water level, looking out the windows. It's a bit like being in a submarine.
Back on land, there are special exhibits, a turtle pond, shark pool. You can watch oysters being opened to reveal the pearl inside or feed the fish in the carp pool. Another favorite attraction – the playground:
Get all the details on visiting hours, fees and attractions at the Eilat Underwater Observatory's website.
Dolphin Reef – Another attraction unique to Eilat holidays is the chance to swim with dolphins. The private beach at Dolphin Reef has parasols and chairs, and a roped-off area for bathing. The water is so clear you can see the fish darting around you. But the big draw are the dolphins. You can sit on the docks, letting your legs dangle in the water and hope they come to you. Or, for additional fees, you can snorkel or scuba dive with the dolphins. Swimming with dolphins has known therapeutic effects – schools of special children come every summer to spend hours here – and even a few hours watching their antics and having them come over to you with a smile is enough to soothe the spirits with a great sense of calm and well-being.
Get more details at the Dolphin Reef website.
In addition to these highlights, Eilat holidays also boasts the opportunity to enjoy bird watching hiking trails, desert hikes, jeep excursions, Red Sea cruises, a casino, an underwater restaurant, a Biblical amusement park, an ice sculpture exhibit, a wax museum, day trips to nearby Petra in Jordan, and a hopping nightlife on the boardwalk that keeps going until the wee hours of morning.
Hotels in Eilat
What's more, Eilat holidays are accessible to every budget. Hotels in Eilat run the gamut from the top of the line, 5-star hotels like the Dan Eilat Hotel and the Hilton Eilat Queen of Sheba to far simpler accommodations.
There are plenty of fine hotels in Eilat to choose from. Find the best deal, compare prices, and read what other travelers have to say about these and other hotels in Eilat at TripAdvisor.
But you can also find great budget deals. On a recent trip, my kids decided to treat me and insisted they were paying for the entire trip (they're 14 and 11 years old). We stayed at the Eilat Youth Hostel. It was fantastic – clean, comfortable, with a fridge and hot kettle in the room, right across from the beach, a beautiful view, a great balcony facing the sea and mountains, and it was within walking distance of everything downtown.
View from the balcony of the Eilat Youth Hostel
Click here for hostels and budget accommodation worldwide – and book your Eilat hostel now!
(I'm a big fan of Israeli Youth Hostels, by the way, and highly recommend the youth hostels in Jerusalem.)
Getting to Eilat from Jerusalem
Eilat holidays only sound a world away from Jerusalem. You can get there by public bus in between 4-5 hours or by air from Tel Aviv in an hour.
Egged line 444 runs between Jerusalem to Eilat. It's best to book your bus ticket ahead of time. Reservations can be made as early as 14 days before your trip. The easiest way is to book your tickets online from the Egged website, where you can also check schedules and fares.
Save your reservation number. On the day of the trip, get to the Jerusalem Central Bus Station a bit early and go to the silver machines next to the ticket booths. Enter your reservation code and the machine spits out your tickets, with assigned seats numbers and a bus number. The bus number is important, since there are several 444 busses that may be leaving for Eilat at the same time. Make sure you get on the right one.
The drive takes you through the desert and along the Dead Sea, past Ein Gedi and Massada.
To fly to Eilat, you'll have to get from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv and Ben Gurion airport or Sde Dov first, but then the flight takes only an hour. Fares run between $60-$95 depending on the season and time of day.
Find the best deal on cheap fares to Eilat at TripAdvisor.
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