A 30.000 pies por viajeros para viajeros

At the Beach and in the Desert, without leaving Eilat

It is the coastal and tourist resort par excellence. Eilat is the southernmost city in Israel and lies on the border of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. From this bustling city straddling the sea and the desert you can see the mountains of Jordan and Saudi Arabia on the horizon. Four countries come into view with but a single glance – a unique setting.

Once you’ve got your bearings, it’s time to soak up this torrid resort where the thermometer rarely drops below 20 degrees. Indeed, it stays above 30 degrees most of the year around – well, even a bit higher in summer. Oddly enough, it can even happen that, while it is snowing in Jerusalem (quite a common occurrence in winter), you can be roasting in the sun in Eilat, just a four-hour drive away (or one hour, by plane, from Tel Aviv).

Apart from being spoilt by the warmest temperatures, what draws most visitors to Eilat is the Red Sea. Being able to swim in clear, warm, sky-blue, richly-coloured waters is a luxury in a country covered for the most part by such deserts as the Negev, Arava or Judea.

The city’s infrastructure is also a boon. It is designed for the holiday-maker’s benefit, with all the ingredients that a tourist thirsting for leisure, sun and sea could wish for. It boasts a seaside promenade lined with shopping centres and stores brimming with special offers for all kinds of tax-free souvenirs (Eilat is a free port). There are restaurants everywhere, a variety of attractions, particularly for children and families, and a throbbing nightlife with entertainment for those seeking all-nighters. And, most importantly, a lavish supply of holiday hotels of all categories with swimming pools, spas, beach access and all the comforts visitors could need to switch off for a few days.

But, I should emphasise – what visitors to Eilat enjoy most is the coastline studded with marine life. The Red Sea is an underwater paradise for lovers of all types of diving, from the pros to the amateurs.

Even children can take the plunge and dive with dolphins, which is perhaps the activity that both children and adults request most during their stay in Eilat. The experience is well worth trying at the dolphin-reef. It’s easy – all you have to do is put on a tight-fitting wetsuit, adjust your oxygen bottle properly and take everything you need to breathe freely under the water. And, pay attention to the instructor who is going to escort you on your underwater adventure… and let yourself go!

You’ll be taking in the colourful marine wildlife and coral reefs as a plus to the experience of diving down to conquer the seabed with the odd dolphin as your host, who is more than likely to perform a few pirouettes for its prized visitors – a fascinating experience!

Wait! There’s still more – instead of diving with dolphins, if you’d prefer to have your picture taken with sharks, all you have to do is head for the Underwater Observatory Marine Park, an interactive aquarium, most of which is in the open air, which boasts Shark World, the largest shark pool in the Middle East, covering a surface area of 1,000 cubic metres. What visitors enjoy most is when the staff come to feed the sharks. This is undoubtedly the best time to come face to face with these huge, dangerous marine animals. Apart from the shark pool, the aquarium also features a children’s adventure park where infants can stroke and feed various kinds of fish and be treated to futuristic screenings such as “A Journey into the World of Sharks”.

But the sea is not the only attraction in Eilat – the sky is also captivating. It is right now, in spring, that millions of birds fly over that area. In fact, according to the experts, up to 500 million of them! They fly in a south–north direction, the opposite of the tourists, as part of the spectacular spring migration, an essential event for all ornithologists.

Eilat also stands out for its cultural offerings – could it be otherwise? These include such celebrated events as the Chamber Music Festival, an international classic held each year in February. Also in the vicinity is the nearby Timna Park, an exotic attraction where all kinds of adventure sports can be done in the middle of the desert while viewing landscapes worthy of Mars.

What more could you ask for? Check out our flights here.

Text and images by Nani Arenas