Many people who travel to Israel never make it to Eilat on the country’s Southern tip. That’s a pity because from an Israel tour guide perspective there is so much to see and do that you might forget to relax on the beach for a bit. And there are many wonderful places to see and activities to do on the way south to and from the center of the country.
First though, a little history. The area of Eilat was determined to be in the Jewish state by the 1947 UN Partition Plan. Israel only established its presence there in March 1949 by way of the Ovda Campaign, the final campaign of the War of Independence.
The area was known as Umm al Rashrash, which at the time only had an abandoned British Mandate outpost. Although in ancient times King Solomon had a port here the Israelis had to build everything from scratch. Starting in the mid 1950’s they built a beautiful city and a (not so beautiful) port on the Red Sea.
Today the town has about 50,000 inhabitants which work mostly in the tourist sector or at the port. Besides swimming in the Red Sea, which is beautiful, there are a lot of fun activities to experience while visiting the city. My favorite is the Oceanarium which has a fantastic underwater observatory at Eilat’s coral reef. The Oceanarium also just opened a state of the art shark aquarium which must be seen to be believed!
Other great activities include swimming with dolphins, snorkeling, Hai Bar Nature Reserve and hiking. If you know how to scuba dive or want to learn how, Eilat has several diving centers. Timna Park is a wonderful place to visit which has amazing geological formations and remains from ancient Egyptian copper mines, the oldest in the world.
Some people think that Eilat is for the birds - and that’s true! The city is home to the Eilat Bird Sanctuary which is an international birding and research center. Many birds stop off at the Eilat wetlands while migrating to Africa from Europe and then back home again. It’s well worth a visit.
And when you’re finished with all that you can stroll along the beautiful promenade on the beachfront. And at night … ah, Eilat at night- bars, restaurants, clubs- you name it. Or you can just people watch and be watched walking up and down the promenade with everyone else.