Thursday, 26 April 2018

ISRAEL: Escape To Eilat, The Ibiza Or Las Vegas Of Israel.

Eilat is an oddity in Israel, because it has so many tourists, many of the tourists are Israelis.

Located at the southern-most tip of the country, within its small window on the Red Sea, Eilat is first and foremost a resort town these days, devoted to sun, fun, diving, partying and desert-based activities.

320 km (200 miles) away from the tension often felt in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, Eilat is a convenient escape for Israelis on vacation, but during the mild winter months also attracts thousands of European sun-seekers.

Eilat is Israel's southernmost city, a busy port and popular resort at the northern tip of the Red Sea, on the Gulf of Aqaba.

The city's beaches, coral reef, nightlife and desert landscapes make it a popular destination for domestic and international tourism.

Home to 50,072 people, Eilat is part of the Southern Negev Desert, at the southern end of the Arava, adjacent to the Egyptian village of Taba to the south, the Jordanian port city of Aqaba to the east, and within sight of Saudi Arabia to the south-east, across the gulf.

Eilat's arid desert climate and low humidity are moderated by proximity to a warm sea. Temperatures often exceed 40 °C (104 °F) in summer, and 21 °C (70 °F) in winter, while water temperatures range between 20 and 26 °C (68 and 79 °F). Eilat averages 360 sunny days a year.

The geology and landscape are varied: igneous and metamorphic rocks, sandstone and limestone; mountains up to 892 metres (2,927 ft) above sea level; broad valleys such as the Arava, and seashore on the Gulf of Aqaba.

With an annual average rainfall of 28 millimetres (1.1 in) and summer temperatures of 40 °C (104 °F) and higher, water resources and vegetation are limited.

The main elements that influenced the region's history were the copper resources and other minerals, the ancient international roads that crossed the area, and its geopolitical and strategic position.

These resulted in a settlement density that defies the environmental conditions.

The origin of the name Eilat, a place name found in the Old Testament, is not definitively known, but likely comes from the Hebrew root, which is also the root for the word Elah, meaning Pistacia tree.

Like numerous other localities, Eilat is mentioned in the Bible both in singular and plural form Eilot.

The original settlement was probably at the northern tip of the Gulf of Eilat. Archaeological excavations uncovered impressive prehistoric tombs dating to the 7th millennium BC at the western edge of Eilat.

While nearby copper workings and mining operations at Timna Valley are the oldest on earth.

Ancient Egyptian records also document the extensive and lucrative mining operations and trade across the Red Sea with Egypt starting as early as the Fourth dynasty of Egypt.

Eilat is mentioned in antiquity as a major trading partner with Elim, Thebes' Red Sea Port, as early as the Twelfth dynasty of Egypt.

Trade between Elim and Eilat furnished frankincense and myrrh, brought up from Ethiopia and Punt; bitumen and natron, from the Dead Sea.

Woven linen, from Byblos; and copper amulets, from Timna; all mentioned in the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea.

In antiquity Eilat bordered the states of Edom, Midian and the tribal territory of the Rephidim, the indigenous inhabitants of the Sinai Peninsula.

Eilat is first mentioned in the Hebrew Bible in the Book of Exodus. The first six stations of the Exodus are in Egypt.

The 7th is the crossing of the Red Sea and the 9th–13th are in and around Eilat, after the exodus from Egypt and crossing the Red Sea. Station 12 refers to a dozen campsites in and around Timna in Modern Israel near Eilat.

When King David conquered Edom, which up to then had been a common border of Edom and Midian, he took over Eilat, the border city shared by them as well.

The commercial port city and copper based industrial center were maintained by Egypt until reportedly rebuilt by Solomon at a location known as Ezion-Geber I Kings 9:26.

In 2 Kings 14:21–22 All the people of Judah took Uzziah, who was sixteen years old, and made him king in the room of his father Amaziah.

He rebuilt Elath, and restored it to Judah, after his father's death. And again in 2 Kings 16:6: At that time the king of Edom recovered Elath for Edom, and drove out the people of Judah and sent Edomites to live there, as they do to this day.

It was a prosperous Judean trading port from the 9th through 7th centuries BCE.NaŹ¾aman, Nadav.

During the Roman period a road was built to link the area with the Nabataean city of Petra in modern-day Jordan.

An Islamic copper smelting and trading community of 250–400 residents flourished during the Umayyad Period (700–900 CE).

Its remains were found and excavated in 1989, at the northern edge of modern Eilat, between what is now the industrial zone and nearby Kibbutz Eilot.

Eilat is especially defended by its own special forces unit Lotar Eilat. It is a reservist special forces unit of the IDF trained in counter-terrorism and hostage rescue in the Eilat area, which has taken part in many counter-terrorist missions in the region since its formation in 1974.

The Lotar unit is composed solely of reservists, citizens who must be Eilat residents between the ages of 20 and 60, who are on call in case of a terrorist attack on the city.

It is one of only three units in the IDF authorized to free hostages on its own command.

In 2007 the Eilat bakery bombing killed three civilian bakers. This was the first such attack of the Second Intifada to take place in Eilat proper, although other terror attacks had been carried out in the area.

In 2011, terrorists infiltrated Israel across the Sinai border to execute multiple attacks on Highway 12, including a civilian bus and private car a few miles north of Eilat, in what became known as the 2011 southern Israel cross-border attacks.

In order to prevent terrorist infiltration of Israel from the Sinai, Israel has built the Israel-Egypt barrier, a steel barrier equipped with cameras, radar and motion sensors along the country's southern border.

The fence was completed in January 2013.

In July 2012, Israel signed an agreement with China to cooperate in building the high-speed railway to Eilat, a railway line which will serve both passenger and freight trains.

It will link Eilat with Beersheba and Tel Aviv, and will run through the Arava Valley and Nahal Zin.

Currently, there are plans to vacate and dismantle Eilat Airport due to the plans for Ramon Airport, and develop the area.

The new Ramon Airport is expected to open in October 2018, 18 kilometres (11 miles) north of Eilat and replace both Eilat Airport and Ovda Airport.

Hotels and apartment buildings, containing a total of 2,080 hotel rooms and 1,000 apartments will be constructed on the site, as well as 275 dunams of public space and pedestrian paths.

The plans also set aside space for the railway line and an underground railway station.

The plan's goal is to create an urban continuum between the city center and North Beach, as well as tighten the links between the city's neighborhoods, which are currently separated by the airport.

There are plans to move the Port of Eilat and the Eilat-Ashkelon pipeline terminal to the northern part of the city, as well as to turn it into a university town of science and research, and brand it an international sports city.

All these projects are part of a plan to increase Eilat's population to 150,000 people and build 35,000 hotel rooms.

Eilat has a hot desert climate with hot, dry summers and warm and almost rainless winters. Winters are usually between 11–23 °C (52–73 °F).

Summers are usually between 26–40 °C (79–104 °F). There are relatively small coral reefs near Eilat; however, 50 years ago they were much larger.

Eilat's population includes a large number of foreign workers, estimated at over 10,000 working as caregivers, hotel workers and in the construction trades.

Eilat also has a growing Israeli Arab population, as well as many affluent Jordanians and Egyptians who visit Eilat in the summer months.

In 2007, over 200 Sudanese refugees from Egypt who arrived in Israel illegally on foot were given work and allowed to stay in Eilat

Eilat Airport is located in the city centre and is used largely for domestic flights. International flights often use Ovda International Airport some 50 kilometres (31 mi) northwest of the city.

The new Ramon International Airport will handle commercial domestic and international flights to Eilat from 2018.

Eilat has two main roads connecting it with the center of Israel Route 12, which leads North West, and Route 90 which leads North East, and South West to the border crossing with Egypt.

Egged, the national bus company, provides regular service to points north on an almost hourly basis as well as in-city on a half-hourly basis during daylight hours.

The Taba Border Crossing allows crossing to and from Taba, Egypt. The Wadi Araba Crossing, renamed the Yitzhak Rabin Border Crossing on the Israeli side, allows crossing to and from Aqaba, Jordan.

The Port of Eilat and Eilat Marina allow travel by sea.

Future plans also call for a rail link, sometimes referred to as the Med-Red to decrease travel times substantially from Eilat to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, via the existing line at Beer Sheba; planning is underway.

In the 1970s tourism became increasingly important to the city's economy as other industries shut down or were drastically reduced. Today tourism is the city's major source of income, although Eilat became a free trade zone in 1985.

Eilat offers a wide range of accommodations, from hostels and luxury hotels to Bedouin hospitality. In recent years Eilat has been the target of millitants from Egypt and Gaza causing a reduced tourist inflow to the region.

Eilat Attractions:

- Birdwatching and ringing station: Eilat is located on the main migration route between Africa and Europe.
International Birding & Research Center in Eilat.

- Camel tours

- Coral Beach Nature Reserve, an underwater marine reserve of tropical marine flora and fauna
Coral World Underwater Observatory, located at the southern tip of Coral Beach, it has aquaria, a museum, simulation rides, and shark, turtle, and stingray tanks.

The observatory is the biggest public aquarium in the Middle East.

- Dolphin Reef, a marine biology and research station where visitors can swim and interact with dolphins.

- Freefall parachuting.

- Yotvata Hai-Bar Nature Reserve, established in the 1960s to conserve endangered species, including Biblical animals, from this and similar regions.

The reserve has a visitors' center, care and treatment enclosures, and large open area where desert animals are acclimated before re-introduction into the wild.

Hai-Bar efforts have successfully re-introduced the Asian wild ass, or onager, into the Negev. The Hai-Bar Nature Reserve and animal re-introduction program were described in Bill Clark's book High Hills and Wild Goats.

Life Among the Animals of the Hai-Bar Wildlife Refuge. The book also describes life in Eilat and the surrounding area.

- Marina, with some 250 yacht berths

- Timna Valley Park, the oldest copper mines in the world; Egyptian temple of Hathor, King Solomon's Pillars sandstone formation, ancient pit mines and rock art.

"What's Up", a portable astronomical observatory with programs in the desert and on the promenade

- Ice Mall, ice skating rink and shopping mall

Skin and scuba diving equipment is for hire on or near all major beaches. Scuba diving equipment rental and compressed air are available from diving clubs and schools all year round.

Eilat is located in the Gulf of Aqaba, one of the most popular diving destinations in the world. The coral reefs along Eilat's coast remain relatively pristine and the area is recognized as one of the prime diving locations in the world.

About 250,000 dives are performed annually in Eilat's 11 km (6.84 mi) coastline, and diving represents 10% of the tourism income of this area.

In addition, given the proximity of many of these reefs to the shore, non-divers can encounter the Red Sea's reefs with relative ease.

Water conditions for SCUBA divers are good all year round, with water temperatures around 21–25 °C (70–77 °F), with little or no currents and clear waters with an average of 20–30 metres (66–98 feet) visibility.

Museums in Eilat

- Eilat City Museum

- Eilat Art Gallery

- Eilat Erotic Museum (Sex museum), first erotic museum in Israel and the Middle East

Eilat has been utilized by film and television productions - domestic and foreign - for location shooting since the 1960s, most notably in the early 90s as a tropical locale for season 2 of the Canadian production Tropical Heat.

It was also used in the films She, Madron, Ashanti and Rambo III.

Despite harsh conditions, the region has supported large populations.

Exploration of ancient sites began in 1861, but only 7% of the area has undergone serious archaeological excavation.

Some 1,500 ancient sites are located in a 1,200-square-kilometre (460 sq mi) area.

In contrast to the gaps found in settlement periods in the neighbouring Negev Highlands and Sinai, these sites show continuous settlement for the past 10,000 years.

Eilat neighborhoods are Arava, Ganim A, Ganim B, Hadekel, Ha'eshel, Mizpe Yam, Maar'av Sheva also known as West7, Midbar, Ophir, Shahamon, Tse'elim, Urim, Ye'elim, Zofit Elite, and Zofit Tachtit.

Eilat pop 85,000 is the southernmost town in Israel, isolated from the rest of the country by the Negev desert.

It is sprawled along 7 kilometers of Red Sea coastline, between the borders of Egypt and Jordan, and offers spectacular views of the Gulf of Aqaba.

Originally a strategic military outpost, Eilat's first incarnation was as a port, used for importing goods from Asia, such as oil and vehicles. In the 1970s, tourists began visiting Eilat.

They were attracted by the coral reefs, sandy beaches, and the dry and sunny desert climate.

The town began to develop, and tourism has become its main industry, serving as a popular holiday destination for Israelis and foreigners alike. Owing to being resort driven it is sometimes called the Ibiza or Las Vegas of Israel.

The 2-kilometer (1.2-mile) North Beach area is full of hotels with opulent names like Herod's Palace and Queen of Sheba.

The Tayelet promenade extends the length of the beach front and hosts numerous stalls, street artists, restaurants, and fashionable shops.

The promenade has great views of the bay, and each evening it is full of strolling tourists. The southern beach, which has coral reefs, is protected by the Israel Nature Reserve Authority.

It has many public beaches and excellent scuba diving centers. Whereas the northern beach is reachable by foot and walkable, the southern beach will necessitate transportation. The Navy and commercial ports lie between the south and north beaches.
There is free city Wi-Fi in the most tourist areas.

Eilat Airport (ETH) is right in the middle of the city. Flights to Tel Aviv are frequent and take only 50 minutes, but expect to pay around NIS 250 for a one-way trip.

However, tourists can arrive in Eilat on charter or low-cost flights via the Ovda International Airport (VDA), also known as Uvda, 65 km (40 miles) and nearly a 50 min drive from town.

As of March 2016, Egged operate a regular bus number 282 from Ovda, costing NIS21.5 one way. This service meets all scheduled flights and operates also on Saturday.

It's schedule can be found here. A shuttle service, operated by Eilat Shuttle operates for most flights to Ovda and costs $8 per person including dropoff at your hotel in Eilat.

Eilat Shuttle also serves Taba, Aqaba, Jerusalem, and Tel Aviv. Another options is to pre-order a taxi, there are usually some taxis waiting but as there is no official taxi rank in Ovda so they can run out which costs NIS 300 to Eilat.

There are unfortunately no car rental facilities at Ovda Airport.

For your return trip to the airport, Eilat Shuttle has proved to be unreliable, leaving passengers stranded, so budget for a taxi to be sure of getting your flight.

In winter season Oct-Mar Ryanair operates five direct routes to/from Eilat Ovda, with flights from Krakow, Bratislava, Budapest, Kaunas and Brussels for as low as 10 EUR one-way.

A cheaper way to get from Europe directly to Eilat is via the nearby Taba International Airport in Egypt. Charter flights to Taba are operated by several airlines, e.g. the German Condor on Wednesdays from/to all major German airports.

Taxis from Taba airport to the Israeli border station at the Hilton hotel run for max. 150 Egyptian pounds - 40 min, from there a taxi to Eilat is around 25-30 NIS 10 min.

Or take local bus 15 (6 NIS). Border crossing normally takes less than 30 min. On arrival at the airport insist on Egyptian Sinai only visa, otherwise you're charged 15 USD visa tax. Egypt charges 75 LE tax when leaving Taba coming from Eilat.

All buses in Eilat leave from the Central Bus Station on HaTemarim Boulevard.

Egged express buses drive from Tel Aviv (390/394) and Jerusalem (444) to Eilat hourly, the trip takes around 5 hours and costs NIS 75 one way (60 for students) or 128 NIS for a return ticket.

It's advised to buy tickets in advance because assigned seating is in use. Don't worry if the bus is sold out, ask the driver and usually he will take you.

Although you will end up standing or sitting on the stairs for a couple of hours which is almost 6 to Jerusalem.

From the Taba, Egypt border crossing take local bus number 16 to the central station for 4.20 NIS.

There are a couple of ways to drive from Tel Aviv to Eilat. One is via Mitzpe Ramon. Another nice alternative is from Tel Aviv to the Dead Sea via Arad, stay a couple of days there or just make a short stop and then continue to Eilat.

It takes approx 5 hours from Tel Aviv, and a similar duration from Jerusalem.

Taxi from the Aqaba, Jordan border crossing is around 35 NIS. A taxi from Aqaba to the crossing is around 5 JOD.

A taxi from Nuweiba, Egypt to the Taba border crossing takes 50 minutes and costs around 110 EGP.

Travelers from western Europe, Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa can get a visa upon entering Israel.

The Wadi Araba Crossing from Aqaba, Jordan is 5km from the Eilat central bus station. The Jordanian exit fee is 10 JOD.

The Taba, Egypt border crossing is 9km from the Eilat central bus station. The Egyptian exit fee is 2 EGP .

The journey across the boarders Taba to Eilat to Aqaba, back to Eliat and finally Taba again, so in any direction can be done without any stamps being placed in your passport.

No extra fees are incurred and all stamps are placed on separate cards given to you by immigration officers. You must ask for this nicely, but the procedure was simple and quick with little hassle.

It will appear once you throw out the cards that you have never left your starting country. Done with Canadian Passports in January of 2014, though it appears that nationality had no bearing whatsoever to the officers.

Central Eilat, that is the Promenade Area and vicinity of the central square can be covered on foot, although during the summer the scorching temperatures make walking around unpleasant.

Only the closest public beaches are a sweaty stroll from the center, and dive sites will require motorised/bus going. A limited bus system serves south beaches bus no. 15 starts at the bus station.

It circles around the hotels area and then heads south towards Taba border crossing stopping at beaches and attractions along the way, bus no. 16 does the same in opposite direction, as well as the suburbs.

Taxis prowl the streets looking for fares. Insist on the meter or at least agree on the fare in advance, as Eilat's taxis are famously mercenary.

Single ticket was NIS 4.20. You can get a Rav Kav card for free at the Bus Station - then you can load timed tickets on it like daily (NIS 8), 5 days (NIS 33,50) or 6 days (NIS 39) which are valid on city buses including 15/16 down to the Taba crossing.

Tickets are not valid on non-standard and intercity buses.

Notice that bus 15 has different number - 16 on its way back as it uses the same stops in both directions.

Also the schedules for Friday/Saturday are limited - so check the last time not to be stranded - especially on Friday.

The main beach is in the North beach, and many of the major hotels are situated here. The south beach area of Coral Beach is protected by the Israel Nature Reserve authority, but recent years have seen a decline in the marine life and reef quality.

Fortunately, since the removal of the controversial fish cages from the Gulf water in 2008, a steady recovery of corals has been seen at all dive sites.

While many divers head south to the Egyptian Sinai coast to Dahab or Sharm el-Sheikh, to experience better diving conditions, many divers still prefer Eilat, with far smaller crowds, interesting macro life and easy, unpressured surface entries.

- Coral Beach is the best place for scuba diving and located here are some of the best dive clubs in Israel offering technical diving courses, rebreather, nitrox, tri-mix etc.

The whole coastal area is protected by the nature reserve authority and divers are expected to follow regulations.

The south beach is a great place for snorkeling, windsurfing and kite-surfing plus it has fantastic views over the bay. Entrance fee for the coral reef part is 35/30 NIS adult/students.

- Underwater Observatory. One of Eilat's most popular attractions is a good way to view the Red Sea marine life without getting wet.

It's white tower, Eilat's most famous landmark offers great views above water and goes below the surface where the marine life is seen in two underground rooms.

In the marine parks aquariums are sharks, sting rays and turtles, plus lots of multi colored Red Sea fish. The huge glass windows allow visitors to get a great view the tanks occupants.

The Oceanarium simulator is a bit dated lower resolution, no 3D may be a lot of fun for kids, a little scary for the smaller ones though but rather not for adults.

There are different shows at different times like shark feeding or opening oysters for pearls. Ticket is valid for 3 days but you must ask for the free return photo at the photo booth. All in all it's a nice family morning out.

- Dolphin Reef, South Beach 3 km south of town towards the Egyptian border. Entry fee: 78/44 NIS adults/students. Not just a tourist trap, the staff actually works to rehabilitate dolphins for life in the open sea - from whence they came.

However in the past, the occasional release of the dolphins into the bay resulted in the immediate consumption of many of the nearby coral reef's inhabitants. The dolphin release project is since on hold.

Various paid options are available for interacting with the dolphins, starting with snorkeling with the dolphins at NIS 227. It's a very nice beach with lots of small pools and rich shrubbery.

It has a fantastic spa relaxation pools and is well worth a visit. For those who want to get up-close to a dolphin book your swim or dive as early in the morning as you can.

The dolphins get weary of as the day goes on. Piers leading out onto the water allow everyone to get as near to the dolphins - as the dolphins want.

"What's Up" The Observatory of Eilat and the Arava, "What's Up" has begun a new show. With the addition of a special camera we can show you the deep sky as well as the moon and planets on a computer screen rather then through the eyepiece of the telescope.

We can now collect photons in a way the eye could never do and see the wonders of the sky in living color. Watch the image build as the light is collected and hear tales about the personalities of the heavens as well as scientific explanation of what is going on up there.

- "What's Up" is suitable for all ages as well as being accessible to the handicapped although there are no toilet facilities at the site.

What's Up" The Observatory of Eilat and the Arava, besides stargazing programs, now offers campfires, camping and hiking programs led by Colin Porter a licensed tour guide.

- Hai Bar a spectacular Zoo that its mission is to train animals to live in wild conditions to be released again into the wild, includes animal such as the Ostrich and the Arabian Oryx.

- Timna Valley, The Timna Valley is located in southern Israel in the southwestern Arabah, approximately 30 kilometres (19 mi) north of the Gulf of Aqaba and the town of Eilat.

- Eilat Mountains Nature Reserve, the most attractive nature reserve in the Negev Desert, climbing the high mountains of Eilat and take a wonderful view of Eilat and Aqaba.

- Red Canyon

The Fauna includes Striped Hyena, Wolfs, Foxes, Caracal, Rock Hyrax, Dorcas Gazelle and Nubian Ibex

The Negev desert surrounds Eilat and its scenic Eilat Mountains Nature Reserve has some of the most spectacular desert routes in Israel. Trails include ancient trading routes and the Great Rift Valley.

Desert Hiking, 4x4 jeep tours and camel treks are major attractions in this area of the Negev desert.
Every summer, the Red City music festival is held in Eilat,sponsored by 99 ESC radio station.

This beach festival is held on the beach and consists of consecutive days of all night performances, Hip-Hop, rock and especially trance.

Red Sea Jazz Festival This annual event takes place in the last week of August and Jazz musicians from all over the world come to Eilat, for a week of fun, sun and lots of Jazz.

Kite surfing, Club Med Beach. Eilat is one of the best locations in the world for learning how to kitesurf. The weather and sea conditions are perfect for beginers with steady northern winds and a calm sea.

KiteXEilat offers various beginners classess.

Scuba Diving or Lucky Divers, Simtat Tsukim 5. 3. No license and no experience necessary SCUBA diving. As is legal in Eilat, an experienced dive master will accompany you on what could be your first ever SCUBA experience.

They provide a short tutorial of the basics, and worry about all the technical details leaving you able to concerning yourself solely with breathing and of course observing the magnificent neon scubaquatic landscape. 180 NIS.

Snorkeling, Along the southern beach anywhere public. If you don't want to splurge on SCUBA diving you can still see a clown fish or two by snorkeling along the south beach.

You can rent the equipment usually from a Kiosk nearby. Rental of snorkel and flippers 25 NIS.

The Ginsburg-Ingerman Overseas Student Program of the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev offers short-term academic programs at the Eilat campus. The programs focus on Hebrew language, Marine Biology and Gastronomy.

As an incentive there is no value-added tax in Eilat. Therefore many duty free shops line the boardwalk and culminate in a duty free shopping centre know as Mall HaYam or The Mall of the Sea.

Top brands can be found, and it is joked that the last thing an Israeli does on before leaving Eilat is to fill up their petrol tank to the brim.

The main promenade is packed with stylish restaurants catering to tourists and locals alike, offering some of Israel's finest cuisine prepared by Israel's master chefs. Mainly owned by the major hotel chains.

The vast variety of restaurants understandably come at a price, but they don't get as pricey as the restaurants of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

For Eilat's cheap yet excellent falafel, check out the falafel joint just across the street from the bus station at the International Birdwatching Centre, on HaTemarim Boulevard.

Pago Pago floating restaurant is an attraction in itself. The restaurant is strictly non-kosher, serving great sushi, sea-food and fantastic steaks.

Not just good food but a nice relaxing evening bobbing on the waters of the marina. It's well moored so no chance of drifting off. The restaurant is a little pricey, but no more than other restaurants and you definitely get far more for your money.

If you only spoil yourself with one good restaurant during your visit to Eilat, Pago Pago is definitely the restaurant to go to.

Pedro's Restaurant, for an excellent steak, the hang-out restaurant of Eilat's diving instructors, you'll have to get a cab because it's nowhere near the tourist haunts.

Well worth the effort if you are steak lover or if you consider yourself an honorary local, either way, it's hard to tell what's tastier, the restaurant's meat or the punters.

Ginger Restaurant, restaurant and bar. The who's who of Eilat are found in Ginger, its the new 'IN' location for Eilat's elite. Not nearly as expensive as it is exclusive, its good spot for dining if you don't mind seeing your picture in the local Eilat gossip pages.

Barbis, American Foods Restaurant, is a great burger place in the middle of the tourist center. Prices are cheap and the burgers are tasty and huge.

Fish & Chips, in the Dan Panorama hotel (North beach promenade), probably the cheapest and yet surprisingly tasty seafood in Eilat. Open evenings only.

Shawarma fix, on the Hashacham St. just next to Hatmarim Av. - proably the cheapest place in Eilat - Falafel in pita NIS 10

Supermarket next to parking on Hatmarim Av. south of Bus Station - 6 x 1,5l water as low as NIS 8,40, oranges NIS 5,90 etc.

For a Holiday resort the expected assortment of Pubs and Bars exist on the Promenade and are also densely packed in the main square.

The Unplugged bar is a good option. If you're looking for a place with stuck-up people, barbie doll bartenders, or tough-looking bouncers, look somewhere else, because Unplugged is nothing like it.

The drink selection is somewhat limited, but still fairly good. The music ranges from American pop to Israeli trance, and they play songs in both Hebrew and English.

You have the option of either sitting at the bar, chilling on a big couch, or dancing with the friendly locals. This place is often crowded, even on a Monday night.

While evil isn't heard, seen, or spoken at Three Monkeys Pub live bands and an all-ages dance floor crowd is. Located towards the end of the promenade at the Isrotel Royal Beach.

Bears pub is central fixture in the main square. With a laid back feel and hookahs available Bears lends itself to chatting to the soundtrack of Israeli tunes.

Extreme but cheap. Possible at the North Beach, next to the Jordan border, and also at the South Beach or Coral Beach preferably to the south of the bar called Migdalor.

Stay close to the sea and pay no money for it. Temperatures can be really hot, even at night; have to find out the water/shower/etc.

North Beach: passed the main hotels closer to Aqba.

South Beach: bus route 15 to Migdalor bar. Then just walk at the shore and find yourself a place for a tent.

When staying outdoors please keep all your garbage with you and do not light fires, the beaches are protected by Israeli Nature Protection Organization.

Sleeping almost outdoors, stay at the organized camping site. There is only one such site in Eilat, owned by the Field School which is situated on the South Beach.

In addition to a clean and quiet camping area, they provide running water, shower and electricity. The organized camping is paid on daily basis.

The Field School offers also rooms at reasonable prices, recommended to book in advance. Getting there: take a bus route 15 from the Central Bus Station (CBS), gets directly there for less then 5 NIS (2010). A cab From the CBS would cost about 25 NIS.

The hillside around the Central Bus Station contains motels which usually have a room designated to a dorm. You can find some real gems hidden among them but be prepared to take some time checking them out.

Arava (Beit Arava), Almogim St 106. checkin: 24 hour; checkout: 9 am. This Motel has a homey feel, there are many tables and grills outside to allow relaxation away from the crowds.

Mostly the rooms are private but they do offer dormitory accommodations for a cheap price. Starting at 78 NIS for dormitory.

Cactus B&B. A colourful place to stay

Youth Hostel, Derech Ha'arava 7. checkin: 3PM; checkout: 10AM. Not at all expensive yet very clean and nice place to stay. One can book entire room or bed basis as per the need. The cafeteria serves very good breakfast as well in the morning. Dorms: 28$? Private rooms $66.

Corinne Hostel, Retamim 1 checkout: 10AM. Dorm from 60 NIS Private rooms also available from NIS 150, very convenient location, near Bus Station, cheap falafel and cheap supermarket.

Speak to the lady owner as she speaks perfect English and is much more reasonable and helpful than men. There is kitchen with utensils in which you can cook.

Private rooms. If you reach Eilat and have backpack on you may be accosted by people offering their houses or parts of them for your accommodation.

These are really a gamble, because you never know what to expect and people tend to exaggerate their descriptions.

Usually, it would be a nice air-conditioned room with a double bed, shower, tv, sometimes WiFi and some kitchen stuff.

Price per day: 100-200 NIS and higher, however negotiable, depending on how long are you staying and what standard you want.Start the negotiation as you see the apartment.

David's homestay. Offers you private rooms for 100 NIS per person and night. Included in the price is food. David has his whole life been working as a chef at the hotels in Eilat and serves you the most amazing food.

He has two kinds of room: double bed room and twin bed room. He meets you on arrival and brings you to the apartment.

Located 5-10 min from the bus station, 20 minutes from the beach and 20 minutes from the airport (walking). I just called him and he offers only on Summer.

Dan Panorama Eilat, North Beach Area. Well-located hotel with pool.

Americana Eilat Hotel. Americana Eilat Hotel has 2 restaurants, free Wi-Fi, a pool with hot tub and smaller pool for children. The modern rooms feature an LCD cable TV and kettle.

Decorated with light-coloured fabrics and parquet or tiled floors, rooms at the Americana Hotel all have air conditioning and a private bathroom.

Holiday Inn. Express Beat Eilat, Tel. Located on the city's north side opposite the Crowne Plaza, ten minutes away from the beach and the shopping center.

Holiday Inn AFI Patio Eilat. Guestrooms, some with balconies facing the pool. Family-friendly. 15-20 min walk to the beach.

Astral Village Hotel, North Beach, Kamen 4, Eilat. checkin: 15:00.; checkout: 11:00.. Astral Village Hotel Eilat offers 182 spacious suites and rooms.

The hotel offers unique atmosphere, rich, well-groomed vegetation to provide an intimate, quiet, pastoral vacation experience.

Astral Sea side Hotel, Hachof Hatzfoni, Eilat. checkin: 15:00.; checkout: 11:00.. Astral Sea Side Hotel Located in Eilat promenade and offers spacious rooms, pool, entertainment team and children's club Astrland.

Astral Nirvana Hotel, Hashfifon 9, Eilat, Eilat. checkin: 15:00.; checkout: 11:00.. Astral Nirvana Eilat is an all inclusive Hotel, that combined all the amenities and services a courteous, professional staff, with renewed and pleasant rooms.

Astral Coral Hotel, Hashfifon 9, Eilat. checkin: 15:00.; checkout: 11:00.. Astral Coral All Inclusive Hotel Eilat located in the center of Eilat, especially fits to vacation with no worries for the whole family.

Astral marina Hotel, Kamen Street 11, Eilat. checkin: 15:00.; checkout: 11:00.. Suites hotel in Eilat, located in the lagoon on the north coast and offers ultimate vacation in Eilat.

Club Hotel Eilat. Eilat Club Hotel is the largest suites hotel across the Middle East and the only hotel across Israel designed and built under the inspiration of the sea.

Club Inn Eilat. Eilat Club Inn Hotel is a resort located in a wadi over looking a breathtaking desert view.

Prima Music, Almog beach. checkin: 16:00; checkout: 10:00. The Prima Music Hotel Eilat is an exceptionally designed, concept hotel situated under picturesque desert mountains and overlooking the magnificent Red Sea at Coral Beach on the outskirts of the Eilat.

Arcadia Spa Hotel Eilat, Hativat Hanegev 14, Eilat. checkin: 16:00; checkout: 10:00. Arcadia Spa Hotel Eilat is located near Eilat Promenade and the Eilat's attractions. The hotel offers spa center, pool and more all within affordable prices.

Soleil Boutique Hotel Eilat, Tarshish St 12, North Shore, Eilat. Soleil Boutique Hotel Eilat is located on the North coast of Eilat, close to the beach and offers 73 boutique rooms and spa.

The Orchid Reef Hotel, Almog Beach, Eilat. Boutique Hotel in Eilat, This newly refurbished establishment is Eilat’s only boutique hotel, ideal for guests looking for a comfortable, more intimate setting.

Eilat's North Beach is positively packed with luxury hotels, but in season rates can be as high as US$200 per night.

Crowne Plaza Eilat. Family-friendly hotel on the Promenade, featuring the Freckles Club for kids.

Rimonim Central Park Eilat, Binyamin Park 10. checkin: 3 pm; checkout: 11 am. Rimonim Central Park Hotel Located in Eilat's city center and offers offers perfect family vacation and entertainment boulevard with activities and shows

Rimonim Eilat, North Shore Eilat. checkin: 3 pm; checkout: 11 am. Rimonim Eilat is Located in the heart of Eilat and offers 278 rooms, private beach, pool, spa, kid's club and more.

Dan Eilat Red Sea Hotel, North Beach Area. Central beach front hotel with a great pool area.

Herods Palace Hotel, North Beach. checkin: 3 pm; checkout: 11 am. Formerly but no longer run by Sheraton, Herods offers a near Las Vegas experience, with staff in togas wandering around a pompously decorated palace.

Service isn't quite up to scratch though, although the separately charged Vitalis spa is excellent by any standard.

Le Meridien Eilat, North Beach. Le Meridien offers a wide range of suites featuring various luxury levels. The hotel features 245 luxurious suites designed and built to unusually high standards.

Orchid Hotel Eilat, South beach P.O.B 994, Eilat. Suites Hotel in Eilat, This exotic gem transports you to the Far East with traditional Asian architecture and luxurious accommodations.

Guests get to experience a tropical holiday resort with the lavish comforts of the hotel. Ideal for couples searching for a romantic holiday, families looking for a private retreat, or large parties on an extravagant holiday.

Yotvata Kibbutz, specializes in fruit cultivation and dairy farming. It supplies much of the milk and several varieties of fresh fruit and packaged goods to the Negev / Eilat region under its logo of a setting sun with two linked palm trees.

They also take in traveling volunteers and have a Hebrew school for foreigners.

In Israel itself, Jerusalem, Masada and the Dead Sea are a few hours away by bus, and can be easily visited in a day or two on organized tours, a must see places on the road which located nearby the city are the Eilat Mountains Nature Reserve, Amram Pillars, Hai Bar and Timna Valley.

South of Eilat is the border crossing to Taba Egypt, where the Taba Hilton and nearby Taba Heights beach resorts are situated. Here begins the Egyptian Sinai peninsula where St. Catherine's Monastery and Mount Sinai are located.

Within walking distance of Eilat's North Beach is Israel's border with Jordan. A short drive away is the Rabin border crossing to the adjacent Jordanian town of Aqaba, Jordan's largest port and tourist resort.

Further inland is the ancient Jordanian city of Petra. A guide to visiting Petra from Eilat on a tour can be found here.

To get to the Egyptian border take a taxi (35 NIS) from Eilat to the border, or take bus line 15 (6 NIS) and walk across. On the Egyptian side there is a minibus station as well as further along a full bus station.

Note the border can take between 20 min to 2 hours. You will need to pay an exit fee when leaving Israel of 110 NIS and if travelling further south than Taba another fee (75EGP - Apr 09) at the checkpoint south of the border.

If you plan to continue further than the Sinai, deeper into Egypt (Cairo) then you need to apply for a visa in the Egyptian consul in Eilat.

The embassy at 68 Efroni Street is open from 9:30am to 12am on Sunday to Thursday. It takes a day: you leave your passport, photo and pay the fee on day 1 and go and pick up your passport with the visa on day 2, from 9:30 to 12am too.

Remember to bring a passport photo with you to the embassy, it is required for the visa, and the embassy has no photo-taking facilities.

If you don't have a passport photo handy, you can take one on the 2nd floor of the shopping mall right at the corner of the Eilat beach.

The single entry visa fee is 65 NIS for citizens from USA, Germany, Greece, Finland,Sweden, Denmark, Russia, Cyprus, 150 NIS for all other nationalities; 170 NIS for a multiple entry visa.

If you are on an organised tour, some tour companies can arrange the visa on the day of the tour at the border.

From Eilat just cross the border to Aqaba then take a taxi for 45mins and you will be able to explore this beautiful world heritage listed area for a day or 2.

Wadi Rum Protected Area Camp, Wadi Rum Protected Area 11km past Rum Village. checkin: 7:00am; checkout: 9:00am. Traditional Bedouin Camp, package includes dinner and breakfast. Optional tours available. Professional guides and service. 10-20JD.

Tourism Observer

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