When it comes to travel in Israel most people tend to focus on the central part of the country. Cities like Tel Aviv and Jerusalem see the majority of tourists and for those who do venture off the typical tourist trail, they tend to head north. However, the south of Israel is equally as beautiful. The sprawling deserts with red-toned mountains, vibrant blue waters of the Red Sea, and lively resort city Eilat make this part of the country a great place to explore, especially if you like warmer weather. So if you find yourself in southern Israel, here’s my suggested Eilat guide.
How to Get to Eilat
Located at the southern tip of the country, Eilat seems to be quite a distance to travel. However, Israel is a small country so it’s not really as far as you think. For example, the direct bus from Tel Aviv takes less than 5 hours from end to end with 2 toilet break stops. Not too bad considering you are traversing half the length of a country! Plus, you drive through the desert which makes for some beautiful scenery to watch out the window.
That being said, if you think 5 hours on a bus is too long, you can fly. There are regular domestic flights from Ben Gurion Airport to Eilat and if you book early enough you can get a pretty good deal. Just keep in mind, if you are not Israeli you want to get to the airport well in advance for the security screenings! As a solo female traveller, this always takes me a very long time.
Where to Stay in Eilat
Eilat is considered to be Israel’s resort town with plenty of huge hotels lining the boardwalk. While there is nothing wrong with these options, they can be pretty pricey. So for travellers who are on a budget or looking to save money, I suggest Abraham Hostel Eilat.
Abraham’s Eilat location is right by the bus station, making it incredibly convenient to get around. It’s also about a 10-minute walk from the beach and boardwalk area. The hostel is quite big with a range of accommodation options including dorms and private rooms. My friend and I stayed in a superior private room with a balcony which made the perfect base for exploring while staying on top of work. Other hostel perks include speedy wifi, a hostel pool, a rooftop, a bar area, free breakfast served until at 10 am (later on weekends), and a large common room area perfect for meeting fellow travellers. It’s clean and affordable and I definitely recommend it. Check out Abraham Hostel Eilat here.
If you do want to splurge and go for something more upscale then you should consider:
Getting Around Eilat
Eilat is quite small and easy to walk around. Especially if you stick to the boardwalk areas. If you plan on doing some scuba diving, the dive shops are a bit far away so you’ll want to use the bus or you can use a taxi (there is no Uber here, but Gett Taxi works similarly and is very common). You can also rent the scooters that you see in other cities around the country or, if you plan on day trips, consider renting a car for your time here.
The Best Things to do in Eilat, Israel
So, what is there to see and do in Eilat? Well, depends on your interests but from shopping to exploring there is quite a bit in the city and surrounding area to keep you busy for a few days. Here are my recommendations.
I love sailing and the calm waters of the Red Sea made for a perfect sailing trip. Abraham Tours runs a 2-hour sail tour that takes you up the coast a bit and has a swim stop for you to jump in the sea and cool down. I love being on the water so was the perfect way to spend an afternoon in the sun and probably my favourite thing to do in Eilat. Book your sailing tour here.
It’s definitely worth bringing your snorkel gear to Eilat because this part of the sea is known for clear waters and great visibility. There are a few specific spots especially popular for snorkelling, such as Coral Beach which is a nature reserve, but really you can snorkel at any of Eilat’s beaches.
If you are looking to scuba dive in Israel, then Eilat is the place to go. There are plenty of shore dives along the coast meaning you don’t have to travel too far to get underwater. I did one dive while in Eilat, the site is called Katza and it’s where you have the best chance at seeing the local dolphins early in the morning- which we did!
Word of caution- language barrier may be an issue here. We booked our dive in advance without checking out the shop and asked for for an English speaking guide. The team at Ahla dive shop told us no problem but, in the end, our guide was the worst I’ve had in my life. The language barrier was huge (he was Russian and also spoke minimal Hebrew so my friend struggled to understand him as well) which resulted in me being weighted wrong for the dive. If you do decide to scuba dive in Eilat, take the time to visit the shops ahead of time before booking and meet the guide to ensure that you don’t have a similar issue.
Don’t dive but want to try? You can do an intro to scuba diving in Eilat to see if you like it. Book here.
After my scuba diving experience being a bust I decided to stick with freediving for my next visit to Eilat. I went with Freedive Israel and I was a bit nervous but it turns out they were really warm, friendly, professional, and spoke perfect English. Plus, for fellow curvy divers, they have large range of rental gear and free dive suits. I really enjoyed freediving here. The visibility isn’t incredible but they have a cool wreck called Satil which was fun to play around at!
The Best Beaches in Eilat
Israel has no shortage of beaches so it’s no surprise that there are several around Eilat. Some have chairs for rent as well as facilities and restaurants while others don’t. Some are also more family-friendly than others so ask around depending on your needs.
Some favourites include:
- Moshe Beach- perhaps the trendiest beach in Eilat.
- Bar Beach- sits on a natural reef so you can snorkel and scuba dive here
- Coral Beach Nature Reserve: A popular place for snorkelling (there is a fee to access this beach)
Take a Desert Jeep Tour
One of my favourite things to do in Eilat was a desert jeep tour through the Eilat National Park. This desert area is absolutely beautiful to see with incredible scenery and viewpoints. Our guide was very informative about the land and the life in it. A desert Jeep tour makes for a fun few hours in the evening. I took this tour with Abraham Tours.
Visit Timna National Park
If you are looking to do some hiking or more desert exploring then head to Timna National Park, which is one of the most famous parks in Israel. It’s part of the Negev desert and also offers some stunning scenery, interesting rock formations, and is full of hiking trails. Prefer not to hike? You can do a jeep tour here as well.
Cross Over to Jordan to See Petra
The Jordanian border is right by the beaches of Eilat meaning it’s pretty easy to cross over. There are a number of tour operators that will offer guided day tours to Petra Jordan as a day trip from Eilat so if you have never been, this is a great opportunity. Book a day trip to Jordan here and check out my 1-day guide to Petra.
Explore the Boardwalk
The boardwalk at the waterfront of Eilat is full of shops, restaurants, bars, and even some carnival-style rides. This is the busiest part of the city throughout the day as people flock to the beach but also in the evenings as everyone heads to dinner. It’s really pretty at night all lit up as well. You’ll find lots of name-brand stores along this stretch as well as the open-air Eilat Bazaar.
I wouldn’t say that Israel is a major shopping destination. However, if you do want to shop in Israel, come to Eilat. Why? Because here you can save the tax which means savings of 17% on all your purchases. There are a number of shops along the boardwalk as well as a few big malls that may be of interest to visit. This includes BIG Eilat, Mall Hayam Eilat, and the ICE Mall.
I never would have thought I would go ice skating in a desert and yet in Eilat I did! The Ice Mall has a large skating rink right in the middle with skates for rent. It was a perfect activity for a dusty sandstorm day. Insider tip: check online for discount coupons!
Where to Eat and Drink in Eilat
Eilat has plenty of restaurant options available from burgers to Thai, seafood and Italian and, of course, Golda Ice cream which is a must on hot, sunny days. If you are looking for restaurant and bar recommendations here are a few suggestions:
- Pago Pago- upscale fish and seafood
- The Fish Restaurant- fish and seafood
- Whale Burger- burgers
- Jonny Crispy- sandwiches
- Jasper 08- great cocktails and tapas-style dishes
- 3 Monkeys Pub- fun bar with live music
Final Tips for Eilat
Eilat is a fun place to spend a couple of days. It’s incredibly popular among Israelis, especially families as there is plenty to see and do for children. Prices here are higher so staying somewhere more budget-friendly, like Abraham Hostel, is a great way to ensure you have more money to spend on tours and other ways of exploring this Red Sea City.
Keep in mind that Eilat can also be incredibly hot. I visited at the end of April and it was 35C and sunny every day. So if you are coming to this part of the country for hiking, it’s best to come during the winter months and save the summer season for water and beach activities.
A Note on Travel Insurance in Israel
Please, do NOT travel without travel insurance! I’ve had to rely on mine multiple times. While the cost may seem annoying and better spent elsewhere, trust me when I say you’ll be sorry if you don’t have it. For just a couple bucks a day, you can save yourself a whole lot of stress and money. I like to recommend SafetyWing for travel medical insurance as they are one of the most affordable options I’ve found, plus, they are who I use and I have had great experiences with them. Learn more about the importance of travel insurance here.