Eilat is Israel’s “vacation city,” but it has much more to offer than just shopping malls, beaches, and seaside restaurants. I have a lot of good things to say about Eilat. When it’s not too hot, you can go up to the Eilat Mountains, enjoy beautiful views of the Red Sea, and hike through the friendly desert. If you like water, you can also snorkel or dive to see the underwater wonders of the northernmost coral reef in the world! Oh, and Eilat is also a great departure point for your trip to Jordan, especially Petra.
So, Eilat is a great destination. Israeli shopaholics come here for VAT-free prices. Beach lovers come here for the highly accessible beaches. And nature lovers come here for the beautiful places that encompass the city. I love seeing the blueish sea surrounded by the yellowish desert, and near sunset, the Jordanian mountains turn purplish.
This travel guide to Eilat includes everything you need to know for a perfect visit to this sunny city. And I’m updating it all the time. So, if you plan to visit Eilat soon, check it out.
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Top 5 things to see and do in Eilat
1 – Explore the Eilat Mountains:
The Eilat Mountains are a natural wonder. A short drive from Eilat’s city center, the mountains offer plenty of hiking trails and beautiful viewpoints. They have been formed millions of years ago. When you’ll walk around them, you’ll see amazing shades of red, yellow, brown, and even green.
Here are some of my favorite hiking trails in the Eilat Mountains region:
- From Mount Yoash to Mount Zefahot – Hiking part of the Israel National Trail
- Hiking the Red Canyon
- Hiking to En Netafim
View this beautiful video by Iyad M. Swaed:
2 – Dive to the coral reef:
Another natural wonder in Eilat is its coral reef. Yes, it might not be as impressive as the ones in neighboring Sinai, but they are still worth seeing. It’s also the northernmost coral reef in the world, so it is exciting! Someone also told me that if you go around sunrise to the New Open Beach (the Trans-Israel pipeline beach) you have a chance to see dolphins. I once saw one while kayaking in the afternoon near the hotels. So…
If you’re a qualified diver, you can go to one of the many diving centers in Eilat, rent equipment, and go explore the coral reefs on your own. But it’s always good to go with a guide, who know the best places. So, check with the diving centers about a guide and prices. I’ve dived through Marina Divers and Manta Isrotel Diving Center. Both were great!
If you don’t have a diving certificate, you can take the opportunity to learn diving in Eilat OR you can just snorkel to see the coral reef from above. One of the best places for snorkeling is the Coral Beach Nature Reserve. You pay entrance fee and can then rent a mask and snorkel and go snorkeling in the sea. There are a lot of fish there. There’s also a lifeguard.
Check out this video by Tom Sandroy that shows how it is to snorkel in Eilat:
3 – View the Red Sea from afar:
I don’t know about you, but I love viewpoints. I used to live in a house with a balcony overlooking the Red Sea, but these times are gone. Now, if I want to enjoy the view of the Red Sea from afar, I need to go to a good viewpoint. Here are some of the best viewpoints I know in Eilat and the surroundings:
- The Red Sea Viewpoint – This beautiful viewpoint is in the residential area of Eilat, in Shachamon Neighborhood, at the end of Lavender Street. A long set of stairs leads up to the viewpoint, from which you can see the whole Eilat Gulf and the city. It makes you understand how small Eilat is. And if you have binoculars, you can also peek into Aqaba in Jordan. Since it’s located at the edge of the city, it will take you about one hour to get there on foot from the city center.
- Mount Yoash – This is one of the most popular viewpoints in the Eilat Mountains. It’s about a 15 minutes’ drive from the city center. You need to climb up the mountain and then you can enjoy a beautiful view of the Eilat Gulf, Jordan, Egypt, and even Saudi Arabia. The climb is short and not too difficult.
- The White Mountain – Another stunning viewpoint is the one on top of “The White Mountain”. It is also about a 15 minutes’ drive from the city center. Part of the driving is on a dirt path, so be careful if you’re driving with a rented car. To get to the top of the mountain, you will need to hike a while. Also, the top of the mountain is quite narrow and slanty, so it’s not for people afraid of heights. But I love it. Read more about it in my post >> The White Mountain: A Beautiful Viewpoint Over Eilat.
4 – Spend time on the beach:
One of Eilat’s highlights is its beaches. They are all very free, fun, and easy to access. On some beaches, you might be asked to pay for tanning beds and chairs. Recently, shade has also been added to the beaches, but in a limited area. So, if you want to sit in the shade, make sure to come early to catch a spot under it.
The beaches next to the northern hotels will have sand on them, but originally, Eilat’s beaches are stone-covered. So, that’s why you might find some beaches with stones and not sand, especially in the southern part.
On the northern beaches, around the hotel area, there is a lifeguard service. During summer, the lifeguards work every day from 9 AM to 5 PM. In Winter, they work Sundays to Thursdays from 8:30 AM to 4 PM and on Fridays-Saturdays from 9 AM to 4 PM. Make sure to check that there is a lifeguard tower around before entering the water.
Read about some of my favorite beaches in Eilat.
5 – Watch the Musical Fountain Show:
If you’re looking for something to do in the evening, you can go watch the Musical Fountain Show. It’s the largest musical fountain in Israel. I go there often because it’s a fun experience. There are all kinds of songs, including Hebrew songs and soundtracks from famous movies. Sometimes, people even stand up and start to dance to the sound of the music.
The show takes place near Mall HaYam, next to the Eilat City Museum. From April 1 to 31 October, the show takes place on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays and starts at 8:30 PM and 9:30 PM. From 1 November to 31 March, the show starts at 7:30 PM and 8:30 PM.
Looking for a tour guide in Eilat?
I have spent most of my childhood in this beautiful city and will be happy to guide you around. I am a certified tour guide by the Israeli Ministry of Tourism and guide all around Israel. Contact me for more details.
How many days to visit Eilat?
I would recommend 2 to 3 days. It will be enough to experience the city as well as its natural surroundings. One day I would dedicate to Eilat’s beaches and coral reefs. Then, I would travel to the Eilat Mountains or to the Arava region, where Timna Park is located. If you have more time, you can relax and see even more of Eilat and its surroundings. Here are some travel ideas for 3 to 5 days in Eilat.
When to come to Eilat?
Eilat is one of the hottest places in Israel. So, in summer, temperature can reach 50 degrees Celsius and even more! It might be ideal for swimming in the sea, but it’s not ideal for anything else, and the stay prices are rocketing at that time of year. So… I would recommend coming in spring (February-May) or fall (October-November). Winter could also be a good time to come. Rain is quite rare in Eilat, so you will probably have pleasant days and chilly nights.
A word about the sea temperature – it stays almost the same all year long. At its lowest, it is around 21 degrees Celcius. So, some people swim in the sea also during wintertime. I’m not brave enough to do it.
How to get to Eilat?
Arriving from somewhere in Israel:
Eilat is located at the southernmost point of Israel. If you’re coming from somewhere in Israel, the cheapest option is to take the bus. To secure your place on the bus, you will need to book your tickets in advance. Read my full guide to buying bus tickets to and from Eilat. Recently, most of the buses to and from Eilat have been upgraded with comfortable seats that leave lots of space for the legs.
If you’re in Tel Aviv and prefer to reach Eilat faster, you can book a flight to Ramon Airport. It will be more expensive, around 250 shekels per person, depending on the date and time. But you’ll get to Eilat within an hour or so versus 5 hours in a bus.
Arriving from outside Israel:
Eilat could be a great place to start your journey in Israel. You can enter Eilat through two land borders or by air.
Entering Eilat by land:
- Wadi Arava Border Crossing (Yitzhak Rabin Border Crossing) – This is one of the border crossings that connects Jordan to Israel. After crossing into Israel, you will need to take a taxi to Eilat or walk to the bus station on road number 90, about 1 km from the crossing. Get more information about Yitzhak Rabin Border Crossing here.
- Taba Border Crossing – This border crossing connects Sinai (Egypt) to Israel. It’s less popular because most people don’t reach Sinai and prefer to take a plane from Cairo or some other main city. After crossing into Israel, you will need to take a taxi to Eilat or take bus number 15 or 30 to the city center.
Entering Eilat by air:
Currently, only Israeli flight companies land at Ramon Airport, but soon there should also be low-cost flights landing there. So, you can get to Eilat by taking a domestic flight from Ben Gurion Airport. There are two flight companies – Israir and Arkia. I recommend booking through Israir.
Ramon Airport is located about 20 km north of Eilat. After landing at the airport, you can take a taxi to the city or take bus number 50 or 30 to the Central Bus Station. There’s also an option to rent a car at the terminal.
For more information >> Read more about entering Israel by air.
Where to stay in Eilat?
Most of the stay options in Eilat are pricey hotels, but there are also some hostels and other cheap accommodation options. Eilat is quite small, so it doesn’t really matter where you stay. The sea is almost always within walking distance.
I haven’t stayed in a hostel in Eilat, because I have a family there and I stay with them. But I have met people who recommended Arava Hostel and Motel Aviv. Recently, Abraham Hostels also opened a new hostel in Eilat – Abraham Hostel Eilat. I’ve stayed at Abraham Hostels in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and it was great, so I guess it’s good quality in Eilat, too.
Another option is to camp in Eilat or its surroundings. Read my post about camping sites in and around Eilat. It’s a fun experience and affordable!
If you’re adventurous and like to meet new people, you can also try Couchsurfing. It’s popular in Israel.
Where to eat in Eilat?
Unfortunately, I have little experience with low-budget places to eat in Eilat. Restaurants I can recommend, but aren’t so cheap, are:
- Barbis Diner & Bar – This place has a wide variety of excellent burgers. It’s located at Ofira Park, Tarshish Street 19, which is in the touristic area near all the hotels. Not Kosher.
- Lalo’s Restaurant – This is a beautifully designed Moroccan restaurant, serving delicious homemade dishes. It’s located in the residential area of Eilat, at Hahorev Street 7. We used to order a lot of food from here. If I were you, I’d try something with couscous. Kosher.
For dessert, I can recommend Pini Lek. It was the first ice cream parlor opened in Eilat. It’s located in the residential area of Eilat, on Eilot Street 102. It’s a good opportunity to eat delicious ice cream and at the same time meet some local people from Eilat.
Money-saving tips for Eilat
Eilat is pricey like everywhere in Israel. But if you stay away from the shopping malls, choose affordable accommodation, and walk wherever you can, you can minimize the cost. If you’re not camping outdoors, expect to pay around 190 to 400 Shekels per person per day, including food and accommodation. If you plan to rent a car, you should add the car rental price to the calculations.
Here are a few ways to save money while traveling in Eilat and its surroundings:
If you want to save money on accommodation and don’t want to camp outdoors, Couchsurfing is a great option. In some places, they have started charging an annual subscription, but it’s still worth it. Couchsurfing is a platform where you can connect to local hosts, who will be happy to host you for free. This way, you save money and get to know the local people! Couchsurfing is very popular in Israel, so it’s easy to find a host. Just make sure to read the references before you send a request and stick to the safety basics.
Skip the taxis and walk.
If the weather is nice and you have time, walking can save you money inside the city. All places in Eilat are within walking distance. You can get from one end to another within about one hour. Just consider that the residential area of Eilat is hilly, so going over there means you’ll need to put some effort into it. If you want to walk around the touristic area and shoreline, it’s flat. No worries.
Make your own meal.
An average meal costs 30-60 ILS. So to save money, it’s best to purchase supplies in a local supermarket and make your own meals. If you’re staying in a hostel, you can use the shared kitchen. The Rami Levi supermarket chain is considered cheap, but it’s best to compare prices.
Drink during Happy Hour.
In Israel, alcohol is expensive. If you go to the supermarket, a bottle of beer costs about 10 ILS, depending on the type. In a bar, prices range around 30-35 ILS! So, if you want to hang out in one of Eilat’s bars but also want to save money, come for Happy Hour. The nightlife scene starts late, around 10-11 PM, so you’ll find Happy Hour deals earlier, around 5-8 PM. This way, you’ll get more for less.
Check Groo for special deals.
Groo is an Israeli website that offers special deals for a variety of attractions, restaurants, and hotels. It’s in Hebrew, so it might be difficult to understand, but if you have a Hebrew-speaking friend or an option to translate, you can find nice deals over there.
101 experiences, 0 Shekels, 1 Eilat.
A nice initiative that for some reason is presented only in Hebrew is “101 experiences, 0 Shekels, 1 Eilat.” There is a list of free experiences, which you can join while you are in Eilat. Just choose the date you are in the city and check what experiences are available. It could be a free guided bike ride, a music show, and many more experiences.
How to get around Eilat
If you plan to stay only in the city, then getting around is quite easy. Most stay options are within walking distance from the sea. If you want to get to farther away places, like the southern beaches, you can get on bus number 30 or 15, that stop both at the Central Bus Station and Mall HaYam. You’ll need a Rav Kav card to use it. Last time I checked, the buses didn’t work with the public transport payment apps. And if you need to get to a place fast, there are plenty of taxis. A taxi ride inside the city should not cost you more than 30 Shekels.
If you plan to explore the surroundings, you might prefer renting a car or joining a guided tour. Though, if you prefer public transportation, you can reach major attractions outside Eilat using buses. It will just take more of your time. For example, there is a bus (#392) that leaves the Central Bus Station, passes through the Eilat Mountains, and stops near the Red Canyon. And most buses going north (for example, #390 and #397) stop near Timna Park. You’ll just have to walk about 20 minutes to the entrance.
For more info about using public transportation in Israel >> read my full guide to public transportation in Israel.
Main landmarks in Eilat
Here are some of the main landmarks in Eilat, which will help you get oriented and navigate through the city:
The Central Bus Station: It’s the place where most visits to Eilat start and end. The station isn’t large or impressive, what makes it easy to navigate.
Mall HaYam: This is Eilat’s oldest shopping mall. It sits right next to the beautiful Eilat Gulf and has many shops and restaurants. You can say that it is the center of the city. So, if you ever want to get to the center, you can ask where is Mall HaYam (literally meaning “The Mall of the Sea”).
The Ice Mall: This is Eilat’s newest shopping mall, with a huge ice rink in the middle. It is in the touristic area, near the northern end of the city.
Underwater Observatory Park: This is one of Eilat’s main attractions, and you can recognize it thanks to the white tower rising from the sea. It is located on the southern beaches of Eilat, a short drive from Taba Border Crossing. You can visit if you want to see some underwater creatures, but it’s very expensive.
Annual events and festivals
Here is a list of the top annual events and festivals in Eilat. If you like events, you can arrange your visit according to their dates. I also recommend checking about Jewish and public holidays in Israel.
The Red Sea Jazz Festival:
This is one of the top musical events in Israel. Dozens of international and local jazz ensembles perform during the festival in various locations around the city. Booking tickets is required.
When? Every year in November. Check the dates on the festival’s website.
Watch this video by Lenny Sendersky:
The Red Sea Beer Festival:
If you love beer, you’ll love this festival. A huge stage is built next to Mall HaYam and local musicians come to perform in front of the excited audience. And next to the stage, there are dozens of beer stands, where you can taste a variety of beers (at a price, of course).
When? Every year during Khol Hamoed Sukkot, which usually happens in October.
Watch this video by Eilat Festivals Group:
Recommended day trips
One of the most popular attractions near Eilat is Timna Park, about 30 minutes’ drive from the city. It has some beautiful rock formations and the most ancient copper mines in the world. You can come by car, rent a bike, or hike through the park. And there’s also a camping place if you want to stay there during the night. There is entrance fee. Read more about Timna Park in my post.
Eilot Farmers’ Market:
If you want to get a glimpse of the amazing agriculture in the Arava region, you can visit the Farmers’ Market in Kibbutz Eilot. This way, you’ll also get a glimpse of the kibbutz life in Israel, as Eilot is one of the only kibbutzim that remained cooperative. And it’s only 5 minutes by car from Eilat!
The Farmers’ Market takes place every Friday during winter and includes many stalls selling local products. Read more about it in the official Eilot website.
Eilat Birding Center:
Another beautiful place just 5 minutes by car from Eilat is the Eilat Bird Park. You can walk around on a paved trail and watch the birds that stop in Eilat during their migration. Hundreds of millions of birds pass Eilat every year! Entrance to the park is free, but if you want to get a deeper understanding of birds and migration, I recommend joining the center’s guided tour. Read more about in the official Eilat Birding Center website.
You can reach the Eilat Birding Center by walking from Eilat. Read >> Birds, agriculture, and ancient wells just outside Eilat.
More to read:
Top free things to do in Eilat
Meet Um Rash-Rash: The Story of Eilat