Eilat is Israel’s “vacation city,” but it offers much more 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 an excellent 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 blue 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 walk in the mountain area, you get to see wondrous 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 it’s still worth seeing. It’s also the northernmost coral reef in the world, so… that’s exciting! Also, someone 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 like dolphins, that’s another reason to get into the water.
And if you’re wondering – no, there are no dangerous sharks in Eilat. Sometimes a whale shark arrives, and then everybody wants to go see it.
If you’re a qualified diver, you can go to one of the many diving centers in Eilat, rent equipment, and dive to explore the coral reefs on your own. But it’s always good to go with a guide who knows the best places. So, check with the diving centers about guides and prices. I’ve dived with Marina Divers and Manta Isrotel Diving Center. Both were great! You can also check guided dives on Viator. If you don’t have a diving certificate but have time, you can take the opportunity to learn diving in Eilat.
Another option to see the underwater world is to snorkel above the coral. One of the best places for snorkeling is the Eilat Coral Beach Nature Reserve. You pay the 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 over. 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 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. But if you have a car, it’s easy to get there.
- Mount Yoash – This is one of the most popular viewpoints in the Eilat Mountains. It’s about a 15-minute drive from the city center. You need to climb up the mountain and can then 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-minute drive from the city center. Part of the driving is on a dirt path, so be careful if you’re driving with a rental car. You will need to hike a while to get to the top of the mountain. 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 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 most of 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 underneath it.
The beaches next to the northern hotels are sandy, but originally, Eilat’s beaches were pebbly. Some pebbly beaches can still be found along the southwestern coast.
The northern beaches, next to the hotel area, have lifeguard services. 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 Fridays and Saturdays from 9 AM to 4 PM. Check that there is a lifeguard tower around before entering the water.
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 1 April 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 still try to visit as often as possible. So, if I’m not bust guiding in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, I’ll be happy to guide you in Eilat. Just keep in mind that I don’t have a car, but can join you in yours.
Contact me at email@example.com for more details.
How much time do you need for Eilat?
I would recommend 2 to 3 days. It will be enough to experience the city as well as its natural surroundings. I would dedicate the first day to Eilat’s beaches and coral reef. Then, I would travel to the Eilat Mountains or 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.
You can also use Eilat as a base for a trip to Petra in Jordan.
The best time to visit Eilat
Eilat is one of the hottest places in Israel. So, the temperature can reach 50 degrees Celsius and even more in the summer! It might be ideal for swimming in the sea, but it isn’t ideal for anything else, and the accommodation prices are skyrocketing at that time of year. So… The best time to visit Eilat is in spring (February-May) or fall (October-November). Winter could also be a good time to visit. Rain is quite rare in Eilat, so you will probably have pleasant days and chilly nights.
The sea temperature stays almost the same year-round. 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.
Is Eilat safe for tourists?
Yes, Eilat is safe for tourists. Like many other places in Israel, there’s not a lot of crime, and you can feel safe walking around Eilat, even late at night.
If you plan to take part in adventurous activities like scuba diving or ATV driving, you might want to consider travel insurance, just to be on the safe side. World Nomads offers coverage for more than 150 activities as well as emergency medical, lost luggage, trip cancellation, and more.
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, unless you’re coming as a large family, and then renting a car might be better. To secure your place on the bus, you must book your tickets in advance. Read my full guide to buying bus tickets to and from Eilat. Recently, most buses to and from Eilat have been upgraded with comfortable seats that leave lots of space for the legs.
Entering Eilat by air
Currently, only Israeli flight companies land at Ramon Airport, but soon, there should also be low-cost flights landing there.
If you’re in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem and prefer to reach Eilat faster, you can book a flight to Eilat 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, which is shorter than 5 hours by bus.
There are two domestic 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.
Arriving from outside Israel
Eilat could be a great place to start your journey in Israel. You can enter Eilat through two land borders:
- 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.
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 where you stay doesn’t really matter. 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. Also, Abraham Hostels recently 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, in the tourist 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 offers an excellent 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 accommodations, and walk wherever you can, you can minimize the cost. If you’re not camping outdoors, expect to pay around 200 to 400 Shekels per person daily, 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 prefer avoiding outdoor camping, 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 happily host you for free. This way, you save money and get to know the local people! Couchsurfing is very popular in Israel, so it should be 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 tourist area and shoreline, it’s flat. No worries.
Make your own meal.
An average meal costs 30-70 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 various 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 excellent deals over there.
How to get around Eilat
Getting around is relatively easy if you plan to stay only in the city. 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, which stop both at the Central Bus Station and Mall HaYam. You’ll need a Rav Kav card or a payment app (Moovit or Rav-Pass) to use it.
If you need to get to a place fast, there are plenty of taxis. A taxi ride inside the city should cost you around 30 Shekels.
If you plan to explore the surroundings, you might prefer renting a car or joining a guided tour. Still, if you prefer public transportation, it’s possible to reach the main 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.
Recommended post >> 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, which 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. It is in the tourist area, near the city’s northern end.
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 along the southern beach area of Eilat, a short drive from Taba Border Crossing. You can visit it 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. Next to the stage are dozens of beer stands, where you can taste a variety of beers (at extra cost, 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 a 30-minute 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 overnight. There is an entrance fee. Read more about Timna Park in my post.
Eilot Farmers’ Market
Eilot Farmer’s Market offers a lovely glimpse into the amazing agriculture of the Arava region. Since Eilot is a kibbutz and one of the only ones that remained cooperative, you can also experience a bit of the kibbutz life in Israel. Right next to the market is the kibbutz’s communal dining room, and you can pay to eat there. 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 on Eilot’s Facebook.
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 it on 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.