Tag Archives: Eilat

National Parks Tour in Northern Israel, 14 days

Tel Dan Nature Reserve
Tel Dan Nature Reserve

This is the tour about the National Parks, but this time we focus on North of Israel. What’s also different in this itinerary is, that I added the link to the Google Maps for each of the parks, because I know that many people simply go by themselves (and why not?).

What is the program for this tour? We will meet one of the first Homo Sapiens at Nahal Me’arot, we see the wild nature at Ein Afek, the ancient city Tel Megiddo, water, waterfalls, streams at Nahal Betzet and Nahal Kziv with castles, Crusaders, grottoes, mountains, forests, cave-fortresses, and much more.

Tour Itinerary

Day 1 – Arrival
Day 2 – Nahal Me’arot Nature Reserve, Mt. Carmel – Haifa
Day 3 – Ein Afek Nature Reserve, Western Galilee – Haifa
Day 4 – Tel Megiddo National Park, Jezreel Valley – Haifa/Afula
Day 5 – Nahal Betzet, Upper Galilee – Nahariyya
Day 6 – Nahal Kziv, Upper Galilee – Nahariyya
Day 7 – Rosh HaNikra, Western Galilee – Nahariyya
Day 8 – Mount Meron, Upper Galilee – Tiberias/Nahariyya
Day 9 – Nahal Ayun, Upper Galilee – Tiberias/Nahariyya
Day 10 – Arbel National Park and Nature Reserve, Upper Galilee – Tiberias
Day 11 – Tel Dan Nature Reserve, Upper Galilee – Tiberias
Day 12 – Mount Arbel, Lower Galilee – Tiberias
Day 13 – Mount Tabor, Lower Galilee – Tiberias
Day 14 – Departure

You stay at hotels at the following locations:
Day 1 – Arrival
Day 2 – Haifa
Day 3 – Haifa
Day 4 – Haifa/Afula
Day 5 – Nahariyya
Day 6 – Nahariyya
Day 7 – Nahariyya
Day 8 – Tiberias/Nahariyya
Day 9 – Tiberias/Nahariyya
Day 10 – Tiberias
Day 11 – Tiberias
Day 12 – Tiberias
Day 13 – Tiberias
Day 14 – Departure

What do you see?

  • Day 1Arrival
  • Day 2Nahal Me’arot Nature Reserve – Prehistoric human beings
  • Day 3Ein Afek Nature Reserve – Swamps
  • Day 4Tel Megiddo National Park – Ancient city-state
  • Day 5Nahal Betzet – Stream in the Upper Galilee
  • Day 6Nahal Kziv – Stream and Crusader castle, Montfort
  • Day 7Rosh HaNikra – Spectacular grottoes
  • Day 8Mount Meron – Mount Meron is the highest peak in Israel
  • Day 9Nahal Ayun – Streams, waterfalls
  • Day 10Arbel National Park and Nature Reserve – Mountain with beautiful high cliffs
  • Day 11Tel Dan Nature Reserve – Ancient northernmost city of the Kingdom of Israel
  • Day 12Mount Arbel – Mountain with deep cliffs, trails, grottoes and cave-fortress
  • Day 13Mount Tabor – Hiking around the mounting
  • Day 14Departure

Day 1 – Arrival

  • For those who are arriving in Israel, will be picked up from the airport by the guide and driver from Shalom Israel.
  • For those, who ordered the hotels, they will be driven by bus to their hotel and for this tour it means Haifa.

During the drive to your hotel, the bus will stop multiple times if the group requires so. One stop is for stretching your legs and to be fed real food and drink. That is included in the tour! So, please don’t spend your money on that.

Depending when you all arrive at your hotel, we will start this tour with a special dinner, and a special evening tour. This depends on when the group is complete on this day of arrival. But what’s for sure, you are going to meat the guides. If the group is small, you have two guides, otherwise you have four guides.


Active holidayOne word of warning. This is a tour, which focusing itself on visiting parks and reserves and that means hiking. Not extreme hiking, but you walk a lot!

Each day after the breakfast we leave (at about 9 AM) and we are back between late afternoon/ early evening (6-7 PM). Some days you might be earlier back to your hotel, in those cases special evening tours are organized for those who still have the energy.

Lunch is normally served in a restaurant. But many days this is impractical or even impossible. Instead at those days you will be offered a picnic or barbecue. Breakfast is served at the hotel and dinner is served at the hotel or restaurant.

icon day toursSnacks are available in the bus throughout the day (and one of the guides carries always something) (fruit, sweets, chocolates, etc.). Water is being delivered before and during the tour by us. We have many bottles of water for you to take. Hats we have too, because it’s likely that it’ll will be hot! And we have reserve shoes in case your will break during the tour.


Day 2 – Visit the first human a the Nahal Me’arot Nature Reserve

(Click here for the Google Map)

Outside the cave is a model of a skeleton illustrating the burial practices of members of Natufian culture, who lived some ten thousand years ago.

Members of five prehistoric cultures inhabited the caves at Nahal Me`arot: Acheulian culture (150-200 thousand years ago), Muarian culture (100-150 thousand years ago), Mousterian culture (40-100 thousand years ago), Uriniacian culture (12-40 thousand years ago), and Natufian culture (9-12 thousand years ago). Remnants from the Natufian period were found at the mouth of Stream Cave, where a small village served as a permanent settlement. During this period, people began to hunt and gather in an organized fashion, the precursor to planting crops and domesticating animals. Art objects, such as stone carvings and strings of shells, were produced during this time.

In the spring, the reserve is awash with flowers. Signposted trails from the parking lot lead to a number of exquisite spots on the Carmel Mountain Range. At the reserve`s guidance center, visitors can purchase guidebooks and maps and perhaps ask the wardens about the hikes they would most highly recommend.

We return to our hotel in Haifa.


Day 3 – Look at the amazing and fast disappearing swamps and it’s beautiful nature at the Ein Afek Nature Reserve

(Click here for the Google Map)
Crusaders, Water

When the water level rises in the winter, birds flock to the reserve: pelicans, cranes, pygmy cormorants, gray herons, moorhens, European coots, and black-winged stilts, to name just a few. In the winter and spring, the reserve is carpeted with flowers. A fine spot for admiring the blossoms is Tel Afek, situated on a low sandstone hill on the edge of the reserve. On the northern slope of Tel Afek is a two-story fortified building from the Crusader period, where a film about the flora and fauna in the reserve is now screened. A flour mill once operated on the lower floor of the building. The roof affords a magnificent view of the surrounding area.

In April 1991, seven buffalo were brought to the reserve from the Hula Nature Reserve and placed in a pen with electric sensors, to prevent them from wandering into the swamp. From time to time they can be seen grazing or stretching out in the specially dug pond.

The guidance center at the reserve provides information in Hebrew and Arabic to members of the general public, students, and educational institutions about the Land of Israel, ecology, wetlands, and biotopes.

We return to our hotel in Haifa.


Day 4 – Ancient city with thousands of years of history at Tel Megiddo National Park

(Click here for the Google Map)

The site is now protected as Megiddo National Park and is a World Heritage Site.

History

Megiddo was a site of great importance in the ancient world. It guarded the western branch of a narrow pass and trade route connecting Egypt and Assyria. Because of its strategic location, Megiddo was the site of several historical battles. The site was inhabited from approximately 7000 BC to 586 BCE (the same time as the destruction of the First Israelite Temple in Jerusalem by the Babylonians, and subsequent fall of Israelite rule and exile), though the first significant remains date to the Chalcolithic period (4500-3500 BCE). Megiddo’s Early Bronze Age I (3500-3100 BCE) temple has been described by its excavators as “the most monumental single edifice so far uncovered in the EB I Levant and ranks among the largest structures of its time in the Near East.” The first wall was constructed in the Early Bronze Age II or III period. However, the town experienced a decline in the Early Bronze-Age IV period (2300-2000 BCE), but the city was somewhat revived around 2000 BCE. Following massive construction, the town reached its largest size in the Middle Bronze-Age, at 10-12 hectares. Though the city was subjugated by Thutmose III, it still prospered, and a massive and incredibly elaborate palace was constructed in the Late Bronze Age. The city was destroyed around 1150 BCE, and the area was resettled by what some scholars have identified as early Israelites, before being replaced with an unwalled Philistine town. When the Israelites captured it, though, it became an important city, before being destroyed, possibly by Aramaean raiders, and rebuilt, this time as an administrative center for Tiglath-Pileser III’s occupation of Samaria. However, its importance soon dwindled, and it was finally abandoned around 586 BCE. Since that time it has remained uninhabited, preserving ruins pre-dating 586 BCE without settlements ever disturbing them. Instead, the town of Lajjun (not to be confused with the el-Lajjun archaeological site in Jordan) was built up near to the site, but without inhabiting or disturbing its remains.
Megiddo is mentioned in Ancient Egyptian writings because one of Egypt’s mighty kings, Thutmose III, waged war upon the city in 1478 BCE. The battle is described in detail in the hieroglyphics found on the walls of his temple in Upper Egypt.
Mentioned in the Bible as “Derekh HaYam” or “Way of the Sea,” it became an important military artery of the Roman Empire and was known as the Via Maris.

Famous battles include:

  1. Battle of Megiddo (15th century BCE): fought between the armies of the Egyptian pharaoh Thutmose III and a large Canaanite coalition led by the rulers of Megiddo and Kadesh.
  2. Battle of Megiddo (609 BCE): fought between Egyptian pharaoh Necho II and the Kingdom of Judah, in which King Josiah fell.
  3. Battle of Megiddo (1918): fought during World War I between Allied troops, led by General
  4. Edmund Allenby, and the defending Ottoman army.

Kibbutz Megiddo is nearby, less than 1 kilometer (0.62 mi) to the south. Today, Megiddo Junction is on the main road connecting the center of Israel with lower Galilee and the north. It lies at the northern entrance to Wadi Ara, an important mountain pass connecting the Jezreel Valley with Israel’s coastal plain.
In 1964, during Pope Paul VI’s visit to the Holy Land, Megiddo was the site where he met with Israeli dignitaries, including Israeli President Zalman Shazar and Prime Minister Levi Eshkol.

We return to our hotel in Haifa or Afula.


Day 5 – Beautiful nature and loads of water to hike through at Nahal Betzet

(Click here for the Google Map)
Caves, nature

The Betzet Stream runs through limestone, and is fed by the Karkara springs. The national water company pumps the water from the stream, and in 1999 the stream dried up. Water is being pumped back into the stream, but the ecosystem is being damaged by the poor quality water.
Many caves were formed in the limestone by the stream. These include the Keshet Cave and the Namir stalactite cave, both within the Betzet nature reserve. A few ancient sites can also be found within the nature reserve.
There are a number of hiking trails which run through the reserve. This trail takes you from Granot HaGalil to Moshav Ya’ara, and will take about half a day. The trail is of medium difficulty. The trail is the blue trail, marked 2206 on the trail maps.

The hike begins at the Sarakh stream, which is the main tributary to the Betzet Stream. The Sarach Stream, is named for the Sarach or ferns which adorn the creek walls. The trail passes the De’ne’ilah ruins.  The De’Ne’ilah ruins are the remains of a farm from the Roman and Byzantine periods, from the 1st-7th centuries CE.  A number of oil presses were excavated at the site.

The hike then passes the Sarakh stalactite cave; the cave is closed during the bat hibernation season in the  winter, but is otherwise open to tourists. The Sarach cave is a large karstic cave; the first 10 meters are relatively easy and a stalagmite stands in front of a wall.  If you wish to continue further into the cave, climb the carved stairs in the wall, using the handholds as you climb. At the top of the climb, the left side is closed and reserved for the bats. On the right side is a narrow and steep passage; handholds can be found on the left. This leads to a narrow tunnel where you will need to crawl. This leads to an exit at the top of the cave; head back down to the stream with care.

After the cave, the Sarakh stream leads into the Betzet Stream. A pool of water amongst oleanders signals the Karkara springs. The pumped-in water runs from here until a large pool, which used to overflow with water.
Continue on the trail, past the turn to the Keshet Cave and the turn to Kibbutz Eilon and the Mekorot water pumping station.
The trail leads past the Karkara ruins, a Byzantine period settlement with a restored oil press, and continues on leading to Moshav Ya’ara.

We return to our hotel in Nahariyya.


Day 6 – Between the amazing nature and water and forests you see the ruins and castle of the old Crusaders at Nahal Kziv

(Click here for the Google Map)

640px-Nahal_KzivMost of the stream is part of a nature reserve that bears its name, and includes the Montfort Castle and other Crusader-period ruins. A stone carving of a man, 1.78 m high can be found near where the Abirim stream empties into Nahal Kziv. The carving is thought to date from the Hellenistic period.
Flora in the area includes Lilium candidum, Rubus sanguineus, Nerium oleander, Platanus orientalis, Artemisia arborescens, and Ferns. Persian fallow deer were brought to the area in 1996, as part of an effort to prevent extinction of the species. Other wildlife belonging to the nature reserve include golden jackals, wolves, wild boar, and the rare striped hyena.

We return to our hotel in Nahariyya.


Day 7 – Unbelievable beautiful grottoes hidden between breathtaking nature at Rosh HaNikra

(Click here for the Google Map)

The Rosh HaNikra grottos are cavernous tunnels formed by sea action on the soft chalk rock. The total length is some 200 metres. They branch off in various directions with some interconnecting segments. In the past, the only access to them was from the sea and experienced divers were the only ones capable of visiting. Today a cable car takes visitors down to see the grottos. A kibbutz, also named Rosh HaNikra, is located nearby. The Israeli city Nahariya is located about 10 km (6 miles) south of Rosh HaNikra.

History
The former British Cairo-Istanbul railway tunnel photographed in 1964.
The Book of Joshua mentions “Misraphot Mayim” as a place south of Rosh HaNikra that was the border of the Israelite tribes of the time (13:6). Jewish sages referred to the cliff as “The Ladder of Tyre” (Hebrew: sullam Tzor?). The site was later renamed A-Nawakir (“the grottos”) after an Arab conquest. The present name, Rosh HaNikra, is Hebrew for the later Arabic name “Ras-an-Nakura”.
Throughout human history, Rosh HaNikra served as a passage point for trade caravans and armies between Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Egypt, and Africa. During World War II, British Commonwealth forces blasted railway tunnels through the nearby rocks for trains running along the Cairo-Istanbul line. A railway bridge was destroyed by Jewish underground fighters prior to 1948 during the Night of the bridges operation. The tunnel portal leading to Lebanon has since been sealed. Nowadays all the railways on the Lebanese side of the border have been dismantled while the Coastal Railway in Israel currently ends near Nahariya, several kilometers to the south.
Rosh Hanikra was the location where Israeli and Lebanese officials negotiated and concluded an armistice agreement in 1949 which ended the Lebanese-Israeli component of the 1948 War of Israeli Independence. A border passage across the Blue Line into Lebanon at the site is sometimes used by UNIFIL personnel.

Nature reserves and national park

The area around Rosh HaNikra includes a number of nature reserves:

  • The Rosh HaNikra islands – 311 dunams declared in 1965
    The Rosh HaNikra reserve – 500 dunams declared in 1969, and an additional 765 dunams in 1996.
    Rosh HaNikra beach – 230 dunams, declared in 2003
  • The Rosh HaNikra national park also has jurisdiction of 220 dunams in the area.

Cable car
The Rosh HaNikra cable car is a cable car serving tourists wishing to visit the grottoes The Cable car is situated very close to the Lebanese border. The site is popular with tourists, and is one of the facilities available for tourists in Kibbutz Rosh HaNikra. The cable car was manufactured by Austrian manufacturer Doppelmayr Garaventa Group, and claims to be the steepest cable car in the world, ascending at a gradient of 60 degrees. Due to its lower base station being located on the sea, the cable car is occasionally affected by stormy weather.

We return to our hotel in Nahariyya.


Day 8 – The highest peak in Israel at Mount Meron

(Click here for the Google Map)

Mount Meron is a mountain in Israel. It has special significance in Jewish religious tradition and parts of it have been declared a nature reserve.
At 1,208 metres (3,963 ft) above sea level, Mount Meron is the highest peak in Israel, though many peaks in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights are higher.
In 1965, an 84000-dunam nature reserve was declared. An additional 1199 dunams were declared part of the reserve in 2005. It is the highest reserve in Israel, at an altitude of 1208 meters above sea level, and the largest reserve in the north of the country.

Religious significance
The village of Meron and the tomb of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai are on Mount Meron. Leading up to the anniversary of his death on Lag B’Omer, thousands of people camp out along the slopes near the tomb, and on Lag B’Omer itself, hundreds of thousands make pilgrimages to celebrate the occasion.

Hiking paths
The mountain has a strong undergrowth and it cannot be walked up from every direction. The main path starts at the north west side of the Meron village. There is a gate next to the road, with a color-marked path of about 10 km. There is also a path on the west side of the mountain.

We return to our hotel in Tiberias or Nahariyya.


Day 9 – Waterfalls, streams and all of that between the forests, mountains at Nahal Ayun

(Click here for the Google Map)

Nature Reserve Eshed Fall

Differences in elevation form waterfalls in the streams course. During the rainy winter months, the water-flow is strongest. During the summer months, water is diverted, closer to the stream’s sources, for crop irrigation. These falls were declared a nature reserve, and include:

  1. Ayun waterfall, 9.2 m
  2. Tahana waterfall (=flourmill), 21 m
  3. Eshed waterfall, with two steps, 5 m and 9 m
  4. Tanur waterfall, 30 m

We return to our hotel in Tiberias or Nahariyya.


Day 10 – The most amazing cliffs to watch the whole northern Israel at the Arbel National Park and Nature Reserve

(Click here for the Google Map)

Mount-ArbelThere are four villages on the mountain: Kfar Zeitim, Arbel, Kfar Hittim, and Mitzpa. The peak, at 181 metres above sea level (380 metres above the surrounding area), dominates the surroundings (much of the area is below sea level) and from the lookout atop the mountain, almost all of the Galilee into the Golan Heights including Safed, Tiberias and most of the Sea of Galilee, is visible.

Nature reserve and national park
The area was declared a nature reserve in 1967, covering 1400 dunams. The national park (8509 dunams) includes most of Nahal Arbel, that begins near Eilabun and empties into the Sea of Galilee near Migdal. The reserve covers the immediate area around the cliff.
Mount Arbel from Nof Ginnosar.jpg
On the south side of the cliff, there is a gradual prolonged climb through agricultural and pasture land and from the peak there is a steep 400 meters drop. From here there are metal handholds driven into the rock to aid those who want to make the climb down to the valley below. Below that are a series of switchbacks that eventually lead to the Bedouin village of Hamaam.
Mt. Arbel, with its 110 metre vertical drop, is the only known mountain in Israel to serve as a base jumping site. A hike to the top of Mount Arbel from the south is included in the Israel National Trail, and an approach from the west is part of the Jesus Trail; the trails converge temporarily at the peak.

We return to our hotel in Tiberias.


Day 11 – Ancient city in the old Kingdom of Israel at Tel Dan Nature Reserve

(Click here for the Google Map)

Tel Dan Nature ReserveHistory and archaeology
According to the archaeological excavations at the site, the town was originally occupied in the late Neolithic era (c 4500 BCE), although at some time in the fourth millennium BC it was abandoned, for almost 1,000 years.

Tel Dan nature reserve
Tel Dan Nature Reserve3The Tel Dan reserve was first declared on 391 dunams surrounding the tel in 1974. 90 dunams were added to the reserve in 1989. The Dan River is one of the three water sources of the Jordan River that meet in the northern part of the Hula Valley.

We return to our hotel in Tiberias.


Day 12 – Find the mountain with deep cliffs, trails, grottoes and cave-fortress at Mount Arbel

(Click here for the Google Map)

Mount Arbel2There are four villages on the mountain: Kfar Zeitim, Arbel, Kfar Hittim, and Mitzpa. The peak, at 181 metres above sea level (380 metres above the surrounding area), dominates the surroundings (much of the area is below sea level) and from the lookout atop the mountain, almost all of the Galilee into the Golan Heights including Safed, Tiberias and most of the Sea of Galilee, is visible.

The area was declared a nature reserve in 1967, covering 1400 dunams. The national park (8509 dunams) includes most of Nahal Arbel, that begins near Eilabun and empties into the Sea of Galilee near Migdal. The reserve covers the immediate area around the cliff.
On the south side of the cliff, there is a gradual prolonged climb through agricultural and pasture land and from the peak there is a steep 400 meters drop. From here there are metal handholds driven into the rock to aid those who want to make the climb down to the valley below. Below that are a series of switchbacks that eventually lead to the Bedouin village of Hamaam.
Mt. Arbel, with its 110 metre vertical drop, is the only known mountain in Israel to serve as a base jumping site.  A hike to the top of Mount Arbel from the south is included in the Israel National Trail, and an approach from the west is part of the Jesus Trail; the trails converge temporarily at the peak.

We return to our hotel in Tiberias.


Day 13 – This is hiking around this mountain at Mount Tabor

(Click here for the Google Map)

There are two paths: the long track, which starts from the Bedouin village Shibli, which length is about five kilometers long and a short nature track of about 2.5 kilometers at the summit.
Mount TaborThe track which surrounds the mountain passes in well-developed Mediterranean woodlands. the color marking alternates to green at the eastern part of the track. Behind the monastery its possible to see remnants from the First Jewish-Roman War. In the path there is a view of the Jezreel Valley, Mount Gilboa, Samaria mountains, Mount Carmel, the Golan Heights, Gilead, the Lower Galilee and the Upper Galilee. On days with good visibility one could also see the Mount Hermon.
Israel National Trail goes up the mountain from mount Tabor the Gazit junction and the Shibli village, surrounding the summit and descends across the Arab village of Daburiyya towards the Nazareth mountains.

Activities on Mount Tabor
In April each year, the regional council of Lower Galilee holds a 12 kilometer race around Mount Tabor in memory of Yitzhak Sadeh, the first commander of the Palmach and one of the founders of the Israel Defense Forces at the time of the State of Israel’s independence.
By obtaining a game permit issued by the Ministry of the Interior, hunting of small animals is allowed in certain designated seasons.
The churches located on the mountain allow visits at specific hours. (Modest attire required).
Approximately three quarters of the way up the mountain, a path circles it entirely and is accessible for private vehicles as well (four-wheel drive advised).
The mountain serves as one of Israel’s preferred locales for hang gliding.

Church of the Transfiguration
Between 1919 until 1924 an impressive Roman Catholic church of the Franciscan order named “Church of the Transfiguration” was built on the peak of Mount Tabor. The architect who designed the church, as well as other churches in Israel, was Antonio Barluzzi. The church was built upon the ruins of a Byzantine church from the fifth or sixth century and a Crusader church from the 12th century, which was built in honor of Tancred, Prince of Galilee. The friars of the church live next to the church in a monastery established in 1873.

The Eastern Orthodox sanctuary
Bell tower of the Eastern Orthodox monastery.
On the northeast side of the Church of the Transfiguration there is the more modest Orthodox Church which was built in 1862 with funds from Romania. The church was dedicated to Elijah the prophet and was the first religious structure built by Romanian Christians in the Holy Land.
On the northwest side of the church there is a cave named after Melchizedek the King of Salem. According to the Christian tradition, this cave was the place where Abraham met the king of Salem. The cave was known to pilgrims and Christians during the Middle Ages. With an increase in pilgrimages, the church is now open to the public (though it closes for a few hours at noon).
An All-Night Vigil is held at the Eastern Orthodox church every year on the Orthodox Feast of the Transfiguration (August 19, which is August 6 according to the Julian Calendar).

We return to our hotel in Tiberias.


Day 14 – Departure

Airplane

Airplane

Before you leave, some breakfast first. And this is honestly not some breakfast, it’s a breakfast feast!

This is the day of the departure. We bring everyone back to the point where we picked them up.

Transport in, to, from and near Eilat

For those who are visiting Eilat (or are going to do that) without plan (like most of you do), here are some tips for you to make your life a bit easier if you want to see something of Eilat. It’s the problem of getting there and how to move around and with what. Did you know that you can fly to Eilat instead of driving for 4 hours by car? Do you know how much that cost? It cost you $35 and 35 minutes. Voila, you earned your reading back with this.

Transport in the air

Eilat’s municipal airport (1 700 705 022; http://www.iaa.gov.il/Rashat/en-US/Airports/Eilat) is right in the heart of town. There are plans for a new airport to be built in Timna, north of Eilat – when completed (estimated dates vary wildly, and some cynical locals doubt if it will ever happen) it will replace the current civil airports in Eilat and at the Ovda air-force base.

Eilat’s municipal airport
Eilat’s municipal airport

Both Arkia (08-638 4888; http://www.arkia.com; Red Canyon Mall) and Israir (1 700 505 777; http://www.israirairlines.com; Shalom Centre) fly several times daily between Eilat and Sde Dov and Ben-Gurion airports in Tel Aviv (from US$25, 35 minutes).

Ovda Airport (IATA Code: VDA; 1 700 705 022; http://www.iaa.gov.il/Rashat/en-US/Airports/Ovda) is about 67km north of the center of Eilat. It serves occasional charter flights from Europe as well as Arkia and El Al flights, but its distance from town means it’s not the most convenient landing post.

Ovda Airport
Ovda Airport

Transport per bus

Egged
Egged

Egged services to Tel Aviv (bus 393, 394 or 790, 82NIS, five hours) depart from the central bus station every 90 minutes or two hours from 5am to 7pm, with an additional overnight service at 1am. Services on Fridays and Saturdays are greatly reduced. It’s a good idea to reserve long-haul bus tickets for travel to/from Eilat via http://www.egged.co.il or by calling 2800; reservations can be made up to two weeks ahead.

Bus 392 to Be’er Sheva (60NIS, three hours) stops at Ovda Airport (25NIS, 45 minutes) and Mitzpe Ramon (49NIS, 2¼ hours). To Jerusalem (bus 444, 82NIS, five hours) there are four buses per day between 7am and 5pm; these pass through Ein Gedi (49.50NIS, three hours). Services on Fridays and Saturdays are greatly reduced. There are no direct buses from Eilat to Cairo.

Transport within Eilat

Taba Crossing, Egyptian side
Taba Crossing, Egyptian side

The town center is walkable, but you’ll need a bus or taxi for locations along the Taba road. Bus 15 leaves from the central bus station and travels to the Taba border crossing via Coral Beach (4.90NIS, 30 minutes) every hour from 8am to 9pm Sunday to Thursday, 8am to 3pm Friday and 9am to 7pm Saturday. It changes to bus 16 for the return trip. A taxi from the town center to the border crossing costs around 60NIS. To reach the Yitzhak Rabin–Wadi Arava border crossing into Jordan, you’ll have to take a taxi (45NIS).

Cars in Eilat

You can rent a car by calling Eldan, Hertz or Budget, located with a number of other car-hire companies in the Shalom Center opposite the airport.

Beaches of Eilat

Beaches and water sport are the dominating swimming activities in Eilat and in this article you will see what you can do here and what beaches we are talking about. In Eilat, there are two types of beach/water-tourists; those who love to swim in the Red Sea and those who prefer the water pools of their hotel.

Coral Beach Nature Reserve (057 855 2381; adult/student/child 35/30/21NIS; 9am-5pm Apr-Sep, 9am-4pm Oct-Mar)
The beach at this marine reserve overseen by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority is definitely the best on this part of the coast, and the protected waters are a utopia for snorkelers. A wooden bridge leads from the shore to the beginning of the reef, which is over 1km in length and is home to a diverse array of coral and tropical fish. Underwater trails are marked by buoys, and snorkeling equipment can be hired for 19NIS.

Dolphin Reef (08-630 0111; http://www.dolphinreef.co.il; South Beach; adult/concession 67/46NIS; 9am-5pm Sun-Thu, 9am-4.30pm Fri, relaxation pools 9am-11.30pm Mon-Sat)
Head to this private beach to see – and sometimes interact with – its resident pod of bottle-nose dolphins. They can be observed from floating piers or during guided snorkeling (290NIS) or diving (339NIS) experiences. The admission charge includes beach use, but for a surcharge (98NIS for a two-hour slot including refreshments) you can also chill out in three heated relaxation pools (rainwater, seawater and Dead Sea water) surrounded by lush greenery. Advance booking is advised for swimming or snorkeling with the dolphins or using the relaxation pools. Note that diving is restricted to those over eight years, snorkeling for those over 10 and the pools for those over 18.

North Beach
The main stretch of beach in town, North Beach stretches from the Meridien Hotel past the lagoons and all the way to the Jordanian border. Its backdrop of high-rise hotels and a promenade of bars, cafes and restaurants means that it is perennially crowded and full of action.

North beach Eilat
North beach Eilat

HaDekel (Palm) Beach
Just south of town, HaDekel is less crowded than North Beach but is wedged between the ugly port and naval base. It’s a popular snorkeling spot.

HaDekel (Palm) Beach
HaDekel (Palm) Beach

Village Beach
Just north of Coral Beach, this stretch of sand has free umbrellas, clean water for snorkeling and a bar hosting loud parties during summer.

Village Beach
Village Beach

Water Sports

Watersport in Eilat
Watersport in Eilat

The Red Sea offers some great diving opportunities and Eilat has no shortage of dive clubs. However, due to the sheer volume of divers, the reef has seen some inevitable damage over the years. Over the past decade, steps have been taken to rehabilitate the coral and thousands of young coral colonies have been grown in aquariums and attached to the existing reef. It is true that all you need to do is pop your head underwater in Eilat to see all sorts of colorful fish and coral (there are thought to be 1200 species of fish and 250 of coral).

Coral Beach Nature Reserve
Coral Beach Nature Reserve

This accessibility makes it a great place for kids as well as for beginners looking to do a PADI course. The best dive sites are at Coral Beach Nature Reserve, Lighthouse Reef, Neptune’s Tables (aka Veronica’s Reef) and the Caves.

Prices vary, but average around 250NIS for a guided snorkel or introductory dive and 450NIS for a dive lesson (all including equipment hire). To hire equipment and dive or snorkel independently you will be looking at around 60NIS for snorkel, mask and fins, and 170NIS for a wetsuit, tank and breathing equipment. Most dive centres open daily from 8.30am to 5pm.

Manta Isrotel Diving Center (08-633 3666; http://www.divemanta.com; Coral Beach)
Manta has been in business for over 30 years and offers introductory dives, diving courses and guided snorkeling and diving. The fact that it operates out of Isrotel’s Yam Suf Hotel means that it can also offer services such as babysitting.

Manta Isrotel Diving Center
Manta Isrotel Diving Center

Aqua Sport International (08-633 4404; http://www.aqua-sport.com; Coral Beach)
One of the oldest dive outfits operating in the Red Sea, this British-owned company offers open water diving courses (including introductory courses), three-day dive cruises, a full-day snorkeling cruise and a two-hour sunset cruise. Based at Coral Beach, it also operates out of the Hilton and Mövenpick

Aqua Sport International
Aqua Sport International

Reef Diving Group (Marina Divers 08-637 6787, Dolphin Reef 08-630 0111; http://www.reefdivinggroup.co.il)
A well-regarded outfit with two branches in Eilat and another in Tel Aviv, Reef Diving Group incorporates the Dolphin Reef Dive Center and Marina Divers at Coral Beach.

Reef Diving Group
Reef Diving Group

Deep Siam (08-632 3636; http://www.deepdivers.co.il; Coral Beach)
This outfit offers guided snorkeling, introductory dives and scuba courses.

Deep Siam
Deep Siam

Snuba (08-637 2722; http://www.snuba.co.il; South Beach)
Popular with Russian tourists, Snuba offers introductory dives to the Caves Reef, as well as a one hour ‘Snuba Adventure’ for novices aged over eight (200NIS).

Snuba
Snuba

Eilat, the Pearl of the Red Sea

Eilat
Eilat

Eilat is a very popular tourist destination for local and international tourists from all over the world. It’s home to 48,946 people, has in average 360 sunny days a year. 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). That and the beaches, coral reef, nightlife and desert landscapes make it a popular destination for all tourists. See also the Map of Eilat.



Eilat
Eilat

But if there are people who think that Eilat is not an ancient city, think again. Archaeological excavations uncovered impressive prehistoric tombs dating to the 9,000 years ago 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
Eilat

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.

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

Eilat
Eilat

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
Eilat

The area was designated as part of the Jewish state in the 1947 UN Partition Plan. The abandoned British police post of Umm Al-Rashrash was taken without a fight on March 10, 1949, as part of Operation Uvda.

The Timna Copper Mines near Timna valley were opened, a port was constructed, the Eilat Ashkelon Pipeline laid, and tourism began. Construction of the city and the Port of Eilat began shortly after the end of the war. The port became vital to the fledgling country’s development.

Eilat
Eilat

Tourism

Tourism is flourishing in Eilat. Eilat has further plans to expand airports, move the harbor further north, connect with an oil pipeline with the city Ashqelon, and have a metro and a connection with train to Beer Sheva and Tel Aviv.

Eilat
Eilat

Tourism

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

  • Bird watching 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, the observatory has aquariums, 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.[55]
  • What’s Up” the Observatory in Eilat, a portable Astronomical Observatory with programs in the desert and on the promenade.
  • Ice Mall ice skating rink and shopping mall.

Dive tourism

Skin and Scuba diving, with equipment 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.

Despite harsh conditions, the region has supported large populations as far back as 8,000 BCE.

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 neighboring Negev Highlands and Sinai, these sites show continuous settlement for the past 10,000 years.