Every country should have its own resort towns, designed for the much needed luxury of doing nothing amidst splendid views and the serenity of nature. Switzerland has the mountainous Interlaken, France is home to the picturesque Côte d’Azur and Israel has the seaside Eilat to offer. Set on the banks of the azure Red Sea, the city’s gorgeous skyline is a view one can wake up to from most of the luxury and boutique hotels on the main street leading up to the beach. The smooth flow of cars on a wide road is juxtaposed with a snaking canal and the sea beyond. And on the other side of the sea lie the distant settlements of Jordan, ensconced in the lap of sandy mountains.
The Not-so-red Sea
There’s no better way to begin your day in Eilat than a walk along the seaside at the crack of dawn. The Red Sea, named such because of seasonal blooms of a bacteria commonly called “sea sawdust” that turn the water red, boasts of calm waters that are very swimmer-friendly. And if you don’t swim, settle down on the soft sand and watch the tiny ripples cast their vibrations across the water. On the way to the beach, you will encounter colourful boats and upturned baskets that turn into exotic lamps by night! Strolling along the canal can also be a very enjoyable experience.
Dolphins and Marine Life
The two major attractions in Eilat are the Dolphin Reef and Underwater Marine Observatory Park. At the Dolphin Reef, one can walk along a boardwalk on the water to enjoy gazing at bottlenose dolphins that keep bobbing up and down playfully. The glimpses are fleeting but frequent, unless the instructor beckons one, that is. The dolphins learn to recognise the instructors and enjoy a good rub on their noses. Humans too can distinguish among the dolphins by the marks on their body. These dolphins flourish on a diet of tuna and salmon. The reef adjoins a beach that’s popular among local as well as visiting families.
The Underwater Observatory and Marine Park takes much longer to explore. At Shark World, one is introduced to various species of these magnificent creatures swimming in huge glass tanks. At particular times during the day, there is an audio explanation about their habits, at which time one can also watch divers floating around in the tank. Outside Shark World, various kinds of tortoises and fish swim around in open enclosures that mimic lagoons. One has to walk along a boardwalk to reach the observatory on the sea and the vantage point offers lovely views of the coastline. At the observatory, there are more fish, of hypnotising shapes and colours, along with a restaurant that serves great ice-cream with 360 degree views of the sea.
At night, Eilat dazzles with its sparkling coastline, fairs, market, restaurants with transparent glass walls and a throbbing nightlife. Seafood and wine for dinner, followed by a mesmerising walk along the canal, strewn with adventure rides and giant wheels makes for a beautiful evening. You might also encounter an open-air market near the famous Three Monkeys Pub, where vendors will try to catch your attention with vivid clothing, jewellery and bags. But you must end the night at Derekh Yotam, where the musical fountain casts an entrancing spell with its play of lights, colours and jets of water rushing up to meet the rhythm of the song. The fountain is surrounded by soft green lawns perfect for lying back and enjoying the cool night breeze.
Desert Agriculture at the Arava
If you have more time on hand, make a day trip to the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies around 50km or a 35 minute drive from Eilat. The centre offers a glimpse of the ingenious irrigation and sun-protection methods used in desert cultivation with movies and interactive displays at the museum. There is also a greenhouse full of carefully grown watermelons, gourds, grapes and herbs, which is a miracle, given that the Arava is one of the most unforgiving landscapes in the world. Thanks to concerted efforts and scientific research, today many young Israelis are inspired to settle in the dry and arid region that has become Israel’s largest producer of exported fresh vegetables.
Stay recommendation: Isrotel King Solomon, for its proximity to the sea and beautiful city view from the rooms