Eilat, Israel's city of eternal sunshine, boasts a variety of hotels, restaurants, crystal clear waters and plenty of attractions for all ages. But that's not all: just a few kilometers outside the city you'll find an abundance of hiking trails, breathtaking natural treasures and thrilling landscapes. Here are a few recommended for day trips in the area:
Petra in Jordan is such a fascinating spot that Israeli youth would sneak over the border in the 1950s, when Jordan was still an enemy country, to witness the ancient marvel with their own eyes. Most didn't return alive, leading Israel to ban the pop song "The Red Rock", by Haim Hefer and Arik Lavie, which extolled the site. Now that Israel enjoys peace with Jordan, Israelis can safely visit the ancient Nabatean burial caves carved into the stone of the Edom Mountains, which are remarkably preserved to this day. The most famous of the Royal Tombs is called the Pharaoh’s Treasury (al-Khazna). The spaces between the massive pillars are occupied by enormous statues of horseback riders.
Incense Route (jeep trip)
The Incense Route is one of the most ancient routes in the world. Ancient ruins along its length testify to its origin being some 2000 years ago. It was used to transport wares from southern Arabia and Asia, especially incense and spices to Rome and Egypt. The jeep tour explores the Negev Heights (Ramat Negev) and Arava regions and crosses through magnificent landscapes, including the Ramon Crater and the Nekarot Stream. The Incense Route was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2005.
Timna Park is located about 25 km north of Eilat, in the center of the Edom Valley, on the outskirts of the Arava Desert. The park sprawls across 60 square kilometers, in a horseshoe shape. The geologic composition of the land results in extraordinary rock formations, the most famous of which are the Mushroom, Solomon's Pillars and the Arches. Visitors can sail on the man-made pond and see 6000-year-old copper mines, ancient cave paintings, a sound and light show about the site and much more. The park has excellent lookout spots and about a dozen hiking trails of varying difficulty levels, though most are suitable for the whole family (kids over the age of 6). Sinai Peninsula (Egypt)
Across the border from Eilat lies the Sinai Peninsula, featuring beautiful beaches, a serene vibe and low prices. Ever since Israel returned Sinai to Egypt, the peninsula has developed as a tourist site aimed at European and Israeli tourists. Residents built resort villages along the shore, and international hotel chains opened a number of luxury hotels. Thanks to the low prices, calm sea, relative safety and service in Hebrew, Sinai is considered a preferred destination among Israeli youth. However, Egypt's recent instability has increased the risk for visitors and we are full of hope that soon tourists will be able to return to dip in Sinai's virginal waters.