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Eilat - A view from our expert author
With almost 365 days a year of sunshine, Eilat is the country’s only beach resort that quite literally never stops.
Planted squarely in the middle of Israel’s 14km sliver of Red Sea coast, Eilat’s scores of resort hotels are a draw with partygoers and dedicated scuba divers alike © StockStudio, Shutterstock
The fourth-largest city in Israel, Eilat has also, since 1985, been acting as the country’s only free-trade zone. Known under the Ottomans and the British Mandate as Umm Rash Rash, the town was conquered in March 1949 as part of the Ovda Campaign in the Arab–Israeli War. Quite ironically in the 1950s, it was also via the port of Eilat that Israel received oil from Iran, its main fuel supplier back then. Although Eilat has claims to antiquity and there have been archaeological excavations carried out in the surrounding area, today it is predominantly one vast tourist resort, where you are unlikely to encounter history and Holy Land charm. If, however, you’re after some hedonistic, raucous and rather tacky seaside fun, then this is definitely the place.
After driving through the serene, staggeringly beautiful landscape of the Negev and Arava deserts, Eilat comes as quite a shock. Perched on the tiny strip of Red Sea coast that Israel lays claim to, it is something of an Israeli Las Vegas. In fact, Eilat is soon to become the only city in Israel where gambling is legal. Row upon row of big chain hotels line the coast, the glittering Red Sea water swarms with all manner of sea craft and squealing sun-seekers, and the pumping neon-lit pedestrian strip is crammed with restaurants, beach bars and shopping malls. A big favourite with boisterous Israeli teenagers enjoying their first trip away from the folks, Eilat can be rowdy and wild. Nevertheless, it has also managed to maintain a noisy family atmosphere, especially on the beaches further along the south coast. The 12km stretch of Israel’s Red Sea coast means that day trips to Petra in Jordan and Egypt’s Sinai coast are easily accessible, while day trips into the southern Arava Desert are welcome ways to escape the city.
Eilat enjoys almost 365 days a year of sunshine, a year-round water temperature of 21°C and a winter low of 20°C. Summer temperatures can reach in excess of 40ºC but because of its dry, desert atmosphere and lack of humidity, it remains rather pleasant and often more bearable than the intense, sticky humidity of the Mediterranean.