By Ben West | December 2015 | 9 minute read
Eilat has long been Israel’s premier resort destination, but new weekly direct flights from London Luton with Monarch launched this December, making the town on the northern tip of the Red Sea a more attractive option than ever.
“The resort of Eilat is only four or five hours away from the UK, with almost guaranteed winter sunshine. It was the original Red Sea destination before popularity built up for Sharm in Egypt, but with new direct flights making it more accessible, Eilat is getting back into the market.”
DAN LION, DIRECTOR OF EILAT SPECIALISTS, HOLIDAY DESIGNERS
Sun spot: A minimum of nine hours' sunshine a day makes Eilat a strong contender for the ideal winter holiday.
Sensational dolphin encounters: Guilt-free swimming with dolphins – the animals choose to interact and are not forced.
Spice of life: Israeli street food like hummus and falafel is so much tastier when eaten in Eilat rather than Ealing!
Prepare to be wowed: The stunning live experience Wow Splash at Isrotel Theater features waterfalls and virtuosi artists jumping, flying and dancing into a huge pool.
Be amused: Kings City is a high-tech theme park for all the family with attractions based on Bible stories.
Fishy feast: Most of the delicious fish and seafood at top-rated Rak Dagim Restaurant comes straight from the Red Sea.
Ice, ice baby: You won’t forget the Ice Mall, where you can combine a spot of shopping with ice-rink skating when you need a break from the desert heat.
Luxury at the beach: Stay at the five-star Herod’s Boutique, probably Eilat’s best located hotel for the beach.
Festival fever: Eilat’s many festivals and events include the Red Sea Jazz Festival, the International Bird Watching Festival, the Wine Festival, Beer Festival, Gay Pride Festival, Desert Marathon and Israman long distance triathlon.
Star trek: Hike the narrow and winding Red Canyon in the evening – awash with red, purple and white sandstone – and watch the colourful night sky open up above you.
Eilat is a true family destination with many activities to keep the kids happy. As well as the chance to lounge on pristine beaches there are activities like swimming with the dolphins.
The wonderful shopping opportunities are made even more attractive by the lack of no value-added or sales taxes. This means no waiting at the airport for your refund, and overall 15-20% savings.
Adventure-seekers can take a sunset jeep tour along the dramatic mountain trails of the Negev Desert, followed by a Bedouin-style tea by the campfire.
Wildlife lovers can go horse or camel trekking topped by a nocturnal wildlife watch that could include wolves, hyenas and ibexes. Eilat is also located on the main migration route between Africa and Europe which makes for an ideal stop for bird enthusiasts.
Mountain bikers, hikers, abseilers, divers and water sports enthusiasts will all be satisfied with a stay in Eilat. Sports spectators will also be sated, with fixtures like desert triathlons, biking trails and open-water swimming competitions throughout the year.
Culture vultures will find the area has an ancient history dating back to Biblical times and a wealth of historical and archaeological sites around the resort. Day trips to the Dead Sea and Jerusalem, as well as visits to Petra in Jordan, are easy to arrange.
What the experts say
“With the new Monarch Airlines weekly flight to Eilat from Luton we can now position the city as an easy-to-get-to Red Sea winter sun alternative.
“Net year IGTO will be working with tour operators to develop new holiday packages to the city, which we will advertise to consumers through joint marketing opportunities. IGTO will also develop training programmes for agents and frontline staff.
“For customers wanting to explore further afield, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem are just under a four-hour drive from Eilat through the Negev Desert, so coupling a holiday by the sea with the cultural offerings of modern and ancient Israel makes for a perfect holiday.”
NAAMA ORYAN KAPLAN, DIRECTOR, UK AND IRELAND, ISRAEL GOVERNMENT TOURIST OFFICE
The current airport, Ovda is about three miles north of Eilat but will be replaced by Ramon International Airport in 2017. Currently under construction in the Timna Valley, it will be located 11miles north of Eilat and will have a 3,600-metre runway, allowing larger aircraft to land.
Attractions: Two new attractions opened earlier this year in Eilat’s main park near the tourist area: Israel’s largest musical fountain and an extreme skatepark. Both attractions, built to the highest international standards, are open free of charge to the public.
The musical fountain, extending over 1500 square metres, features more than 400 coloured LED lights and 350 jets spraying water to heights of about 30 metres. It serves as an audio-visual spectacle at night and as a place to cool off in the water jets during the hot daytime hours. In addition, a mobile app is in development that will allow visitors to ‘control’ the water jets.
The skatepark, incorporating stunt tracks and capable of hosting international skateboarding competitions, is suitable for professionals and amateurs alike. Top 94 Extreme Park is also new to Eilat and offers activities like go karting, mini-bunjee jumping, climbing walls and much more.
Accommodation: Plans are underway to build a Las Vegas-style strip of hotels, attractions and a casino on the site of the existing airport at Ovda. Also planned there is a large convention centre for gatherings and music concerts, a shopping centre and sports facilities.
Where to book it
Holiday Designers offers a seven-night break at the Isrotel Royal Gardens Eilat priced from £565pp, based on self-catering, with two adults sharing a one-bedroom suite, including direct flights and transfers.
The Experience Israel Tour from Cyplon Holidays sees clients touring independently and starts from £1889pp, including flights and transfers, three nights in Tel Aviv, two in Tiberias, three in Jerusalem, two at the Dead Sea and four nights in Eilat.