For a small place, Eilat packs in a surprising amount of really cool things to do. Whilst most people associate it with shopping malls and fancy resorts, we loved the natural wonders on the doorstep of this town.
In a day you can snorkel at incredible reefs, hike through an epic canyon in the desert and then sip on a drink and watch the sun slowly colour the mountains of Jordan at the end of an action packed day. Making the effort to go this far south will reward you with so many incredible memories.
Here’s our guide to why you must include Eilat in your Israel itinerary and 5 things you have to do on a trip here.
5 Unmissable things to do in Eilat
Go find nemo in the Red Sea
Going snorkelling or diving in the Red Sea is a must when visiting Eilat. There are lots of ways to do it but we chose to go snorkelling independently right off the beach at Coral Beach Nature Reserve.
Often when you head straight out from the beach we’ve found snorkelling to be a bit underwhelming so our expectations were not too high. This just made the experience we had in Eilat even more incredible, because the snorkelling was fantastic!
We saw not one but four little nemos as well as so many other types of colourful fish and coral. The water was calm and easy to swim in and the coral was literally just a few minutes swim from the sand.
Our favourite spot was The Caves which are just to the left of the first lot of coral you’ll come to if you enter the water where we’ve marked on the map below.
The cave which is a bit more like a tunnel is filled with so many fish, it’s a great spot to just stop moving for a while and let your eyes start to notice all the comings and goings of its many inhabitants.
If you enter the beach where we mark you can snorkel for free. If you enter at the official point further up the beach you need to pay the 29 Shekel entrance fee. We weren’t trying to skip the fee it just so happened that this was the entry point opposite where we hired our snorkel gear.
We do usually bring our own gear but didn’t this time so we rented masks and snorkels from Snuba for 30 Shekels, fins are an additional 10.
Note that you can only enter and exit the water in between the two ropes and don’t swim further than the red and white poles (boats can go in the area outside the poles). That still leaves you heaps of room to snorkel and a much more relaxed experience knowing that you aren’t going to get clonked on the head by a boat!
Where to snorkel near Eilat
If you don’t have your own we highly recommend hiring your gear from Snuba, which is a dive shop on Highway 90, 10 minutes south of Eilat. Parking here can be difficult, but if you are patient enough you’ll find a spot.
You enter the water from the beach directly in front of the shop car park.
Be wowed by an amazing slot canyon - Red Canyon
We’re just back from a trip to the American Southwest, famous for its epic slot canyons. Well little did we know that Israel has its own deep red slot canyon that took us right back to America. And happily you can visit independently.
There are a couple of different trails you can take, one short and one long, but both follow the same route until you are through the slot canyon section.
The walk starts in a wide open section along the stony canyon floor. There are a couple of little ups and downs before the canyon narrows and you reach the most amazing section! Here you’ll be entering the narrow slot with incredible deep red walls and unique shapes carved by water.
There are three ladders and a couple of sections with metal rungs fixed into the walls to help you navigate the more tricky sections. The ladders are slightly different to other wadi hikes we have done in Israel in that they are a little flexible, allowing them to bend along the curve of the canyon.
This may make them a little more unnerving than the really solid ones you normally find. However, most people will find them good fun, if the idea of a ladder unnerves you bring someone along to give you a helping hand because they are totally fine once you get on them!
Once you’re through the slot canyon which is over all too quickly, then you can head back on the short trail which should take around 20 minutes or you can take the longer route which should add another 3km or so to your hike.
We took the longer trail and enjoyed this section which is through a wide open section of canyon before climbing a steep hill for some great views. However, the best bit is the slot canyon so if you’re short on time you can miss it.
Getting to Red Canyon
Red Canyon is easy to get to. Go to Highway 12 that heads out west from Eilat and keep going for about 10-15 minutes. You’ll see a sign on the right which leads to a dirt track and the car park for the trail through the Red Canyon.
Check out the incredible Amram Pillars
The Amram Pillars are incredible natural rock formations which look like the entrance to an ancient city. They’re incredibly easy to get to making them the one of the easiest wins on this list!
The walk is only around five minutes from the car park and is largely flat and easy. Take a look at some of the rock walls along the way which have incredible streaky pink patterns on them.
Your first view of the pillars is amazing and actually we think they look more dramatic from slightly further away. It is still worth getting a bit closer for a more detailed look as the rock is stunning.
You can climb to a lookout beside the pillars but the rock is really loose and slippery and for us probably not really worth the trouble.
Despite visiting during the busy Passover holidays we were the only ones here for the majority of the time. It’s such a lovely spot to sit quietly and admire your surroundings.
Getting to Amram
Ignore Google Maps as it will take you on a random road to nowhere! From Eilat, head north on Highway 90. Make a U-turn at Be’er Ora and head back towards Eilat. Look out for kilometre marker 20 and turn right. You’ll see the Amram Pillars signposted. When the dirt road becomes a fork, turn right to find the trail for Amram Pillars.
Hike the stunning Black Canyon
Unlike the Red Canyon, the Black Canyon is not really mentioned anywhere and there was virtually no one in sight on our visit. We’re not sure why because this area was drop dead gorgeous and the walk was beautiful. It’s not a narrow slot canyon like Red Canyon but it’s still a beauty.
You walk in between the canyon walls on a sandy/stony path, there are a few sections where metal rungs are needed to help you up, but nothing dramatic or difficult and no ladders.
Once you’ve made your way through the canyon you climb up a hill and wander along a ridge with some more great views before you head down and traverse a flat desert area.
If you are short on time you could just walk through the canyon and back but we enjoyed the whole loop and the variety it offered.
We heard this is a good hike for hot weather because it is shaded, that’s not really true, the majority is exposed and the canyon walls are not narrow and high enough to provide much shade. If you’re hiking in the summer go early or late.
Note that if you have two cars and can do a car shuffle you can actually hike between Black Canyon and Amram Pillars. We wanted to do this hike but only had the one car so couldn’t. If you do it, we’d love to know how it is! Get in touch in the comments below.
Getting to Black Canyon
Ignore Google Maps as it will take you on a random road to nowhere! From Eilat, head north on Highway 90. Make a U-turn at Be’er Ora and head back towards Eilat.
Look out for kilometre marker 20 and turn right. You’ll see the Amram Pillars signposted. When the dirt road becomes a fork, turn left to find the trail for Black Canyon.
Read next: Ein Gedi Oasis - a highlight of Israel
Kick back with a killer view of Jordan
The beaches in Eilat are nothing to write home about but the views are fantastic and are best enjoyed from Dekel Beach with a drink in hand.
The bar had some comfy seating along the water front which was particularly picturesque around sunset. The sun sets in the other direction but the soft light still looked beautiful over the Jordanian mountains in the distance.
Getting to Dekel Beach
Dekel Beach is five minutes out of the centre of Eilat along Highway 90.
Read next: Jerusalem - 10 things you have to do!
Where to stay in Eilat
There are lots of fantastic hotels in Eilat as it’s a popular holiday destination. We stayed during Passover when everything was super expensive.
We stayed at the Tzofit Apartments but we booked last minute in a peak holiday time so I think you can do better for the same price, here’s our thoughts on it if you also end up with limited options.
This place is currently getting rave reviews online in the same price bracket -
Mid-Range: Sunshine Suite Boutique
This is another little studio like the one we stayed in but it looks a little larger and more modern with nice little touches. We’d have picked this one had it been available.
For something altogether more luxurious the Dan Eliat Hotel is currently getting the best reviews and is regularly sold out.
Luzury: Dan Eliat Hotel
The newer rooms look fresh and modern and most have desert and sea views. The pool and communal areas look beautiful and very relaxing.
Budget: Tzofit Apartments
The apartment block is in a really central location just a few minutes from the major 5 star hotels (as with all hotels in this area that can mean it gets a little noisy). It’s a basic but comfy place to stay with a little kitchenette if you want to prepare a basic meal. There is plenty of free parking just outside the apartments. It’s not fancy but it’s affordable.
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Are you planning a trip to Eilat? What is your favourite thing to do here? Let us know in the comments below!