Discover the luxurious, relaxing and safe side of Israel in these exotic waterfront areas bordering the Dead Sea.
Due to the recent problems in Israel, many visitors to this Mediterranean country are opting for beach holidays in exotic locales and forfeiting traditional tours of holy sites. Israel’s most popular beach destinations are the mineral rich Dead Sea in Ein Bokek and the resort city of Eilat, on the northern tip of the Red Sea bordering Jordan and Egypt. In Eilat, you are guaranteed good weather because it is sunny all the time. The desert mountains of the Negev surround the city. The allure of white sandy beaches and the crystal clear, coral filled sea attracts tourists year after year.
“Spa-ing” Around the Dead Sea
For those wanting a healthy holiday in the sun, the Dead Sea is for you. Situated halfway between Jerusalem and Eilat, the Dead Sea is the lowest place on earth–400 meters below sea level. You can pamper yourself with mineral and therapeutic mud treatments and so much more at one of the many hotel spas, including the spa at the Hod Hamidbar Hotel (972/8-6584606).
Other resorts with full service spas include the Sheraton Moriah Dead Sea (972/8-659-1591), Crowne Plaza Dead Sea (972/8-659-1919), Magic Nirvana Club Hotel (972/8-668-9444), Royal Hotel Dead Sea (972/8-668-8555), Meridien Dead Sea Hotel (800/543-4300, 972/8-659-1234), Carlton Spa Dead Sea (under renovation until January 2006), and the Golden Tulip (972/8-668-9999), which also has a bowling alley.
Dead Sea Sights to See
If you can pull yourself away from the spa, you can explore David Spring, a nature reserve and water fall, check out Masada, where the Jews revolted against the Romans in 66 CE, or tour Moshav Neot Hakikar, a farming settlement especially known for its organic produce and its many varieties of dates. A walk through the En Gedi Antiquities National Park (972/3-776-2163) will reveal the ancient ruins of a synagogue, and even a street with buildings dating from around the time of the Second Temple to the Byzantine era. It gets very hot at the Dead Sea, so do your sightseeing early in the morning and bring plenty of water to drink.
A kibbutz is a rural cooperative where residents live in a communal fashion. Kibbutz Ein Gedi encourages visitors. Guests can stay over at the kibbutz’s upscale guesthouse.
Discovering Marine Life in Eilat
Eliat is two and half hours south of the Dead Sea. This Red Sea port offers a plethora of sights and attractions including the Underwater Observatory Marine Park at Coral World (972/8-636-4200), which has an underwater museum, aquarium, shark pools, and an oceanarium. In the park’s theater, there is a slightly corny yet exciting simulator ride that takes you below the sea.
Dolphin Reef Eilat (972/8-630-0111) offers visitors a chance to observe dolphins and marine life in their natural habitat. The Dolphin Reef offers a private scuba dive especially designed for those with little or no diving experience. A newer addition to this attraction is the luxurious tranquility pools, but unless you book this calming experience well in advance–say six months–you aren’t getting in.
More In and Around Eilat
Other outdoor activities in Eilat include snubadiving, parasailing, yachting, cruising in a glass bottom boat, bird watching and jeep tours through the south of the Negev from Egypt’s Sinai border to the border of the Jordanian city of Aqaba. A short drive outside of Eilat is Timna Park (972/8-631-6756), a natural reserve featuring intriguing geological and archeological sites. Visitors can see the Mushroom, Solomon’s Pillars, the Arches and the oldest copper mines in the world, which date back to prehistoric times.
Eilat is well-known for its duty free shopping, though some claim that inflated prices don’t make much of a difference. As a tourist, you can judge for yourself.
Border Crossing to Egypt and Jordan
Excursions to Egypt and Jordan are safe and can be arranged through your hotel. Many local Israeli tourists cross the border into Egypt to gamble. If you are planning on visiting the casino in the Sinai, remember to bring your passport and set aside money for the border tax.
Local tour companies organize one or two-day excursions to the Cairo pyramids, Santa Katarina, a well-known Greek Orthodox monastery in the Sinai, and Petra, Jordan. Petra is a 3,000-year-old UNESCO World Heritage Site, where visitors can walk among red sandstone hills, and remains of streets, baths, temples, tombs, and the “Treasury” facade (made famous by Indiana Jones).
Officials are hoping that with the upturn in tourism, within a few years they will find the funding to build an impressive theme park with entrances from Israel and Jordan, so families in both countries will have easy access to the fun. Rumor has it that Eilat is looking for funding from a group of Canadians.
Eilat: Details, Details
Since the last time I visited Eilat, it has grown by leaps and bounds with one hotel after another. Two extremely lovely beach resort hotels that cater to families are the Dan Eilat (800/223-7773, 972/3-520-2552) and the Sheraton Herods Vitalis (972/8-638-0000). The Herod Vitalis is a six star property with a breathtaking spa housed on three floors. The cascading water pool is very inviting.
EL AL Israel Airlines flies from New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Toronto, and Miami. The Dead Sea is just over two hours from Ben Gurion Airport; there are connecting flights to Eilat.
For more information about sun and fun vacations to Eilat and the Dead Sea, visit the Israel Ministry of Tourism online.
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