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November is not the greatest month to be in Finland. So Eilat seemed like a welcome change and a perfect place for a family holiday. About 30°C temperature and 10-15 apertures more light (in photography terminology) makes a big difference.
Eilat is known as the destination for beach-life lovers and divers, but my latest working trips showed me how much more the city and the surrounding region can offer to the visitor. So I thought that it could suit us all, as our group consisted of twelve people – ages 1-60…
Direct winter flights from Helsinki to Eilat take less than 5 hours and are very affordable! The underwater observatory marine park in Eilat is a great place for kids and adults alike. You get an idea how it looks down there under the waves, even if you never put a diving mask on your face. The underwater wonderland with all its creatures and corals will mesmerize you.
A 20€ ticket will give you access to all parts of the observatory, including the multi media cinema.
It is located a few kilometers south to the city and you can easily reach it by taxi from the northern beach hotel area for about 10€. A jeep safari is a fantastic experience for all who can stand some dust, bumps and at times some scary hill slopes. The truth is, that some of the asphalt roads in the mountains are very beautiful too in terms of the landscapes they cross, yet I think that with a jeep you can get into the guts of it all.
Prices 160-180€/4 hours per jeep.
The “Red Canyon” is an easy and beautiful trek that suits families. Our youngest hikers were ages 8, 5 and 2.5 and they enjoyed the place as if they were in an amusement park. The easy path takes 1.5-2 hours to walk. Early afternoon is preferable time for this family outdoor activity. Drinking water, hats and maybe some energy snacks are recommended.
You should follow the coloured signs back to the starting point or you will find yourself on a much longer trek. This time of the year it gets dark already at five o’clock in the afternoon, and you wouldn’t like to wander in the desert after sunset.
The restaurants around the hotel areas are mainly Mediterranean and Asian style. I especially like the “Fish Market” for their atmosphere and fresh fish. (10-15 min. drive by taxi south of the city center) The Giraffe Restaurant on the beach promenade was great too. You will find it when you walk east along the northern shore boulevard. Barbeach on the southern beach, near the diving and surfing center.
Typical Israeli breakfast served in Barbeach. Local drinks. Goldstar beer and Limonana, a sweetened refreshment made with fresh lemon and sweet mint crushed with ice.
Eilat Bird-Watching Park is located just north to the hotel area. About 40 min walk or a short taxi drive. The place is open 24/7 and free. Yet it is strongly recommended to take a guide so you get a better idea what the place is about, how they operate and some facts about bird migration habits. Finns are known for their sympathy for these little creatures and annually many birdwatchers come to participate voluntarily in the park’s activities.
Hai Bar wildlife reserve is located near Kibbutz Yotvata about 35 km north of Eilat. Some of the animals that once roamed free in this region can be seen there. It is like a mini safari and sure worth a visit once you are in Eilat.
The “Top 94” action park in Eilat offers many activities. The carting part is managed by Timo Hirvi, originally from Finland
Watching the sea and the surfers from the many beach restaurants and bars is a nice “after action” time. The water pipe is optional…
And if you are absolutely in need for some off road bicycling, you will find many marked trails around the city.
2 weeks before our arrival Eilat was flooded. The whole annual amount of rain, just over 30mm, fell in 3 hours. There is no holiday for me without some off road moments.
Mount Shlomo is located just west to the city. You will see the sunset just behind it every evening. The trek to the summit and down takes about 4 hours and is not too hard. Yet, if you have the fear of heights you might find it challenging at places.
A taxi will take you from the hotel area to the starting point at Har Yehoram on road 12 for about 13€. First follow the Black/White marks and just before the summit the Blue/White marks.
The way down (tread carefully, it is very steep) will take you to the finishing point at Shlomo valley on road 12. There you can call a taxi to take you back to the hotel.
You can also do this trek starting and finishing in the same place (road 12 and Shlomo valley crossing) see the map below. But this way you will climb the whole way and will miss the most beautiful views that you could see when starting from Har Yehoram.
Remember: Hats, long sleeve shirts, sun protection, good hiking boots and a lot of water! Gloves protect hands from the rough stones and walking sticks can help your balance.
My good old Keens have seen a lot of off road terrain.