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Eilat: Fun, Sun, and Southern Hospitality

No tour to the Holy Land would be complete without a trip to its legendary resort city, Eilat. Located on the northern end of the famous Red Sea, on the Gulf of Eilat, visitors can enjoy scuba diving, a ride in a glass-bottom boat, exploring coral reefs, observing unique birds, experiencing genuine Bedouin hospitality…then return at night to relax in one of Eilat’s luxurious hotels. While Eilat is not known for its plethora of holy sites for the Christian tourist, its stark desert beauty – unparalleled in all of the Holy Land – and its intimate proximity to nature (and a bit of European style fun and sun) offer a chance to experience a different side of the Holy Land during your Israel tour!

Eilat, the southernmost city in Israel, was not actually part of Biblical Israel. It is mentioned in Exodus as one of the stations the Israelites crossed on their winding journey from Egypt to the Holy Land. Eilat’s growth as an important port city began during the reign of King Solomon; the Romans, Arabs, and Crusaders continued to use Eilat as a critical trading point. Its modernization began in the fifties, and Eilat’s reputation as a not-to-be-missed tourist destination was quickly cemented.

Christian tours to the Holy Land should not overlook the beautiful city of Eilat. Make sure to schedule a guided Jeep ride through Timna Park, an awesome immersion in the natural beauty of the desert. In addition to the exotic rock formations, you can visit the world’s first copper mines and study the intricate rock paintings, many of which date back to prehistoric times. And while you’re in the desert, you don’t want to miss out on a ride atop the “ship of the desert” himself – the camel!

Rides at the Eilat Camel Ranch can be as long or short as you like. When you’re finished, you will definitely want to partake of some authentic Bedouin hospitality. Remove your shoes before entering the tent. Then, come inside, rest on a beautifully decorated cushion, and enjoy the traditional teas and food prepared for you, while listening to a Bedouin storyteller weave his tale.

Of course, water activities are one of Eilat’s biggest tourist attractions. Scuba diving, swimming with dolphins and paragliding are all available for the adventurous Holy Land tourist. For those who prefer to stay dry without sacrificing their proximity to marine life, the glass-bottom boat is the tour for you! Watch as the fish dart by, the dolphins leap through the air, or just take a moment to be awed by the natural beauty of the coral reef. Don’t miss out on a trip to the Maritime Museum, where you can stand in the aquarium, watching as the fish swim by in a huge circular tank.

Eilat is also famous for its beautiful hotels and its exciting nightlife. Some of the most luxurious hotels in Israel are found in Eilat, including Sheraton’s Herod's Palace Hotel, Hilton's Queen of Sheba, the Dan Eilat, and the Princess Eilat. Many rooms offer sweeping views of the Red Sea. These hotels are the destination for tourists seeking unparalleled pampering and upscale amenities. Eilat’s famous promenade, which comes to life as the sky darkens, is a great place to take a sunset stroll, or indulge yourself in one of Eilat’s fine restaurants or bars.

For something a little different on your Christian Holy Land tour, plan an overnight visit to Petra, located in Jordan. A short bus ride from Eilat and you can be snapping pictures of the unique architecture of Petra, one of the new “Seven Wonders Of The World.” The capital of the kingdom of the Nabataeans, an ancient Semitic sect, Petra is full of fascinating architectural structures, which can be seen on foot, or astride a camel, donkey, or horse. Of particular interest to the Christian tourist on his or her Holy Land tour, in addition to the beautiful canyons and impressive Roman Theater, is a 1st century monastery, and the Mountain of Aaron. At the peak of the Mountain of Aaron lies a church and a tomb where Aaron, High Priest of the Israelites and the brother of Moses, is said to be buried.

It is fascinating to observe the different worlds that inhabit this small part of Earth. Visit a desert cave one day and swim alongside dolphins the next. Spend a quiet, reflective day bird-watching, then visit the newly-built King’s City, a Biblically-themed park. Participate in an authentic Bedouin meal or relax at one of many high-end luxury resorts. A Christian on a tour of the Holy Land would do well to spend some quality time in Eilat, whether the goal is vigorous outdoors activities, or a chance to quietly reconvene with nature. You will certainly go home with a suntan!