Top free tourist attractions in Eilat, Israel

Eilat recently introduced an initiative called “101 experiences, zero shekels, one Eilat,” which offers a host of attractions that are free of charge.

 FOR BIRD lovers, the Eilat Ornithological Park is the place to start. (photo credit: ASSAF FINCHOK, MEITAL SHARABI)
FOR BIRD lovers, the Eilat Ornithological Park is the place to start.
(photo credit: ASSAF FINCHOK, MEITAL SHARABI)

Although it seems like Israel’s tourism sector has, for the most part, recovered from the strain of the COVID pandemic, and a number of new hotels have opened in the past year in Israel, small tourism businesses are still finding their feet. Family-based agricultural tourism operations, which are mainly located in Israel’s periphery, essentially shut down when COVID struck and are having a difficult time bouncing back from the financial strain caused when all activity came to a halt. 

Eilat, for example, is a city in which a large proportion of residents work in the tourism sector, and as a result, Israel’s southernmost city took a big hit during the pandemic. Thankfully, the Eilat Tourism Corporation has provided local businesses with strategic help to keep them afloat. It recently introduced an initiative called “101 experiences, zero shekels, one Eilat,” which offers a host of attractions that are free of charge.

So, how does this work? Well, just as the name suggests, visitors, along with local residents, are invited to take part in over 100 free activities at no cost (through March). These include learning how to propel yourself forward on a stand up paddleboard (SUP) in the Red Sea; sailing; and a host of interesting workshops, such as arts & crafts, yoga, Pilates, and a tai chi class overlooking the majestic Gulf of Eilat. 

You can join bike and hiking outings with licensed tour guides, including one called Through the Red Stones, which will take you through Ein Evrona, an ancient spring that flows in the middle of the desert, and then on to the Amram Pillars. Another tour, called Eilat Awakens, will take you to Har Hatsifahot, from where you will be treated to a stunning view of the sea. If you prefer a more “urban” type of environment, you might want to join an El Artzi tour, during which you’ll hear the story of Eilat’s history from ancient times until the present day. 

For the bird lovers among you, the Eilat Ornithological Park is the place to start. Join a guided tour of the flamingo pools, where you can look at these unique birds through a telescope. And if you find creatures living under the sea fascinating, then I recommend you explore the Gulf of Eilat from a glass-bottom boat.

 GOING OUT onto the Red Sea on a private yacht. (credit: ASSAF FINCHOK, MEITAL SHARABI) GOING OUT onto the Red Sea on a private yacht. (credit: ASSAF FINCHOK, MEITAL SHARABI)

If you’re looking for something a little more adventurous, you can join a Razor scooter ride through the amazing desert landscapes surrounding Eilat. And there are also great family hikes led by Gal Bamidbar, during which you will see incredible views of the desert, pass through date palm orchards, climb over sand dunes and visit the Ornithological Park. 

Another exciting activity is going out onto the Red Sea on a private yacht, where you can relax in the sun and enjoy the cool breeze. You might even get lucky and see some dolphins leap out of the water. 

Gal Warburg leads a fantastic drum workshop for the whole family, and Naama Shani offers flamenco dancing workshops in which participants will learn all about this passionate and mesmerizing art form. If you love different types of dancing but don’t want to move your own body, then you can attend a belly dancing performance by Avishag Efrati, in which she uses fire and flashing lights. The belly dance show takes place in Yusuf Abu Jama’s Bedouin tent next to Coral Beach. Tea is served to the members of the audience free of charge, and an authentic Bedouin meal can be ordered, too.

If you’ll be traveling with teenagers, you might want to attend a carpentry workshop, in which all the required tools and materials are provided. During the workshop, participants will learn innovative woodworking techniques. 

If you’d like to participate in a culinary workshop, there’s a whole list to choose from. You can learn how to make ice cream at Rami Shukri’s place or how to make and shake cocktails at the home of Nadav and Assaf Gazit. 

Where to sleep? 

Eilat Brown Hotel

In recent years, a number of new small hotels have opened up in Israel, including a few in Eilat. One of the newest ones is the boutique Eilat Brown Hotel, which has 84 guest rooms. It was designed by architect Alona Aliasi in the tropical-deco style using green, smoked pink, mustard yellow colors, as well as many tropical shapes. 

The Eilat Brown Hotel is located near the Ice Mall and is a five-minute walk to the sea. In my opinion, this is a great hotel to stay at if you don’t want to be right in the middle of all the hotels but still want to be close to the beach. There are six types of rooms, ranging from 16 to 25 square meters, some featuring king size beds, Egyptian cotton sheets, a mini bar, Nespresso machine and spacious bathroom. 

Guests can enjoy a lavish breakfast and also purchase food at the poolside snack bar, which will be opening soon. Later this year, chef Tomer Agai will be presiding over Cena, the hotel’s restaurant, which will be opening with an Italian/Middle Eastern menu. Mixologist Noam Sharet will manage the bar. 

Location: 17 Kamen Street, Eilat Details: *9646; (08) 630-3030

Where to eat?

Enjoying all of the free activities available in Eilat is amazing, but meals are not included in the 101 free experiences package. Fortunately, Eilat is home to many wonderful restaurants, ranging from street food to gourmet. In the past, most of the city’s restaurants were located in the tourist area, near the hotels. In more recent years, however, a number of quality eateries have appeared in Eilat’s industrial area. 

Fascino

One such example is Fascino, a new Italian bistro run by Koni and Paz Hertz. Fascino’s menu includes a good assortment of classic Italian dishes, such as mushroom arancini, fried mozzarella sticks, mushroom risotto and burrata salad. Prices are reasonable. 

Location: 1 Hatzoref, Eilat. Open from 4 p.m. Details: (08) 691-3336

Eddie’s Hideaway

One of Eilat’s most beloved restaurants is Eddie’s Hideaway, which has been in operation for 40 years. After the fire in its original location, the restaurant has reopened in Eilat’s industrial area. In addition to serving all of its popular dishes, it has a few new beef and seafood dishes on the menu. 

Location: 2 Hamasger, EilatNot kosherDetails: (08) 637-1137Details about “101 experiences, zero shekels, one Eilat”: https://eilat.city/

Translated by Hannah Hochner.