A Whole New World – Eilat
BY Lee Saunders DATE 03/07/2018
“I can show you the world, shining, shimmering, splendid,” sings Aladdin to Princess Jasmine in the Disney track A Whole New World. Although this was a popular animated movie, he may well have been serenading her on the balcony of the breathtaking luxurious Dan Eilat or the Dan Panorama Eilat, whose shining, shimmering and splendid views of the Red Sea redefine time.
Indeed, Eilat feels like a whole new world. Without the vibrant pace of Tel Aviv, the stunning intensity of Jerusalem or the tranquil vibe of Haifa, Israel’s southernmost city provides a tremendous opportunity to explore and celebrate what Eilat does best – the natural world – on land, under sea and in the sky.
With landscapes that belong in a sci-fi movie, nowhere is this more visible than in Timna National Park, which lies 25km to the north of the city, buried deep in the Negev Desert. Arrange a trip from either of the city’s Dan Hotels to witness this serene and incomparable valley, surrounded by yellow sandstone mountains, with herds of wild ibex looking down at you from the cliff tops. Inside, you will embark on a stunning geological and archeological adventure, marvel at the ancient copper mines, with the blood-red volcanic Mount Timna at its very heart. Enjoy an early morning bike ride or late evening tour of amazing sites like the Mushroom, the Arches, Solomon’s Pillars, the Valley of Rock Drawings. Nestled in the Eilat Mountains, twenty minutes north of Eilat, is Red Canyon, one of the country’s most splendid, accessible and family friendly hiking trails. Deriving its name from the intense color when the sun hits the rock, this superb attraction will have you constantly clicking your camera.
The blistering mountains that surround Eilat contrast wildly with the whole new world that lies beneath the Red Sea. Home to more than 1,200 species of fish, the Red Sea offers visitors the opportunity to forge a close and personal experience with some of marine life’s most fascinating creatures. Dolphin Reef Eilat is a unique ecological site and humbling experience for all the family to treasure, allowing you to snorkel or dive in the company of four delightfully social and independent dolphins that were born on the reef, have come of age and live freely. Enjoy Disney-esque views, a secluded beach and fantastic food as you observe this group of bottlenose dolphins play, court, socialize and eat right before your very eyes. Close by is the Underwater Observatory where you can literally spend hours going from window to window to watch the most colorful fish swim through and around the ancient coral reefs. There is also a relatively new shark tank allowing you to observe these often-misunderstood creatures and learn more about what is real and what is myth. Outside, a pier leads you away to an observation tower from where a thrilling glass-bottomed boat shows you real life beneath the sea.
Way, way above your head, far from the out-of-this-world balconies at the Dan Eilat and the Dan Panorama Eilat, you can enjoy one of those rare travelling moments you crave. The What’s Up – The Observatory Eilat is an experience to cherish. Guide Ethan Schwartz rekindles lost childhood innocence and brings the magical night sky of Eilat and the desert to you in this highly recommended stargazing tour that makes astronomy fun, educational and accessible for all. Look through telescopes at constellations of stars in a whole new world that no longer feels so far away. And, unlike Aladdin, you won’t need a magic carpet to see all of these favorite Eilat attractions. Just sunscreen.
Note: The new Ramon Airport, named after Ilan Ramon, Israel’s first ever astronaut and his son Asaf, who also died in an aircraft accident, is expected to open in the Timna Valley later in 2018-2019.
Written by Lee Saunders