At the extreme southern tip of Israel about 155 mi/250 km south of Jerusalem, Eilat is a port and resort on the Gulf of Aqaba, an inlet of the Red Sea. In winter, it's especially popular with Israelis and Europeans who enjoy its hot, dry weather and beautiful beaches. Americans also are starting to discover Eilat, especially those who are looking to extend their stay for two or three nights with a beach holiday.

Eilat is just a few minutes' drive from Jordan and Egypt. The shoreline extends all along the Red Sea coastline near the town. Each beach has its particular atmosphere, and the ones along the area called North Beach are preferred by families who enjoy the comfort of beach beds, parasols, snack bars and lifeguards.

Farther south, the Coral Beach area is wilder and less populated. The area around Coral Beach has the most spectacular reefs in the area, because they're protected as part of the Coral Beach Nature Reserve. Many dive shops and schools are based in the area. Those who aren't certified divers, and who don't want to undertake an instruction course, can try snuba diving (breathing through a hose attached to an air supply on a boat).

Snorkeling is also popular all along the coast. The reefs often begin only a few yards/meters from shore, so novice snorkelers can wade right in and start looking around. Snorkeling equipment can be rented on the spot for a modest price. It's also possible to swim with dolphins at Dolphin Reef, a private beach.

If you don't want to get your feet wet, visit the Underwater Observatory Marine Park at Coral Beach. This submerged, glass-walled chamber allows spectacular views of marine life. The park includes stingrays, sharks and other creatures in a more traditional aquarium environment. The park also operates glass-bottom-boat tours and the Yellow Submarine, which can take you 195 ft/60 m under the sea to see the coral reefs.

Boating on the surface of the water is also big in Eilat. Sightseeing cruises, some involving lunch or dinner, leave from the town (some enter Egyptian waters, requiring passengers to take along their passports). Yachts can also be chartered from the town.

Eilat is a rest stop in the spring and summer for more than 425 species of migrating birds. The International Bird-Watching Center can provide birding information.

Several outfitters in Eilat offer trips to attractions in the surrounding desert. Destinations include Timna Valley Park, the Red Canyon, King Solomon's Pillars and the Pillars of Amram. These desert adventures can be accessed by hiking, on camel treks or by Jeep. Day trips can also be booked to Petra in Jordan, just two hours away.

Also in Eilat, Kings City is a biblical theme park that resembles a king's palace and offers visitors a journey to the past. The park includes panoramic scenes of the Pharaoh Palaces and temples, plus more than 70 displays of optical illusions and other interactive challenges in honor of King Solomon's wisdom. A fascinating boat ride following the life story of King Solomon is also a favorite of park visitors. http://www.kingscity.co.il.

The International Red Sea Jazz Festival takes place in Eilat every year during the last week of August, and the Eilat Belly Dancing Festival, including competitions and a bazaar, is held in January.

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