Eilat (אילת, aka Elat) is the only Israeli city on the Red Sea. Located at the southernmost tip of the country, with its "window on the Red Sea," Eilat is first and foremost a resort town devoted to sun, fun, diving, partying and desert-based activities. Some 320 km (200 miles) from the tensions of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, Eilat's climate-induced relaxed atmosphere has always provided a convenient year-round escape for Israelis, and during the mild winter months also attracts thousands of European sun-seekers. Red Sea water temperatures range only between 20°C (68°F) in the winter to 26.2°C (80°F) in the summer, providing warmth in the winter, and much-appreciated chilliness in the summer's heat.
Eilat (pop 85,000) is the southernmost town in Israel, isolated from the rest of the country by the Negev desert. Sprawled along 7 kilometers of Red Sea coastline, between the borders of Egypt and Jordan, it offers spectacular views of the Gulf of Eilat (Aqaba).
Originally a strategic military outpost, Eilat's first incarnation was as a port town, used to export potash and copper and import goods from Asia and Africa, such as oil and vehicles.
In the 1970s charter flights increased the flow of foreign tourists to Eilat. They were attracted by the coral reefs, breathtaking location, and the dry and sunny desert climate.
Today, the 2km (1.2 mi) North Beach area is full of hotels with opulent names like Herod's Palace and Queen of Sheba. The Tayelet promenade extends the length of the beachfront and hosts numerous stalls, street artists, restaurants, and fashionable shops. The promenade has great views of the bay, and each evening is full of strolling tourists.
The southern or Coral Beach, which has coral reefs, is protected by the Israel Nature Reserve Authority. It has many public beaches and excellent scuba diving centers as well as several hotels and hostels.
Whereas the North Beach is within an easy walking distance of the city center, Coral Beach is some 7km south of it, beyond comfortable walking distance. The Navy and commercial ports lie between the two main beach areas.
Sabbath and Kashrut
As in most of Israel, many businesses and transport companies do not operate on the Sabbath (Shabbat) which begins Friday afternoon and ends Saturday night; many places do not reopen/renew service until Sunday morning. The same holds true for major Jewish or national holidays, so plan your itinerary accordingly.
Kashrut is the body of Jewish dietary laws which many Israelis and tourists observe, and which many restaurants and almost all hotels adhere to. Among other things Kashrut requires complete segregation of meat and dairy foods, dishes, and utensils; select types of fish are kosher but most 'seafoods' are not, and all foods must be prepared under controlled and monitored conditions. Kosher restaurants and hotels display a valid, dated certificate issued by local rabbinical authorities. Kosher restaurants close for the Sabbath.