Eilat, located at the very southern tip of Israel, can be reached by air and also by road through the Negev desert. The straight drive will take around 4-5 hours from Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. The distance is not huge (300-350 Km), but, the main roads are not great and there is a fair number of trucks on the roads resulting in a slower drive.
Caution is urged on these roads both from a speed trap and safe driving perspective – desert driving can be very monotonous so watch your speed and stay alert.
The desert is full of exciting things to see so it often makes sense to turn the journey into a full day or even two day trip if time allows.
Here are some of our recommendations of things to do on the way to or from Eilat. (It depends a little on whether your endpoint is Jerusalem or Tel Aviv and how much doubling back you are willing to do and how much time you have.)
- Qumran – The ancient village where the Dead Sea Scrolls were written and found 2000 years later.
- The Dead Sea – stop to enjoy the views over the lowest point on earth and to float in the extremely buoyant salt waters.
- Ein Gedi – A genuine desert oasis and some easy and moderate hikes in the area
- Masada – The desert stronghold that withstood the Roman Empire for 3 years after the fall of Jerusalem and sacking of the Temple
- Lot’s Wife – An unusual rock form near Sodom – named after the story in Genesis where Lot and his family were saved when Sodom and Gemorrah were destroyed. Lot’s wife disobeyed instructions and looked back and was turned into a pillar of salt.
- The Ramon Craters – A set of craters caused by massive geological erosion – an almost unique phenomena. You can learn about them and have an amazing view at the lookout point in Mitzpe Ramon. See also Ramon NP
- Sede Boker – Ben Gurion (Israel’s first Prime Minister) was a visionary who believed in making the desert bloom. He lived in and retired to Sede Boker. You can visit his simple kibbutz hut now turned into a museum and heritage center. He and his wife are buried a short distance away. And there is an outstanding view of the desert from that point. See also Sede Boker NP
- Ein Avdat – Nahal Zin – Near Ben Gurion’s burial site – a tremendous wadi (dry river bed in the desert.) Some amazing hikes and natural wonders.
- Timna Park – King Solomon Mines – located just north of Eilat.
- Amudei Amram & Shchoret Canyon / Mountain – Two of our favourite desert hikes located just north of Eilat.
- Flash Floods – A seasonal attraction – but pay attention to road closures – they can be lethal. Treat these huge sheets of flowing water with the respect they deserve and heed signs and police instructions.