Eilat is Israel’s southernmost city located on the north tip of the Red Sea on the Bay of Aqaba. Most tourists know Eilat (population 48,000) as the starting point for tours to Petra, Jordan, which is only a two hour drive. Eilat is a popular beach vacation destination for Israelis and Europeans who come here for its excellent scuba diving, duty free shopping, fantastic weather and resorts. From Eilat you won’t need binoculars to see its sister city Aqaba, Jordan, and the border with Egypt.
Our day started early with a tour of Timna Recreation Park, about 20 miles north of Eilat. Timna Park is rich in copper and has been mined since the 5th century BC. The valley contains places of ancient Egyptian worship. Timna Valley is notable for its uncommon stone formations, and looks very similar to Moab, Utah. Original Egyptian hieroglyphs can be seen on Solomon’s Pillars. The park is ideal for camping, mountain biking and hiking. We hiked up to an arch and back down the slot canyon on the other side. Visitors should not expect the same awesome beauty of Arches, Canyonlands or Bryce—nor the number of formations-- but it is definitely worth a stop.
We headed back into Eilat to visit the Dolphin Reef ecological park. The park is located a few miles south of downtown Eilat on the west side of the bay adjacent to a major shipping port and potash plant. Admittedly, I was skeptical about the quality of this place because of its location. But, the way the resort is positioned blocks the view of the neighboring factories. Not knowing exactly what Benni planned for us, we were a bit surprised when we were told to change into our swimsuits and get into a warm pool. The relaxation pools and lounge areas have a Zen-like atmosphere framed by hanging vines. A woman introduced herself to me and asked if I had any problems with my body that she should know about. “Other than the 15 pounds of cellulite, not really,” I replied. No swimming with the dolphins today! She placed a swim noodle under my neck and knees and began a “calming” massage by using the flow of the water. It was truly an amazing multi-sensory experience! This would be a perfect massage after the triathlon as their method is extremely gentle. After the massage, we went into the salt bath—the second of three relaxation pools. While didn’t have time to swim with the dolphins, it is a reason to return to this special place!