I'm not a fan of winter. To me it's something to endure rather than enjoy. This December we decided to take a week off. The requirements were simple:
- Warm and sunny. Kinda the whole point.
- Direct flight from Vilnius. Don't wanna deal with layovers for a week-long vacation.
- Lowest effort possible. Just had no time or capacity for extensive research before the trip.
With that in mind we booked the flights, hotel and the rental car in Eilat and that was basically all of the planning.
- Time is the same as in Lithuania, which is always nice.
- It's still winter there, days are short. Sun rises roughly at 6:30 and sets at 16:40, so even if you're an early bird you get at most 10 hours of light.
- Weather and the sea is pleasantly warm. Great for hiking in the desert, but only acceptable for beach activities. October - November would probably be much better in that regard.
- The sun is really not that intense. Didn't use any sunscreen and didn't get any sunburn. Not sure how that works, whether it's a winter thing or something to do with permanent haze.
- You can pay with a card everywhere except parking meters.
- Chip and pin, contactless payments haven't reached the country yet, they're swiping the cards everywhere. Found that surprising.
- All gas stations have automated payment terminals. We tried 3 different chains and for some reason all the terminals were a bit different from one another and none were translated to english. We had to ask personnel for help each time.
- Omer's is the best rated restaurant in Eilat based on TripAdvisor and we were staying 200 meters from it. A very casual and cool place with great service - get whatever they recommend that day and just enjoy the vibe.
- There's a bakery/cafe that I don't even know the name of. It was 5 minutes from us, works round the clock (except Shabbat) and staff is cool - recommended if you're staying close by.
- It's quite expensive there. Met a guy from New Zealand and even he mentioned that. Expect to pay at very least 40-50 euros for two-person meal.
- Even though Eilat is one of the most secular cities in Israel, most businesses close during Shabbat, so always check the working hours and plan accordingly.
- There's no shortage of decent beaches in Eilat. Most of them have some coral reefs, so it's worth renting or buying snorkeling gear - Eilat Coral Beach Nature Reserve is the best for that specifically. Our favorite for general chilling was Dekel beach. Mosh beach right next to it also seems like a cool place to be.
- Red Canyon itself is super short, like 15 minutes or less. Walking to it from the parking lot takes maybe 30 minutes. After the canyon you can go back to the parking lot or continue the longer hike if you choose to, which took us 2-3 hours in total.
- Har Zefahot is a mountain from which you can see Israel, Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The hike up took us 1 hour - quick, but intense hike. Worth going.
- Masada is a cool place. Schedule at least 3-4 hours if you wanna experience it fully, snake path and all. Can also do it in ~1.5 h like commercial tours do, but I feel you would be missing a lot.
- Dead sea is something else. Salinity is ~34%, so it doesn't really feel and behave like water. Swimming is impossible, you just "row" your body with your hands. The water feels almost "oily" to the touch, for the lack of a better word. Highly recommend to experience it sooner rather than later, as it's rapidly drying up (1 meter per year) and by some estimates it might become more of a pond by the 2050.
- Tymna Park is an activity for the whole day. Go into park with a car if you wanna see everything. There's also some hikes and bicycle trails with bikes available for rent.
- Ein Gedi is another park worth visiting. Waterfalls there are not that impressive until you consider that you're in the middle of the desert. Nice hiking trails.