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Eilat, Eilat

Eilat
Israel
Concierge.com's insider take:

Though still all about the sun, the sea, and shopping, Israel's Red Sea resort has come a long way since its package-tourism roots. Israelis and families of tourists come to relax in high-end hotels, dine at haute hotel restaurants, and attend cultural events such as the Red Sea Jazz Festival.

Though Eilat is far from being a fashion capital, duty-free pricing makes an alluring case for hitting up the well-stocked malls. Try Le Boulevard at the Royal Garden Hotel for international brands (972-8-638-6666) and Sea Mall for local fashion from Castro, Fox, and Renuar (www.mallhayam.co.il). Both shopping centers are close to the airport and are a good way to kill time before a flight.

Shallower and calmer than Israel's Mediterranean shores, the water lapping Eilat's beaches is pleasantly warm year-round. Below the surface, Eilat's reefs teem with colorful, tropical fish and deep, coral-filled canyons. Join a Red Sea Sports Club underwater snorkel and scuba reef excursion (972-8-633-3666; www.redseasports.co.il; all levels welcome), or hop aboard the Shonit, a two-masted sailboat that cruises from Eilat to the Jordanian border and south to the Sinai Peninsula. The boat stops for coral dives and dolphin sightings along the way on day-trip and overnight cruises (972-52-380-1419; www.s100.co.il). Petra, the third-century B.C. Nabataean city carved in pink sandstone and hidden between towering sandstone cliffs, lies not far north from Eliat, over the border in Jordan (www.aqaba.jo). First thing in the morning, take a cab to the Yitzhak Rabin Border Terminal (the ten-minute ride from most hotels will cost about $11) and transfer to a Jordanian taxi for the 90-minute drive to Petra, which will cost about $100. Plan to spend about four hours on-site, then return to Eilat in time for dinner.

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