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Eilat, Eilat

Israel'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 ( 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;; 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; 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 ( 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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