One of Israel's most hidden gems, that sadly most tourists still miss out on, is the magical Red Canyon. It is tucked away next to the border with Egypt, in the very south of the Arava desert - only about a twenty minutes drive from Eilat. Not only is it a stunning nature reserve, it is completely free to enter and rarely crowded. Below is a picture of the highlight of the canyon, is that alone not worth visiting?
How to get there
The Red Canyon is tucked away against the Egyptian border, just off road 12 about twenty minutes drive from Eilat. It is so close to the Egyptian border, that while hiking, you can see the Egyptian army posts in the distance. But do not worry, the border with Egypt is very safe and very friendly. The easiest way to get to the reserve is by car, there is a parking lot right next to where the hiking trails start. When you get off the road, it is a bit confusing whether to park there (due to the parking lot next to the road) but keep on driving on the dirt road until you reach the final parking lot. If you park next to the main road, the actual hike to the canyon is about half an hour walk more, without any shade.
There is also a bus stop next to the entrance to the park. From Eilat, you can take bus 392 which takes you to the canyon in only twenty minutes. The bus times are every hour or every hour, make sure to check Google Maps or Moovit for the exact schedule. On Shabbat, this bus isn't available.
When to visit
Entrance to the park is free, but there are no sanitary or water facilities. Because this park has very little shade, I don't recommend going here during the hot summer months and even in April-May and October, to go as early in the morning as possible. When I was there in February, in the middle of the day, it was already very hot! Always bring ample water with you (four liters each is recommended) and a hat and sunscreen.
This park is family friendly, because it has two different hiking trails. The green trail (the family friendly trail) is mostly flat, while the black trail has a steep climb and descend. I do not recommend this trail with small children. However, I personally found the black trail more pleasant than the green trail, because the green trail takes you through very mull sand for most of the walk. But again, this trail is better when you are traveling as a family.
The canyon itself has ladders and ropes at certain places, which are easily manageable.
Remember, there are no water facilities in the park, so bring water!