The Botanical Garden in Eilat
Aqaba is nestled right next to the border of Israel, with just seven kilometres separating it from the nearby Israeli town of Eilat.
A visit to the Botanical Garden therefore requires you to pass through Israeli border control, with the check-point easily accessible by taxi from The Radisson Blu Tala Bay Resort, Aqaba.
In preparation for your visit to Israel it is advisable to check that you don't require any special visas from your country of residence. Verify your status on the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs website before arriving in Jordan, but note that residents from countries such as the US, UK and large parts of Europe are exempt from visa requirements.
The border check-point is open Sunday to Thursday between the hours of 06:30 and 20:00, whilst Friday and Saturday opening hours are 08:00 to 20:00. Following a check of your documents, you will be required to pay a small exit-fee. The same will apply when you return to Aqaba.
Public buses and taxis are available on the Eilat side of the border, although the latter is probably the best option for those wishing to travel directly to the Botanical Garden on the northern tip of the town.
Botanical Garden in the desert
The town of Eilat is a bustling seaside port and also a popular holiday destination, thanks in part to an average of 360 days of sunshine a year and the warm waters of the Red Sea.
The Botanical Garden can be found just to the north of town; an oasis amidst a seemingly endless stretch of rolling desert hills.
The luscious patch of land also doubles as Israel's first organic farm and the entire garden has been nurtured from scratch on-site, which previously served as a military base. In fact, traces of old trenches can still be found hidden amongst the garden's flowers, trees, bushes and ferns.
A network of pathways take you on a journey through the unique gardens; a haven of bright colours, flowers, trees, ponds and waterfalls. Over one thousand different types of trees, bushes and plants make this a truly unique beauty spot, and they are all able to flourish thanks to a man-made watering system designed to ensure a constant flow of moisture throughout the gardens.
There are numerous seating areas spread around the extensive path network, offering spectacular views of the Red Sea and nearby Edom mountains. Bird watchers can enjoy several bird sanctuaries within the garden which is often likened to the Garden of Eden, due to its ancient 'biblical style' stone terracing.
The garden's crowning glory is its magnificent rain forest, the impressive result of an experiment to create a micro-climate capable of enabling tropical plants to flourish in the middle of a desert. The sounds and smells mean you'd be forgiven for thinking you were in the middle of the Amazon. The garden's friendly staff are on hand to answer any queries you may have, so there's plenty of scope for learning something new about this fascinating desert rain forest – the first of its kind anywhere in the world.
A garden of relaxation
The numerous seating areas spread around the garden are ideal for kicking back and relaxing on a warm afternoon, with ice creams, soft drinks and herbal teas available from the garden café.
The garden centre shop, meanwhile, sells a range of plants, herbs, flowerpots and handmade wooden artefacts, all of which are made on-site.
The Garden itself is open from 08:30 to 17:00 from Sunday to Thursday, with a 15:00 closing time on Fridays and Saturdays. Visit http://www.botanicgarden.co.il/ for more information.