At Mini Israel, incredibly realistic models depict must-see sites. // © 2011 s-ron mckellar
Scroll down to learn about Israel's Underwater Observatory.
The Underwater Observatory
Located in Marine Park, Eilat, The Underwater Observatory is a one-of-a-kind attraction that provides visitors with the opportunity to explore the enchanting undersea world of the Red Sea.
While walking throughout the various exhibition rooms, I began to realize that this was an aquarium experience unlike any other. The wall-size windows allow for face-to-face interaction with the vibrant and colorful sea creatures unique to the southern desert climate of Eilat, and visitors can watch an expert feed enormous sharks in an all-encompassing shark tank.
In addition to the underwater viewing rooms, travelers can also enjoy an underwater trip on a submarine or a ship with a transparent bottom. Museum admission is free; however, the submarine and boating adventures cost a small fee.
Clients vacationing on the luxurious beaches of Eilat should stop by anytime because the museum is open every day, including holidays. Visiting hours are Saturday through Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Fridays. The Underwater Observatory www.coralworld.com/eilat/eng/
This past summer marked my fourth spent in Israel and, on this particular trip, I decided to seek out hidden treasures -- including lesser-known museums and exhibits -- that are truly unique to Israel. Dialogue in the Dark and Mini Israel are just two of the many rewarding, yet non-traditional, attractions that are ideal for any visitor. Dialogue in the Dark
Located within the Israel Children's Museum in the Tel Aviv suburb of Holon, Dialogue in the Dark is an inimitable chance to "see" the world through blind eyes. The guided tour is not an exhibition about blindness but rather a journey that promotes non-visual awareness.
When I first entered the exhibition lobby, I was asked to leave all of my belongings behind ó my hands and ears would now become my most important tools. I joined a group of other English-speaking tourists, and we were led into a space so dark, we did not need blindfolds to feel sightless. It was there where we met Chana, our sight-impaired tour guide.
Initially, the exhibition experience was disorienting; however, Chana was there every step of the way and her motherly quality was comforting and encouraging. We quickly learned to rely on our other senses for the hour-long tour.
As we walked through a virtual city, the sounds of car horns and shuffling footsteps were the only indicators of where we were. Among other adventures, we also went on a mock boating excursion and felt the wind in our hair and the light mist on our faces.
Finally, we stopped at a cafe and ordered food in the pitch darkness, while reflecting on our experience together with Chana. Dialogue in the Dark, we found, challenges prejudices and uses common perceptions of blindness in order to provoke a change in perspective.
Admission is about $15, and reservations are required. The exhibition is open Monday through Thursday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., Sunday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mini Israel
Open for almost a decade now, Mini Israel, located in the Ayalon Valley, has become one of the most fascinating Israel tourist attractions. It is a permanent outdoor exhibition that features miniature models of countless sites in Israel, all of which hold historical, archeological, cultural and religious significance.
I was in awe of the 350 realistic models carefully constructed to scale by Israeli architects and designers. The details in the exhibition are amazing -- models include more than 30,000 miniature figures, 500 animals and plants and, even, moving model trains.
To set the mood, each model is additionally equipped with its own soundtrack, which showcases realistic day-to-day sounds that accompany the actual locations.
The exhibition, which has since gained the slogan "see it all, see it small," provides a quick and entertaining preview of many must-see sites around the country.
The exhibition also includes a souvenir shop, restaurants, rest areas and a hall that screens films about the park. Tickets are priced around $22 per person, and audio guides are available for an additional cost. The exhibition is open Saturday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.