Does discovering the most beautiful places in Lebanon as well as an itinerary going along with it sounds like a good plan for you? If so, this post has exactly what you need to plan your trip to this magnificent country.
Lebanon is a beautiful and geographically varied country, with the Mount Lebanon mountain range crossing the country from North to South, the Mediterranean Sea along the West coast offering sumptuous sunsets and exceptional panoramas, vegetation as diverse as it is lush, delicious fruit and vegetables in abundance, and an extraordinary cuisine which delighted our taste buds! And if you like history, you’re in for a treat in Lebanon! There are traces of civilization dating back to age of Antiquity and beyond! For a long time the region belonged to the Phoenician civilization, and was in turn conquered by Assyrians, Babylonians, Egyptians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Crusaders, Mongols, and Ottomans.
In Lebanon, we met up with our friend Mirella. It was wonderful to see her and to spend quality time with her family!
Most Beautiful Places to Visit in Lebanon
This place left us completely in awe. Baalbek, also known as Heliopolis in Ancient Greece, is an ancient site with gigantic temples dedicated to the god, Baal. The temple of Bacchus is one of the best-preserved Greco-Roman temples. The temple of Jupiter was the Roman Empire’s biggest temple, of which only several columns and a colossal base remain. Smaller than the others, the temple of Venus is the third attraction of the site. Together they form an extremely impressive archaeological ensemble which would make the cities of Athens and Rome blush!
The Cedars of Barouk
We went to visit the famous cedars of Lebanon in the Chouf, on Mount Barouk. As the national emblem of Lebanon, the cedars are protected today. They once covered a greater part of Lebanese territory. The wood of this tree is reputed to be resistant and rot-proof. It was used by the Phoenicians to build their boats. Later, the king Solomon used it to build his temple in Jerusalem. We unfortunately didn’t have time to go and admire the “Cedars of God” which are found in Bsharri, in the north of the country. But the ones we did see were beautiful, including the one which inspired the cedar on the Lebanese flag, which you can see on the photo below.
Sidon, have you heard of it? I imagine so if you’ve read the Bible. It’s mentioned several times, including in the book of Genesis. Jesus is even said to have gone there to preach with his apostles. It is often associated with Tyre, the neighboring town in the south. We visited the maritime fortress, built by the crusaders in the 13th century, as well as its souk and its soap museum.
Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, is a monumental city which contains half of the country’s inhabitants. It’s famous for being one of the most ancient cities in the world. We visited the Raouché (Pigeon Rock), and the American University of Beirut, the most prestigious university in the Middle East and where our friend, Doctor/Professor Mirella, teaches.
The sumptuous Beiteddine Palace dates from the 18th century and was the seat of the Emirate of Mount Lebanon. Perched on a cliff in the region of Chouf, it’s a very photogenic place. I obviously had to have a bit of fun taking some cliché snaps.
Byblos is the birthplace of the Phoenician civilization, and was the 2nd most ancient city in the world after Damas. Traces indicate that Byblos, which was once called Gebal, has been occupied since 8000 BC, in the Neolithic period! The first alphabet, created by the Phoenicians, was devised in Byblos. The Phoenicians exported papyrus from Egypt to Greece, the Greeks decided to name the city Byblos (which means papyrus in Greek). We went on a boat tour around Byblos to admire the sunset.
Jeita and Jounieh
The Jeita Grotto is an enormous system of caves with a multitude of stalactites and stalagmites, including the biggest known stalactite in the world. It’s a Lebanese national symbol, and made it to the 14 finalists in the competition of the 7 new wonders of the world. Yep, the Lebanese are pretty proud of it! I unfortunately don’t have any photos of the interior of the caves, as cameras were forbidden.
Near Jeita, you can find Jounieh, a town by the sea. We took the cable car to go to Harissa and take in the whole bay of Jounieh. It’s a magnificent viewpoint on the Mediterranean and the coast of Lebanon.
For a better preparation
Here are the places we visited :
- Baalbek and its ruins
- Barouk and its cedars
- Jeita and its caves
Even though the geopolitical situation in Lebanon is relatively stable, the tension there is palpable. The only country whose official religion is Christianism in the Middle East, Lebanon is at the hear of ideological conflicts, with the Sunnis (Saudi Arabia and co.) on one side and Shias (Iran and co.) on the other, not to mention endless friction with the neighbor to the South (Israel). This is all accentuated by the recent flood of 2 million Syrian refugees, who have joined the existing population of 4 million, not counting the 500,000 Palestinian refugees who have lived there for the last 50 years.
If Lebanon gives the impression of peaceful religious cohabitation, the reality is quite different. In fact, the different religious denominations don’t mix, and keep to their respective neighborhoods and territories. The only possible cohabitation is between Christians and the other religious groups. I can assure you that driving through the Hezbollah district is very impressive. When you see enormous black flags every 20 meters on the side of the motorway you know you’ve entered their territory and you can sense the charged atmosphere. Luckily there are plenty of Lebanese military all around to give a small feeling of security. In other words, it’s a feeling of controlled chaos.
Accommodation and transportation
We spent time in the village of Damour, close to our friend Mirella and her family, who took care of us. As a change, I didn’t have to think about any of the trip’s activities because Mirella took it into her hands to plan everything! From sunrise, her and her parents made sure we weren’t lacking for anything. They were exceptionally generous. We therefore used Damour as a base for our daily excursions.
Mirella found us this hotel just a stone’s throw from her place, and we rented a little Hyundai Grand i10 to get around.
I do have to slide in a comment regarding driving in this country. I can say that driving in Lebanon is psychologically challenging and I had to make myself drive badly to avoid accidents. If I drove in a western country the way I drove in Lebanon, I would have picked up 10 offenses a minute. To survive, I had to do overtake zig-zags on the motorway, forget the indicators, honk left right and center, jump red lights and stop signs, and take one-way streets in the opposite direction. Just remember that in Lebanon, lane markings are never respected. Emergency stop lanes are used for parking and overtaking, a 2-lane road is used as a 3-lane road, and a 3-lane road as a 5-lane road. So, to avoid having to permanently monitor all of my mirrors, I chose to drive as far left as possible and as fast as possible. Although I think the only offense I didn’t commit was speeding, as there was very little room to do so due to the heavy traffic. As a result, I’m proud to say that I returned the car without a single new scratch. And Mirella, who initially doubted my ability to drive in Lebanon, even had her father congratulate me for being such an excellent driver HAHAHAHAHA!
Lebanese cuisine is honestly one of the best in the world. Not surprising that our kids didn’t ask for McDonalds during our stay in Lebanon. They even found their 3rd favorite restaurant, after McDonalds and Burger King!
After visiting Turkey, we found Lebanon to be relatively expensive. But thinking about it, it’s still pretty cheap. Our expenses for the 8 days were as follows:
- 1278.00 USD;
- 160.00 USD per day;
- 40.00 USD per person per day.
In detail :
|Expense Category||Amount Spent|
|Transport (including gas)||213.00 USD|
|Eating out||245.00 USD|
In a nutshell
|Dates||2018-09-05 to 2018-09-12|
|Number of days||8|
|Cities we visited||Balbek, Beirut, Byblos, Damour, Jounieh, Sydon|
|Inbound||From Cyprus by Plane|
|Outbound||To Greece by plane|
|Mode of transport||Rental car|
|Distance travelled (car, subway & foot)||635 km|
|Number of photos taken||2700 (337 per day)|
|Currency||The Lebanese Pound (1 USD = 1500 LBP)|
Thanks to Mirella and her family, Lebanon is certainly one of the countries which has excited us the most during this world tour, and it is not without shedding a tear that we left it. And yes, we strongly recommend you to visit this wonderful country, as long as the political situation is relatively stable.
Don’t miss our next destination : the Hellenic Republic!
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