Lebanon is actually a tiny country – smaller than Wales! There’s still plenty to see but it means it’s really easy to get around. Unfortunately there aren’t any trains but you can drive around easily and if you don’t want to hire a car there are many companies which provide private drivers or tour guides.
Byblos, Harissa & Jeita Grotto
I’ve put these three together because you can easily do all three in one day – which I highly recommend if you’re on a strict schedule. If you do, it’s best to do Jeita Grotto first, unfortunately I can’t include any of my own pictures here as you’re not allowed to take photos inside the grotto. However it is absolutely worth a visit and is really beautiful to walk around, have a look at some pics from Google here. You would think they banned people from taking photos because it damages the formations but apparently it’s actually just because the staff got sick of people taking selfies. Lol. You travel up to the first cave via cable cart and then from there onto the second cave via a little train as shown below!
The second stop on your trip will most likely be harissa which is some of the most stunning views I have ever seen! You travel on two cable carts up to the very top where you have incredible views over Jounieh and Beirut. This trip is truly not to be missed and is equally beautiful in the day time as it is all lit up at night, but sunset is quite something!
When you reach the top, you’ll find the shrine of Our Lady of Lebanon (pictured below) and a very modern basilica, so make sure that you wear modest clothing to be able to walk around the religious sites.
The Shrine of Our Lady of Lebanon
Greek Catholic Basilica
Finally, we have Byblos (also known as Jbeil), which personally reminds me of something like a little Greek/Mediterranean town. It’s thousands of years old, a world UNESCO world hertiage site and very religious – there are churches everywhere! Byblos, historically a Phoenician city, creatively blends the ancient in with the modern in a really beautiful way and there are fossils to be found in the little shops of the winding streets around the old city. There’s also a lovely square of restaurants and bars where you can enjoy your evening.
Walking through the city of Byblos
The port is also only a short walking distance through the city where there are lots of lovely (but expensive) restaurants on the water front. Even though I’ve included this with two other points of interest, you could easily make a full, relaxing day out of Byblos and it makes for a great break away from the bustling city of Beirut. It’s easy to get to as well, taking an Uber from Beirut to Byblos will only set you back around $15.
The port of Byblos
Saida & Tyre
Saida (also known as Sidon) is the third largest city in Lebanon and things to see include the Crusaders Castle, Soap Museum and the Old Medina (old part of the city) which has been modernised and where there are many independent shops. Just make sure you don’t go on a Friday, this is a predominantly Muslim area and Friday is the holy day so all the shops will be shut!
Crusader’s Castle on the sea front
Wood works store inside the old medina
A traditionally decorated underground cafe. They only get half an hour of electricity per day and the rest has to be powered by a generator so expect plenty of power cuts!
I’ve included Tyre (also known as Sour) as it’s easy to do both cities in one day. Tyre is well known for its beaches but walking through the city is just as beautiful.
Tyre’s colourful city streets
Tyre’s port – there are many sea front restaurants along here!
Walking through Tyre’s streets
Faraya is amazing! The car journey here is beautiful, it’s about 45 mins driving from Beirut and the views driving through the mountains are stunning. There’s also some great restaurants dotted around serving traditional Lebanese food – which I highly recommend drinking with their national drink Arak. Faraya is usually extremely popular for skiing in winter as the mountains get covered in snow. In the above picture, we visited the ski resort around October time before the snow season started which was strange to see but incredible for the sunset! Also wouldn’t recommend breaking in to closed ski resort… Took us about 3 hours to find our way back out!!
Beqaa Valley (Wine tasting, Baalbek & Anjar)
There’s lots to do in the Beqaa Valley (approx two hours driving from Beirut), you can do a tour of Baalbek, Anjar and go for wine tasting all in one day but it is a very packed day and I’d recommend breaking it up if you have enough time on your travels. Anjar is a large World UNESCO site built during the Ummayad period. It is important to note however, that it is virtually on the border of Syria, so please keep this in mind as at the time of writing, the UK government advises against all travel to the area over safety concerns so check for any updates on this before you decide to go.
Walking through the ancient ruins of Anjar
Ruins of Anjar and hills bordering Syria
Baalbek on the other hand, is a huge ancient Phoenician city and is famous across the world as a rich archeological site. It’s definitely worth hiring a tour guide for this and is especially worth a visit due to the lack of tourists so you’ll feel like you have the place to yourself! There’s a lot of detail to see here so make sure you leave yourself plenty of time for this.
The huge stone structures at Baalbek are incredible and pictures really don’t do it justice!
Unfortunately we weren’t so lucky with the weather on this day!
If you want to do a wine tasting experience included in your trip I strongly recommend Chateau Ksara. You’ll be given a tour around the wine caves and it’s the most popular brand of wine in Lebanon and for good reason, they’ve won plenty of awards!
Kadisha Valley is a beautiful area for hiking, I highly recommend going around November time when we did as the weather was a pleasant temperature and the leaves of the trees were all autumnal. It’s about a 2-3 hour drive from Beirut depending of traffic and there are many monasteries to be found within the valley, some of which have mummies inside.
Hiking through the valley – there are many hiking groups you can join! If you are interested I recommend looking online for any Facebook groups.
The holes in the mountains you see have actually been lived in throughout history by monks and hermits!
We hailed a taxi van to take us back to the beginning of our hike who showed us this river off the beaten track – make sure you time your hike appropriately so you aren’t driving back through the dark or when the fog descends in the evening.
The nature in Lebanon is truly stunning and each season provides its own unique offering, so rest assured whether you’re visiting in the summer or winter months, there’s plenty for you to see. If you plan on spending a lot of time around Kadisha Valley or just want to explore the area more, I strongly recommend taking a trip around Bsharri and The Cedars of God, another UNESCO world heritage site whereby the cedar trees have played a vital role in civilisation for thousands of years.