Pita Bread: Everything You Need to Know!
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What places should I visit in Lebanon? Where to go around in Lebanon? What are the things I can see in this tiny country?!
Honestly, I heard these questions too many times! For this reason alone, I decided to share my knowledge with you! And you’re welcome 🤍
First of all, it can be confusing to move around in Lebanon. In general, we don’t brag about our road system. Here, you won't find many bridges and tunnels connecting mountains together.
So to make your life easier I took the time to write this article about places to visit in my beloved country. Yes, just for you!
Ready to dig into pro tips of the best places to visit in Lebanon? Read on!
True. Lebanon is small. And if you’re coming from abroad where public transportation is a given, you might think of going around Lebanon in a couple of days by bus or train.
But it's not that easy!
If you ask about our trains, be ready to be greeted with half laughs and sighs. In fact, the government discontinued the old train tracks a while ago.
And yet 200 public employees are still paid to this day! These tracks merit an article of their own, yet trains are out of the question to get you around.
So this leaves you with a few options to visit places around Lebanon. Buses, private cars and taxis.
Because transportation can be a hassle to some people coming to visit Lebanon, I decided to start off my list of places to visit in Lebanon with Beirut, the Capital.
An unmissable place to visit in Lebanon is Beirut. And honestly, there's no way you can miss it on purpose. After all, we only have one operating airport. And it's obviously in Beirut! More specifically, towards the southern suburbs of Beirut.
Once called Paris of the East, Beirut has many neighborhoods. Achrafiyeh, Hamra, Badaro and Verdun are only a few of them. Even within Achrafieh, you will find sub-divisions like Mar Mikhael, Gemmayzeh, Geitawi and Sassine. And each neighborhood can offer a completely different experience of Beirut.
So let's dig into some of these neighborhoods!
Did you know? Beirut was destroyed over 7 times in recorded history!
I know. It sounds like we’re really bad at defending ourselves from attackers! But that's not entirely true!
In summary, the real culprit here is the same geological fault (no pun intended) that shakes the ground under our feet every so often.
Because of these earthquakes, Beirut Downtown near the sea sits pretty much on top of ruins. Beirut was basically rebuilt on demolished buildings and temples from previous civilizations. In fact, you can see the remnant of Roman Baths and Old Churches in and around Beirut Downtown.
The Phoenician Port of Beirut was found underneath a section of the Downtown area. Prior to constructions, you could see the remains of the Phoenician wall protecting the port. At 45 degree, the wall didn't seem to be too hard to climb! Yet, the Phoenicians had a clever way of defending themselves. Smart as they were, they polished the wall so well that any attempt at climbing it would result in a slippery slide and a rather hard landing.
On top of that, they would pour fine sand from the top of the wall, making the walls even more slippery! Not a bad way to let your enemies slide off!
Some of the other ruins such as the Roman Baths are near the Lebanese Parliament (Serail). As such, this is one of the places in Lebanon that can be difficult to visit during periods of instability.
Closer to the sea, you will find Beirut Souks. An outdoor mall with cinemas, shops, restaurants and arcades. Around the Souks, you can find delicious high-end restaurants and cafes.
Move West along the coast of Beirut and you will arrive at Ras Beirut (literally translating to the Head of Beirut) - The Western hill of Beirut.
This small peninsula protruding into the Mediterranean makes the climate in Ras Beirut distinct from the rest of the Capital. In fact, the microclimate created by the surrounding waters allows for a better air quality in that area.
When you go there, make sure to visit the American University of Beirut campus, one of the greenest and cleanest areas of Beirut with a splendid unobstructed view of the sea.
Jog, walk or drive past the AUB campus towards the lighthouse of the Corniche and you will soon reach the famous Raouche Rocks.
Also known as Pigeon’s Rock, these massive protruding rocks are to Beirut, what the Cedars are to Lebanon.
There, many cafés and restaurants offer an unbeatable view of these intriguing rock formations. Some people choose to take a seat, sipping on tea or coffee as they draw up inspiration from the famous Beirut landmark.
When in Ras Beirut, you should definitely walk up and down the busy Hamra street, where shops, restaurants and bars line up the avenue and its alleyways.
In Hamra, you can also find organic shops like Ecosouk that promote a circular economy by using recycled and natural products. I recommend you visit this place in Lebanon's capital if you're into organic and sustainable products. In fact, many of their products are hand-made by people with disabilities, yet creating beautiful pieces of garments, soaps, housewares, bags and much more! Definitely worth checking out!
The other main hill of Beirut is Achrafieh, and is sometimes referred to as the Eastern hill. It is one of the regions in Lebanon with so many places to visit, you wish you took longer vacations!
Achrafieh is divided into multiple neighborhoods. The highest peak of Achrafieh is Sassine Place. You can find many cafes around Sassine like Cantina Sociale. Yet, most bars are located in the lower neighborhoods, closer to the sea.
Going down the Achrafieh hill towards the Mediterranean sea, you will inevitably land in one of the most busy streets of Beirut - Mar Mikhael and Gemmayze (if you're going by foot, make sure to explore the many stairs of Achrafieh!).
Need a coffee or a drink? Or perhaps some good food? Mar Mikhael and Gemmayze got you! There you will find bars, restaurants, cafés, shops, art exhibitions and more!
Expats enjoy staying in places around these regions when visiting Lebanon due to its more Western look and feel.
During the day you can find organic markets and second-hand shops spread across Gemmayze and Mar Mikhael. You can chill at some of the hidden gems there like Kalei or Riwaq. At night, you can join the groups of masses who gather on the streets. Some chanting, some telling stories. Enjoying their time under a cool Beirut moon.
Visit the upper heights of Achrafieh and you can roam around the Sursock neighborhood, where many palaces of the Sursock family were erected. Luckily, one of them was turned into a museum known as the Nicolas Ibrahim Sursock Museum! And that's a great place to visit in Lebanon for museum lovers!
For more about Beirut in my other article Visit Beirut: 19 Places to See.
I agree. Beirut can be overwhelming. And there are so many other places to visit in Lebanon!
After a few days of Urban Exploration, you will want to get out of the city and explore the far reaches of Lebanon!
As mentioned earlier, transportation in Lebanon can be a hassle. But don’t worry, I got you covered!
It’s hard to get lost when moving up North from Beirut along the coast. All you have to remember is to keep the sea to your left.
If you choose to rent a car and explore the country freely, make sure you are ready for some extreme driving. And by extreme driving, I mean people cutting you off on the highway for no obvious reason.
So if you don’t feel like driving here, I recommend you either take a taxi or a combination of service and buses.
FYI, a service is a car pooling taxi for short distances within Beirut and some of the greater Beirut regions like Dora.
If you’re planning on driving or taking a taxi for the entire routes, feel free to skip the note below.
Think of Dora (pronounced Dawra) like a hub, in fact nearly every route converges to Dora. As a result, you can pretty much go anywhere north to visit Lebanon from there.
If you choose to stay in Achrafieh, you will need to take a service to drop you off in Dora. Just find a car with a red plate (or red font) and stop it literally wherever you are. Ask the drive to take you to Dora. The service charges per person they drop off, so if you're a large group, you can be better off splitting a cab. Service taxis will only operate within the cities and its suburbs.
When you arrive in Dora, you have to jump aboard one of the buses parked near Byblos Bank or the CIT building. Most of these buses will go all the way up North to Tripoli.
Yet, it’s best to always ask what their final destination is, just in case!
Based on personal experience, I recommend you avoid hopping on a minivan. True, they are faster than larger buses but their driving skills will make you feel dizzy, uncomfortable and clinging to your life!
Jounieh is the only coastal city of Lebanon that was built using limestone! On top of that, it's only a 20 minutes drive from Beirut, and is an easy place to visit in Lebanon if you're here for a short stay.
The Bay of Jounieh is around 2.5km wide, not much compared to San Francisco Bay I agree. But hey, look how curved it is!
You can take some time to walk around the old souk of Jounieh during a flowery spring.
If you enjoy breathtaking views and religious sites , I highly recommend you visit Harissa. The monastery is perched atop the massive mountains overlooking the Bay of Jounieh. Around the 1990s, the government passed a law protecting the forest underneath Harissa. It prevented the construction of buildings along the mountain side, therefore saving the beautiful mega-wall of greenery that overlooks the Bay!
You can reach Harissa in 10 minutes by car from Jounieh. In fact, ask anyone and they will most certainly recommend Harissa as a place to visit in Lebanon.
If you are not afraid of heights, I recommend you hop onto one of the telecabin right off the center of Jounieh.
It’s an old system but still works well and gives you a splendid view, starting off the coast all the way to the mountain top. Upon arrival, the statue of Our Lady of Lebanon awaits you. There, a breathtaking view to contemplate the mountains and the sea make it a must-do when looking for places to visit in Lebanon!
If you're looking for the best free beaches to chill in Lebanon, you got to move further up north!
Here’s something you probably don’t know - Byblos is the oldest continuously inhabited city in the World! Some artefacts found there date all the way back to 8,800BC! These include plastered floors and naviform technology for productive habitation during the pre-neolithic period.
In short, coming to visit Lebanon and skipping Byblos is a big mistake.
Byblos (or Jbeil) initially started as a fishermen’s village. And to this day, you can satisfy your cravings for fish or sushi at one of the many delicious restaurants around the port and the old souk.
Walking around the old town, you will notice the rough brown sandstones used by earlier civilizations. And believe me, these rocks were not used randomly! In fact, they are great at temperature regulation.
Thanks to tiny air pockets trapped inside, the sandstone acts like a heat insulator, keeping warmth during winter and cool during summer.
I recommend you walk around the old town. Discover the many houses and gardens, hidden alleyways and shops of Jbeil.
Some shops sell hand-cut semi-precious stones and crystals which some say can give you powers! Other shops sell fossils from different periods, some even going back millions of years!
Attention! The Byblos Archeological site can blow your mind! Especially if you are into archeology and megalithic structures!
When visiting the site, you will notice the enormous block of rocks that make up the citadel. The site has been and still is one of the most visited places in Lebanon
You will also notice the extra fortifications added by each succeeding people, from the Phoenicians, Romans and Egyptians to the Crusades and Mamluk. The Crusades even used Roman columns as added fortifications to deflect canon balls!
If you like museums, the Byblos Wax museum and Fossils museum are recommended.
Lastly, old churches and mosques are spread across the city, remnants of the old conquerors that left their fingerprints in stones.
Talking about stone, the next city doesn’t go easy on rocks!
Come visit one of best coastal towns of Lebanon! Truly a place of wonders.
Once a prosperous city and port in Phoenician times (3000–64 BC), Batroun is likely the Batrouna mentioned in the Egyptian Tal el-Amarna tablets from the 14th century BC. Yet, little is known about the history of Batroun. Although it is one of the oldest cities in the world! As a result, this small town is a treasure trove of Phoenician, Roman and Byzantine history. Additionally, Batroun boasts historic Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches.
You can do a lot of things in Batroun so I curated some cool (and free) places to visit when in one of my favorite towns in Lebanon, Batroun!
You’re a Phoenician living on the coast of Batroun. You want to build your beach house and protect yourself from tidal waves. What do you do?!
Well, you start by cutting rocks! A lot of them!
And that’s exactly what the Phoenicians did back thousands of years ago. They cut so much from the rocks underneath their feet; they eventually created a natural wall to stop tidal waves from coming into the city.
The rocks quarried were used to build the old city, again using sandstones for insulation!
Some historians believe the name Batroun originates from the Phoenician word bater which means to cut. Pretty fitting for the amount of rocks they had to cut!
This wall is the perfect free place to visit in Lebanon. And here is the google maps location for you.
So grab a refreshing lemonade and sip it calmly near the Phoenician wall! There is also a cute little church overlooking the wall called Our Lady of the Sea - Pretty fitting name!
Near the wall, the port of Batroun offers a pleasant promenade, with the Church of Estephan (Stephano) literally stepping into the port.
Walk around the old city of Batroun and if you feel like having street seafood, you should definitely try George Maalouf’s little restaurant. Located on a corner in the souks, this delicious restaurant has it all. Whether you fancy octopus, shrimps, fish or calamari, your tastebuds will thank me!
Batroun is the capital city of the great Batroun area/ district. It extends all the way up into the mountains.
If you want to discover the mountains of Batroun, you will definitely need a car. Buses rarely take these routes because traffic is concentrated along the coast.
But don’t worry! The coast of Batroun has plenty to offer! I dedicated a section below on places to visit in the mountains of Batroun just for you!
Bars, restaurants, coffee shops, clothing stores and nightclubs have brought a dazzling buzz to the city and its surroundings. Even before arriving at the city center, you can stop by at the beach for a relaxing swim and eat at one of the restaurants there.
If you are looking for a free beach with a restaurant nearby, I recommend trying Joining Beach or Abu Ali beach. For more beaches in Lebanon, make sure to check out my top 10 clean (and mostly) free beaches list.
Joining Beach is one of the rare easily accessible free beach spots of Lebanon. The rocky mountains dive into the sea, leaving only an inclined stone to lay and tan on.
Nearby, you can enjoy a jump point about 3 or 4 meters high. The jump point is accessible by foot. Or if you feel like climbing, you can take it on directly from the waters!
Just make sure no one is swimming underneath when you jump!
After exploring the many islands surrounding Joining Beach, you can choose to have a bite at the restaurant there or drive up to the city center for a wider choice of cuisines.
Before you get to Tripoli, you should definitely stop in Chekka!
To get there, you should stay on the seaside road past Batroun. To your right, you will be greeted by lush green forests overgrowing on white limestone. And to your left, naked limestones crashing into the sea and forming steep cliffs.
First off, if you are an adrenaline junkie looking for a rush of sensations, make sure to take off the main road to the left before arriving at the old tunnel. Head down the sandy road, making sure your tires take on the beating gently. Park somewhere and walk towards the edge of the mountain where it meets the sea, following the old train tracks (Article incoming, I swear!). Here is the exact location for you.
Eventually, you will need to take a left and then a right as you walk towards the salty pools of standing water, slowly eating the limestone that holds them.
Finally, as you arrive at the bottom of the mountain, you will find a unique gorge being formed by the pressing waves from one side and the river that flows down there on the other side.
At that point, you will have the choice to jump from multiple heights, averaging between 13 and 9 meters or so. I recommend you be careful when jumping and make sure to land perfectly straight into the waters!
If you choose to stay on the main road, make sure you visit the monastery of Saydit el Nouriyeh sitting at the top of this massive mountain (I know, they always choose the best views!). You can walk up the stairs near the tunnel entrance or drive along the road into the mountainside to reach the top. The view is quite impressive from up there! A must-see when looking for places to visit in Lebanon!
If stay on the highway past Batroun, you will pass by an old castle to your right called Mseilha Fort. You can choose to stop and visit this interesting vestige of Lebanon.
Ordinarily, prior to the construction of the dam, the fort seemed to spring from the earth. Back in the days, the flat lands surrounding the fort acted as trade routes for the Ottoman and Mamluk eras. This strategic spot quickly became a lucrative cash cow for the landlords at the time. Because of the eerie cliffs near Chekka, merchants preferred to follow the safer route despite having to pay a passage fee.
Mseilha is also known for its cozy promenade. You can even sleep at this place and start off the hike right from your door step. The wooden tracks made it easy to take on, no matter how fit you are! The construction of the dam affected the beautiful nature along the promenade (blame it on politicians). Despite that, the lake formed by the dam now gives the Mseilha promenade a different twist (if you’re able to catch it full).
Anfeh. Or Enfeh. Known to many as "Little Greece" because of its bays and the blue and white bungalows that dot its shores, Anfeh is not a city where people just walk by when visiting Lebanon.
It is a place with such a strong historical past that it has become attractive, almost magnetic. This may be a generally quiet little town, but in the summer it becomes a major coastal destination in the north.
Anfeh attracts tourists, especially in summer, thanks to the small white houses, windmills and salt marshes on the rocky beaches along the Mediterranean coast. You can even buy freshly-made sea salt from the Monastery there. Much better than getting that commercial salt full of fluoride!
Also, Anfeh is known for its clear waters. Some of the clearest waters on the Lebanese coast are found there, and the bay is home to a wide variety of fish.
The 400-metre peninsula of Anfeh hides many secrets. In fact, Anfeh is one of the oldest continuously inhabited Phoenician cities in Lebanon.
Remains of a Phoenician presence, as well as stories and remnants of at least 3,000 years of human occupation have been found. From the air, Anfeh looks like an "ordinary" modern city, but its rocky shore contains ancient tombs and caves said to be inhabited by settlers or monks from yesteryear. In the diaspora, if you visit a major city, especially in Brazil, Argentina, Qatar, Australia, Canada, or the United States, you will almost certainly find someone whose ancestors come from Anfeh.
If you like to curiously explore places when visiting Lebanon, I recommend you take a walk to the tip of the peninsula where you can find an interesting archeological site.
Less cosmopolitan than flamboyant Beirut, Tripoli offers an authentic and captivating version of one of Lebanon's many faces. While Beirut is undeniably a beautiful city with charming people and great parties, some tend to forget Lebanon's second biggest city, Tripoli.
Overlooking Tripoli (Trablos) rises the imposing Tripoli Citadel, known as Kalat Sinjil (Saint Gilles named after Raymond de Saint Gilles). War after war, it has been reconstructed and modified many times throughout history.
You can start your route in the Souk and make your way up to the Citadel by foot in under 10 minutes. Don't worry about the army personnel. They are stationed there to patrol the entrance of this ever strategic location!
Down in the Souk, you can find vintage second-hand shops with cool retro shirts and pants. Make sure you explore the alleyways and uncover hidden courtyards with pools. Soap shops, antiques, jewelry and much more await you there!
Mina (or Port) is another hotspot of Tripoli. Walk along the corniche and explore the inner alleys of the Mina neighborhood. Or take a boat ride to the islands facing Tripoli!
It usually takes about 45min to reach the largest island (Rabbit Island) by boat. If you like jump points, ask the boat captain to drop you off at the next island!
The jump point is at the Southern end of the island. It’s around 13 or 15 meters high so you can really feel an Out-of-Body Experience (OBE).
Make sure you come prepared! This barren island is basically a mountain top protruding from the waters. So get some running shoes or wet shoes to protect your feet!
Let me tell you something. Do not leave Tripoli without visiting the Rachid Karami International Fair!
It is a massive 250-acre area with intriguing structures, buildings and gardens. Construction started in 1963 but came to a halt during the civil war of 1975.
Its architect, Oscar Niemeyer, explained to the L’Orient-Le Jour newspaper that the Rachid Karami International Fair will be a "museum of modern facilities" and will include many technological advancements, such as a floating theatre, stages controlled by hydraulics and new locations such as the helipad and space museum.
One day I hope we’ll have music festivals there. Let me know what you feel the fair should be used for!
Aah the South of Lebanon.
As you move South from Beirut, you will notice how the landscape keeps changing. Look to your left and the mountains become flatter. Pine trees fade away, making way for ciprès and small bushes. Keep looking to your left, and you will soon realize the slightly drier conditions in the south. In springtime, the scenery will remind you of Lord of the Rings movies.
Move down past Khaldeh and the next major city along the coast is Saida.
Tripoli may be known for its soap making tradition, but Saida is the first city in Lebanon to have a museum - courtesy of the Audi Foundation - dedicated exclusively to the crafts. The original building was an old soap factory built in the 17th century, with parts believed to be from the 13th century.
There, in the ancient bazaar, stands the soap museum. Serene and hovering with the essence of soap, it quietly guards the treasures of a traditional still in progress today, reminding us of the simplistic uniqueness of our culture, on this Earth we call home.
Guided by the unmistakable scent of sweet soap that wafts through the streets, head to the beautiful building of the soap museum, located on El Shakriyeh Street. The entire process of making soap is shown for the curious minds. You can also admire some artefacts found during excavations.
Opposite to the bazaar where you can visit the Audi Soap Museum lies the Old Saida Sea Castle.
Following the news of the imminent arrival of German emperor Frederick II to the Holy Land, the crusader armies residing in Acre set out towards Saida. They located an isolated and strategic spot – the ancient Phoenician era port – and erected the castle to protect the coming ships (1227-1228). The castle was captured and destroyed by the Mamluks in 1291 only to be restored by Fakhr el-Dine Maan II in the 17th century.
And you guessed right. It got destroyed again! This time by an English maritime bombardment in 1840.
On top of all that, Saida's historic center has many attractions, including a 13th-century mosque and two 16th-century hammams (Turkish baths).
Saida is also famous for its delicious sweets. Whether it’s a kellej Ramadan or some baklava or namoura, your tastebuds will definitely thank you (and me!).
Today, Tyr is known for its large Roman ruins, as well as the most beautiful and cleanest beaches in the country. Rich in history and ruins, this ancient port city, about 40-min drive south from Sidon, is great for a weekend trip from Beirut.
The historic city, also sometimes written as Tire or Tyre, is a popular tourist destination, with an excellent choice of accommodation and some of the cleanest beaches in Lebanon. You can even swim with turtles!
Tyre has been an important Phoenician seaport since 2000 BC. It is known as the "Phoenician Metropolis", both for its beauty and for its busy trading port exporting local silk fabrics, cotton and glassware. The city of Tyre was known for producing a rare purple dye. They named it Tyre Violet!
The dye was made from the shell of a sea snail called murex and was reserved for royalty in many ancient cultures.
This great Phoenician city is the fourth largest city in Lebanon after Beirut, Tripoli and Sidon. The ancient ruins of the sea are impressive to say the least. As you get closer to the waters, you can see columns laying underwater. What secrets do you feel lie under these waves?
Another main attractions of Tyr and part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site is the necropolis and hippodrome. With more than 300 sarcophagi from the Roman and Byzantine periods, the necropolis of Tyre has become one of the largest cemeteries in the world.
When the Romans occupied Tyre in 64 BC, they built the Arc de Triomphe and one of the largest arenas in the world.
During the excavations, the remains of the Greco-Roman, Crusader, Arab and Byzantine civilizations were found, but most of the remains of the Phoenician period are located under Tyre.
But enough with historical information!
The beaches of Tyr are another major attraction, especially during summer times. Dotting the main southern beach of Tyr, wooden cabins are ready to serve you food and beverages in summer.
There you will have the choice to chill at the free beach or rent some chairs and shades if you forgot to bring them. The midday sun can be harsh and there aren’t any trees to rest under from the sun. So make sure to be ready or get burnt!
Continue south from Tyr and you will reach the village of Naqoura in about 30 minutes. Because of its proximity to the border, the village (and its beaches) are much less frequented than other more popular places. It’s perfect if you're looking to get some peaceful time!
The crystal clear waters and marine life there are a sight to the eyes. There’s even a small archeological site in Naqoura.
Be warned! The security checkpoints will ask you for your ID and may not let you go ahead if you are a foreigner without a valid pass! So make sure you're prepared just in case!
Next up, places to visit in Lebanon that do not require a security pass!
Trust me. You don’t need to drive too far to be right in nature, all the while enjoying a breathtaking view of both the sea and the mountains.
The mountains near Beirut and its suburbs are primarily linked to the capital itself rather than bridges and tunnels linking mountains. So if you want to switch mountains, you will have to either drive all the way back down to Beirut and then back up. Or go higher up within the mountain range and make the switch along a ridge.
For you to enjoy the time you spend, I recommend you stick to exploring one major mountainous area at a time.
Matn, sometimes spelled Metn, is a district in the Lebanese governorate of Mount Lebanon, east of Beirut. It is known for its panoramic views and pine trees, as well as its location overlooking the western parts of the Mediterranean Sea.
The pleasant climate of Beit Mery and the dense pine forests bordering the Lebanese valleys and the sea make it a favorite summer destination for those who want to beat the heat.
Beit Mery features an interesting Roman bath archeological site. You can have a picnic there while the kids run around the columns and ruins. Right next to the ancient site is a monastery with beautiful mosaics and a stunning view. You can take a walk there or take a seat to enjoy the view.
Higher up along the old road of Beit Mery, you will pass by many picturesque villages. A few of them are Broummana, Baabdat, Dahr el Souwan, Dhour Choueir, Bikfaya, Mtein and Zaarour. Depending on which road you take, you will end up seeing different parts of the Matn district.
Are you a Mario Kart fan? Make sure to stop by Mtein! This old village not only has some of the prettiest houses in Lebanon, but also features a full-fledged karting ground. Last one pays?!
Nature lovers, read on!
The Chouf (or Shouf) region is a must for anyone who loves nature. The Shouf Cedar Reserve includes the Lebanese cedar forests on Mount Barouk, Maaser el Shouf and Ain Zhalta-Bmohray.
Of the six cedar forests in Lebanon, the Barouk and Maaser el Chouf forests have the largest number of ancient trees, some believed to be 2,000 years old.
In the Maaser el Chouf forest, you can sit under the famous cedar tree named after the French poet and historian Alphonse de Lamartine. Some say he referred to Lebanon as “La Terre des Dieux” (or the Land of the Gods). What do you think he meant by that?
Naturally, you can choose to walk on many hiking trails. For most hikers looking for short hikes, I recommend you explore the Barouk and Maaser el Chouf forests each separately. Depending on your pace, you may need at most 4 hours to complete a full tour of each forest.
Longer hikes connecting the two forests also exist! Make sure you’re ready for some 7 hours of varying levels and a harsh inclined start. Some off-trails lead you all the way up the mountain near the telecommunication antenna, where you can take in an unobstructed view of the Bekaa. Not only that! On a clear day, you can see most of the major peaks of Lebanon from the top.
Here are some interesting facts about the Chouf Reserve. It has an area of 550 km2 (210 sq mi), which is almost 5.3% of the territory of Lebanon! Thus, making it the largest natural reserve in Lebanon. Additionally, the reserve is also home to 24 tree species, some of which are found in Europe and around the Mediterranean coast. And that’s not all!
The Chouf possesses many beautiful and clean villages that are a must-do when visiting Lebanon.
Deir el Qamar (or Monastery of the Moon) is a must-see. The village remained the capital and residence of the Emirate of Mount Lebanon for around ~250 years starting in the 16th century. Renovations took place in the early 90s after the civil war.
Make sure to park and walk around Deir el Qamar. Stay on the lookout for old buildings. You will find many engravings and statues dispersed across the village! Don’t hesitate to go into alleyways that seem interesting! You never know what you will find there!
Hungry for a view while eating? Then this place is most certainly for you!
When you arrive to Mir Amin Palace, you’ll be charmed by the beautiful old arches that make up the building. There’s even a pool with a mosaic! Can you imagine?!
You can have lunch or dinner at the restaurant over there. Or just quench your thirst and recharge on some delicious fruits before you start exploring the Palace of Beit Eddine.
The palaces are about 20 minutes away from each other by foot. By car you won’t need more than 3 minutes driving down the winding roads to reach Beit Eddine.
The Palace of Beit Eddine was constructed by the Emir Bashir II of the Shihab family. It was finished in 1818 after 30 years of construction. Too bad they couldn’t enjoy it long enough. Around 1840, the Ottomans used the palace as a government building. Now the palace features a museum as well as hosts the annual Beit Eddine festival.
Keserwan, Keserouane, Kesserwan, Keserwane. So which one is it?!
Every Lebanese person types differently. And what better word than Keserwan to show the diversity of languages and dialects in a country smaller than Paris.
No matter which way you choose to write it, the region is home to a few major ski resorts. The Mzaar Ski Resort in Kfardebian and the Faqra Club.
From the top of Mzaar (play video), you can enjoy breathtaking views of the Bekaa Valley, Mount Hermon Anti-Lebanon and other peaks such as Laklouk and the Cedars. On a clear day, you can even see Beirut!
Around Faraya, you can enjoy a variety of outdoor activities. For instance, skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing are just a few of the winter activities in the region. In summertime, you can do rock climbing, go hiking and cycling as well as rent ATVs to ride across the mountainous landscape.
Like a bit everywhere in Lebanon, you’ll find ruins of some sorts. Faqra also features its own ruins, and they’re a bit special. These ruins of Faqra are one of the highest roman ruins in the world! You can stop by and explore the ruins on your way up to Faraya/ Kfardebian or on your way back down to Beirut.
On top of that, Faqra features a natural bridge. Slowly, the water and air have been eating out the rocks, piercing deep enough to leave a bridge above the river flow. But for how much longer?
Oh damn boy! 1,300 meters long, the Chabrouh Dam is an important water reservoir for the region. The dam is located just above Faraya and is one of the largest dams in Lebanon. You can find many hikes around the lake that can take you down all the way to the Chabrouh waterfall.
Here’s the truth: I’ve been scared of caves ever since I watched Sanctum at the movies.
But trust me. Jeita Grotto isn't scary. In fact, it's beautiful and is one of the best places to visit in Lebanon!
On your way back down to Beirut, you can choose to stop by Jeita Grotto if you still have time. It’s easily accessible by foot and you can even take a boat ride in the cave! The White Chamber in the upper cavern of the grotto contains the longest stalactite in the world! It is 8.2 meters high and is easily accessible from the entrance of the Grotto.
German explorers discovered the cave back in 1836 and found it to be 9 km long! Thankfully, they are still managing and preserving these interesting natural formations.
In need of more mountains?
If you want to stay up in the mountains instead of returning to Beirut, you can cross over towards Qartaba or even Tannourine (in the Batroun District).
Remember. These roads are mountain roads! So be careful when driving.
On this drive, you can stop by to visit the beautiful Biosphere Reserve of Jabal Moussa. The reserve is truly a mosaic of nature, culture and impressive landscapes. The scenic views of Adonis valley will wash your worries away! In particular, the unique biodiversity found at the reserve is worth exploring along the cultural and historical features that remain. Additionally, the famous Chouwen lake, adored by many for its bright blue color, is also part of the reserve.
On your way past Jabal Moussa towards Qartabah, you can take a slightly longer route to stop by Afqa's waterfall. There very place where Adonis was wounded by a wild boar and Aphrodite tried to save him in vain.
The lower level of the waterfall forms a small lake where you can enjoy a swim in the cold waters. The restaurant nearby will be more than happy to deliver you refreshing drinks and Lebanese food as you enjoy the waters. The upper level above the road features a cave that is only easily accessible for a few tens of meters in. Afterwards, it becomes too dark to safely move forward without the necessary equipment. Stay safe and don’t risk it if you’re not sure!
After Afqa, you can stop by in Laklouk. You will have plenty of things to do there. Lakes, a ski resort, wild cliffs and a triple gorge await you.
The lakes of Laklouk can be seen clearly from the top of the mountain of Aaqoura. You can reach pretty high up these mountains by car. Of course, you can reach higher by foot if you're up for it.
A major attraction in the region is the Baatara Gorge (also known as Belou3 Bal3a). This three-level gorge is impressive no matter what angle you look at it from. You can also enjoy outdoor activities like zip lining, climbing and rappelling around the gorge. The best time to visit this place in Lebanon is around spring and early summer when the melting snow creates a magnificent waterfall full of rainbows.
Keep going North beyond Laklouk, and you start reaching within the mountain ranges of Jbeil and the Northern mouhafaza (or muhafaza; i.e., governorate). The Northern muhafaza of Lebanon features some famous villages such as Tannourine in Batroun district, Bcharri and its Cedars as well as Ehden-Zgharta, where magical and serene cedar reserves with wild views await you.
Tannourine is one of the largest villages of Lebanon in surface area. It has many regions to it such as Tannourine el Tahta (Lower), Tannourine el Fawka (Upper) and Jard Tannourine (the wilderness). All in all, Tannourine is pretty wild. Houses are pretty much spread across the mountains.
Tannourine (and especially Tannourine el Tahta) is regarded by climbers as the best cliffs in Lebanon thanks to the breadth of routes, which vary in length and difficulty. This makes it an ideal climbing spot for all climbers (from 4a to 8b).
Additionally, Tannourine el Fawka features a massive Cedar Reserve atop steep cliffs. You can choose to hike in the forest on several trails of 1 to 4 hours.
Only a 7-minute drive from Tannourine el Tahta lies the picturesque village of Douma. Perched on a hill, the village offers a magnificent view of the winding Batroun mountains. There are many hiking trails you can follow to discover the village and its wilderness. Many people enjoy walking around the main square as they discover the architectural beauty of Douma’s houses. If you visit this place in Lebanon during spring, you will catch some stunning arches covered with blossoming flowers of all sorts.
I recommend you spend a few days around the mountains of Batroun. This will allow you to explore the different villages in the nearly untouched mountains. Check out these places to stay in Batroun.
Coming to Lebanon and not visiting Bsharri and its Cedars of God is considered blasphemy. Okay I’m exaggerating! But trust me, these Cedars will blow your mind!
The city of Bsharri is very traditional in its architecture. I recommend you visit at least these two places near the city in the district of Bsharri.
The first is the Qadisha valley which lies underneath the village of Bsharri. To this day, it is home to many Christian monasteries. Devout Christians around the world come to visit the holy site. Spiritual experiences were often shared amongst monks cohabitating in the valley. I recommend you check this itinerary for a 3-day hike around the entire Sacred Valley.
The second is the Cedars of God forest. This forest, although rather small compared to the one in the Chouf or Tannourine, has some of the oldest (and biggest) Cedar trees in the world. Walking around the forest, you can truly start to comprehend the beauty of these trees. Branches interlock and merge, and so do roots. It seems as if the trees act as one interconnected superorganism.
The village of Ehden is famous for its natural reserve. Yet another Cedar forest, this reserve can offer you an unprecedented view of the entire region surrounding it. Walk to the top and immerse in this massive landscape extending from Chekka all the way to the Syrian coastal cities beyond Tripoli and Akkar. The many trails in Ehden Cedar Reserve make it perfect for hikers of all levels. Some hikers even choose to go off-trail to explore higher grounds with more open views.
I recommend you avoid going during winter because it can be dangerous. Especially when the fresh snow melts during the day, only to freeze hard at night, becoming extremely slippery and hard to break.
If you still want to go during winter, make sure you have good sticky boots for hiking and carry a hiking stick to help stabilize you.
Do you also love extreme sports? Ehden can offer you adrenaline shots. Paragliding, climbing and zip lining are a few things you might be interested in experiencing there.
What’s North of North Lebanon? You guessed it. Akkar!
The muhafaza of Akkar is one of most impoverished regions of Lebanon but is one of the richest in terms of nature and cultural heritage.
It takes about 2h30min from Beirut to get there. Yet the forests will make you want to stay much longer.
Qoubaiyat is one of the largest villages in Akkar. It is spread out on the side of the valley and enjoys a unique natural environment, including the Qarm Shbat reserve, a paradise for nature lovers and hikers.
Archaeological remains from prehistoric times were found in Qoubaiyat, with a cemetery dating back to 3000 B.C. Phoenician, Roman, Byzantine and Arab civilizations left traces of their passage in the village. Today, one can admire unique places of worship in Al-Qobayat, such as the miraculous church of Saydet el Ghessaleh, as well as monumental shrines like Mar Elias, Mar Challita and the Convent of Mar Jeryes.
South of the Chouf, Mount Lebanon extends to the village of Mleeta. The village is a Hezbollah stronghold due to its strategic importance. Stand at the top of Mleeta and you will be at the edge of what is called Mount Lebanon, with an unparalleled view of the South of Lebanon.
But before driving towards Mleeta, there’s a famous village in the South Governorate you cannot skip: Jezzine.
Jezzine is one of the few villages in the South of Lebanon with a sizable Christians community. The name Jezzine comes from the Arabic word Jezzayn, which literally means "two parts". Not to be confused with 2Pac!
Jezzine is famous for its pretty architectural style, waterfalls and massive pine forest. Many hiking trails exist in and around Jezzine. Some trails even start in the pine forest in Bkassine. You can walk down towards the main waterfall of Jezzine or even hike down to cross the river and arrive at the second waterfall of Jezzine.
This village is always at the top of my list of places to visit in Lebanon, especially when going on a hike!
Hezbollah museum? Propaganda much? Well, yes. But it's nonetheless impressive!
Driving up the road, you will notice the hill of Mleeta covered with lush bushes and trees. Arrive at the top, and a massive entrance with well-decorated flowers and blossoming trees welcome you.
The propaganda is clear. Yet it is interesting to see the tunnels built under this seemingly virgin hill. Enemy tanks and weapons are used as art pieces. Each destroyed tank symbolized a victorious battle.
A 2-hour drive from Beirut is Hasbaya, a forgotten historical landmark in southern Lebanon. 120 kilometers from Beirut, Hasbaya is a breathtaking area rich in art, history, culture and heritage. The charming village of Hasbaya is an important historical site, but few of its ancient monuments have survived. It's nonetheless a very interesting place to visit in Lebanon!
Nestled in Wadi Al Taym, a long and fertile valley lies at the foot of the majestic Mount Hermon (Jabal el Cheikh). Overlooking a deep amphitheater from which a stream flows into the Hasbani river, Hasbaya offers pretty views, historical landmarks to visit as well as some of the best olive oil produced in the country.
The famous citadel of Hasbaya was rebuilt many times due to wars and destruction. Its origin remains unknown but the latest owners (Shehab family), made sure to preserve the site due to its historical importance.
The three-level complex is an interesting piece of architecture. Emblems and styles of the many civilizations appear across the building. During the 20th century, the building was struck by Israeli rockets and was damaged again.
Presumably, Mount Hermon got its name because of the snow that adorns it most of the year, just like the white hair or takiya, the Muslim skullcap.
Mount Hermon and the Golan Heights have seen borders switching between countries. Lebanon lost the Shebaa farms to Israel back in the 80s after the 4th Arab-Israeli conflict occurred between Syria and Egypt on one side and Israel on the other.
Not everyone can travel freely to this southern region. As mentioned earlier, the places around the South of Lebanon can be harder to visit, especially for foreigners. In fact, army checkpoints there require government authorizations for non-Lebanese citizens. So, make sure you plan your trip ahead and get your paperwork done before arriving to the checkpoint! Trust me, an army checkpoint is not the most comfortable place to spend time at. That's not to say that army personnel can't be friendly though.
Known as Arouss El-Bekaa (Bride of the Bekaa), Zahle is an active tourist, cultural and commercial center. Zahle is the capital of the Bekaa government and the third largest city in Lebanon after Beirut and Tripoli. Another nickname of Zahle is "City of Wine and Poetry". You will notice the many vineyards spread across Zahle, especially in the Maalaqua neighborhood.
Want to have lunch right next to the river? Zahle is here for you!
Although the terrain is flat in the Bekaa, the entire plain is at an average altitude of 1,000 meters! During winter, it snows in the Bekaa! While in summer, temperatures can sometimes reach 40 degrees. But don't worry, only for a couple of days!
Anjar was a city of the Islamic Umayyad dynasty located in Lebanon, founded in the early 8th century by Caliph Walid I. Formerly known as Gerra, its people seem to have left without a trace, leaving behind a number of well-preserved ruins. The city of Anjar is nearly 1,300 years old. You can find evidence of Greek, Roman and Byzantine architecture as well as vaulted Umayyad ruins at the site.
The walls of Anjar include all the features of urban planning and monuments characteristic of Umayyad cities. Despite extensive restoration and reconstruction work, the various monuments that make up the city of Anjar clearly demonstrate their function and relationship. In fact, the master plan for the city is easily recognizable. On top of that, the palace also features an impressive series of levels, each featuring beautiful arches and columns. Today, many Armenians live in Anjar, offering guided tours of the ruins.
For food, a famous Lebanese restaurant loved by kids and adults is Shamseen. They have those delicious potato balloons! Definitely recommended!
What do we really know about our History as a human species? The Heliopolis of Baalbek may just be the place you need to visit in Lebanon to learn more about that!
The Great Mystery of the Temple Complex of Baalbek, indeed one of the greatest mysteries of the ancient world, has to do with the huge foundation stones beneath the Temple of Jupiter. Long before the Romans conquered the Baalbek temple complex and built a huge temple to Jupiter, long before the Phoenicians built a temple for the god Baal, Baalbek had the largest stone structure in the world. The large stones of the temple complex of Baalbek are stylistically similar to the one-eyed walls of other verifiable pre-Roman sites, such as the foundations of the Acropolis, Mycenae, Tirins, Delphi, and even New World megalithic structures like Ollantaytambo in Peru and Tiahuanaco in Bolivia!
The main buildings of the Baalbek temple complex are the large courtyard; the Temple of Baal/Jupiter, which sits on a huge pre-Roman block known as Trilithon; the so-called Temple of Bacchus; Circular shrines related to the goddess Venus. The Trilithon contains stone blocks weighing up to 800 tons! That’s 800 cars! And that’s not the only mystery!
Drive about a kilometer South from the Heliopolis ruins and you will find an impressive unfinished megalithic block. And it's not any kind of block! In fact, this stone weighs more than 1,200 tons! That makes it the largest megalithic stone in the entire world! You can find it on Google Maps as Stone of the Pregnant Woman.
Who started chiseling this rock? Why did they stop midway through the process? How did they expect to move this block around?! Let me know in the comments!