Official language: Arabic
Currency: Lebanese Lira
Welcome to the country of Lebanon!
Running along the county’s West coast is the warm Mediterranean Ocean waters that deliver beautiful sandy beaches. On the mainland endless possibilities await with the awe inspiring mountain valleys, historical sites and intriguing archeological landmarks. The capital city of Beirut offers visitors the best seaside cosmopolitan village experience in the region and has stunning architecture and historical ruins that tell the tales of a history troubled by malicious attacks and civil war in a city that is slowly being uplifted to its great former glory. Beirut together with the historical town of Byblos and Sidon are among the world’s oldest continuously populated cities and offer valuable insight into the history of Lebanon. Home to 5 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the country of Lebanon showcases a rich and extremely diverse cultural heritage with influences from Phoenicians, Romans, Christian Crusaders, Ummayyad, Mamlouks, and Ottoman and French settlers. One of the world’s finest examples of Greco-Roman civilization lies just south of Beirut and not far from it you can experience the natural beauty of the fertile Bekaa Valley where the great cedar forests guard the Christian monasteries of the Holy Valley. There’s also the magical city of Tripoli that promises to entice travelers from far and wide. Lebanon, though relatively small in size (about the size of the nearby island of Cyprus) offers a magnitude of adventures and fascinating history waiting to be discovered. Lebanon might well be the proverbial phoenix that keeps rising up after times of turmoil and rebuilding itself time an again. The Lebanese people, regardless of the despair that the country might be in at times, always keep up the happy faces that they are famous for and offer incomparable hospitality. The country of Lebanon is also the one and only area in the region which has no desert sands and the country has some of the most remarkable landmarks and historical architectural ruins that literally whisper tales of times past. Lebanon, small though it may be, is truly unique in every sense of the word and proves that rising again and again is possible regardless of the situation.
Must see places in Lebanon
Get a taste of true Arabian life in the culture rich city of Tripoli. Boasting an inspiring city center at the foot of the Crusader Castle, Tripoli has an amazing collection of souks that are among the most lively within the country. Mosques in the city include Al-Muallaq, Burtasivat, Madrassa and the Great Mosque among others. Truly worth a visit when you are in the country.
The Temple of Jupiter roars out over the ruins as the largest Roman temple ever built, and the other scattered ruins that make up this spectacular architectural feats is said to be the most intact examples of Phoenician and Greco-Roman buildings worldwide. This scenic area that lies on the south slopes of the Anti-Lebanon Range is a site bot to be missed.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the city of Tyre is a prime destination when traveling to Lebanon. Laced with over 5000 years of history and with influences from Egyptians, Ottomans, Phoenicians, Greeks, Byzantines, Arabs and Roman this area offers travelers an array of exploration possibilities. Among the ruins you can also expect to see one of the largest Roman hippodromes ever built.
In this pedestrianized area of the city you can find the spiritual heart of the city Place de L’Etoile boasting a massive tower clock as a landmark. The landscape is filled with street cafes and arcades winding down to the parliament building of Lebanon which has stunning architectural features that complement the building sites of the mosques and churches that play a critical role in the religious heritage of the city.
Arguably one of the country’s top lookout point, the landmark that boasts beautiful arched rock formations that spring out from the warm Mediterranean waters to the Raouche district. A small pathway takes you down to the ocean waters and affords magnificent views.
A quant little tourist train picks up visitors at the entrance of the Jeita Grotto that lie 20km from Beirut and takes you down to the underground cave that has a magical hidden lake that can be explored during a short boat ride. Visitors can also take a cableway car up to the higher caves that display a dazzling array of stalagmites and stalactites that entices travelers from far and wide.
40km north of Beirut you can stumble upon some inspiring archeological findings that lay in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Byblos. With its rich cultural background of being a critical trade between east and west in the Phoenician rule age, this charming city is also known as the perfect seaside retreat with the crowded harbor and honey colored fortifications that up make the backdrop of the area.
Things to do in Lebanon
Explore Al Shouf Cedar Nature Reserve
Whether you choose to hike or cycle along the many trails within the biggest nature reserve within Lebanon, you are bound to be captivated by the raw natural beauty of the massive cedar forests and the fauna and flora that thrive in this beautiful landscape.
Get your beach on
Get a bird’s eye view
Just outside of Beirut hop on one of the cableway cars of Teleferique that takes you up 650 meters above sea level to allow you the best possible scenic view over the surrounding area.
Ski down the breathtaking mountains
Sample so great wines in the Bekaa Valley
Wine was first introduced to Lebanon by the ancient Ottomans some 5000 years ago and today is an industry that prides itself with authentic taste and origin. Visit the vineyards in the Bekaa Valley and stop by the 18th century castle that is home to the Chateau Musar winery where tastings are sure to open up a whole new world to even the most unseasoned wine drinker.
Tour Palm Islands
Just offshore from Tripoli you can explore the natural and uninhabited group of three islands that form the Palm Islands. The fauna and flora on display are fascinating and the islands are also home to the protected loggerhead turtles.
Shop up a storm at the authentic souks
Lebanon has many colorful and lively souks that sell anything and everything from textiles and perfumes to spices and delicious traditional foods. In Beirut, lookout for the weekly Souk El Tavab, a local farmers market that sells the most tantalizing fresh produce and great homemade olive oils.
Best time to visit Lebanon
Tourists visit Lebanon between June and August
Lebanon has a temperate Mediterranean climate with hot, humid summers and cold, wet winters. In the months between June and August you will probably enjoy the best weather for travel as there isn’t any rain and the daytime temperatures range between 20°C and 30°C. The coastline however tends to get extremely hot and uncomfortably humid during the peak summer months and the interior of the country and particularly the mountain ranges offer a cool and refreshing retreat from the blistering heat. Winter times in Lebanon are also popular travel times as thrill seekers take on the various ski resorts and the obstacles they present.
Did you know?
- Sayyadiyeh – This delicate fish dish served on rice is spiced with saffron and is accompanied by a onion, sumac and tahini sauce that’s actually the star of the dish.
- Shish Taouk – Essentially white meat (chicken) kebabs that are basted with olive oil, lemon, parsley and sumac. Its authentic Lebanese street food and can be enjoyed as a snack while on the go.
- Shanklish – These little morsels of aged cheese balls hot the flavor target straight on and has to be on the “to taste” list when visiting the country.
- Qatavef – Sweet little dumplings that are stuffed with either cream or nuts. Perfect for an anytime treat!
- Muttabel – Rather a dipping sauce or paste than a dish, this mix of slow cooked egg plant and tahini makes for a great spread on flatbread or as a side dipping sauce to any main meal.
- Mannaeesh – These mini pizzas resemble the calzone (folded pizza) and are generally topped with chees, Za’atar, spicy tomato and kashk. Authentic, tasty, and a must try for all travelers!
- Labneh – This authentic Lebanese strained yoghurt tastes amazing when spread on flat bread and topped with local olive oil and ground sea salt.
- Fattoush – This “peasant” salad consists of toasted pita bread, cucumber, tomato, chickweed, and mint and makes for a great side dish.
Al Bustan International Festival of Music and the Arts
For five whole weeks orchestra music, opera performances and ballet shows are among the many spectators delights that can be enjoyed by the public in the city of Beirut (February)
Byblos Music Festival
Every year the rather quiet town of Byblos comes alive with one of the biggest music festivals in the region. With local and international artists performing an array of shows there really is coverage on every genre. The likes of Moby and Jamie Cullum were recent entertainers at the festival that is held in different venues all over town (July)
Baalbeck International Festival
The picturesque ruined city of Baalbeck hosts another superstar show during the month of July. Boasting top local and international talent, the night time shows that are highlighted by the glittering lights that light up the rolling hills of the valley are a spectators delight!
Beitedinne Arts Festival
One of the country’s most anticipated events, spanning three months long and showcasing the best music, drama and arts around with the magnificent Beitedinne castle as the backdrop.
Pack light layering clothing for your trip, as the daytime temperatures can get quite hot while the evenings tend to be nippy.
- Always dress conservatively, covered the areas from the shoulders down to the knees.
- The tap water is not safe to drink so for health reasons, stick to mineral bottled water.
- Never, ever discuss politics and even more importantly the issue with Israel and Syria, it’s bound to get you in a sticky situation.
- Find and use a reputable tour operator for the duration of your stay.