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Visit the Best Things to do In Lebanon

Visit the Best Things to do In Lebanon

Lebanon is in the Middle East, with Israel bordering to the south, Syria to the east and north, and the Mediterranean Sea to the west. While you may hear more about Lebanon in the news due to its current economic crisis or hostilities, this small country offers its visitors great variety of landscapes, gastronomy and activities. In this travel guide we are going to share the best things to see in Lebanon in 7 days.

Lebanon is a country with a lot of history and culture, given that it has been conquered by several empires such as the Byzantine and Ottoman empires, among others. For this reason, Lebanon is a popular destinations for lovers of ancient civilizations and people who love to learn more about history in general.

Although Lebanon is not often high on top tourist destinations, it is a country that has a little bit of everything, with sea, mountains, extreme sports, modern and historic cities. There are so many things to do in Lebanon and I hope that this guide will help you to plan your next trip to Lebanon.

What is the best way to explore Lebanon?

The best way to see the whole of Lebanon is with a tour that includes transportation and local knowledge. We took a customized tour with the amazing Tourleb around a majority of the country and even got to see the home that my great-grandfather lived in and still is home to my relatives. Another recommendation is using Beirut as a home base city and taking daily tours, renting a car or taking a bus to different destinations and returning to capital to sleep.

To give you an idea of the size of the Lebanon from north to south, it takes about 6 to 8 hours driving depending on traffic. From Beirut to the southern border with Israel, is approximately 125mi, and from Beirut to Tripoli in the north is about 60mi.

What is the best way to get around Lebanon?

As I mentioned before, the most comfortable and fastest way to get around Lebanon is by taking a tour, but if that is not within your budget, I recommend the following options:

  • Bus (small buses or combis): The main bus stations in Beruit are located in Charles Helou, Cola and Dora. Prices and schedules vary depending on the destination. Some destinations require several bus connections.
  • Private car: You can rent a car and explore at your own pace.
  • Taxi or Uber: The distances are relatively short and the currency exchange makes this form of transportation between cities more affordable. If you are traveling with a group up to 4 people this can be more economical than expected with costs divided.

If you want to move within the city of Beirut or any other larger city, you can take regular taxis or Uber. If you take a taxi in Lebanon you have to negotiate the price before getting in, as they do not use a meter.

10 Typical Lebanese Foods You Need to Try

My grandfather was Lebanese, so the cuisine has always been part of my family and I have eaten Lebanese food since I was little. I am going to share a list of the most delicious Lebanese dishes that you must try in Lebanon along with restaurant recommendations in each city.

Traditional Lebanese food is a fusion between Arab, Turkish and Mediterranean food, making its cuisine honestly one of the most delicious in the world. Most dishes contain some combination of these main ingredients: fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, sesame, olive oil, yogurts, cheeses and meats.

The most traditional way to enjoy a mean Lebanon is mezze, also known as the Lebanese mezze, which is a set of various appetizers that are shared at the table. The most popular appetizers in the mezze are hummus, cheeses, salads, breads and olives.

Here is the list of the Must-Try Dishes in Lebanon:

  • Hummus: It is a dip made of chickpeas, lemon juice, sesame seeds and olive oil. Depending on the restaurants they add additional different flavors. The traditional flavor is my favorite and depending on who makes it you will still find a range of flavor and texture.
  • Labneh: It is a yogurt cheese, made with sheep, goat or cow milk and olive oil. There are also different flavors, my favorite is with garlic.
  • Tabbule: It is a salad made from parsley leaves, olive oil, wheat and mint leaves.
  • Baba Ghanoush: It is a dip made from eggplant, one of the most popular vegetables in Lebanese food.
  • Batjenjan Makli: Fried eggplants served with honey, lettuce, tomato, parsley, yogurt sauce or lemon vinaigrette.
  • Manakish with Zatar: This dish is most commonly eaten in the breakfast. It is a round bread similar to pizza dough, to which they add olive oil, sesame seeds, thyme and sumac and zatar, or you can also put cheese on it.
  • Kibbeh: My favorite dish since I was a baby, although I don’t eat it anymore because I’m a vegetarian. Kibbeh is the main dish of Lebanon and a must try for every visitor. They are balls made of wheat and meat. There are three ways to eat it; raw, fried or baked. All three options are delicious. If you are vegetarian, you can request that instead of meat you have pumpkin, tomato and potatoes, but it is a totally different flavor. It is usually served with yogurt sauce, garlic sauce, or hummus.
  • Shawarma: Shawarma is like a burrito made of beef, lamb, chicken, or mixture. Inside you can add a rage of items with the meat including potatoes, garlic sauce, onion and tomato. The meats are cooked slowly with the juice and fat of the same protein dripping down it.
  • Falafel: It is similar to Kibbeh but it is a vegetarian dish made of chickpeas or broad beans, with parsley, coriander, onion and cumin. It’s super delicious.
  • Desserts: Maamoul, Baklava, Kuneffe (my favorite).

Practical tips for visiting Lebanon:

  • Visas: Many countries have the option of a free 30-day visa on arrival at Beirut airport, with the option to extend it for up to 2 more months. It is important to contact to your local Lebanese embassy to get the requirements for your nationality to enter Lebanon.
  • How to get there: The most common way to get to Lebanon is by airplane. If you want to go by car it will have to be through the Syrian border as the border with Israel is closed. If you want to enter by sea, you must take a ferry that comes from Cyprus.
  • Language: The official language in Lebanon is Arabic, but many of the inhabitants speak French and English, especially in Beirut.
  • Money: The official currency is the Lebanese pound (LBP) but you can pay in USD. Although the official exchange rate is 1USD = 1,500LBP, I recommend you first find out the exchange rate on the secondary market. For example, when I visited Lebanon in May 2022, 1 USD was equal to 38,000 LBP when exchanging on the street. Because of this avoid paying by credit card or taking money out at an ATM, as you will receive the official exchange rate. It is best to bring enough cash with you for your trip.
  • Internet: I recommend buying a SIM Card, which you can get at any store; Alpha and Touch have the best coverage across the country.

Is it safe to visit Lebanon?

Yes, unfortunately most of what you see about the beautiful country of Lebanon in the media is negative. It is true that there was a civil war that caused a lot of damage and destruction as well as guerrilla groups and terrorist organizations that are still present in one way or another, but it is relatively safe in most of the country. At least, personally, I felt like in any European country when it comes to security.

In fact, Lebanon is one of the safest countries in the Middle East, although it has areas that are not advisable to visit, such as its border regions where there is more political instability. The cities in Lebanon are full of shops, restaurants, bars and terraces as in any other destination. In tourist areas you will notice the military presence which provide safer experience for your visitors.

Places not to visit in Lebanon:

As mentioned before, there are unfortunately areas of Lebanon that even locals do not recommend visiting due to increase instability in these cities.

  • South Lebanon: UNIFIL’s area of ​​operations. Except for the city of Tire and its beaches.
  • Northeast Lebanon: Arsal, Wadi Khaled. Hermel, Dannieh or other cities bordering Syria.
  • Neighborhoods in Beirut: Dahiyeh Shia, Ouzai, Haret Hreik, Bir Hassan and Moawad Street.

Many believe that the tension between Christians and Muslims is still felt, due to the long and destructive civil war they had years ago, but currently there is no fighting between the two religions. In fact, almost half of the Lebanese population is Christian. In Lebanon there are not overtly religious based laws to follow like dress codes.

However if you are Jewish or Israeli, Lebanon is not a safe place for you at all, if you are even allowed in the country. Israeli passports or other passports with an Israeli visa or stamp are bared from entry to Lebanon. In fact, it is recommend you not outwardly mention or show your Jewish religion and worse if you mention you have visited the state of Israel.

How many days should I spend in Lebanon?

We recommend you give yourself 7 to 10 days to explore Lebanon’s most famous cities and attractions at a relaxed pace. If you have the time and interest you can spend a month in Lebanon and still find new things to do. Since the country is relatively small it is easier to visit several regions or cities in the same day.

It also depends a on what time of year you visit, because if you go in the winter you get much less daylight than in the summer or spring.

Will I experience with power outages in Lebanon?

As of 2022 the continued deep financial crisis in Lebanon has lead to frequent blackouts across the country. The timing of power outages occur depends on the area and can last from 3 to 10+ hours a day.

Ultimate 7-day Lebanon Itinerary with all the highlights

Save this map with the best things to visit in Lebanon

The best things to see in Lebanon in 7 days complete itinerary:

Day 1: Start the day in Beirut and spend the afternoon in Jeita Grotto

Beirut: Lebanon only has one international airport, Beirut Rafic Hariri International Airport, so your starting point to explore this beautiful country will most likely be Beirut. Being the capital, Beirut has the greatest variety in hotels and accommodations, beyond the fact that the city is centrally located for day trips.

Beirut, the Paris of the Middle East, is a city that combines history with modernity from its architecture to its atmosphere. In Beirut there are several areas where you can enjoy the best food, experiences and parties. One of the must-sees in Beirut is the boardwalk or promenade, Corniche, where you can see the famous Rauche Rocks. In the evening, enjoy some drinks at the falamenki garden. Other places you should visit in Beirut are the Sursock Museum, the Sursock Palace, Gemayzeh, the Art House, the Martyrs’ Square, the Egg Building, the Saifi neighborhood, the Old Town, Saint George’s Cathedral, the Mohamed Al Amin Mosque, and Nejmeh Square.

Virgin Our Lady of Lebanon: In Harissa there is a giant statue of the virgin of Our Lady of Lebanon, Notre Dame du Liban. Close to Harissa is the seaside town of Jounieh, which has several restaurants, bars and resorts. Both cities are linked by a cable car. The cable car ride has wonderful views of the Lebanese coast. To go up to the virgin of Harissa you have to take a funicular.

Jeita Grotto: A must-see in Lebanon is the Jeita Grotto. These two caverns have a depth of 9km. You can visit both the upper and lower grotto, the latter needs to be visited by small boat as it goes through an underground river that supplies the city of Beirut with its drinking water. The caves have a considerable amount of stalactites and stalagmites, as well as a Guinness record: The largest stalactite in the world 8.20 meters.

While photography is not allowed in the grotto, we were lucky to receive special permission to take photos and videos. Please resect the rules of this natural attraction.

The Jeita grotto is located just 20 km from Beirut.

Day 2: Start the day in Byblos and the afternoon in Balou Balaa

Byblos: This beautiful coastal city is well known for being the birthplace of the alphabet, invented by the Phoenicians, and for being the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world. The oldest part of the city, where the palace and ruins remain, are part of the UNESCO World Heritage list. Some of the things to do in Byblos are to explore its souk, walk around the port, take a boat trip along the coast, visit its ruins and castle, and swim at the beach.

Fun fact: The first copy of the Christian holy book was printed on papyrus in Byblos, which is why it is known as Byblos, the Bible.

On the way to Baatara, enjoy a short stop overlooking the artificial lakes in Aakoura & Laklouk.

Baatara: Baatara is one of the natural wonders you have to see in Lebanon. These waterfalls are located inside a cave that pass through 3 different natural bridges. This cave is named after the 3 bridges. The only thing is that the waterfall is seasonal, with the highest chance of water in the spring when the snow melts and form the waterfall inside this cave. The best months to see the water in the waterfalls is March and April. Baatara is located 74 km from Beruit, about two hours with traffic.

Where to sleep: Chabtine – Dar Nour

Day 3: Start the day in Douma and visit the oldest olive trees in Bchaaleh

Douma: Enjoy strolling through the picturesque streets of this historic city.

Bchaaleh: Home to 12 still fruiting olive trees, which date back thousands of years and are thought to be the oldest olive trees in the world.

Tannourine cedar forest natural reserve: The cedar is the national symbol of Lebanon. It represents the strength of the Lebanese people in its flag. Historically, there were cedar forests across the entire country but unfortunately they have been disappearing due to massive and uncontrolled logging.

The Sacred Valley: Visit the Old Monastery of Mar Lichaa. The Qadisha Valley or Valley of the Christians of Lebanon, was one of the first monastic settlements in the world. Ancient monasteries can be found built into rocks.

Day 4: Paragliding and Baalbek

Bsharre Village: The cedar tree is the national symbol of Lebanon, and you can’t miss one of the reserves where you can find a tremendous jewel. This tree symbolizes strength and longevity, among other beautiful things. The species of Cedar found in Lebanon is unique, it can only be found there.

The cedars can be seen in The Cedars of God, in the town of Bcharre, a small town is located just 3 hours from Beirut. In the morning I went paragliding with Cedars Paragliding over the The Cedars of God, in the Kadisha Valley of Bsharre. A truly unique experience.

Baalbek and the Beeka Valley: One of the most important and famous tourist places in Lebanon is the archaeological ruins of Baalbek. These are located just 30 km from Beirut and are considered the largest archaeological site in the Middle East, having been declared a World Heritage Site in 1984.

Baalbek is one of the most valuable jewels that Lebanon offers and we would consider it a destination you have to see at least once in your life. In ancient times it was Heliopolis, a Roman colony. Here are the remains of temples in honor of Jupiter, Mercury and Venus. The ruins are about 50 miles from Beirut and it takes about 2 hours to get there.

Visit the shrine of Sayyida Khawla mosque and the Roman quarries.

Day 5: Sidon and Tyre

Sidon: Sidon or Saida, in Arabic, is known as the city of fishermen. It is by far the most interesting city to see in Lebanon. In Lebanon you will find several cities that are predominantly Muslim or Christian or that have a more even mix of both religions. In the case of Sidon, it is one of the most conservative Muslim cities in the country. This beautiful coastal city was part of the ancient Silk Road.

Sidon is considered one of the most important cities in Lebanon and the third largest. Saida represents the essence of Lebanon and as soon as you enter the city you will understand why. It has a lot of traffic, the smell of the sea, the call to prayer from the mosques 5 times a day, bustling commerce and many historical sites.

In Sidon you have to visit the castle of Sidon, roam through the souk and visit its various museums, including the soap museum. Visit the Knefe at Moustapha al Jardali, the Old Port, the Loukoumi Palace, the Haret of Jerusalem, the Debbaneh Palace and the Al Jadid Hammam.

Tyre: The best beaches in Lebanon are located in Tire or Tyre. Here you will find both private hotel beaches and public beaches. The public beaches I visited were a bit dirty, I found a lot of garbage across the sand. One of the things you must visit in Tire is the Tyre Necropolis, which is located in front of the sea.

Day 6: Joumblat Palace, Beit Ed Dine and Deir El Qamar

Joumblatt Palace: Since the 17th century, it is the grand home of the Joumblatt family, whose imposing palace dominates the town. It houses a remarkable collection of oriental crafts, the Kamal Joumblatt Museum, works of art and mosaics.

Beit et Dine is a small city in Lebanon located 30mi southeast of Beirut. This city is famous for its magnificent Beiteddine Palace, which was declared a national monument in 1934.

Deir El Qamar: It is a small town in the mountains located in the heart of Mount Lebanon. The name Deir el Quamar means “Monastery of the Moon”.

Day 7: Tripolí

Tripoli is the second largest city in Lebanon and is located in the northeast of the country. Tripoli is a chaotic but fun city with a large number of tourist attractions, including its vibrant souks, Khan al Khayattin and Khan Al Misriyyin. The truth is that it is the best place to buy souvenirs and desserts. Currently, the majority of the inhabitants are very conservative Muslims.

What vaccinations do I need to visit Lebanon?

There are no mandatory or suggested vaccinations to travel to Lebanon. A yellow fever vaccination certificate is only required for those coming from a country with risk of transmission.

How big is Lebanon?

It is possible to reach almost any part of Lebanon in just a 3 hour drive. With the exception of the northeast area, which can be difficult to reach by public transport. Due to its small size there is the ability to visit the entire country with day trips from Beirut.

When is the best time of year to visit Lebanon?

Lebanon shares the temperate climate typical of the Mediterranean. From January to March the weather is cooler but starting in April temperatures are mild, with the hottest months being from June to September.

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