Lebanon Travel Guide
Lebanon’s diverse hotchpotch of Mediterranean-lapped coast, rocky alpine peaks and lush green valleys is crammed into a plot of land that featured in the scripts of Homer and the Old Testament. Beirut’s cosmopolitan flair and vibrant nightlife gives way to ancient cities, ski resorts and striking landscapes.
Why You Should Go
What’s Cool: Tripoli’s old medieval center, Tyre’s archaeological sites, the oldest town in the world, traditional souks, fiery arak liqueur, kaleidoscope starters, Jeita Grotto, great water sports, fine skiing, Roman City of the Sun, gooey pastries.
What’s Not: Unstable politics, random terror acts, taxi traps, military checkpoints, pricey Pigeon Rocks, ‘yes’ means ‘no’, insane drivers.
When to Go
Lebanon enjoys a mild Mediterranean climate and four distinct seasons.
Summer (June to September) sees clear skies and little rain, with temperatures along the coast ranging from 68°F to 90°F.
Fall (October to November) is pleasantly warm on the coast and in the south, while it brings crisp, cool weather to the mountains.
Winter (December to mid-March) sees considerable snowfall in the mountains, while the coast is wet and cool.
Spring (April to May) is great for hiking on Lebanon’s mountain trails, with temperatures ranging from 32°F to 60°F in the mountains to 58°F to 72°F along the coast.
Getting There & Away
Beirut is where most travelers arrive by air, but there are no internal flights. It only takes about 3 hours to cross the country by car. Intercity buses are cheap and efficient, while shared taxis run on set routes. Public bus services are provided in Beirut, although service taxis are still the most widely used option.
Health & Safety
The political situation remains volatile and rallies and demonstrations are frequent and sometimes turn violent. It’s a good idea to seek up-to-date information before traveling. Stick to bottled water. Typhoid occurs in rural areas. Lebanese hospitals and doctors are world-class, but make sure you have adequate insurance.
Food & Hospitality
Traditional Lebanese meals include mezzes (Lebanese hors d’oeuvres), pita bread, roast meat, platters of fresh fruit and a tray of sweets for dessert. Quick snacks are easily available and include the popular shawarma or falafel sandwiches, yogurts and salads. You can find five-star service and full spa facilities or share a traditional Lebanese meal with a local family in a peaceful mountain village. However, outside of Beirut, hotels are few and far between.
One week is the least you can get away with to enjoy some of the highlights.
- Two or three days to see the capital and enjoy the nightlife.
- Two or three days in Tripoli, Lebanon’s most Arabian city; it boasts provincial charm and a picturesque medieval center.
- A day or two in Aanjar, Lebanon’s best-preserved Islamic archaeological site, with impressive remains such as the Great Palace.
- A day or two in Byblos, with excavations unearthing objects dating back to Neolithic times. The old harbor offers pretty fishing boats.
- Two or three days in Tyre, with archaeological sites on land and underwater. Not just for history buffs, but great for swimming, diving and snorkeling too.
- A couple of days in Besharre, gateway to the mountainous region and famous for its countless cedar trees.
Baalbeck: in the Beqaa Valley is a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site. It features three well-preserved temples.
Byblos: has been inhabited since the 6th century BC. Surrounded by medieval walls, it boasts a fishing harbor from the Neolithic period.
Palace of Beiteddine: is comprised of two large courtyards. Highlights include a magnificent fountain, mosaics from the Byzantine period and extraordinary views of the region.
The Cedars: in north Lebanon. Here the ancient national tree can be found in abundance and a lovely small white chapel reinforces the peacefulness of the site.
Zahle: was founded in the 18th century. This village with red tiled roofs was put up on the shores of the Al Bardawni River.
Cultural sightseeing: is a must, with all the ancient temples and landmarks, stunning scenery and fascinating Phoenician history.
Partying: is a favorite pastime among locals and visitors alike, with cheap arak, numerous bars and plenty of friendly company.
Scuba diving and snorkeling: in the waters near the ancient city of Tyre, with some interesting underwater archaeological ruins.
Skiing: is possible in Lebanon and quite popular in mountain resorts including Bakish, The Cedars, Faqra, Faraya, Laklouk and Zarour, offering excellent accommodation and facilities.
Caving: to explore the Jeita Grotto, considered one of the most beautiful caves in the world.
Festivals & Events
Summer is the festival season, with major events held at main archaeological and historical sites.
July: Baalbeck International Festival is an artistic event, set among the historical Roman ruins in the Beqaa Valley, featuring international acts.
June/July: Byblos International Festival is a cultural and entertainment event held in the historic city of Jbeil (Byblos).
July/August: Beiteddine Festival, held in the small town in the Chouf region, features talented and renowned international performers.
February/March: Al Bustan Festival focuses on music from Spain, with performances throughout Lebanon, but primarily in the Emile Bustani Auditorium at Hotel Al Bustan.