Hotels in Lebanon
NEW STEPS Travel & Tourism, Beirut, Lebanon
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Welcome to Lebanon
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Welcome to Lebanon
Welcome to Lebanon! Discover the land
where antiquity blends easily with the bustle of modern life; a place where the
ancient Phoenicians, Romans, Ottomans, Arabs, and French have all left their
mark. Walk through our streets and colorful markets, and take in the scents of
the sea, our lush cedars, and the spices of our delicious cuisine. Lebanon is
the pearl of the Middle East, where old meets new and cultures mix as East meets
Whether you are seeking luxury and comfort, tranquility or hustle and bustle, nature or nightlife, culture or fun, Lebanon will delight your senses and offer you an unforgettable escape of a lifetime. Our people are warm and open and will welcome you into our lives as a member of our family. Lebanon can offer a safe and peaceful getaway just hours from the capitals of the world’s most influential business centers.
Lebanon is a country reborn. Our new infrastructure and investment of hotels in Lebanon, restaurants, shopping complexes, roads, and telecommunications services have a backdrop of pristine coastline and lush mountains. Our year-round comfortable climate and diversity of cultural activities offer visitors more than just a summer getaway. From world-class cultural heritage sites, to modern spas, to ecotourism, there is something for everyone in Lebanon. Welcome.
Lebanon’s capital city is a vibrant, stylish metropolis, with all of the fun, fashion, and flair that a city lover could look for. All over the city, sleek, modern buildings are springing up, alongside arabesque Ottoman and French-style buildings, giving Beirut a unique style that is all its own. Perched on the shore of the blue Mediterranean Sea, Beirut has a balmy, mild climate that is perfect for year round visits. From sipping coffee at an open air café, to shopping for cutting edge fashions at a boutique shop, to exploring the treasures of the country’s National Museum, to dancing the night away at a trendy club, Beirut has something to offer for everyone.
Facts About Lebanon
POPULATION: Approximately 3.8 million
LANGUAGES: Arabic (official), French, English, Armenian
AREA: 10,452 square kilometers
CLIMATE: Mediterranean climate, with cool, wet winters and hot, dry summers.
ELEVATIONS: Highest point – Qornet Es-Saouda (3,090m). Lowest point – Mediterranean Sea (0m).
CURRECY AND BANKING: Movement of currency into and out of the country and all exchange transactions are completely free of any kind of control. Gold and silver coins may be freely exchanged, imported, and exported. The official monetary unit is the Lebanese pound issued in LL50, LL100, LL250, LL500, LL1,000, LL5,000, LL10,000, LL20,000, LL50,000, and LL100,000 denominations.
Banking is a major industry in Lebanon with strict banking secrecy one of its important features. More than 80 banks operate in the country, and transactions are performed efficiently and at low cost.
Climate & Weather
Lebanon is blessed with a mild Mediterranean climate and four distinct seasons. Summer (June to September) is made for sun worshippers and water enthusiasts, with temperatures along the coast ranging from 20-32°C (68-90°F). Clear skies and little rain are perfect for outdoor cafés and seaside fun. Alternatively, head to the mountains for nice walks and cooler weather, typically 6-22°C (45-70°F). Summer is the season for sampling mouth-watering cherries and vineyard grapes in the Békaa Valley.Fall (October-November) brings crisp, cool weather to the mountains, 5-20°C (40-68°F), while remaining pleasantly warm on the coast and in the South, 15-28°C (60-85°F). Fall is a good time for apple picking in the North and viewing the harvesting of olives and machinations of olive presses all over the country.
Winter (December to mid-March) is the time for outdoor sports, with six ski resorts catering to skiers and snowboarders of all skill levels, and kilometers of cross-country skiing and snowshoe trails to be explored. Because winter is the rainy season, the mountains get considerable snowfall. Temperatures fall to below 0°C at night and range from -5°C-5°C (25-40°F) during the day. The coast is wet and cool, with temperatures ranging from 10-20°C (50-67°F).
Fall and winter can be the ideal time to visit Lebanon's historical attractions and ruins while avoiding crowds and hot weather. On a fresh, crisp day you might find yourself as the sole visitor amidst the majestic ruins of Sour (Tyre) or Baalbek, feeling almost transported to the ancient days of the Phoenicians or Romans.
Lebanon warms again in the Spring(April-May). As a result of the winter rain and the melting snow, the scenery comes alive with wildflowers, making spring the prime opportunity for hiking Lebanon's mountain trails and discovering its unique flora and fauna. Temperatures range from 0-15°C (32-60°F) in the mountains to 15-25°C (58-72°F) along the coast
Most notable for its graceful stone arches and wide arcades, the ruins of Aanjar offer visitors a unique opportunity to step foot upon an ancient Islamic trading hub connecting Damascus to the Mediterranean Sea. Situated at the southern end of the Békaa Valley, Aanjar is among the world's few known ruins of the 8th century Umayyad dynasty and is one of the region's only examples of an inland commercial center.
At only 1,300 years old, Aanjar is one of Lebanon's newer archaeological sites. The ruins were discovered by accident relatively recently (in 1949).
The Umayyad Dynasty, which flourished for 100 years (660-750 A.D.) in the first century after Muhammed, was the first of two dynasties of the Arab Islamic empire. The Umayyad caliphs were notable for establishing a large empire, which extended from Spain, through North Africa, to Central Asia. They established Arabic as the official language of the empire, and they are remembered in the pages of history for their excellent city administration and planning and their patronage of early Islamic art and architecture.
Thought to be the summer home of Caliph Walid I, Aanjar survived only a few decades before the Umayyads were defeated by their rivals, the Abbasids (who founded the second Arab Islamic dynasty). Aanjar later fell into disrepair and was abandoned.
The city of Aanjar was a major trading and commercial center for the entire region. It was built at a strategic location on the main caravan routes between the inland Umayyad capital of Damascus (Syria) and the coast, close to the abundant spring of Aain Gerrha and near the rich agricultural land of the Békaa. Visitors can still see the remains of over 600 small shops, running along colonnaded boulevards – the ancient equivalent of a modern-day shopping arcade.
The city's wide avenues are also lined with mosques, palaces, baths, storehouses, and residences. The city ruins cover 114,000 square meters and are surrounded by large, fortified stone walls, over two meters thick and seven meters high. The rectangular city design is based on Roman city planning and architecture, with stonework and other features borrowed from the Byzantines. Two large avenues – the 20-meter-wide Cardo Maximus, running north to south, and the Decumanus Maximus, running east to west – divide the city into four quadrants. At the crossroads in the center of the city, four great tetrapylons mark the four corners of the intersection.
As you walk through the ruins of this stone city, marvel at the beautiful stone archways of the city's palace facades… Explore the elaborate Roman-style baths… Duck inside the small residential quarters of the city residents… Search for intricate Greco-Roman-style stone carvings or Umayyad-era graffiti on the stone walls… And imagine yourself transported to this short period in history when the Umayyad caliphs ruled the region and the city bustled with traders en route to the four corners of the globe!
Baalbek's awe-inspiring temples and city ruins are among the largest and finest examples of Roman architecture in the world. Visitors can easily spend several hours, or an entire day, exploring the wonders of this ancient city – from the grandeur of the columned temples to the intricately carved stonework, and the sheer size of the stones used to construct the temples. Like many archaeologists and historians, you will be amazed at the ancient feats of engineering required to build these magnificent stone monuments.
Located in the fertile Békaa Valley, the city of Baalbek originated in Phoenician times as a place of worship to Baal, the Phoenician Sun God. During the Hellenistic period (333-64 B.C.), the Greeks named the city Heliopolis, or “City of the Sun.” However, Baalbek entered its golden age in 47 B.C., when Julius Caesar made it a Roman colony.
Perhaps because of the area's agricultural importance in feeding the eastern inhabitants of the Roman Empire – or perhaps because of its strategic location along the major east-west and north-south trading routes – the Romans selected this site to construct the largest religious temples in their empire. Over a span of 200 years (60 B.C.-150 A.D.), a succession of Roman emperors oversaw the construction of the magnificent temples to honor the divine Roman trinity: Jupiter, Venus, and Mercury. These temples also served as a monument to the wealth and power of Imperial Rome.
Modern-day visitors to Baalbek can enter the site through the majestic Roman propylaea (ceremonial entrance) and walk through the two large colonnaded courtyards to reach the complex's great temples:
Although the temples were closed and partially destroyed when the region was Christianized, the city of Baalbek lived on as other civilizations left their mark at the site. Byzantine Emperor Theodosius tore down the altars of the Temple of Jupiter and built a basilica using the temple's stones and architectural elements. The remains of this basilica can still be seen near the stairway of the Temple of Jupiter. During the Arab conquests, the temple ruins were fortified, and the area was given the Arab name Qalaa, meaning “fortress.” Remains of a great mosque, dating from the 8th century Umayyad period, can be seen in front of the acropolis entrance.
Much of Baalbek was later destroyed by earthquakes. However, in the 19th century, a German mission began to excavate and reconstruct the Baalbek ruins. Thanks to the efforts of German, French, and Lebanese archaeologists, visitors can now have a glimpse of what the site looked like in its original grandeur. Baalbek is truly a wonder of the ancient world and should not be missed by any visitor to Lebanon.
Batroun, gateway to the North
A charming and friendly city located on the Mediterranean coast 50km north of Beirut, Batroun is famous for its Phoenician wall, old souk, and wonderful fresh lemonade. In recent years, it has become the entertainment hub of the North.
The city sits in a triangular shaped plain crossed by the river Nahr el-Jawz. It is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the west, the foothills of Mount Lebanon to the south and east, and the Ras ech-Chaqa'a plateau to the north. Just northeast of Batroun is the imposing Mussaylha Fort, constructed by Fakhr ed-Dine II high on a strategic limestone rock.
Batroun's location as a gateway to the North makes it an ideal jumping-off point for exploring all that North Lebanon has to offer. The surrounding area has a wealth of historical and cultural sites, including the Phoenician wall and newly-restored souks in Batroun itself; the 17th century Mussaylha Fort; the famous Basbous family sculpture exhibition in nearby Rachana village; and many interesting churches and ruins sites in villages such as Koubba, Kfar Aabida, and Hamat. For those who love the sun, sand, and sea, there are many well-equipped beach resorts stretching along the coast north and south of the city, as well as a variety of restaurants and nightclubs catering to all tastes. Driving inland from Batroun, you will reach the beautiful, rugged mountains around Tannourine, Douma, and Laqlouq, as well as the Tannourine Cedars Forest Nature Reserve, which offers opportunities for hiking and natural exploration
The Beiteddine palace complex, Lebanon's best example of early 19th century Lebanese architecture, was built over a thirty year period by Emir Bechir Chehab II, who ruled Mount Lebanon for more than half a century.
The road to Beiteddine leaves the coastal highway 17 kilometers beyond Beirut, just a few kilometers after the town of Damour. From there the road climbs quickly along the beautiful Damour river valley for 26 kilometers to an elevation of 850 meters at Beiteddine. The most spectacular view of the palace and its surroundings is from the village of Deir El-Qamar ("Monastery of the Moon"), five kilometers before Beiteddine.
Jbail (Byblos): Ancient Crossroads of the Mediterranean
Jbail (Byblos) is a true microcosm of the civilizations that have populated Lebanon over the centuries. Believed to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, the modern port city of Jbail (Byblos) is built upon multiple layers of ruins, dating back to as early as the Stone Age and extending to the more recent Ottoman days. A visit to Jbail (Byblos) is a chance to walk through the annals of Lebanese history and experience firsthand the diverse cultures that have made this area a mosaic of civilizations. Jbail (Byblos) is not simply a picturesque seaside town, but has a history that has been closely tied to the Mediterranean for millennia.
Historians believe that the site of Jbail (Byblos) dates back at least 7,000 years (beginning around 5,000-4,000 B.C.), when a small Neolithic fishing community settled along the shore of the Mediterranean. From that period onward, new settlers brought new ways of life and new customs, leaving a variety of artifacts and the remnants of houses and buildings that trace the city's ancient history. Today's visitors can see the remains of several Stone Age huts with crushed limestone floors, the foundations of Chalcolithic houses (4,500-3,500 B.C.), the vestiges of an Early Bronze Age residence, and the remains of ancient defensive ramparts and temples.
By around 3,000 B.C., Jbail (Byblos) was inhabited by Canaanites, or Phoenicians, and became the first Phoenician city to trade actively with the Egyptian Old Kingdom. Jbail (Byblos) developed into the most important commercial center in the eastern Mediterranean, trading cedar wood, olive oil, and wine for gold, alabaster, papyrus, and other goods from the Egyptian pharaohs. In the royal necropolis at Jbail (Byblos) can be found the nine underground tombs of the Jbail (Byblos) kings.
Perhaps the Phoenicians' most impressive contribution to the world is the development of the first alphabetic phonetic script, the precursor of the modern-day alphabet. It is believed that scholars of Jbail (Byblos) developed the Phoenician alphabet. The oldest evidence of the Phoenician alphabet discovered to date is the inscription on the sarcophagus of King Ahiram of Jbail (Byblos) (10th century B.C.), which is now on display at the National Museum in Beirut.
Following the conquest by Alexander the Great, Jbail (Byblos) fell under Greek rule and adopted the Greek language and culture. The Greeks gave the city its name of Jbail (Byblos), which means “papyrus” or “paper.” The city was an important center for trading papyrus, on which many religious texts, public documents, private letters, astronomical, and mathematical texts were written.
In the first century B.C., the Romans took Jbail (Byblos), and constructed large temples, baths, and other buildings. Artifacts of the Roman era include the remains of a Roman theater (218 A.D.), columns lining the ancient colonnaded street, and a Roman nympheum (a monumental public fountain). Roman rule in Jbail (Byblos) was followed by Byzantine rule (399-636 A.D.) and then Arab rule (636-1104 A.D.).There are few archaeological remains of these periods.
In 1104, Jbail (Byblos) was conquered by the Crusaders, who used the large Roman stones and columns to construct their own castle and a moat. This castle was later reused and renovated by the Mamlukes (13th-16th centuries A.D.) and the Ottomans (16th-20th centuries A.D.). Today, the 12th century Crusader castle towers over the Jbail (Byblos) ruins, and climbing to the top of the castle is an excellent vantage point for taking in a panoramic view of the ruins and the Mediterranean Sea.
Before Jbail (Byblos) was excavated in the late-19th and early-20th centuries, these layers of ruins were buried in earth, forming a mound nearly 12 meters high, and covered with houses and gardens. Over the last century, historians have excavated the site, digging through each layer of stone and earth to uncover a unique period of history in this port city.
Modern visitors to Jbail (Byblos) can undertake their own historical excavation here, exploring the layers of ruins and artifacts to unearth the ancient civilizations of Lebanon.
Deir el Qualaa & Zubaida Aqueduct
Deir el Qalaa
Deir el Qalaa, located near the village of Beit Meri in the mountains 15km east of Beirut, is a Roman temple complex and Byzantine residential-industrial complex built on a promontory 800 meters above sea level. The name Deir (meaning “monastery” in Arabic) refers to the fact that a monastery was built at this site by Maronite monks during the 18th century. The monastery was built over a Roman temple dating back to the first century A.D. This temple is considered to be the third largest Roman temple in Lebanon, after the Baalbek and Niha temples.
Aqueduct of Zubaida
The name of Beirut means "the city of wells," which refers to the large number of wells spread throughout the city to supply water to its inhabitants. With the expanding urbanization during the Roman period, the demand for running water grew dramatically, and the existing wells and springs were not large enough to accommodate the growing demand. The solution was to get water from one of the springs located along the Beirut River. The nearest spring was the Daychouniyeh source, situated 20km southeast of Beirut. To transport this water to Beirut, the Roman architects built a water channel. An aqueduct, which was built over an arched, bridge-like structure known today as the Aqueduct of Zubaida, or "Qanater Zubaida," was built to transfer the water across the Beirut River to channel it onward to Beirut.
A unique Phoenician site in Lebanon
The Temple of Echmoun, less than an hour from Beirut, is situated one kilometer from Saida (Sidon) in a lush valley of citrus groves on the Awwali River. The site is known locally as “Bustan esh-Sheikh.” Whether you visit in spring when the air is fragrant with blossoms, or early winter when the fruit is ripe, Echmoun is a special place to visit.
This Phoenician temple complex, dedicated to the healing god Echmoun, is the only Phoenician site in Lebanon that has retained more than its foundation stones. Building was begun at the end of the 7th century B.C., and later additions were made in the following centuries. Therefore, many elements near the original temple site were completed long after the Phoenician era, including a Roman-period colonnade, mosaics, a nympheum, and the foundations of a Byzantine church. All of these structures testify to the site's lasting importance.
Echmoun can be included in a visit to Saida (Sidon), or made an excursion of its own. Visitors with a sense of curiosity will find that several hours are easily filled exploring this ancient Phoenician site.
Enfe & Balamand
Located on the coast 71km north of Beirut and 15km south of Tripoli, the town of Enfé is situated on an elongated peninsula measuring 400m long and with a maximum width of 120m. It is partially separated from the land by two great trenches dug into the bedrock during the Crusader period. This lovely, seaside fishing town is known for its ancient churches and caves. Today Enfé is also known for its salt production. Close to Enfé is the Crusader-era Abbey of Balamand, which sits on a promontory overlooking the sea.
Qadisha, one of the deepest and most beautiful valleys in Lebanon, is indeed a world apart. At the bottom of this wild, steep-sided gorge runs the Qadisha River, whose source is in the Qadisha Grotto at the foot of the Cedars. Above the valley and famous Cedar grove towers Qornet Es-Saouda, Lebanon's highest peak.
The Qadisha Valley begins at Bcharré village, which marks the start of a deep geological fault whose extending valleys reach out of sight. All the accumulated water from these smaller valleys flows into the Qadisha River, which runs through the valley towards Tripoli and the sea. At Tripoli, the name of this river changes to the Abou Ali River. The name Abou Ali is related to the name Fakhr el Mulk Abi Ali Ibn Ammar, who was the last Emir of Tripoli during the Fatimid period at the dawn of the Crusades.
The Qadisha Valley houses some of the most important early Christian monastic settlements in the world. Rock-cut chapels, grottoes, and hermitages, many painted with frescoes dating back to the 12th and 13th centuries, are tucked into the steep walls. Among the notable monasteries located in the valley are the Monastery of Mar Antonios Qozhaya, the Monastery of Saydet Haouqa, the Monastery of Qannoubine, and the Monastery of Mar Elisha.
Roman Temples of the Bekaa Valley
Discover the Békaa
A vast, open valley nestled in the east between Lebanon's two mountain ranges, the Békaa Valley has been known since ancient times as the "bread basket of Lebanon." The Valley is a checkerboard of fields, dotted with small villages - a testament of the region's agricultural heritage. Here you will find a center of Lebanese gastronomy, with a number of wineries producing world-renowned Lebanese wines, and an array of local restaurants with mouth-watering Lebanese cuisine.
The Békaa Valley might also be known as a "corridor of civilizations." Throughout ancient history, the Valley was a thoroughfare for commerce, a meeting point for major trading routes connecting Damascus with the coast and the Arabian Peninsula to more northern regions. The many impressive archaeological ruins in the Valley reflect its historical role as a crossroads for the civilizations that have inhabited the area over time.
Saida (Sidon), on the coast 45 kilometers south of Beirut, is one of the famous names in ancient history. Of all of Lebanon's cities, this is the most mysterious, for its past has been tragically scattered and plundered. In the 19th century, treasure hunters and amateur archaeologists made off with many of its most beautiful and important objects, some of which can now be seen in foreign museums.
In this century too, ancient objects from Saida (Sidon) (Sidoon is the Phoenician name) have turned up on the world's antiquities markets. Other traces of its history lie beneath the concrete of modern constructions, perhaps buried forever. The challenge for today's visitor to Saida (Sidon) is to recapture a sense of this city's ancient glory from the intriguing elements that still survive.
The largest city in south Lebanon, Saida (Sidon) is a busy commercial center with the pleasant, conservative atmosphere of a small town. Since Persian times Saida (Sidon) was known as the city of gardens, and even today it is surrounded by citrus and banana plantations.
Tripoli (Trablous), 85 kilometers north of Beirut, has a special character of its own. Thanks to its historical wealth, relaxed lifestyle, and thriving business climate, this is a city where modern and medieval blend easily into a lively and hospitable metropolis. Known as the capital of the North, Tripoli is Lebanon's second largest city.
Forty-five buildings in the city, many dating from the 14th century, have been registered as historical sites. Twelve mosques from Mamluke and Ottoman times have survived, along with an equal number of madrassas, or theological schools. Secular buildings include the hammam, or bathing-house, which followed the classical pattern of Roman-Byzantine baths, and the khan, or caravansary. The souks, together with the khans, form an agglomeration of various trades where tailors, jewelers, perfumes, tanners, and soap makers work in surroundings that have changed very little over the last 500 years.
Phoenician Sour (Tyre) was queen of the seas, an island city of unprecedented splendor. She grew wealthy from her far-reaching colonies and her industries of purple-dyed textiles. But she also attracted the attention of jealous conquerors, among them the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar and Alexander the Great.
There are two major archaeological sites in the town that can be seen today. The Al-Bass Site consists of an extensive necropolis, a three bay monumental arch, and one of the largest hippodromes ever found. All date from the 2nd century A.D to the 6th century A.D. The City Site, located on what was originally the Phoenician island city, is a vast district of civic buildings, colonnades, public baths, mosaics, streets, and a rectangular arena.
Explore Nature & Adventure
The blue sky and warm waters of the
Mediterranean, the fresh air and rugged mountain peaks, and the pleasant chill
of snowmelt-fed rivers make Lebanon a perfect destination for those who enjoy
nature and the outdoors. From a leisurely afternoon of snorkeling or diving on
the coast to a multiple-day trek through ancient cedar forests and mountains,
the compactness of the country makes it possible to explore much of Lebanon's
natural beauty and the cultural diversity in a single trip.
In this country of rich biodiversity, nature-lovers will enjoy watching endangered loggerhead and green turtles come to shore for breeding along the southern coast or going on guided nature walks in the north in search of tiny orchids, medicinal plants, and colorful wildflowers.
With a rich variety of terrain, adventure-lovers will find any outdoor sport under the sun. In summer, many seaside and mountain resorts offer the perennial favorites, such as swimming, water-skiing, tennis, golf, and parasailing. Diving and snorkeling are is also very popular. You can explore Roman and Phoenician ruins off the coast of Saida (Sidon), Jbail (Byblos), or Sour (Tyre) or the wreckages of a World War II submarine at Khaldé, south of Beirut. In addition, ecolodges, clubs, and small outfitters offer mountain biking, guided hikes, rock climbing, rafting, archery, orienteering, and camps or other multi-day outdoor excursions throughout the year. In the winter, you can add downhill skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing across Lebanon's snow-capped mountains to the list of outdoor activities.
For those seeking serious adventure and adrenaline, why not explore Lebanon from the air by paragliding or rock climbing to the more inaccessible rock-cut sanctuaries and hermitages hanging precipitously from steep mountain cliffs? Caving in Lebanon is another unique experience. Considered one of the most beautiful caves in the world, the Jeita Grotto was discovered a hundred years ago. The cave is open to the public year round. For exploration of Lebanon's other more remote caves, many clubs and small outfitters offer tours with experienced guides and all equipment provided
A rural tour of Lebanon begins on the subtropical coast, ripe
with citrus fruits and banana trees. From there, make your way up the Mount
Lebanon range, passing characteristically Mediterranean fig and olive trees,
growing on rocky, terraced mountain slopes since Biblical times. You can also
pick apples, cherries, peaches, and pears right off the trees in late summer and
Further up, you will reach the snowy peaks interspersed with cedar and juniper trees. Passing over the mountains, you will descend into the valley of the Békaa where the dry air and bright sun nurture the famous vineyards, producing highly praised grapes and wine since ancient times.
n the villages scattered throughout the countryside, the Lebanese people still retain many of their old traditions and customs. Although much of the Lebanese population lives and works in Beirut, most families have a “home” village where they spend their weekends and summers.
One of the delights of Lebanon's rural villages is the traditional arts and crafts of Lebanese artisans. Whether it is pottery, blown glass, cutlery, woven cloth, traditional music instruments, inlaid and carved wood, olive oil soap, or gold and silver jewelry, you are sure to find superbly executed handicrafts, perfect as souvenirs.
Visit with a local family at a small inn or bed & breakfast in a traditional, red-roofed mountain town, and sample the pleasures of home-cooked Lebanese cuisine, and gain a deeper understanding of the rich culture and history that rural Lebanon has to offer.
Beaches & Seaside
With 225km of Mediterranean coastline extending the entire length of the country from north to south, you'll find plenty of sun and sand in Lebanon. Beach season in Lebanon stretches from April to October, with sunny, dry weather and warm temperatures (20-32°C / 68-90°F) for swimming, sunbathing, and water sports. However, even in the winter season you will find plenty of activities to take advantage of along Lebanon's scenic shore.
The coastline in Lebanon alternates from sandy to rocky beaches, offering an interesting variety of terrain and seaside activities. Along the coast north of Beirut, the mountains descend sharply to the Mediterranean Sea, offering spectacular vistas of rocky coastline and colorful sunsets over the water. In the south, fragrant and colorful citrus groves and banana trees line the coast, giving way to some of the country's best-preserved and remote sandy beaches.
Lebanon's coastline is not just for sun worshippers. Nature enthusiasts can explore the unique Mediterranean ecosystem at the Palm Islands Reserve, located 5km off the coast near Tripoli. The reserve is a prime location for observing Lebanon's coastal flora and fauna, including sea turtles, seals, and over 300 species of migratory birds. The well-preserved beaches at the Tyre Coast Nature Reserve are also known for their rich marine and freshwater habitats. >
Adventure enthusiasts will find diving, waterskiing, sailing, windsurfing, jet skiing, paragliding, and much more along Lebanon's coast. Snorkelers can explore the magnificent submerged Phoenician and Roman ruins off the coast of the city of Sour (Tyre).
Traditional beach enthusiasts have several options to choose from in Lebanon. For those seeking full amenities and comfort, luxury resorts and beach clubs offer private beach access, swimming pools, water skiing, diving, boat rentals, nighttime entertainment, restaurants, and accommodations. Good, inexpensive public beaches with clean water and basic facilities are located in Jbail (Byblos), Chikka (near Tripoli), Batroun, and south of Sour (Tyre).
More and more camping options are emerging in Lebanon, and many existing sites are simply spectacular. Campers can set up their tents overlooking the sea north of Jbail (Byblos) and walk down from their site to the Mediterranean for a swim and some snorkeling. Alternatively, campers can retire in the Adonis Valley, home of the legendary frolicking of Adonis and Aphrodite of Greek mythology.
Lebanon offers numerous campsites and ecolodges that have fully supported facilities catering to groups and families. These include platform tents or bungalow-style lodging, meals, and organized recreational activities such as hikes and mountain bike rides.
For those looking for a more remote nature experience, backcountry camping is allowed on any public land that is not in a Nature Reserve or Protected Area. In these areas, camping is often part of an organized, guided excursion led by one of the country's many ecotour operators. Camping can be a base from which to launch daytrips to nearby towns and historic attractions, for hikes in surrounding natural areas, or simply as a quiet respite from the bustle of Beirut city life
A mountainous and rocky country composed primarily of limestone, Lebanon offers exciting opportunities for caving. Over 400 caves, caverns, and sinkholes are scattered throughout the country, offering something for everyone, from the expert spelunker to the casual tourist.
Most caves are concentrated in the Mount Lebanon region, stretching from north to south in the center of the country. The most popular and “touristy” of caves include the Jeita Grotto, with its huge caverns and underground lakes, and the enormous and intricate Afqa Grotto, source of the Adonis River where legend has it Adonis and Aphrodite exchanged their first kiss.
For the more adventurous tourists and experienced spelunkers, there are many other caving options that require guides and equipment. The Roueiss Grotto, for example, is a 5km long labyrinthine cave with an underground lake, large halls, and unique crystalline formations.
Lebanon is also home to stunning vertical caves – called “sinkholes” or “potholes” – that are some of the deepest in the Middle East (up to 602 meters). These sinkholes are explored using ropes and climbing equipment, rappelling down into the hole and then climbing back up. Lebanon's largest sinkholes are concentrated in the northern Mount Lebanon region, especially near Laqlouq and Tannourine.
Hiking & Trekking
Varied terrain, scenic vistas, and historic environs combine to create unique hiking and trekking opportunities throughout Lebanon. Popular areas for hikes include the Horsh Ehden Nature Reserve near Tripoli, and the Al-Shouf Cedar Reserve, both of which offer good and extensive trail systems. Other areas with spectacular scenery and unique historical and cultural attractions include the Qadisha Valley, Makmel Park, and the remote Aakkar region in the North.
For a quintessential Lebanese experience, you can wander through the Adonis Valley, a ruggedly cut gorge sprinkled with historic ruins that is the site of Adonis and Aphrodite's love story in Greek mythology. There are many trekking clubs and tour operators that run guided outings throughout Lebanon, ranging from leisurely day hikes to longer multi-day treks.
Lebanon is one of the few places in the Middle East to offer a
broad range of mountain climbing activities, from relatively easy summit climbs
and technical peak ascents, to bouldering and adventure climbing. Limestone
mountains, beautiful scenery, and easily accessible climbs welcome climbers to
The Aaquora, Tannourine, and Laqlouq regions have rock faces rated from 3 to 8 (on the French rating system), many of which are already bolted. There are also many interesting and technically challenging summits for mountaineering, including the 2,814 meter Mount Hermon and Mount Makmel, whose northeast face is an extremely technical climb.
Very few countries offer such great climbing located near such interesting cultural and historical attractions as Lebanon. For experienced climbers with their own equipment, topographic maps of climbing routes can be obtained from one of the country's ecotour operators. Ecotour operators also organize a variety of guided climbing and mountaineering trips throughout the country, accessible for relatively fit travelers of all skill levels.
Lebanon's climatic diversity and varied topography have bestowed the country with a unique ecological system that ranges from the subtropical coast to the alpine high mountains of the interior. The country is rich in its biodiversity, and in the last decade special attention has been paid to protecting endangered species and conserving their habitats in specific parts of the country. The more than 20 Nature Reserves and Protected Areas are a testament of Lebanon's focus on conservation and sustainable development. Please note that it is illegal to camp in Lebanon's Nature Reserves and Protected Areas1-Al-Shouf Cedar Reserve
Located in the foothills northeast of Jbail (Byblos), Bentael Reserve is one of the smallest nature reserves in Lebanon. Bentael's pine forests are situated in the flight path of migratory hawks, eagles, and other raptors and are especially enjoyed by bird enthusiasts. Founded in 1981, this protected area was bequeathed to the Ministry of Environment by the people of the village of Bentael. It was one of the first parks created in Lebanon and set an example for the need to conserve Lebanon's natural areas.3-Horsh Ehden Reserve
Another spectacular mountain reserve is the Horsh Ehden Reserve, located in the northern Mount Lebanon range above the Qadisha Valley. Thanks to a relatively high level of precipitation, a variety of plants, birds, insects, and rare mammals flourish in the Horsh Ehden Reserve - in fact, it is home to over 40 percent of the country's plant species. Hikers in Horsh Ehden are rewarded with glimpses of unique trees (including cedars, cicilica firs, wild apples, and junipers), rare flora (including the Lebanese violet, the Ehden milk vetch, and wild orchids), endangered mammals (including martens, weasels, and badgers), as well as colorful butterflies, salamanders, and mushrooms.4-Palm Islands Reserve
If you are enchanted by marine ecology, be sure to spend
some time in the Palm Islands Reserve, comprising three uninhabited islands
located approximately 5km northwest of Tripoli.
This Mediterranean marine ecosystem provides a perfect breeding ground for the endangered Green and Loggerhead Turtles, a nesting place for over 300 species of migratory birds (including many rare and endangered species), and a home for the endangered Mediterranean Monk Seal.
The islands are rich in wildflowers and medicinal plants, and their coastal waters have an abundance of fish, sea sponges, and other sea life. Visitors to the Palm Islands can hike along the many trails, swim and snorkel along the pristine beaches, view the unique flora and fauna, and search for remains of former human inhabitants (including pottery shards and the remains of a Crusader church).
The reserve is only accessible during the summer months and can be reached by a boat trip from Tripoli.
5-Tannourine Cedars Forest Reserve
The Tannourine Cedars Forest Reserve is a beautiful, forested mountain environment located just south of the Qadisha Valley. Tannourine is home to over 60,000 ancient cedar trees, as well as a variety of pines, poplars, and other tree species. The region is also rich in natural springs and lakes, and has a high concentration of caves and sinkholesBottom of Form
6-Tyre Coast Reserve
Another destination for exploring Lebanon's coastal ecosystem is the Tyre Coast Reserve, located along a sandy stretch of beach south of Sour (Tyre). The Tyre Coast Reserve is home to several ancient artesian springs, creating a freshwater habitat and marshes that host frogs and other amphibians. The brackish coastal waters are rich in aquatic life, and the beach is a nesting place for endangered sea turtles and migratory birds. Part of the beach area is open for public swimming.
Skiing & Winter Sports
With six ski resorts catering to skiers and snowboarders of all
skill levels, and with kilometers of backcountry Nordic cross-country and
snowshoe trails waiting to be explored, Lebanon has something for everyone.
Each of the ski resorts boasts its own local flavor. For example, The Cedars Ski Resort (2,000-3,086m), near Mount Makmel (2,800m), is located on the highest range and offers the most scenic landscapes.Mzaar-Kfardebian (1,830-2,465m) is the best resort in terms of world-class infrastructure and facilities. Other resorts, such as Laqlouq (1,650-1,920m) and Qanat Bakiche (1,910-2,050m), are known for their family-oriented, friendly atmosphere. Faqra- Kfardebian (1,735-1,980m) and Zaarour (1,700-2,000m) are private ski resorts, with special “peak” times reserved for members.
If you are seeking to evade the ski crowds, many outdoor
adventure tour operators take groups on cross-country skiing and snowshoeing
trips. Lebanon's high plateaus are tailor-made for such Nordic pursuits.
With 225km of Mediterranean coastline, as well as numerous rivers throughout the country, Lebanon offers many salt- and fresh-water sporting activities. Lebanon's rocky coastline and underwater terrain make it a unique destination for snorkeling and diving. A 600m deep underwater valley runs from Beirut to the Bay of Jounié, creating interesting rocky gorges and underwater cliffs and dropoffs for divers to explore. Another popular diving area is at Chikka (near Tripoli), which offers some of the best marine landscapes and flora and fauna off the Lebanese coast.
Exploring the underwater ruins near Jbail (Byblos), Saida (Sidon), and Sour (Tyre) is another popular activity for divers and snorkelers; however, you are required to obtain a special permit to dive near archaeological sites. There are also several world-class shipwreck sites, including “le Souffleur” (a French submarine from World War II) near Khaldé, for underwater exploration.
Lebanon's coastline is lined with many private beach resorts and diving clubs offering facilities and equipment rentals for diving and snorkeling, as well as a variety of other water activities, including water skiing, windsurfing, and sailing. Nitrox equipment is available for technical deepwater dives.
While water sports in Lebanon are centered on the coast, there are also a number of freshwater activities, including rafting, kayaking, and canyoning. These are concentrated on the rivers Nahr Litani and Nahr Ibrahim, which typically swell as the spring weather melts the mountain snows, creating great deep, fast water conditions. Many ecotour operators offer guided rafting and water sport activities on Lebanon's rivers.
Explore city Life
Fashionable and trendy, Beirut is the cultural epicenter of
Lebanon. The city is bustling with life and oozing with charisma. Beirutis live
life to the full, taking in all the city's gastronomic delights, ambience, and
leisure activities until the wee hours of the morning. Between the time they
leave work and the time they arrive home, a true Beiruti fits in shopping along
Rue Hamra, a gallery opening, drinks with friends at a new bar, dinner around
10pm, and a Lebanese espresso, before hitting a nightclub in Achrafiyé around
Whether it's music and theatre, galleries, shopping, or dining that you're after, there is no end to the choices for those visiting Beirut.
Beirut’s new architecture – which includes contemporary high-rises, as well as Parisian-style buildings constructed in the old tradition with beautiful wrought iron work – blends well with the old. And the old can be very old. Visit the ruins of the Roman Baths near the Grand Serail, the Parliament building, the Al-Omari Mosque, and St. Georges Cathedral. If these sites captivate your interest, take a tour of the local museums. The National Museum and the American University of Beirut Archaeology Museum showcase antiquities from Lebanon’s past
Shopping is a quintessential leisure activity in downtown Beirut. Lebanese track the European fashion trends closely in both interior design and clothing. Designer garments, jewelry, and accessories are introduced in Beirut first before they spread to the other Arab markets. Rue Hamra is a shoppers' paradise, with everything from stylish everyday wear and shoes to upscale evening wear.
Some of Beirut's home furnishings stores rival cutting
edge retailers in Europe and the United States in terms of selection and
interesting items. Visit Charme d'Antan in Achrafiyé, located on Elias
Sarkis Avenue facing the Rizk Tower. For good bargains on old or replica
furniture, visit Le Hangar de Denise in Horsh Tabet or try the flea
market in the old streets of Basta Tahta. Carpets are also big in
Beirut. Kabalan on the Salim Salam Bridge, Maktabi in Verdun, and
Nalbandian in Achrafiyé are big names in new and antique carpets.
Lebanon supports its own echelon of fashion and furniture designers, artists, and photographers, whose work can be seen in galleries and shops throughout the city. Try Aishti, or visit one of the many designer stores in the Solidère region, to find the latest fashions.
The traditional crafts are also a big pull: hand-made olive oil soaps, Jezzine cutlery made from animal horns, boldly designed silver and gold jewelry, and hammered copper trays with arabesque designs are must-buys. Traditional crafts can be found at several artisanat shops throughout the city. There is a large Ministry of Culture-sponsored artisanat shop near the Corniche and a private artisanat shop on Rue Clemenceau, near the Gefinor Center
Entertainment & Nightlife
Nightlife in Beirut merits a special note. The city is brimming
with restaurants, beach clubs, centers for performing arts, music venues, movie
theatres, a casino, and a number of discos, pubs, and bars. The best approach
may be to get warmed up for your evening at one of Beirut's state-of-the-art
health clubs, such as Lifestyles, near the Corniche, or the Spa
Intercontinental, at the Phoenicia Hotel. Then check out the performance
schedules while sipping a Lebanese espresso or enjoying a cocktail at a café in
If it's live music you're after, try the Blue Note on Makhoul Street next to AUB, or the bar, Strange Fruit, also located downtown. As its name suggests, the Blue Note specializes in jazz and hosts a variety of local and international talent. Strange Fruit is a funky establishment serving nouveau cuisine and headlining an eclectic mix of artists, from jazz to local alternative music bands. Head to Achrafiyé for atmospheric piano bars. Folkloric music and dance is the specialty of the restaurant Nahr Al-Founoun on the Pont de Nahr El-Kalb. The Lebanese National Conservatoire performs classical pieces, as well as classical Arabic and jazz music, at the Charles Khater Theatre at St. Joseph University. For seasonal big ticket performances, check out the schedule at the UNESCO Palace.
Theater is making a comeback in Beirut. The city boasts a number of theaters (Al-Madina, Monot, George V, Beirut Theater, Athenee) that showcase plays, music, dance, poetry and other theatrical arts. The Al-Madina Theater in Clemenceau was opened in 1994 by a well-known Lebanese actress, Nidal al-Achkar. The Beirut Theater is known for its avant garde approach, interweaving the dramatic arts with multimedia. At all the theaters, performances are in Arabic, French, or English, depending on the particular performance.
Lebanon has long been the center of the contemporary art world in the Middle East, renowned for the eye and skill of its artists. Nowhere is this more aptly displayed than at the Sursock Museum in Achrafiyé. The museum houses a collection of modern and contemporary Lebanese art and presents themed exhibits and international collections. If you're interested in starting your own private collection or just browsing, be sure to take in a gallery opening or view a collection. Beirut's galleries are too numerous to mention, but Galleries Zaman, Janine Rubeiz, and Aida Cherfan are a few of the well respected.
Nightclubs and Casino
For late night activities, try your luck at the Casino du Liban or "see and be seen" at one of Beirut's many happening nightclubs. Rue Monot in Achrafiyé is a hot spot for clubs and bars and the latest fad restaurants. Put on all your finery and dance to techno house, hip hop, or Arab Latin music until the wee hours of the night.
Cosmopolitan Beirut brims with cafés, pubs, and restaurants catering to a range of local and international tastes. Hotel breakfast buffets typically include juice, coffee, croissants, platters of fruit, yogurt, and a variety of hot and cold entrées, from omelets to cereal. If breakfast is not included in the price of your hotel room or you fancy going out, try Casper & Gambini. The stylish restaurant serves up European cuisine for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Pain au chocolate, beignets (French doughnuts), and toasted bagels with a variety of fillings are breakfast specialties (US$1 to US$5).
For lunch or dinner, there are numerous outdoor cafes in the beautifully reconstructed Solidère area that revive the weary traveler with crêpes, sandwiches, salads, etc. (US$5 to US$15). Also in the Solidère area is Al-Balad, an atmospheric restaurant with outdoor seating serving excellent Arabic food (US$15). Off the Corniche (seaside road), one can find good Italian pastas, pizza, and salad at Caffe Mondo (US$8 to US$20), an outdoor café in the Phoenicia Hotel that can be accessed from the street. For Chinese and Japanese food, try Chop Sticks (Chinese, US$10 to US$15) or Scoozi (Italian/Japanese, US$25) both in Solidère.
If you're on the move or on a budget, Lebanese fast food places are all over the city. Each establishment tends to specialize in a few basics, such as shwarma and kebabs or sandwiches (US$1 to US$2). Look around for places that serve melted chocolate and banana for dessert. Achrafiyé is the trendy place to go for full-course Lebanese or European cuisine and a puff on the water pipe, nargileh, after dinner.