Fringed by the azure waters of the Mediterranean along its western coast, Lebanon offers an enchanting blend of sandy beaches, breathtaking mountains, fertile valleys, historic cities and a wealth of archaeological sites waiting to be explored. All this is contained within the country’s relatively small borders encompassing a landmass measuring just 225km (140 miles) long and 46km (29 miles) wide, roughly the same size as the neighbouring island of Cyprus.
Once referred to as the 'Paris of the Orient' thanks to its impressive architecture and cosmopolitan feel, the Lebanese capital, Beirut, is one of the great seaside cities of the Mediterranean, commanding a magnificent position perched on a promontory and surrounded by the sea. One of its most celebrated attractions is the palm-tree lined seaside promenade known as The Corniche, which skirts the glittering waterside for almost two miles from downtown Beirut to the picturesque Pigeon Rocks. It is lined with restaurants and cafes and is a popular destination for families, joggers and walkers and fishermen.
Beirut and its architecture was a heavy casualty of Lebanon's 16-year civil war, the vestiges of which can be seen all over the city. Reconstruction started in earnest and the city was poised to become one of the most popular tourist and business destinations in the Middle East until the Israeli attacks of 2006. Despite more recent political unrest, tourism to Lebanon is recovering and Beirut has gained something of an international reputation as the party city of the Middle East with an ever-increasing number of fashionable restaurants, bars and clubs.
Beyond the capital there is also much to discover. Lebanon is home to five designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites reflecting the country's rich and varied cultural heritage with the Phoenicians, the Romans, Christian Crusaders, Umayyad, Mamlouks, Ottomans and the French all having left their mark. These include the one of the oldest Phoenician coastal ports, the fortified Byblos, 40km (25 miles) north of Beirut and the haunting remains of Baalbeck on the south western slopes of the Anti-Lebanon range - arguably one of the finest examples of Greco-Roman civilisation to be seen anywhere. Other unmissable sights include the lush and fertile Bekaa Valley dotted with historic vineyards, the magnificent cedar forests and Christian monasteries of the Holy Valley in the north of the country as well as the fascinating cities of Tyr, Tripoli and Anjar. Outdoor activities are also an increasing draw, with several nature reserves and many areas of unspoilt wilderness to enjoy by foot or bike, whilst in the winter months, the mountains are a popular destinations for skiing, snowboarding and cross country skiing.