Lebanon things to see and do

Tourist offices

Ministry of Tourism

550 rue de la Banque Centrale, Hamra, Beirut, Lebanon
Tel: 961 (1) 340 940.
www.destinationlebanon.gov.lb

Things to see and do

Al Shouf Cedar Nature Reserve

Lebanon’s largest nature reserve is home to three large cedar forests, which combine to make up a quarter of the country’s remaining cedar trees. As well as being home to an array of flora and fauna, the nature reserve is also criss-crossed with miles of hiking and biking trails.

Baalbeck

Set on the south western slopes of the Anti-Lebanon range in the Bekaa Valley, the spectacular ruins of Baalbeck are arguably one of the most impressive examples of surviving Phoenician and Greco-Roman architecture in the World. Its Temple of Jupiter is the largest Roman temple ever built.

Beirut beaches

With 225km (140 miles) of coastline, you are never far from a stretch of beach in Lebanon. Few cities can boast sandy beaches on their doorstep but the azure waters of the Mediterranean lap much of the city’s perimeters. There are public beaches or many sun worshippers favour the better-equipped beach clubs offering sun loungers, showers, pools and cafes and restaurants such as those offered at the Riviera Beach Lounge. (www.rivieirahotel.com.lb).

Palm Islands

A short distance off the coast, 5.5km (3 miles) from the seaside city of Tripoli, is the Palm Islands Nature Reserve, a trio of uninhabited islands and the country’s only true islands. Wildlife enthusiasts can observe the islands’ colony of protected Loggerhead turtles as well as large colonies of migratory birds.

Teleferique cable car

Set on the outskirts of Beirut, this cable car was first opened in 1965 and spirits visitors up 650m (2,133 ft) above sea level and offers breathtaking views of the city and beyond (www.teleferiquelb.com).

Tyre

Another of Lebanon’s unmissable archaeological sites that also enjoying Unesco World Heritage status is the seaside settlement of Tyre, which is scattered with the remnants of over 5,000 years of history. Settled by the Egyptians, Ottomans, Phoenicians, Greeks, Byzantines, Arabs and Romans, it is actually three sites covering a large area, but is perhaps best known for its ancient Roman relics that include one of the largest Roman hippodromes every constructed.

Vineyards of the Bekaa Valley

Lebanon has one of the oldest traditions of viticulture in the world. The Phoenicians first introduced wine to the area around 5,000 years ago and the vine-draped slopes of the Bekaa Valley form the heart of Lebanese wine production. Pay a visit to historic vineyards such as the Chateau Musar set in an 18th century castle and Chateau Ksara, two of the country’s best-known producers.

American University of Beirut

See the neo-Ottoman campus of the American University of Beirut in Hamra, which was founded in 1868 (www.aub.edu.lb). It is also home to an archaeological museum housing an impressive collection of artefacts dating from the Stone Age to the Islamic periods.

Beiteddine

Set on a height in the heart of the Chouf Mountains and commanding fabulous views of the surrounding landscape is the magnificent fortress of Beiteddine. Built over a 30-year period by the Ottoman ruler Emir Bechir Chehab II, it is one of the finest examples of 19th century Lebanese palace architecture in the country. The interior features some previous mosaics as well as Turkish baths, hammams, courtyards, elegant arcades and gardens as well as an ethnological museum.

Byblos

The charming Unesco World Heritage listed fortified seaside town of Byblos lies 40km north of Beirut (http://whc.unesco.org). Excavations have unearthed artefacts dating back to Neolithic times but Byblos’ golden period came during the reign of the Phoenicians, when it was a crucial crossroad between the east and west. Its picturesque, boat cluttered harbour and pretty honey coloured fortifications also enjoyed great popularity as a glamorous seaside retreat during the 1960s when it was visited by the likes of Brigitte Bardot.

Downtown Beirut

Scattered with some of Beirut’s most elegant Art Deco architectural heritage much of downtown Beirut has been undergoing an expensive refurbishment since the civil war. Lined with arcades and sidewalk cafes, the spiritual heart of this pedestrianised area is the Place de L’Etoile topped by a 1930s clock tower. Nearby is the Lebanese parliament - another fine example of a Lebanese art deco style building - while the area is also home to several important churches and mosques.

Gibran Museum

Visit the Gibran Museum in Besharre (www.kahlil.org/museum). Best known as the birthplace of the famous Lebanese poet Khalil Gibran, author of The Prophet, the town is also a gateway to the Kadisha Valley, a mountainous region famous for its many cedar trees.

Jeita caverns

Visit the spectacular Jeita caverns, around 20km (13 miles) north of Beirut. On two levels, the lower gallery includes an underground waterway which can be visited by boat.

Jeita caverns

Visit the spectacular Jeita Grotto, around 20km (13 miles) north of Beirut. On two levels, the deep, upper cavern is reached by cable car and features a dazzling display of stalactites and stalagmites, which can be viewed along a special walkway. A small tourist train collects visitors at the entrance and takes them to the lower cave, which includes an underground lake that can be admired during a short boat ride.

Pigeon Rocks

One of Beirut’s most iconic landmarks are the Pigeon Rocks, an impressive collection of arched rock formations jutting out of the Mediterranean close to the Raouche district of the city on the westerly end of the Corniche. From the pavement lined with restaurants and cafes, there is a 100m pathway that leads down to the sea and affords spectacular views.

Scuba-diving

Go scuba-diving and snorkelling in the waters near the ancient city of Tyre. Divers can explore some interesting underwater archaelogical ruins.

Ski

Ski amidst a Mediterranean backdrop in Lebanon's many mountain resorts, such as Bakish, The Cedars, Faqra, Faraya, Laklouk and Zarour, which offer excellent accommodation and facilities (www.skileb.com). Whilst there, explore these mountains and gorges. They present excellent terrain for hiking.

Souks

Capture the old Beirut in the city's old souks (covered markets) that are being reconstructed in an authentic way. Visit the weekly Souk El Tayab farmers market held in the downtown area of the city. Held every Saturday morning, this features an array of producers selling delicious organically produced fare from around the city and countryside including the likes of cedar honey, jams, pickles, fruit and vegetables as well as homemade olive oil (www.souktayeb.com). The Turkish bath at Al-Nouzha provides another glimpse of antiquity, whilst the Beirut National Museum is constantly updating its interesting collection (www.beirutnationalmuseum.com).

Tripoli

Lebanon's second and most Arabian city. Its old medieval centre at the foot of the Crusader castle is sprinkled with many mosques that include the Al-Muallaq Burtasiyat Madrassa, Al-Qartâwiyat Madrassa, Great Mosque and Taynâl. Its bustling souks are also some of the most atmospheric in the whole of the country and an obligatory stop on any visit to the city.

Newsletter