Things to see and do in Lebanon
Ministry of TourismAddress: Hamra, 550 rue de la Banque Centrale, Beirut,
Telephone: 961 (1) 340 940.
Attractions in Lebanon
Enjoy delicious Lebanese food in the port area of Al Mina, where many seafood restaurants and fish markets can be found.
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.
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.
Discover the archaeological sites of Tyre (http://tyros.leb.net/tyre). Area one contains ruins of the large district of civic buildings, public baths and mosaic streets, whilst area two has an extensive network of Romano-Byzantine roads. Area three contains one of the largest Roman hippodromes ever found.
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.
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).
Beirut's Central District
Witness the spectacular number of modern buildings and office blocks springing up in Beirut's Central District.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Go scuba-diving and snorkelling in the waters near the ancient city of Tyre. Divers can explore some interesting underwater archaelogical ruins.
Glimpse the sea castle built of stone from Roman remains in the small port city of Sidon. See one of the best-preserved temple areas of the Roman world that is still in existence in Baalbek, near the Syrian border. The columns of the Temple of Jupiter soar behind the complex of several temples.
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.
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).
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).
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.
Spot the green turtles and rare birds on the Island of Palm Trees, listed by UNESCO as a nature reserve, just off Tripoli.
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.
Try out the watersports on offer, which include waterskiing and sailing. Swimming is also popular and many beaches have freshwater pools provided to supplement the sea.