Lebanon is a small country that is easy to get around, and you can get anywhere quickly, especially if you are considering a road trip. The key here is to travel slowly and enjoy every stunning corner of the country, meet people, taste the cuisine and know where to go in Lebanon.
With a tremendous cultural and landscape diversity, from north to south, from east to west, one can find many points of interest to visit, whether they are cities, beaches, mountains or archeological sites. The small but intense Lebanese region has everything you can expect and much more to offer.
Keep reading for more on where to go in Lebanon.
See also: The best place to visit in Lebanon which is not a common hotspot
Where to go in Lebanon
Beirut has a long and turbulent history, enormous complexity, enormous cultural and religious richness and extraordinary people. Strategically located in the Mediterranean, it has been an important cultural and economic center of the Middle East for many centuries. In the last two years, the capital has seen its ports and surrounding areas completely destroyed in the biggest non-nuclear explosion in human history and has faced a deep economic crisis like the rest of the country. But still, and thanks to the resilience of its people, the city continues to tremble with life and it is a must see.
Like any capital, Beirut has a huge collection of sights and lots of activities. It is a city where you can find rich and cosmic architecture, mixed with colonial-era architecture, mostly located in its watersheds. Not surprisingly, Beirut is called the “Paris of the Middle East.” It is also there that we find a great religious diversity, which is implemented in places of worship that live side by side.
As far as archeological remains are concerned, we can find many Roman ruins in the city center, which give the landscape the image of an open museum.
It is also possible to visit some of the iconic areas, such as Sabra, Shatila and Burj Hammud, better known as refugee camps, where the day goes on in the midst of urban chaos.
As you wander the city streets, you will find the most common neighborhoods of the city, including the bohemian environment, in G গেmez and Mar Mikhail, where you will find the most popular bars and restaurants in Beirut.
In the coastal area, we find the famous view point called Pigeon Rock, from where you can enjoy a great sunset.
Of course, your visit would not be complete without mentioning the city’s architectural landmark, The Egg, now a formerly dilapidated recreation center.
Tip: Beirut City Sightseeing Hop-on Hop-Off Bus Tour is a great way to see much of the city.
Following the coastline south of Beirut we find Sidon. This small historic town is less than an hour away from the capital. It was once one of the largest cities in the Phoenician trading empire and is where the Crusader-built Sea Castle can be found and visited. From it, you can see the Gulf of Sidon and the old part of the city. It is undoubtedly a landmark of the landscape and a reference to visit.
Sidon is one of the most beautiful and well-preserved souks in southern Lebanon, where you can sample great street food and visit the traditional soap factory. In its wake, one has to walk in the streets to cover the history of the country.
The town of Tire, a little south of Sydney. The perfect combination of small fishing ports, picturesque architecture and friendly people will make you feel like you are on a movie set, so this town is weird.
The tire invites you to take a long walk on its narrow streets. You can breathe history here, as it is one of the oldest Phoenician cities in the world. The city is so unique that there is a legend that purple was discovered in Tire.
You can also find Roman ruins in Tire, which has been classified as an archeological site by UNESCO.
Extra tip: Try to finish your day by swimming in warm Mediterranean waters and enjoy the sunset in Tire.
About two hours northeast of Beirut is the UNESCO-listed Balbeck Complex. It is probably the warmest place to visit archeological sites in Lebanon.
The cultural and religious complex of Balbeck was built by the Phoenicians and later occupied by the Romans. The importance of Balbeck extends to various historical epochs, not only being an important religious pilgrimage site, but also a strategically important point of trade route between Damascus, Syria and the Mediterranean coast. Its decline began with the Muslim occupation and was later abandoned by the Ottomans, who had little interest in the structure.
Still, Balbeck remains to this day, and there we find some of the largest and best preserved Roman temples ever built. Examples are the hexagonal courtyard, the Temple of Jupiter (the largest Roman temple in the world) and, of course, the Temple of the Children.
In Balbeck, in addition to visiting the ruins complex, it is also possible and recommended to visit the city mosque. Its interior is a rich decorative detail.
Extra tip: It is possible to stop on the way between Beirut and Balbec and visit the ruins of Anjar. A lesser known archeological site, but equally interesting.
Rural life still exists in the Kadisha Valley. As you drive along the road with the breathtaking view of the gorge, you will see shepherds with herds of goats roaming the hills. In the densely populated small villages throughout the valley, life moves at its own pace, the rhythm of rural life in a place lost over time.
Across the valley, it is possible to visit the numerous monasteries located on the slopes of the hill. With their unique architecture, these shrines are even more special because they often have places of worship in small caves dug in the mountains.
The fir tree of God
Cedars of God are a must see for travelers in this part of the country. The green patch of trees, which once covered the entire Lebanese mountains, is now a collection of thousands of years old trees, classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
From the use of the wood of these trees for shipbuilding in Egyptian times, to the various references to cedar in the Bible, to their presence on the national flag of Lebanon, you can see how important these trees have been throughout history.
Enter the park to admire these Lebanese giants and be sure to walk along the marked trails, some of which are more than 2,000 years old.
Tripoli is located about 1 hour north of the capital Beirut. As the largest city in the north of the country and the second largest city in Lebanon, Tripoli runs along the Mediterranean coast and has several islands in its territory, one of which is classified as a UNESCO protected area. The city is said to have been founded by the Phoenicians and has undergone several invasions, with a rich and turbulent history.
Today Tripoli has a population of about 500,000 and is divided into two parts: El Mina (the port area and location of the old city) and the city of Tripoli itself.
Old Souk is undoubtedly the most lively part of town. There you can find everything you can imagine, from vegetables, fish, meat, gold, clothing and traditional soaps and perfumes. It is a place where laughter is widespread and curiosity about where travelers come from is openly expressed. This is a place where you can’t say “no” to offers from tea to bread. Lebanese are happy to receive and offer visitors a little bit of their culture, which inevitably includes food.
You can see the whole city from Tripoli Castle. Like any other building of its kind, it was built at the highest point of the city.
The fort was built in 1102-1103 with an octagonal tomb on top of a Shiite cemetery of the Fatimid period. The construction of the fort was started by the Crusader Raymond VI of St. Gilles.
Tripoli has a permanent fair / exhibition space designed by the famous Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer. Major exhibitions, trade fairs and other events are regularly held here. Most of the space was never completed due to the outbreak of civil war in the country, which resulted in it being partially abandoned. Nevertheless, it is imperative to visit this place to reflect on the unfinished works of one of the brilliant architects of the contemporary era, before it becomes a memory of what a beautiful place it can be.
The Palm Islands Nature Conservation, or Rabbit Island, is the largest of these with an area of 20 hectares. The name “Araneb” or rabbit comes from the large number of rabbits that were occupied by the French in the early twentieth century. Today, it is a natural sanctuary for green turtles, rare birds and rabbits. Declared a UNESCO protected area in 1992, prohibiting camping, bonfires or other forms of environmental disaster. In addition to the scenery, Palm Island is a cultural heritage site.
On the way from Tripoli to Beirut, we find Batrun. This small town is now considered the largest tourist destination north of Beirut.
Lemonade, famous for its numerous cafes and restaurants, is also known for its lively nightlife. Today, Batroun’s economy is entirely tourism-oriented, and as such, it is not difficult to find a variety of activities, including cycling along the coast.
Byblos is probably the most charming coastal town in the country. Located about 40 minutes north of the capital, it is a scenic tourist spot. Beautiful landscapes, small harbors, archeological sites, beaches, shopping and dining options make this small town one of the most popular places to relax for a few days.
Let yourself be mesmerized by the biblios, and be sure to leave the main thoroughfares, so that you can admire the quiet alleys filled with bougainvillea that give them a special charm.
Isn’t it amazing how such a small country can do and offer so much? Visit Lebanon, you will not regret it!