Lebanon is known for its endless golden beaches, myriad World Heritage Sites, and locals’ warm hospitality.
This country offers wondrous coastlines, sizzling cuisine and the best of modern and ancient culture. Lebanon is a land dripping in culture as it has existed for thousands of years. It may not be a vast country in terms of size or land area, but here is a country full of experiences that will guarantee you memories for a lifetime.
How to Reach Lebanon
Most tourists coming to Lebanon do so by air. The Beirut Rafic Hariri International Airport is the primary entry point to the country, and it is situated just nine kilometers to the south of Beirut, the capital city. Major airlines have regular flights to this airport, so it is relatively easy to reach Lebanon from practically any place in the world.
It is not advisable to travel by road when going to Lebanon because of geopolitical tensions in the region, and border areas can be dangerous, especially on the border with Syria.
Another way by which one can get to Lebanon is by boat or cruise ships. There are major ports like Sidon, Chekka, Tripoli, Jounieh, and Tyre for the ships. A handful of cruise ships ply Beirut during the summer, and there is also cruise ship stops at Beirut for vessels of the eastern Mediterranean leaving Cyprus.
Top Attractions in Lebanon
Tourism is a massive deal in Lebanon, and it is for this and other reasons that the country is called the Pearl of the Middle East or the Paris of the Middle East. Tourists get to enjoy the best of Levantine Mediterranean culture alongside the history, cuisine, architecture, and archaeology of Lebanon itself. Some of the oldest sites of tourism in the world are in Lebanon. The following are the important sites of attraction in this ageless Middle Eastern nation:
It is a medieval castle located in the town of Byblis. It was initially constructed as a stronghold for the Phoenicians, who erected it on a white limestone cliff on a gorgeous-looking coastline. The Crusaders expanded it in the 12th century using limestone, and the wonders of its architecture are still there for everyone to appreciate today.
The Roman amphitheater, Phoenician Royal Necropolis, and some Egyptian temples are located within its vicinity. The city of Byblos itself is a World Heritage Site. The castle surrounded by a 10m-wide dry canal is located just inside the Byblos’ evocative archaeological site. It’s an extraordinary building that offers a unique perspective over the ruins from the top of its foursquare keep. A blend of Bronze Age residences is visible below the walls as you look towards the ocean. Inside the castle, there’s a room with information panels outlining the city’s history and a small museum.
It is a coastal city and has a history stretching back to the ancient Greeks and Phoenicians’ times. Founded by the Phoenician king Ithobaal I, Batroun was a bustling port in ancient times but was leveled by mudslides and earthquake in 551CE. Many archaeologists believe that the town’s natural harbor was formed at this time.
Majority of the town’s residents are Christian, and there are many celebrated churches to visit in the old town’s narrow cobbled streets. There’s a well-known Down Under connection; lots of Batroun emigrants settled there, and there are tonnes of Aussie accents to be heard on the streets here as the next-gen visits their origins.
Here is one of the largest cities in Lebanon. It is perched on the Mediterranean Sea coast, and it is one of the earliest cities in the world. Some archeologists even believe that it is the oldest of all the Phoenician cities. It was from this city that the Phoenicians launched an empire, and it earned the praises of the Greeks. With time, it would be invaded by Artaxerxes III and later on by Alexander the Great. The masterfully-crafted buildings from the ancient era are still there for everyone to behold and ponder upon.
Beirut National Museum
It is often said that a visit to Lebanon is not complete without visiting the national museum in Beirut, and that is true. The museum boasts of over 100,000 objects, some from the prehistoric periods to the Mamluk era to modern periods. At the beginning of your visit, leave your identity card (passport) at the entrance counter and rent one of the museum’s free iPads so that you can scan tags on vital pieces in the collection to receive more details about each (Yes! Technology is great). You may also wish to watch the 12-minute documentary that is shown in the audiovisual room off the lobby, which plays every hour on the hour between 9 am and 3 pm. This features how collectors saved the museum’s collection during the civil war and consequently restored it to its ancient glory.
It’s worth beginning your visit on the upper floor, as this gives you an overview of the evolution of Lebanese history and lets you distribute your Seleucids from your Phoenicians. The compilation of Bronze Age artifacts here is of exceptional quality: as well as the Byblos dolls, savor the obsidian-and-gold coffer and Egyptian gold pectorals located in the same royal necropolis, and the fine ivory make-up boxes from Saida. Other highlights include an exceptional Attic drinking vessel in the shape of a pig’s head, a Bacchus marble head from the Roman period, and a sumptuous collection of Phoenician glass.
On the ground floor, some wonderful Byzantine mosaics are renowned and two wonderful sculpted sarcophagi from Tyre dating from the 2nd century CE: one represents intoxicated cupids and the other the legend of Achilles. Here are the much-loved Phoenician sculptures of baby boys; these were sent by aristocrats from Saida as ex-votos to Echmoun, the Phoenician god of healing, to praise him for protecting their children.
The evocative and wonderfully presented basement (easily missed; find them behind the stairs) is a must-watch, holding the spooky series of human-faced sarcophagi from Saida as well as an engaging reconstruction of a 2nd-century CE collective tomb from Tyre, with wall paintings representing mythological scenes.
Much earlier Chalcolithic pot burials are also impressive, while three evocatively mummified remains and excellently preserved clothing tell a moving 13th-century story. Perhaps escaping from the Crusader wars, they died in a Qadisha Valley cave still holding the title deeds to their land, foretelling a tale repeated in refugee camps across Lebanon today.
Our Lady of Lebanon
Lebanon is a melting center for two principal world religions, and these are Islam and Christianity. Tourists who are interested in religious tourism will find the country fulfilling. Our Lady of Lebanon, located in Harissa’s town, is one of the country’s major shrines and pilgrimage sites. It features a massive 15-ton bronze statue of the Virgin Mary, and it is called Notre Dame du Liban or Our Lady of Lebanon.
Emir Munzer Mosque
This is a historic mosque constructed by Emir Munzer Al-Tannokhi. It features an authentic 17th-century arch portal in one of its two famed entrances. It has a dazzling fountain in its courtyard, and it is for this reason that it was referred to as the Masjid Al-Naoufara.
Known as the ‘Sun City’ of the old world or Heliopolis, Baalbek’s ruins comprise the most powerful ancient site in Lebanon and are probably the best maintained in the Middle East. The temples here, which were constructed on a grand scale, have dug a heavenly reputation throughout the centuries, yet still, manage to sustain the appealing air of an undiscovered wonder because of their semi-rural environment. The city itself, which is 86km northeast of Beirut, is the executive headquarters for both the Bekaa Valley and the Hezbollah.
What to Eat in Lebanon
If you are a lover of food, you will love this country. Lebanese cuisine features a lot of seafood, vegetables, fruits, fresh fish, and whole grains. You should try out the following and relish them with delight:
- Bamiehbizeit: It is one of the most popular dishes in Lebanon. It is a kind of stew made with tomato and okra. It is served with salad, rice, warm bread, lemon juice, and olive oil.
- Mulukhiyah: It is a stew made from chicken, mallow leaves, and beef alongside vinegar and chopped onions.
Don’t Forget to Try:
- Sampling the traditional Lebanese wine
- Touring as many souks (local markets) as possible
- Enjoy unique Lebanese shawarma
- Watch a game at the Camille Chamoun Sports City Stadium in Beirut
- Explore one of Lebanon’s ski resorts
- Participate in the Beirut Marathon