I was hosted by TourLeb while uncovering all the best places to visit in Lebanon. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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“Lebanon is an energy vortex. It’s beautiful chaos. People that come always find their own personal reasons to return.”
This small coastal Mediterranean country is brimming with rich culture and history, people as warm as they are resilient, and landscapes as varied as those of countries 20 times its size. There are so many amazing places to visit in Lebanon, it’s almost impossible to know where to begin!
Of course – I didn’t really know any of this before I visited Lebanon for myself.
All I knew, ever since I was 13 years old, was that Lebanese food was my favorite cuisine in the world. As a kid, I knew that one day I needed to visit the land that blessed the world with shawarma, kibbeh, falafel, hummus, and tabbouleh.
I knew Lebanon would be delicious. But what I didn’t expect in my wildest dreams was just how many things there are to do, see, and experience in the Pearl of the Middle East.
Should You Explore Lebanon Solo or With a Guide?
Despite its small size, there are so many amazing places to visit in Lebanon, and it’s well worth exploring every corner of this tiny country. That said, Lebanon is not the easiest country to navigate on your own. You can certainly rent a car, but military stops, gas crisis issues, and dizzying traffic might make driving in Lebanon challenging for some visitors. For an easier experience, I recommend hiring a driver, booking day tours from Beirut, or embarking on a guided trip when visiting this country.
I visited Lebanon with TourLeb, a women-owned tour company-meets-social enterprise that prioritizes responsible tourism and uplifting local businesses. I share more about why visiting Lebanon with TourLeb was so amazing in this post, but in short, this company is so well-connected and well-equipped to navigate the country and cater their custom itineraries to your specific interests. Literally – no matter what you want to do, TourLeb can make it happen. In my 10 days visiting Lebanon, I wanted to see it ALL. TourLeb arranged it so that I managed to visit every place on this list!
For more DIY travelers, TourLeb can also provide support with everything from itinerary planning to making recommendations and finding you drivers, leaving you to travel the country yourself without a guide if you prefer.
If you’re interested in visiting Lebanon with TourLeb, mention ‘Rachel Off Duty’ when booking to get up to 15% off a private tour of 3 days or more. Contact them here.
However you plan to explore, read on for a short list of some of my favorite places to visit in Lebanon! From mountainous wine regions to labyrinthine souks, ornate Mamluk mosques to monasteries carved into cliffs, prepare to be blown away by complexity and diversity of it all. Lebanon is one of my favorite countries I’ve visited to date.
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I’m hosting a group trip to Lebanon this summer! From August 19 – 27, 2023, we’ll walk the footsteps of ancient Romans, cheers to delicious mediterranean wines, dance the night away in Beirut, experience unmatched Lebanese hospitality, uncover palaces and hammams, soak up the sun at the beach, and eat like you’ve never eaten before.
See the full itinerary here or click the button below to reserve your spot! (LIMITED SPOTS AVAILABLE)
10 of the Most Unforgettable Places to Visit in Lebanon
Beirut will most likely be your very first stop, and you should dedicate some time to this chaotic but mesmerizing city that marches to its own rhythm. Lebanon has undergone many changes and shifts in the 100+ years since the country formed. But Beirut has seen it all, making it one of the most fascinating places to visit in Lebanon.
Beirut made global news most recently in 2020 after the tragic Beirut Blast, and the face of the city still has noticeable remnants of the incident throughout. You’ll notice this as you walk around, but you’ll also notice that the city has remarkably rebuilt and recovered in a short amount of time, and there’s so much to see.
Things to Do in Beirut:
- Wander around downtown Beirut, and see the Martyrs’ Square, the Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque, the Al-Omari Grand Mosque, the St. George Maronite Cathedral, and The Egg (an unfinished Dome Cinema that I believe has a history of holding late-night parties and raves)
- Go shopping or coffee shop-hopping in Saifi and Hamra
- Try your haggling skills on in search of gold, silver, and basically anything else in Bourj Hammoud, Beirut’s Armenian quarter
- Walk along the Corniche
- Explore Beirut’s lively bar scene (that goes until late, late in the evening) in Hamra or Mar Mikhael. Wandering along Gouraud Street in the bohemian, funky Gemmayzeh neighborhood was also one of my favorite things to do after dark!
- Head for the hills and take a 40-minute drive up to Chateau Cana for sunset wine tasting. This beautiful family-owned winery tucked high up in the Ras El Harf village was voted one of the top 50 wineries in the entire world, and is absolutely gorgeous at dusk!
Places to Stay in Beirut:
- The Grand Meshmosh Hotel (this is where I stayed!). Rooms are simple, the food is divine, and there’s an eclectic allure here that attracts everything from backpackers, just-passing-through travelers, to bohemian intellectuals alike. This hotel was all but destroyed since the Beirut Blast and painstakingly rebuilt – but you would never know from spending time relaxing in the outdoor terrace. The vibe continues to be unshakably relaxed, cool, and comfortable for anyone that walks in the door.
- Hotel Albergo
- Dar Al Achrafieh
How Much Time to Spend in Beirut:
2-3 days minimum.
I recommend spending at least 2-3 days at the beginning or end of your trip in this city. This will be enough time to get a taste of Beirut and explore some of its most famous sights. But, I suggest spending more time here if you have it!
One of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Byblos (also known as Jbeil) is a must for any travelers looking for the very best places to visit in Lebanon. Here, you’ll be able to walk on more than 6,000 years of civilization’s history, experience some of the most important ancient societies in Lebanon, and soak up the undeniable charms of this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Byblos was easily one of my favorite places to visit in Lebanon!
Things to Do in Byblos:
- Take a walking tour of the Byblos Castle (also known as the Byblos Citadel), a crusader castle dating back to the 12th century. The crusaders actually reused stones from ancient Roman structures in order to build their citadel, and you’ll notice some irregularity in the structure of the buildings as you wander around
- Wander the Byblos souks
- Visit one of Byblos’ beaches or beachfront bars, like Ocean Blue Resort Beach Bar, Ocean Blue, Jungle Beach, or Kina Handcrafted Bar
- Explore both old town and new town Byblos
- Stop into the Byblos fossil museum – Memory of Time – to see the fossil collections of more than 1,200 aquatic species dating back up to 100 million years (crazy, I know!)
Places to Stay in Byblos:
- Beit Faris wa Lucia, where I stayed, is located within the old walled streets of Byblos. The owner was born in this very same house and has been inviting people to stay with her all her life, and decided in 2019 to formally turn her historic home into a guest house. Don’t miss out on homemade breakfasts eaten al fresco in the citrus garden!
How Much Time to Spend in Byblos:
Byblos isn’t a difficult day trip from Beirut. In fact, it’s less than an hour’s drive up the coastal highway. But there’s something about waking up in the historic city walls of this city that makes you feel as if you are being transported back in time, and that’s well worth an overnight stay to experience it for yourself.
Not far from Beirut, tucked up into the verdant green hillside, Chouf is a fascinating region of palaces, villages, and one of the largest concentrations of cedar trees in the country. Here, you’ll also find the largest population of Druze (a religious group) in all of Lebanon.
Chouf was initially on my radar because there are some charming guest houses in the area with beautiful scenery for a natural retreat. What I didn’t expect was to be blown away by the food, people, and magnificent palaces that call Chouf home. Seriously, you wouldn’t believe Lebanon looks like this until you’ve witnessed it for yourself!
Things to Do in Chouf:
- Visit the village of Deir Al Qamar
- Go to the Moussa Castle, an impressive structure built by a man – Moussa Abdel Karim Al-Maamari – who fulfilled his childhood dream of one day owning his very own castle
- Explore the Beiteddine Palace, which was built in the late 1700s / early 1800s and has since been restored. You can wander the grounds and visit the museums onsite.
- Stop by the Shallalat Nabeh Merched, a restaurant located in a cave with waterfalls. I’ve heard the food is just alright, but the ambiance is well worth stopping to see
- Visit the beautiful Moukhtara Palace, the stronghold of the Druze which was built by the Jumblatt family in the 18th century
- See the cedars at the Chouf Cedar Reserve
Places to Stay in Chouf:
How Much Time to Spend in Chouf:
Chouf is an easy day trip from Beirut. But if you have the chance to experience a guest house here, then you should absolutely do just that.
4. Batroun and Anfeh
Another historic, coastal city, Batroun is a very popular destination for both visitors and locals alike – especially in the summer! I spent a very short amount of time in Batroun. But, my impression of this city is that it’s very cute, very chic, and very much a scene.
Steeped in centuries of significance dating back to the Phoenician times, Batroun juxtaposes relics and ruins of the past with beachside bars, restaurants, and cafes.
Just up the road from Batroun, you’ll also find Anfeh, a local summer hotspot that’s also known as “little Greece” thanks to its white and blue beachside buildings. It was also known as Lebanon’s capital of salt. I came here at sunset specifically to watch the sun set over the old salt marshes, which was a whole new level of breathtaking.
Things to Do in Batroun:
- Relax on the beach, or have drinks seaside at one of Batroun’s cute coastal restaurants, like Pierre & Friends
- Admire the nearby Mseilha Fort, which you cannot miss when driving along the coastal road heading north from Beirut. This fort dates back to the 17th century and was erected to guard the important route between Beirut and Tripoli
- Sample the citrus native to Batroun with a stop at the famous Hilmi’s House of Lemonade, whose legacy dates back to the 19th century!
- Appreciate Lebanon’s craft beer and distilling scene by visiting Colonel Beer which has a great view of the water. You can also rent bicycles and scooters from here, too, if you’re looking for an active adventure before drinks!
- Explore Batroun’s nightlife scene for a switch-up from Beirut that’s just as lively
- Head up to Anfeh, just 15 minutes away from Batroun, to see the old salt marshes of Lebanon. Anfeh is a popular local destination for spending the summer. I recommend going near sunset to see the sun reflect across the salt pans
Places to Stay in Batroun:
How Much Time to Spend in Batroun:
Half a day to 1 day.
Batroun is an easy day trip, or half-day trip, either from Beirut or on your way to other places to visit in Lebanon. It’s about an hour from Beirut and just shy of 30 minutes south of Tripoli.
A coastal town just 20 minutes up the road from Beirut, the once-sleepy fishing village of Jounieh is a leisure destination in its own right. With a lively party scene and high rises that dot the rugged hillside overlooking Jounieh Bay, this town is a popular stop for visitors heading up to Byblos.
If you have some extra time to spare I recommend spending at least a morning here!
Things to Do in Jounieh:
- Visit the expansive, endlessly impressive Jeita Grotto – the longest limestone cave system in the entire Middle East
- Take the Téléferique up the mountain to Our Lady of Harissa, the towering Virgin Mary statue that can be seen watching over the city below
- Go paragliding in one of the best paragliding spots in the entire world with Paragliding Club Thermique (my first time paragliding was here!)
- Consider a visit to the Casino du Liban, Lebanon’s only casino. Whether or not you like to gamble, the casino often hosts events and is home to a handful of onsite bars and restaurants, including La Martingale Restaurant which supposedly boasts one of the best views in the entire country
Places to Stay in Jounieh:
- Beit Wadih (where I stayed!). This was one of the most peaceful stays during my entire trip. The staff doesn’t speak much English, but the service is great, the grounds are gorgeous, and the breakfasts are delicious.
- BURJ on BAY
- Bay Lodge Boutique
- Veer Boutique Hotel
How Much Time to Spend in Jounieh:
Half a day to 1 day.
Jounieh is an easy day trip, or half-day trip, either from Beirut or on your way to Byblos.
Tripoli is a dizzying (some might say chaotic), magnificent city. It’s a sensory overload of winding streets, lively souks, historic architecture, and incredible food. With my TourLeb guides, we wandered the souks in search of old hammams, visited old churches late into the evening, took a boat ride out to see Tripoli’s islands at sunset, and ate more sweets than I could ever count.
No visit to Tripoli would be complete without also exploring the Al Mina fisherman’s village adjacent to Tripoli. While Tripoli’s historic sprawl can be overwhelming, Al Mina offers a relaxed neighborhood to wander along the sea.
Things to Do in Tripoli:
- Visit the Mansouri Great Mosque and the Taynal Mosque (be sure to bring a headscarf, and cover your shoulders and knees!)
- Wander the marvelous Tripoli souks. Unlike some other cities where the souks have been modernized, Tripoli’s souks with its passageways and alleys are steeped in centuries of tradition. From food, to fabric, to furniture, to jewelry and so much in between, you’ll find literally everything here
- Within the winding souks, look out for abandoned hammams (bath houses), many of which you can simply enter and wander around. One hammam – Hammam al-Abed – is still open for men but invites all to come inside and have a look at the lounge
- Buy some natural Tripolitan soap – a product this city was once famed for making and which many factories continue to keep alive using traditional methods to this day. One amazing soap factory in Tripoli is Masbanat Awaida Soap, which makes all their soaps by hand onsite
- Eat sweets! Tripoli is known as the city of sweets, and you’ll find all kinds of delicacies here. Try ossmaliyeh, owaymet, halawet el-jeben, and ka’ak stuffed with knafeh. I recommend stopping at a pastry shop like Mackieh Sweets so you can sample them all
- For those without a sweet tooth, Tripoli is also famous for its lahme baajin, essentially a meat pizza topped with pomegranate molasses
- Spend your evening at the fisherman’s village of Al Mina Port, which dates back to the Phoenician era. Here, you can dine at amazing seafood-centric restaurants, enjoy an alcoholic drink (which you largely won’t be able to find in Tripoli’s historic city center), and smoke shisha on the streets as the locals do
Places to Stay in Tripoli:
How Much Time to Spend in Tripoli:
While I managed to visit Tripoli in just one day, I really wish I was able to stay a bit longer. If you have the time, I recommend it as the experience is unlike anything else!
Also known as Sidon or Sayida, this small city is renowned for its glass blowing. Like Tripoli, Saida is also a more conservative Muslim city. It’s well worth a visit for its delicious food and sights, including the famous Saida Sea Castle.
Here, I had some of the most delicious ka’ak stuffed with knafeh, as well as my very first falafel pita in Lebanon. Saida is for foodies as much as any other part of Lebanon already mentioned on this list, so come hungry!
I’d recommend not planning a visit to Saida on Friday if you can help it, as Friday is the start of prayer and the Lebanese weekend, and many things in the city close by 12 pm.
Things to Do in Saida:
- Visit the Saida Sea Castle, one of the most famous and recognizable monuments in Lebanon
- Explore the Debbane Palace, an Arab-Ottoman grand mansion-turned-museum that offers a taste of what life for an affluent family might have been like in the 1900s. If you’re able to access the roof during your visit, climb up the stairs for a beautiful view of the city!
- Stop at the Khan Sacy Hammam, as well as the Hammam Al Jadeed. The latter hammam has recently been transformed into an art exhibition called Revival which features dozens of paintings imagining the hammam in all its glory centuries ago
- See the old Jewish Quarter, known as Haret al-Quds. Saida was home to a sizable Jewish population until the 70s, and the remnants of that society can still be seen today, much of which has been reinhabited by Palestinian refugees. Most notably, I visited the home of Jihad Al-Mohammed, who built his residence within an abandoned Synagogue
Places to Stay in Saida:
I didn’t find many places to stay in Saida, so I recommend spending the night in Tyre (see below) if you’re planning to stay in southern Lebanon overnight!
How Much Time to Spend in Saida:
Half a day to 1 day.
Saida is an easy day trip combined with Tyre, spending half a day in both places. If you want to spend more time in southern Lebanon, spend the night in Tyre and wake up near the biggest strand of public beach in the entire country!
By this point, you might be thinking to yourself, another historic seaside town? And you’d be right! Sitting just 40 minutes south of Saida, Tyre was a massively prosperous Phoenecian city that once ruled the seas. Why? Because of the color purple. Not the movie, the actual color, which was discovered here by extracting the dye from mollusk shells. Suffice it to say, it became a hugely popular export that brought great wealth to Tyre.
Here, you’ll find fantastic Roman ruins a stone’s throw from the longest strand of public beach in the entire country. While Lebanese people generally prefer spending their vacations traveling out of the country, in the past couple years (thanks to the pandemic), exploration of their own country boomed – and Tyre is one of the hottest local spots there is.
Things to Do in Tyre:
- Spend the day at Tyre’s public beach, which is the longest strand of public beach access in the entire country. Or, for something more upscale, you can head to a beachfront hotel like Dar Alma and enjoy their private beach or restaurant
- Visit Tyre Roman ruins, including the Tyre Necropolis and the Tyre World Heritage Site. They’re located just 5 minutes from each other so you can see both!
Places to Stay in Tyre:
How Much Time to Spend in Tyre:
Half a day to 2+ days.
You can see the highlights of Tyre in a half day trip combined with Saida. But, if you have more time and want to enjoy Lebanon at a slower pace, Tyre is the place to do it. A few days soaking up the Mediterranean sun, or strolling by seaside restaurants and boutiques, sounds pretty great, doesn’t it?
9. Qadisha Valley, Bcharre, and Ehden
Now that we’ve explored Lebanon’s coast from north to south, let’s talk about Lebanon’s more mountainous regions, like the Qadisha Valley. In just under 2 hours from the sea level sunshine of Beirut, you’ll find yourself deep in the Mount Lebanon mountain range. Here, some of the most stunning scenery unfolds around you, from steep cliffs speckled with pine and oak, to monasteries tucked precariously into the surrounding mountains. It’s one of the best road trips by far, and one of the most spectacular places to visit in Lebanon.
Why? Well, besides the scenery, the Qadisha Valley is famous for being the site of one of the earliest Christian monastic settlements in the entire world. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the Qadisha Valley is poignant isolation, making you feel for a moment what life might be like for the monks that have inhabited these mountains for centuries. Road trip through the valley from monastery to monastery, or hike one of the many trails linking the sites for a substantial change of pace from the lively Lebanese coast. And, be sure to check out some of the valley’s beautiful mountain towns, like Bcharre and Ehden.
Depending on the time of year, the Qadisha Valley can get super chilly! Bring long pants and a jacket, or coat, just in case.
Things to Do in the Qadisha Valley:
- Visit the Monastery of San Antonio Qozhaya, which is carved grandly onto the side of a rock face. Here, you’ll be able to see cave facades that date back as early as the 1st century BC. Be sure to step inside the cave itself!
- Visit the Saint Elisha Monastery (also known as the Deir Qannoubine Monastery), a remote setting that served as a retreat for monks and hermits for hundreds of years
- Venture up to the Cedars of God, a UNESCO site in its own right and home to one of the last large expanses of Lebanese cedar that once covered the entire country. If you haven’t seen it yet, the cedar is the national tree of Lebanon and can be seen on the Lebanese flag
- Admire the picturesque mountain town of Bcharre, with its red-roofed houses contrasted against the valley below. If you visit in the winter, Bcharre turns into a ski town!
- Stroll through the nearby mountain town Ehden. For dinner, seek out nearby Jalset Al Sayad where you’ll find some of the most delicious Lebanese food I had my entire visit, no joke!
Places to Stay in the Qadisha Valley:
- Karaz Ehden (this is where I stayed!). A beautiful guest house renovated within a 200 year-old building that will make any design snobs swoon. My jaw dropped when I walked in the door and saw the two-story loft rooms and cozy central living room. The host, Saiid, has an impeccable eye for detail!
- Beit Mirna
- MIST Hotel & Spa
How Much Time to Spend in the Qadisha Valley:
1 – 2 days.
I highly recommend staying overnight. Or, you can drive through the Qadisha in 1 day with some stops on the way to Bekaa Valley. Otherwise, it’ll be a very long and exhausting day on the road. Plus – it’s gorgeous here, so why wouldn’t you?
10. Baaklbek and the Bekaa Valley
Tucked away in the far east of Lebanon, between the Mount Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon mountain ranges, the Bekaa Valley is one of the most epic places to visit in Lebanon. Yes, it is quite close to the border with Syria, and yes, it’s generally quite safe to go on your own. However, my experience with a guide was well worth it and I personally recommend visiting with a guide or a tour, at least on your first trip to Lebanon.
Baalbek has a long and layered history, having been occupied by Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines and Ottomans over the centuries. Some of the most impressive Roman ruins from the entire Roman Empire period can be found here.
Things to Do in the Bekaa Valley:
- Visit the Baalbek Roman ruins, including the mind-blowing Temple of Bacchus and Temple of Jupiter
- Stop at Hajjar al-Hibla, a quarry that displays one of the massive cut stones that make up the base of the temples at the ruins. How Romans actually managed to move rocks this size, I’ll never comprehend
- Go wine tasting at family-owned Chateau Rayak, where owner Eilas Maalouf will not only show you his wines (some of which are on tap!), porto, and arak, but happily drink them with you, too!
Places to Stay in the Bekaa Valley:
How Much Time to Spend in the Bekaa Valley:
1 – 2 days.
An easy day trip to the Bekaa Valley can be done by spending the night in the Qadisha Valley beforehand, so you’re just a 2-hour drive from the ruins. Otherwise, spend the night in the Bekaa Valley before driving back to the coast.
There you have it! These are some of the best places to visit in Lebanon for an unforgettable trip. Which are you planning to visit? Tell me below!
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