Lebanon is a small country where it is easy to get around and you can get everywhere quickly, especially if you are considering traveling by car. The key here is to travel slowly and enjoy every stunning corner of the country, meeting the people, tasting the cuisine and knowing where to go in Lebanon.
With an exceptional cultural and scenic diversity, from north to south, from east to west, one can find numerous points of interest to visit, be they cities, beaches, mountains or archaeological sites. Small but intense, Lebanese territory has everything one could hope for and then some.
Read on to learn more about where to travel in Lebanon.
See also: The best places in Lebanon that aren’t the typical hotspots
Where to go in Lebanon
Beirut has a long and turbulent history, enormous complexity, immense cultural and religious richness, and exceptional people. Strategically located on the Mediterranean Sea, it has been an important cultural and economic center in the Middle East for centuries. In the last two years, the capital’s port and adjacent districts were completely destroyed by the largest non-nuclear explosion in human history, and it, like the whole country, faced a deep economic crisis. Despite this, thanks to the resilience of its residents, the city continues to thrive and is a must-see.
Like any capital Beirut has a huge range of sights and activities to offer. It’s a city where one can find opulent and cosmopolitan architecture located mainly along the waterfront mixed with colonial era architecture. No wonder Beirut is known as the “Paris of the Middle East”. There we also find a great religious diversity, materialized in houses of worship that live side by side.
As for the archaeological remains, in the city center we can find many Roman ruins that give the landscape the appearance of an open-air museum.
It is also possible to visit some emblematic neighborhoods such as Sabra, Shatila and Bourj Hammoud, better known as refugee camps where the days pass amidst the urban chaos.
Strolling through the city streets you will find the city’s most typical neighborhoods, Gemmayze and Mar Mikhail, with a bohemian atmosphere where you can find the trendiest bars and restaurants in Beirut.
In the coastal area we find the famous viewpoint called Pigeon Rock where you can enjoy a magnificent sunset.
Of course, your visit wouldn’t be complete without a reference to The Egg, the city’s architectural landmark, a former entertainment hub now in complete disrepair.
Tip: That Beirut Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour is a great way to see much of the city.
If we follow the coast south of Beirut we find Sidon. This small historic town is less than an hour from the capital. It was once one of the largest cities in the Phoenician trading empire and it is here that the Crusader-built Seeburg can be found and visited. From there you can see the magnificent Bay of Sidon and the old town. It is without a doubt a landmark in the landscape and a reference to visit.
Sidon has one of the most beautiful and best preserved souks in South Lebanon where you can taste fabulous street food and also visit the traditional soap factory. Strolling its streets means being enveloped by the country’s history.
A little further south of Sidon is the city of Tire. The small fishing port, the quaint architecture and the friendly people are the perfect combination to make you feel like you’re on a movie set, that’s how quirky this town is.
Tyros invites you to take a long walk through its narrow streets. Here you can breathe history as this is one of the oldest Phoenician cities in the world. This city is so unique that legend has it that the purple color was invented in Tyre.
Tire is also home to the Roman ruins, classified as an archaeological site by Unesco.
Extra tip: End your day with a dip in the warm Mediterranean waters and enjoy the sunset in Tyros.
About a two-hour drive from Beirut, to the northeast, lies the unmissable Baalbek complex, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is most likely the hottest spot when it comes to archaeological sites in Lebanon.
The cultural and religious complex of Baalbek was built by the Phoenicians and later taken over by the Romans. The importance of Baalbek spans several historical periods and was not only an important religious pilgrimage site, but also a strategic point on the trade route between Damascus, Syria and the Mediterranean coast. Its decline started with the Muslim occupation and later by the Ottomans who did not take much interest in the structure and had it abandoned.
Nonetheless, Baalbek survives to this day, and there we can find some of the most colossal and best-preserved Roman temples ever built. Examples are the Hexagonal Court, the Temple of Jupiter (the largest Roman temple in the world) and of course the Temple of Bacchus.
In Baalbek, in addition to visiting the ruins, a visit to the city mosque is also possible and recommended. Its interior is rich in decorative details.
Extra tip: On the way between Beirut and Baalbek it is possible to stop and visit the ruins of Anjar. A lesser known archeological site but just as interesting.
Rural life is still very much present in the Kadisha Valley. As you drive along the roads, with absolutely stunning views of the gorge, you may encounter shepherds with herds of goats roaming the mountains. In the small villages that populate the entire valley, life moves at its own pace, the rhythm of rural life in a place lost in time.
Throughout the valley it is possible to visit numerous monasteries in the hills. With their unique architecture, these places of worship are even more special as they often have their places of worship in small caves dug into the mountain.
cedars of God
The Cedars of God are a must-see for anyone traveling to this part of the country. That green piece of treesthat once covered all of Mount Lebanon is now reduced to a cluster of millennial trees, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
From the use of the wood of these trees in Egyptian times to build ships, to the various references to cedars in the Bible, to their presence on the Lebanese national flag, you can get an idea of how important these trees have been throughout history .
Be sure to enter the park and walk along the marked trails to admire these Lebanese giants, some of which are over 2,000 years old.
Tripoli is about 1 hour north of the capital Beirut. The largest city in the north of the country and the second largest in Lebanon, Tripoli stretches along the Mediterranean coast and includes on its territory a number of islands, one of which is classified as a UNESCO protected area. The city is said to have been founded by the Phoenicians and has had a rich and turbulent history after several invasions.
Today’s 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.
The old souk is undoubtedly the liveliest part of the city. There you will find everything you can imagine, from vegetables to fish, meat, gold, clothes to traditional soaps and perfumes. It’s the place where smiles run wide and curiosity about where travelers come from is openly expressed. It’s also the place where you can’t say ‘no’ to the offerings, which stack up from tea to bread. The Lebanese are happy to welcome you and make a point of offering visitors a bit of their culture, which inevitably includes the food.
From Tripoli Castle you can see the whole city. Like every building of its kind, it was built on the highest point in the city.
The castle was built in 1102-1103 on a Fatimi-era Shia cemetery with an octagonal mausoleum. The construction of the castle was commissioned by Crusader Raymond VI. initiated by Saint Gilles.
Tripoli has a permanent fair/exhibition center designed by the famous Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer. Large exhibitions, trade fairs and other events regularly take place here. The vast majority of the room was never completed due to the start of the civil war in the country, resulting in it being partially abandoned. Nonetheless, visiting this space is absolutely necessary to contemplate the unfinished works of one of the most brilliant architects of our time, before it becomes just a reminder of what could have been an auspicious place.
The Palm Islands Nature Reserve or Rabbit Island is the largest of these, covering 20 hectares. The name “araneb” or rabbit comes from the large number of rabbits that were raised there during French occupation in the early 20th century. Today it is a nature reserve for green turtles, rare birds and rabbits. Declared a UNESCO protected area in 1992, camping, campfires or other forms of environmental destruction are prohibited. In addition to its picturesque landscape, Palm Island is also a cultural heritage site.
On the route from Tripoli to Beirut we find Batroun. This small town is considered to be one of the biggest tourist destinations north of Beirut these days.
Famous for its lemonade, numerous cafes and restaurants, it is also known for its vibrant nightlife. Today, Batroun’s economy is entirely focused on tourism, so it’s not difficult to find a wide range of activities, including cycling along the coast.
Byblos is perhaps the country’s most charming seaside town. Located about 40 minutes north of the capital, it is a must-see for tourists. The picturesque landscape, small port, archaeological sites, beaches, shopping and dining options make this small town one of the most desirable places to spend a few days of rest.
Let yourself be enchanted by Byblos and don’t forget to leave the main streets to enjoy the quiet alleys full of bougainvillea that give them a special charm.
Isn’t it amazing how such a small country has such an abundance of things to do and offer? Visit Lebanon, you won’t regret it!