Lebanon is an ancient country with an illustrious past that has left it with a rich cultural heritage. Located in the Middle East on the coast of the Mediterranean, Lebanon borders Israel and Syria. Like many locations in the Middle East, it is subject to travel warnings by various worldwide governments, including the U.S. These warnings emphasize the importance of avoiding the Syrian border, for example. However, if you choose to travel to this majestic nation, you’ll have a myriad of attractions to look forward to.
Long dubbed the ‘Paris of the Middle East,’ Beirut is the capital of Lebanon and its largest city. Visitors will want to take considerable time exploring Beirut as it’s one of the oldest cities on the planet and features a wide range of historical and cultural attractions like Hamra Street, the Sorsock Museum, Roman Baths, and Beit Ed-Dine Palace. The city brims with architecturally splendid mosques, shops, galleries, and restaurants. As the country’s largest seaport, Beirut also boasts many coastal attractions like Pigeon Rocks and its Waterfront Park.
One of the oldest continuously inhabited places in the world, the city of Tyre, was a celebrated Phoenician metropolis and the site of one of Alexander the Great’s greatest conquests. Today, this city encompasses the original island on which it was built as well as its causeway and areas of the mainland. Travelers visit to witness its historical ruins like Roman hippodrome and the famed 4th Century BCE Al-Mina Theatre. Of course, Tyre is not without its contemporary attractions. Be sure to enjoy the enchanting Tyre Beach and Nature Reserve, its harbor strewn with cafes, and its shop-lined alleys and avenues.
Located in Eastern Lebanon in the Beqaa Valley, Baalbek is a large temple complex that includes famous Roman ruins like the Temple of Bacchus and the Temple of Jupiter. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Baalbek features some of the best examples of Imperial Roman architecture. Aside from its epic ruins, Baalbek is also a modern city. Visitors will find cafes, hotels, and other amenities. Though not on the Syrian border, Baalbek is still less than 30 miles from the war-torn country, so it’s not as jammed with tourists as it used to be. However, adventurous travelers still seek out the ancient monoliths of Baalbek to contemplate its mysteries in person.
Not to be confused with the Libyan city of Tripoli, the Lebanese city of Tripoli is the country’s northernmost seaport on the Mediterranean. It includes a string of coastal islands that are important from a conservation point of view and are protected areas for seals and migratory birds. The city features numerous attractions, including the 11th century Saint Gilles Fortress, the beachfront area known as El Mina, and the Souk El-Haraj.
The third-largest city in Lebanon, Sidon, is famous for its 13th Century Sea Castle constructed by visiting Crusaders. The city is located on the coast and is only 25 miles south of the capital. When visiting, you’ll want to check out the Sea Castle as well as major attractions like the city’s souk district, the Debbane Palace Museum, the Temple of Eshmun, and the Great Mosque of Al-Omari. The coast of Sidon is also famous for its outstanding scuba diving sites.
For centuries, Lebanon has been famous for its cedar trees. The Al Shouf Cedar Nature Reserve is a protected area that features 24 species of cedar trees. As the country’s cedar reserves have been depleted over centuries, as well, the reserve specializes in planting new trees in deforested areas. The reserve is located in the Chouf District of Lebanon and is also home to wild fauna like gray wolves, Persian fallow deer, and golden jackals. There are many guesthouses and hotels in the area to accommodate visitors.
Batroun is one of the oldest cities in the world. Located on the Mediterranean in northern Lebanon, Batroun is home to a wealth of attractions including its Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic Cathedrals, picturesque citrus groves, and beach-strewn coast. You’ll want to check out its other major sites like its ancient Phoenician wall, the Old Port, and its Old Souk. Batroun is also famous for its nightlife and festivals.
An important Christian pilgrimage site, the village of Harissa, is located in the mountains of the Keserwan District. Pilgrims come to visit the site of Our Lady of Lebanon, a Marian Catholic shrine. Travelers can best enjoy the sights of Harissa from above by taking a ride on its famed Cableway, which extends from the coast upwards 600 feet to the peak where the Lady of Lebanon shrine is located.
Founded by ancient Phoenicians, the city of Byblos is another of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities. The city is home to a small Crusader castle and is easily accessible; it’s located on the coast just 26 miles north of Beirut. Byblos features a postcard-worthy port that’s surrounded by restaurants and cafes. When visiting, take time to check out its other major attractions like the Medieval Ramparts, the Cathedral of St. John Mark, and the St. Maroun Annaya Monastery.
The Jeito Grotto is a famous natural wonder located in Nahr Kalb-Valley, which is roughly five miles from Beirut. The grotto refers to two interconnected cave systems. The lower caves are only accessible by boat and feature an underground river that supplies drinking water to the valley. The upper cave galleries are home to some of the largest stalactites in the world. The grotto is one of the country’s chief symbols and attracts throngs of tourists. Take note: be sure to bring a sweater as the caves stay quite cool even though it might be outside of them.