Going offbeat- why you should consider Lebanon

Yet another country that has been marred by frequent terror attacks, although not in the news as much recently, Lebanon is a beautiful destination which makes for a great vacation, for those willing to look past the fear created by the political unrest, border tensions, and hostilities. As long as you can avoid certain areas, you’re fairly as much at risk as you would be anywhere else in the world, considering no country is safe to travel to anymore.

Our trip to Lebanon a few years ago was amidst similar circumstances but we decided to take the plunge anyway and explore this gorgeous country, with its beautiful mountains, spectacular beaches, and pulsating nightlife. Here’s a photo blog of my favorite places in Lebanon – it covers the most iconic places to see, food and nightlife, shopping, historical monuments, wine tasting and beautiful landscapes.

Disclaimer: I am in no way encouraging anyone to take the risk of putting themselves in any sort of danger.  Please read the travel advisory here to get an idea of the current situation and things to keep in mind, should you decide to travel.


Cultural & Historical

Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque, Beirut

Located in the lively downtown Beirut, Mohammad Al-Amin stands apart from other buildings in its neighborhood because of the bright blue dome, which is also why it is sometimes referred to as the ‘Blue Mosque of Beirut’. Surrounded by modern commercial and residential buildings, the mosque is a stark contrast in its architecture and immediately catches the eye. It’s four pillars and the domes light up beautifully at night, making for a perfect picture.

Roman Bath Ruins, Beirut

These ruins, situated in the middle of commercial buildings, have been well-preserved since they were excavated in the late 20th century. Although there isn’t much literature explaining these baths, a quick walk around the area gives you a flavor of history between modernization and development. A landscaped public garden surrounds the ruins and this is also where some concerts take place during the summer season.

Byblos

Hardly 40 minutes away from Beirut is one of the oldest cities in the world – Byblos. An ancient coastal city which is said to be continually inhabited for 8000 years, Byblos has a wealth of historical sites such as temples, churches, and forts from the Roman, Byzantine, Phoenician, Crusader and other eras. Of particular interest are the Byblos Castle and the Old Souk; the castle is a restored property from the 12th century and a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the old souk is a lively street market selling souvenirs and local handicrafts.

Baalbek

Tourism Advisory has put this area in ‘red’ in terms of the risk associated with going closer to the disturbances at the Lebanon-Syria border. However, a visit to this Phoenician city will take you back in time and you’ll feel as if you’re in Rome. Baalbek is a complex of temples which are models of Imperial Roman architecture and a place to worship the Triad of Heliopolis- Jupiter, Venus, and Mercury. Baalbek is a must visit for history lovers and is a 2-hour drive away from Beirut City.


Beaches & Nightlife

Nejmeh Square, Beirut

This place is the heart of Downtown Beirut and is buzzing until wee hours. With al fresco cafes, shisha lounges and restaurants spilling over the patio, the place has a very artsy feel and an energetic vibe. Some interesting variants of shisha (served in a watermelon, for example) can be found here and this is probably the best place to enjoy authentic Lebanese fare.

Hamra Street, Beirut

Another lively street in the heart of Beirut, Hamra Street is Beirut’s former ‘Champs Elysées’. Home to upscale restaurants, bars, hotels, shopping, and nightlife, it is one of the most crowded areas in the city. You will see a lot of students here from the nearby universities and you’ll find some of the trendiest clothes and accessories in the shops here. There is no dearth of shisha cafes and pubs and it is one of the best places to experience the nightlife of Beirut.

Bo18 nightclub

One of the most popular nightclubs in Beirut and for the right reasons, Bo18 starts to buzz only after 11 pm. As you approach the parking lot, which looks quite gloomy and misleading, you will see a flight of stairs which will lead down to this former ‘bomb shelter’ (there is literature both in support and contradiction of that) converted into a nightclub. Shaped like a coffin, the nightclub gets extremely crowded during the late hours and is an iconic place to experience the best of Beirut’s buzzing nightlife.

Riviera Beach Club

Beirut isn’t only buzzing at night, it has a bunch of beach clubs and pool parties that also keep the city full of zip during the day. One of my favorite places to enjoy great tunes, swim in (one of the three) pools or relax on a sun lounger to the sound of the waves is Riviera Beach Club. There is an entrance fee to go to this place which is slightly pricey but fair and the place shuts by late evening.


Cityscape & views

Harissa

Although this is a historical place to visit, for the bronze statue of Virgin Mary built on top of the hill, in the 19th century, this is also recommended for the beautiful panoramic views of Jounieh that you can enjoy from the vantage point. Hardly a 30-minute drive from Beirut, the ‘Teleferique’ or the cable car can be boarded from Maameltein for a short 10-minute journey up to the area with the food court. At this point, you will be able to capture breathtaking views of the coastal city below. Another short trip in the funicular will take you to the statue of Our Lady of Lebanon (please wear respectable clothing oy you will be required to borrow a stole to cover your knees).

Pigeon Rocks in Raouche

This is the most iconic destination in Beirut, the one you get to see in most pictures promoting the destination. This marvelous piece of nature has two stunning rocks located in the middle of the ocean and is the perfect place to enjoy the sunset. The corniche which offers amazing views of the rocks is lined with several cafes offering great views of the Pigeon Rocks or you can simply enjoy a peaceful walk along the seaside promenade. For those interested, you may also take a boat ride which will take you very close. However, personally, I enjoyed the views from a distance and from a height, such as from the Bay Rock Café.


Beauty & Nature

Jeita Grotto

Yet another place which is hardly a 40-minute drive from Beirut city, this is an interesting wonder of nature to visit. It is a set of two interconnected limestone caves which are home to some of the largest stalactites in the world. The lower caves can only be visited by a boat and the upper caves can be explored on foot. Be prepared for refreshingly lower temperatures inside the cave and a slippery walking path. You will need approx. 2 hours for the tour which includes a cable car ride to the top, where the upper cave is located and the boat ride in the lower cave. Try to visit as early as possible to avoid crowds and also because the place shuts by sunset.

Kadisha Valley

The drive to the valley is actually prettier than the valley itself. The valley is surrounded by picturesque villages and cathedrals, shrines, hermitages and monasteries. The drive through the beautiful green hills and cobbled stone villages while going towards this valley is an amazing experience. Quite the contrary to the busy and crowded city life Beirut, this is your foray into the countryside, nature, and culture of Lebanon. The best place to experience the views, the serenity, and the historical villages is Bcharre, located at a 3-hour drive away from Beirut city. If you’re planning to cover this as a day trip, make sure to leave early in the morning. Many people spend a night in Bcharre because of the variety of places to explore nearby. For a detailed list of places to explore, click here.

Ksara Winery

Lebanon is home to some world-class wines and Chateau Ksara is one of the oldest wineries in Lebanon. French wines stored in Roman Caves, which were discovered by some monks 150 years ago and taken over by businessmen eventually, the two most popular varieties you’ll find here are cabernet sauvignon and Syrah. The vineyards are located in Bekaa Valley, which is about an hour’s drive from Beirut city and a wine-tasting stop here is a great idea for wine-lovers who can enjoy a free 45-minute tour of the winery. A short video introduction followed by a trip to the wine cellars and a wine-tasting session is the perfect way to spend your day away from the city.

101 thoughts on “Going offbeat- why you should consider Lebanon”

  1. I developed interest in Lebanon because of my favorite Lebanese food. But didn’t know it has so many things to offer. Wine history I was totally unaware of. You have got few very cute photos here. When I would visit Lebanon, I would like to club it with Israel and Jordan, maybe.

  2. I visited lebanon last year for a fishing trip. We had an amazing trip and the rental cost is very affordable there.

  3. I have a couple of friends from Lebanon and I try to visit all the countries of my friends. So far, I have been doing quite well but Lebanon is yet to be ticked off my friends list! There are so much things to see and do around Beirut and I am especially in love with the view from Harissa and Kadisha Valley is gorgeous aswell!

    1. I don’t think a lot of people imagine hills and valleys when they think of Lebanon but the country is beautiful!

  4. I’d actually really like to visit Lebanon, and am considering going this year. There are some gorgeous and very historic places here, like Byblos, and that awesome looking grotto! I’m a huge fan of Lebanese food too, so will have a great time in Beirut for sure! Will be sure to check the traveller warnings, but will take the warnings at face value!

  5. This is such a great round up of places to visit in Lebanon. I really want to visit but am waiting until my husband renews his passport as I am sure he has a Israel stamp and I understand that automatically means he is likely to be denied entrance. It looks very cosmopolitan and pretty

  6. Kudos to you for bringing a non-an-ordinary destination to us in the form of Lebanon. I do remember reading about Beirut equated with some of the European countries several years back (the article was much older) and that it was so fashionable, advanced and rich.
    So when I see that there is a night-life on the main street, a part of me is not surprised and the other part, knowing what has Beirut gone through is amazed at seeing how it has bounced back.
    I first had Lebanese food when I was in Switzerland 2 decades back and I still love it 🙂

  7. Wow, that is such an unusual destination to read about. And yes, you are brave to consider this as a destination to explore. Everything on this post is new to me except those pigeon rocks that look familiar probably from some film or TV show. Thank you so much for introducing us to Lebanon.

    1. That’s a great idea! Both Jordan and Dubai are amazing in their own ways. Feel free to go through my blog for details on those destinations as well 🙂 Cheers!

  8. I know Lebanese food is some of the tastiest food I’ve ever had but I would never have chosen it for a travel destination, I love how you get out to the less traveled places, I think you’re the first person I know that has traveled there 😀 – Jeita Grotto looks especially cool to explore, I’m a huge fan of exploring caves so this would defo be high on the list and also a visit out to Byblos – I actually have heard of the B018 nightclub before from a comedian I watch and he described just as you 😀

    1. I know you’re talking about Russell Peters, I’ve heard that one too 🙂 We travelled to Lebanon mostly because it’s not very far from Dubai and makes for a good long weekend destination, with a direct flight 🙂 There were political tensions going on when we travelled, missiles were being dropped on Beirut, etc but we decided to take the risk anyway!

  9. Wow! I didn’t even think there would be a nightlife in Lebanon. Shows how little I know! and Jeita Grotto looks super amazing! I should get my butt to Beirut!!

  10. I’d love to visit Beirut one day, I’ve heard many positive things about it. The mosque photo is incredible, and those beach views are magnificent. It’s cool they have a good nightlife there too!

  11. Many people would be scared going to Lebanon because of the political issues and the news about the unrest. However, it seems you really had a great time there. And you are right that we can’t really be safe anywhere and we should never be stopped by this! Lebanon is beautiful!

  12. thank you for sharing lebanon. Not enough do we hear about leisure travel to the middle east so thank you! I also love your blog name btw!

  13. You definitely made a very convincing case for visiting Lebanon. Everything looks amazing. You don’t really think of beaches and Lebanon, but the photo you shared looks so inviting.

  14. Lebanon is truly an offbeat destination and I have been often extremely intrigued by it. Have interacted with many Lebanese and they are so sweet!!
    The country is so rich in its heritage, natural beauty and of course the food! LOVE the dishes Lebanese whip up! Loved your pictures especially the Jeita Grotto one!

  15. This is a great post! It really is too bad that the media makes people believe that a certain area is more dangerous than it actually is. With that said, you’re right always check travel advisories. I’m not much for the night life but, Id love to visit Lebanon for the historical and nature sites!

  16. What an interesting article! Lebanon hasn’t exactly been on my travel radar. but now I’m definitely considering going there. Thanks for all the info!

    Cheers,
    Karo

  17. Lebanon is definitely a bucket list destination and your article does nothing but solidify it for me. It looks like such a wonderful place to visit and some of the attractions are stunning! I can’t wait!

  18. To be honest, I know nothing about Lebanon except for the unstable situation and the terrorist attacks that we see on the news. You have shown that Beirut and the entire Lebanon is actually a very modern country with lots to do and see. The Riviera could be easily any resort in Spain!

    1. This is probably the truth about many countries Joanna, they become inaccessible because of the terror created but if you actually go and explore, you’ll find so much beauty!

  19. I’m surprised you didn’t go in depth about Lebanese food! I’m in love with their cuisine but never even thought of visiting nor did I know it was THIS beautiful! Wow! For sure adding your recommendations to my bucket list 🙂

    1. Of course I love Lebanese food, but I guess I take it for granted because it is so easily available here in Dubai and we end up having it very regularly anyway 🙂

  20. One reason I would love to visit is for the amazing cuisine, Lebanese food is amazing! But you have lured me with some other goodies as well!

  21. Beirut’s a beautiful city, glad to see you enjoyed your visit. I never made it out of the city –work necessitated that I stay close– but loved the vibe, the friendly locals, the vibe, the wine, and yeah, the food, too. 🙂

  22. Love hearing about people that travel off the beaten track. You’ve shown off Lebanon beautifully with beautiful pictures and lots of info. Thanks for sharing

  23. I live in Dubai, so I am not very far away from Lebanon, yet I have never had a chance to visit. Heard so much about it though! Your post really makes me wanna go very soon! It is quite expensive to travel there, isn’t it? How did you budget your trip? Thanks for sharing, you got a lot of nice ideas and pictures!

    1. I also live in Dubai and that is why I went, for 5 days, on one of the long weekends. I did not find it that expensive actually, we rented a car to explore outside Beirut and stayed at a hotel very close to the Rouche Rocks and it was quite reasonable!

  24. Wow, Lebanon is so rich in culture and the scenery is beautiful. The views of the valley are stunning! Would love to visit the winery. You’ve convinced me to visit Lebanon! : )

  25. My friends are always calling me crazy when I talk about visiting countries like this. But for me Lebanon is a place full of culture and history like Iran or Turkey. It’s sad they are looked down because of their political situation. Thanks for sharing those beautiful pictures

  26. Lebanon looks like such a diverse nation with so much to explore. It’s a pity such a lovely nation is marred with terrorism. The architecture and cityscape photos look amazing. Good job with photography there!

  27. In many ways it’s a real shame when a destination becomes somewhere with a red warning. Especially when there are such beautiful sights (I loved Jeita Grotto). The silver lining is that for those of us happy to go, it is just that bit less full of visitors

  28. Never wanted to go to Lebanon but after readin this I think I should. Amazing pictures too.What a great post , enjoyed reading your blog:) keep writing:) thanks for sharing

  29. You are so adventurous! Lebanon is very interesting place to be. I really would love to visit and the winery and taste some of their wines.
    Never thinking to go there, but this post starts changing my mind.
    Keep it cool!

  30. Kadisha Valley looks amazing! I was consider going to Lebanon next year in Feb but FCO in the UK says it’s a bit risky. I’m glad you are ok and from what you say it was OK to travel and no one bothered you, right? It’s such a shame as the country has such a rich history and I would definitely visit for the food – you don’t write much about it but I would love to get to know what food did you like the most?

    1. We were absolutely fine, I guess you just need to be cautious as anywhere else and leave the rest to your luck! As for the food, I did not write much because I live in Dubai and we get Lebanese food here all the time, it has become such a habit to eat it on a regular basis for us that it was not the main attraction for us 🙂 But I do understand, food is a very important part of one’s travels. I particularly like fresh pita bread with hummus, shish taouk, and zaatar & cheese manakish. As for sweets, I love Kunafeh and baklava!

  31. wow, so nice to see Beirut is still alive and pumping amidst the surrounding political chaos! It looks amazing, the Middle East is still a part of the world I am yet to explore. The caves and history in this city looks fascinating.

  32. Your pictures look amazing! I think making this an unusual & “dangerous” travel destination is the typical biased view many people have, unfortunately… Apart from having transits in UAE & Qatar I haven’t had any experiences with the middle east so far 😉 So it’s really great to read about this.

  33. What a great unusual destination pick – and so many interesting spots to visit in Lebanon! The winery would particularly interest me, Lebanese wine is becoming quite popular over here.

    1. It was not very far from Dubai and there was a direct flight, which is why we decided to go ahead despite all the terror threats. Such a lovely destination, especially once you take on the road and explore the countryside.

  34. You make Lebanon sound so beautiful. Well I will be honest we were not including it in our near future list but it looks unbelievable. There is a plethora of nature marvels to see undoubtedly. Loved the ? ry, Roman caves hoarding french wines, wow.

  35. You had me at wine! I love wine. Visiting a winery in Lebanon would just be icing on the cake really. What a beautiful country with a lot of culture. I would definitely put Lebanon on my list of places to visit. Your pictures do it a lot of justice.

    1. Haha it seems everyone is surprised at the fact that Lebanon has its own wine 🙂 Yes, the country is beautiful!

    1. I’m sure you can, Lebanon’s wines are available outside their country as well. Although I’m not sure how widespread their distribution is 🙂

  36. I have not had any experience with the middle east and no plans as yet so it’s great to read about it. The grotto looks awesome. I had no idea there were wineries there!

  37. It’s great that you said it’s the same as anywhere else, it’s true! We shouldn’t stop ourselves from visiting if we can do it safely. Nice to see an unusual destination 🙂 the old cities look incredible!

    1. Everywhere in the world right now is equally unsafe, so to say. Does it mean we don’t step out of our homes? We continue to explore!

  38. I did not know that Lebanon was a wine destination but am glad to hear it, thanks for the info. I would love to get to more of the East and will use your tips when planning our next trip.

  39. I love this post – just because I feel that there are countries out there (such as Lebanon) that are beautiful and filled with culture and adventure, that are not given enough credit just because of bad news! Bravo to you on making this trip – and it looks like you had an amazing time. Such a great post!

  40. Cool – thumbs up for picking a more unusual travel destination! I would love to go and explore those countries a bit more, but haven’t had the chance so far. Your pictures look amazing though! I didn’t know that the Lebanon has some world class wines. As I recently learned a lot more about wine, this might be the destination to go to next!

    1. It is a pretty unusual destination but what people do not know is that culturally, it is nothing like the rest of Middle East! It has history, nightlife, gorgeous landscapes and so much to explore.

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