Where to go in Lebanon? It is a small country, so easy to get around on day trips or drive around and stop en route as you wish. Are you feeling a bit anxious about visiting this little country? Do not hesitate for a second, it is perfectly safe, Beirut is considered to be one of the safest cities in the Middle East. The people are welcoming and friendly and the roads are safe, if a little chaotic in Beirut in rush hour. Just like any city!
PHOTO: Instagrammable Beirut
Beirut is being rebuilt as a modern vibrant city, great location right by the sea too. Downtown is a super chic area now with International shops, bars and restaurants. Little glimpses of history such as The Forum, pictured below.
PHOTO: Where to go in Lebanon – Beirut
Beirut was a bit disappointing, if I am perfectly honest. The city was decimated during the civil war and very little of the traditional Beirut architecture is left today. Rebuilding a modern city has been a great success, but there is very little cultural heritage left, you could be in any city in the Middle East. Well, except for the Mosques and Churches side by side …. a joy to see!
PHOTO: Shop until you drop in Beirut
We loved: Sipping coffee in a cool cafe, enjoying dinner downtown, LOVED Hotel Le Gray bar for a glass of Lebanese wine and rooftop bar, will be back to stay for sure. Movenpick Hotel rooftop bar to enjoy a sundowner.
PHOTO: Le Gray Hotel Lounge, Beirut
However, outside Beirut it is a different story! We loved the mix of traditional and modern in Saida and Byblos. We hired a 4 x 4 and drove to Byblos on the recommendation of my readers! Lots of women drive in Lebanon, which is lovely to see. Hiring a car and driving is my absolute favourite.
Tip: Hire a car in advance to collect at the airport. We hired from a local company, super 4×4 car but it would have been easier to rent at the airport. Saves money too considering the high taxi fees.
Enjoy exploring, change plans as you wish and meet local people. If you are not so enthusiastic about driving, hire a car and driver, taxi or Uber for the day. This costs approximately $100 for a day trip plus tips.
PHOTO: Harbour at Byblos
Explore Byblos, take a boat ride, enjoy the beach, have lunch one of the little restaurants by the port. Byblos history goes back 7,000 years. Visit the archaeological site that has ruins from past civilisations, including the Crusader Castle from the 13th century.
PHOTO: View from the Crusader Castle, Byblos
We enjoyed a lovely lunch at Pepe’s Restaurant, which was full, lively and the food was delicious. They even have their own little museum!
A ‘must visit’ in Lebanon is Jeita Grotto. About 30 minutes from Beirut, this is the most magnificent Grotto I have ever seen. Photography is banned and so I cannot share the many splendours of the limestone caves which have an underwater lake and magnificent Stalactites and Stalagmites. Just visit and see for yourself.
We ventured South along the coast to Saida. After reading the British Government advice, we were going to miss this area, but everyone in Lebanon assured us it was perfectly safe. We loved Saida and felt welcome everywhere. Sometimes the travel advice can be overly cautious on these government websites! Said, or Sidon, has a history stretching back 6,000 years and is a fascinating place to visit.
PHOTO: The castle at Saida
Saida, or Sidon, has a lovely old town with a Souk to buy some Lebanese treats. See if you can find the Debbane Palace Museum in the Souk. Beautifully restored and worth a visit. We ate lunch at the Government Resthouse, right next to the Castle. Delicious food and great views of the sea and city.
PHOTO: The Port at Saida
Why do I enjoy visiting this area of the Middle East?
Lebanon and nearby Jordan are a short flight time from London. Only four and a half hours to Beirut from London. The climate is warm and dry, both countries are beautiful with rich history and beautiful beaches too. The people are warm and friendly, the food delicious….. there are so many reasons to visit! Oh, I nearly forgot it is relatively inexpensive!
Check out my Jordan report:
Next trip I want to visit Tiro and go diving, the mountains of Les Cedres and Beiteddin!