Lebanon is dominated by two mountain ranges that run from north to south. The fertile farmlands of the Bekaa Valley lie sandwiched between them. Around 2500 B.C., the seafaring Phoenicians became the first people to establish a civilization in this part of the world. Centuries later, in the 1920’s, the French were in control. Total independence from France came in 1946, and today most of the people are Arabs who have settled in the country’s towns and cities. One –fourth lives in or around the capital.
These are the top ten not to be missed places in Lebanon.
Temples of Baalbek
Baalbek is translated from the Phoenician word as “Mr. Valley.” The Romans originally built five temples but only three have survived. The most majestic is the Temple of Jupiter, the Temple of Bacchus is the best preserved and the most elegant Temple of Venus. Temples of Mercury and Neptune, alas, destroyed.
Temple of Jupiter was the first built temple where the construction along with the other 4 temples took almost 100 years. Be sure to pay attention to the base of the Temple of Jupiter, which is much older than the temple itself. To reach this site, from Beirut to Baalbek you ride on these small buses of the Cola Transport Hub. Necessarily, go early in the morning to avoid the traffic in the capital.
Temples of Baalbek
is definitely an exciting and a must-see attraction. Everything here breathes history as you walk through the ancient ruins and admire the grandeur of ancient structures and their scales. The Temple of Bacchus was built by the Romans, who ruled here from 64 B.C. to A.D. 395. They called the city Heliopolis – City of the Sun.
Some of its ancient ruins date back to the Phoenician civilization. The temple of Baalbek is within an archaeological site for a fee. Little is left of the temple, but the columns are very majestic and impressive. The place is mystical, quiet, isolated and surrounded by mountains in the distance.
Mohammed Al-Amin Mosque
Mosque of Al-Amin Mohammad is
Sunni and is located in Martyrs Square in downtown Beirut. The beauty of the mosque is indescribable. It is worth a visit regardless of any religion at all. In the heart of Beirut is a true work of Islamic art, the mosque is considered very young but already draws more tourists to marvel at its beauty. The huge dome of the Mosque of 46m height and a total area of 65sqm is equally mesmerizing. The inspiring beauty of the interior is designed by noted Lebanese artists Haruta Bastazhanom.
The magical presence of the ligature gold calligraphy done on red unites people of all faith. However, it is important to remember the rules of conduct. Women need to wear dark clothing that covers her hair – the hijab; fortunately, they give it at the entrance, completely free of charge. Just all visitors, regardless of gender, should take off the shoes and put in a special box. It is strictly forbidden to make noise, photography is allowed, but follow all the rules of praying. The chandeliers are beautiful, majestic, and really worth seeing!
caves are located 4-5 kilometers from Jounieh. To reach this site, get to the point where there is a statue of the Virgin Mary, on the bus, and from there take a taxi ride to the caves. They are located about 300 meters from each other and the rises to it occurs on the cable car, but buy one ticket to visit all the caves. Taking photographs and video inside the caves is strictly prohibited. At the entrance to each of the caves are special storage chamber, where all the personal electric gadgets can be deposited and retrieved after the tour.
Security is quite strict and there is a range of video surveillance and security guards walking. The caves, no doubt is awesome; huge halls, which highlighted the huge stalactites, stalagmites, and made in a special way. You can go in safely and inspect everything. After exploring one of the caves you can either walk or ride a small train to get to the second, the bottom of the cave is a water cave and you can only look at it from a boat. In general, the Jeita cave is really interesting and speaks a lot about the Arab culture. It is one of the largest and most beautiful caves in the world that can be easily accessed and made available for visits. The artificially made concrete cableway makes an unforgettable walk through the caves. It must be seen by everyone.
Our Lady of Harissa
Our Lady of Harissa
is the famous Marian shrine near Beirut, the Lebanese capital city. It stands high above the bay of Jounieh with lovely views of the entire coastline rises and the great Marian statue, which is considered the “Queen of Lebanon” and is venerated and visited not only by Christians but also by many Muslims. One can climb up from the chapel on a serpentine path to the statue. Observe silence when inside the chapel. Immediately next to it is a huge modern sanctuary for large services. Within the pilgrimage site is a great souvenir shop and a Madonna Grotto. You can reach both by car here as well as by cable car. This site is an absolute must when visiting Lebanon.
It is a place of peace and tranquility despite the huge crowd of tourists and locals. The entire facility is well maintained, clean, and in good weather an enchanting view can be enjoyed. Not to mention the gondola ride from Jounieh where you arrive in a square that leads to the shrine and where you can take a solemn moment to pray and meditate. At the park next to the shrine, there are very nice views of the city, the coastline and the mountains. The statue of Our Lady is seen from the city at night and looks more mystical when illuminated.
is a paradise for shopaholics. It has lots of shops with the latest brand and non-branded products. Stores are modern, the service is great and you can find everything – from the cheapest to the most expensive things. There are cafes, Arabic restaurants, playgrounds; everything else is clean and beautiful.
If you are accustomed to Louboutin, Gucci, Hermes and other brands of luxury, this is where you can meet up. The Grand Café appears in every multiple stops and corners of the area. It is a newly reconstructed shopping area built at the site of the ancient souks of Beirut which was devastated during the civil war. It is a huge shopping center with lots of options available.
National Museum of Beirut
National Museum of Beirut is
small but filled with interesting and unique exhibits. Be sure to see the mosaic of Baalbek. Two of them can be found inside the museum. On the 1st floor, there is the mosaic called the “Eight Wise Men”, next is the muse of poetry and philosophy – Calliope surrounded by the eight prominent Greek sages (Socrates, Diogenes, etc.).
Another interesting art is right on the wall showing the scene of birth and bathing. Next to it is the interesting Sarcophagi of Thira (four), a very beautiful sculpture on the cover and the thread around the perimeter of the Trojan War and depicts scenes from the life of Achilles. Pay attention to the king’s sarcophagus Biblskogo Ahiram (X century BC). It is located to the left of the entrance on the 1st floor. Renowned for being at the edge of the lid is a Phoenician inscription – the second oldest sample Phoenician letters in the world (1st in Syria).
On the second floor of a collection of ancient coins, there is a piece of cloth dyed purple by a famous Phoenician artist. It is full of great rarity in artifacts, gold ornaments and other extremely ancient historical pieces. The museum is open from 9.00 to 17.00 hours and closed on Mondays.
Citadel Saint Gilles (Qal’at Sinjil)
Citadel Saint Gilles (Qal’at Sinjil)
is a medieval fortress in the heart of Tripoli. Although it is heavily guarded by military personnel and checkpoints must be passed before reaching this site it turns out that there are no prohibitions and restrictions inside the citadel. Fair priced tickets can be bought at the entrance of the military fortress. The ancient fortress is well preserved and quite large in size, located on a hill and on all sides provides an excellent view of the city.
At the right side of the Citadel is the cliff above the river where a viewing deck can give a panoramic view of the mountains and the city skyline. Inside the fortress, there are all sorts of buildings, basements, mazes, loopholes, and dungeons. In general, this citadel is a perfect place for those who are interested in history and like to discover something new.
The Crusader Castle
is the only place on earth where people live constantly for over 9000 years. It is very compact, but truly historical because it is the acknowledged cradle of the Phoenician alphabet. Without any knowledge of history, this unique place in the town of Byblos cannot be perceived as “just ruins”. The town is full of interesting items that deserve a thorough examination, including a full day, just for the wealth of ancient structures and modern sites that are present.
It should be emphasized with regard to the ruins of the Crusader Castle, the monument’s most important archaeological site built by the Franks in the twelfth century. It has huge blocks of stone probably of Roman origin that were later restored. The castle has a moat and a cistern in the basement. Interesting Phoenician ramparts, which allow you to enjoy the city and its great view from the top of the castle. The archaeological site of Byblos contains ancient exhibits ranging from the Phoenicians to the most recent period of the Crusades. It is not too far from Beirut and easily accessible by car making it the ideal place to spend a nice sunny day.
Qadisha (Kadisha) Valley
is a natural valley that has a spiritual and historical value in the town of Bchaare, the northern part of Lebanon. It is filled with ancient churches, hermitages, incorporated into its cliffs. There are lots of monasteries here where monks and Christians of the first centuries devote himself to a monastic life in communion with God and to live their faith freely. It is recognized by the UNESCO World Heritage as a religious site. It is surrounded by nature and greenery. The monks here prefer to live a simple life in this valley. The place or seat of the Maronite Patriarchate has remained in this place for over 500 years. This is a tour that must not be missed when in Lebanon. It is a beautiful natural site with calm rivers, waterfalls, monasteries, that is all dominated by villages built on the edge of the valley. Do not hesitate to walk the small paths that take you in small monasteries within the valley.
Tannourine Cedars Reserve
Tannourine Cedars Reserve
is a quaint small village where one can spend a full day and relax in the beauty of nature. The places to visit are; mainly the reserve of cedars or you can see a large concentration of cedars (the tree is the national symbol of Lebanon), caves, sinkholes and natural water falls. These splendid cedars can only be found in the northern side of Lebanon. A great number of cedar trees use to cover these whole mountain area before but it was cut down before for timber use. Today, these ancient trees are protected by the government. Lebanese nurseries are also growing millions of seedlings to replant the entire forests.
You can also visit the monastery of St. Anthony of the Lebanese Maronite order. Don’t fail to make the hike to the Wata Houb farm where you can collect and taste some of the fruits of their gardens. Visit the village churches especially the old church of Saint Challita. Taste a variety of good Lebanese cuisine in the central town of Tannourine. You can enjoy a complete day using the same access road that will take you to the beautiful and natural landscapes of Lebanon.