Five Things First Time Travellers To Lebanon Should Know
- Dress conservatively when visiting religious sites. If you're planning on going inside mosques and churches, you'll need to cover your shoulders and wear long pants or skirts.
- Follow the rules for Ramadan. During this holy month, tourists and locals alike won't be able to eat, drink or smoke in public spaces between the hours of sunrise and sunset.
- Don't take photos of any government buildings or military personnel. If you do, you could get arrested and taken in for questioning. Stay on the safe side and stick to the tourist areas only.
- Credit cards are widely accepted in Beirut. But you'll need to withdraw cash if you travel to the less touristy areas. Smaller stores and street food vendors in the capital also don't accept cards as a payment method.
- Shopping in Lebanon for tourists is tax-free. Compared to other countries in the region, Lebanon is more expensive because of large customs fees on imported goods. Luckily, tourists are exempt, and Beirut is one of the best places to shop for luxury brands. Just make sure you claim the tax back at the airport.
Best Time To Visit Lebanon
The best time to visit Lebanon is during its two shoulder seasons. From April to May and September to November, you'll escape the heat of summer as well as the crowds. In spring, the entire landscape is in full bloom, and temperatures are a warm 25°C. It's an ideal time of year to go trekking through the valleys or relaxing at the beach.
While the temperatures start to dip in autumn, it's still warm enough for many of Lebanon's popular outdoor activities. If you're a wine lover, this season is the best time to go for wine tasting across the country.
Winter in Lebanon is cold and wet, which keeps most of the tourists away. From December to March, the country turns into a ski resort, and its nightlife scene doesn't miss a beat. If you don't mind the 5°C weather, you'll be rewarded with low hotel rates and cheap flights.
The summer months of June to September are peak tourist season. Humidity levels and temperatures skyrocket with little to no rain during this period.
If you can handle the heat, the region has a lot to offer during this time. Unwind on the beaches, visit the many archaeological sites and plan your trip around some of the country's biggest festivals.
The only downside is that it's the most expensive time of year for tourists. The influx of crowds pushes up hotel rates, and you'll need to book a few months in advance to ensure availability.
Beirut is the capital city of Lebanon. Once called the "Paris of the Middle East", the city has been gaining back its reputation since the end of the country's civil war. Today, it's full of world-class museums, restaurants and a buzzing nightlife.
Follow the Heritage Trail and explore the city's Garden of Forgiveness, Nejme Square, Roman Baths and the fascinating Beirut City Museum.
Tripoli is the second largest city in Lebanon. Located on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, it was once the centre of ancient trading. Like most of the country, it's recovering from the wounds of war, but it's still worth the visit.
Go to the Citadel of Raymond de Saint-Gilles, wander through the old souks and explore the Mansouri Great Mosque, built in 1294 CE.
Byblos is one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world. It's thought to be the first city established under the Phoenician dynasty and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Re-emerging as an upscale destination, the city is renowned for its seafood, open-air bars and cosy cafes. Its top attractions include the Crusader Castle, the Baatara gorge waterfall, and the Mseilha Fort.
Top Attractions in Lebanon
Located in the Beqaa Valley, Baalbek is an ancient town full of archaeological treasures. Inhabited since 9,000 BC, it became an important pilgrimage site to worship Baal and his consort Astarte.
A grand temple dedicated to the couple was built in the city centre. Its ruins are still standing and lay beneath one of the sites other highlights, the Temple of Jupiter Baal.
The ruins are an easy day trip from Beirut and well-worth the 2-hour drive. If you can, plan your visit around the Baalbek International Festival and explore the surrounding countryside before you leave.
Located 20km from the capital city of Beirut, the Jeita Grotto is one of Lebanon's best natural attractions.
Discovered in 1836 by Reverend William Thomson, the site was shut down for years because of the war. In 1995 the caves reopened and have been welcoming adventurous travellers ever since.
To get here, you'll need to take a guided mini boat tour to the entrance of the caves. Once inside, you can view the world's largest stalactite as well as many other breathtaking limestone formations that are thousands of years old.
Constructed over 30 years, Beit ed-Din is an important cultural and historical site. Commissioned by Emir Bashir Shihab II, the palace was built on a hermitage called Beiteddine.
With no expense spared the building includes a lush personal apartment, an opulent guest house and a harem. Many of the building's surfaces were inlaid with mosaics and intricate designs that have survived to this day.
Legend has it that once the palace was completed, the Emir cut off the architect's hands so he could never replicate the beauty of Beit ed-Dine.
Cedars of God
The Cedars of God are a symbol of national pride and heritage. It is all that remains of the extensive forests that once thrived across Mount Lebanon.
The trees here are at least two thousand years old, and the area is also home to Lebanon's highest ski resort. The best time to visit is between December and March, when a thick blanket of snow covers the area, creating ideal conditions for winter sports enthusiasts.
During World War I, Lebanon was in danger of losing this natural attraction. Today the area is now well-protected, and it's listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Kadisha Valley, also called the Holy Valley, is a religious site in Lebanon. It's considered one of the most important early Christian monastic settlements in the world and it's still inhabited today.
The area was inaccessible to invading forces, which made it an ideal refuge for religious minorities. It was home to a variety of sects with Christian monks and Muslim Sufi mystics finding solace in the mountains.
Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998, visitors will find cave hermitages and historic monasteries throughout the valley. Make sure you visit the church of Saint Marina which features beautiful frescoes painted onto the walls.
Major International Airports in Lebanon
- Beirut–Rafic Hariri International Airport