Lebanon Travel Guide – Everything You Need to Know

Lebanon, a small yet culturally diverse country in the Middle East, beckons travelers with its rich history, stunning landscapes, and vibrant cosmopolitan cities. Nestled between the Mediterranean Sea and the rugged mountains of the Lebanese Range, Lebanon offers a unique fusion of ancient ruins, charming villages, and modern amenities. From exploring ancient Roman temples and experiencing the lively street life of Beirut to savoring delicious Lebanese cuisine, the country provides a compelling and multifaceted destination for tourists seeking a taste of the Middle East’s cultural and natural treasures.

What’s the Best Time to Visit? 📅

The best time to visit Lebanon as a tourist largely depends on your preferences and the experiences you seek. Lebanon experiences distinct seasons, each offering its own advantages:

  1. Spring (March to May): Spring is a popular time to visit Lebanon when the weather is mild and the landscapes come to life with colorful blooms. This is an ideal season for outdoor activities, exploring historical sites, and enjoying the pleasant climate.
  2. Summer (June to August): Summer is the peak tourist season in Lebanon. The weather is hot and sunny, making it perfect for beach activities along the Mediterranean coast. Summer is also a vibrant time for festivals, nightlife, and cultural events in cities like Beirut.
  3. Autumn (September to November): Autumn in Lebanon offers pleasant temperatures and is a great time for outdoor adventures like hiking, as the landscapes change colors with the fall foliage.
  4. Winter (December to February): If you enjoy winter sports, you can visit Lebanon during the winter season to experience skiing and snowboarding in the country’s ski resorts, such as Faraya Mzaar and the Cedars.

The choice of when to visit Lebanon depends on your interests and the activities you want to pursue. Keep in mind that the coastal areas enjoy milder weather, while mountainous regions can be quite cold and snowy during winter. Also, consider local events, festivals, and your preferred type of vacation, whether it’s cultural exploration, outdoor adventures, or relaxing on the beach.

What’s the Best Way to Get Around? 🚌

Getting around Lebanon as a tourist can be done using various transportation options, and the choice depends on your preferences and the places you want to visit. Here are some common ways to get around Lebanon:

  1. Taxi: Taxis are readily available in cities like Beirut and are a convenient mode of transportation for short distances. Ensure that the taxi has a meter, and if not, negotiate the fare in advance.
  2. Rental Car: Renting a car is a flexible option, especially if you plan to explore multiple regions of Lebanon. However, be prepared for chaotic traffic in cities and mountainous terrain in some areas.
  3. Private Driver: Hiring a private driver or guide is an excellent choice if you want a stress-free and personalized experience. They can provide local insights and navigate the traffic.
  4. Shared Taxi (Service): Shared taxis, known as “service,” are a cost-effective way to travel between cities and towns. They operate on set routes and depart when full.
  5. Buses: Lebanon has an extensive network of buses, including public buses and minivans. While this is a budget-friendly option, the schedules can be irregular, and buses might not always be in the best condition.
  6. Ferries: If you plan to visit coastal towns, ferries are available for traveling along the Mediterranean coast. This can be a scenic and enjoyable way to explore.
  7. Walking: In cities and towns, walking is a great way to explore the local culture, markets, and historical sites.
  8. Rideshare Apps: Apps like Uber and Careem operate in Lebanon, making it easy to request a ride in major cities.
  9. Domestic Flights: If you’re traveling between cities that are relatively far apart, consider taking domestic flights for a quicker and more convenient journey.
  10. Mountain Cable Cars: In regions like Jounieh, cable cars provide an exciting way to access elevated areas, offering panoramic views.

It’s important to be aware of the road conditions and traffic, especially in cities like Beirut, and to follow any safety guidelines and local laws. Additionally, keep in mind that Lebanon is a small country, so travel times between cities and attractions are relatively short, making it possible to explore multiple areas in a single day.

What’s the Official Language?

The official language of Lebanon is Arabic, and specifically, Lebanese Arabic. However, many people in Lebanon, especially in urban areas and the tourism industry, also speak English and French. Here are some basic Arabic phrases that can be useful for tourists:

  1. Hello – Marhaba
  2. Thank you – Shukran
  3. Please – Min fadlik
  4. Yes – Na’am
  5. No – La
  6. Good morning – Sabah al-khair
  7. Good afternoon – Masa’ al-khair
  8. Good evening – Masa’ al-khair
  9. Goodbye – Ma’a as-salama
  10. Excuse me – ‘Afuwan
  11. How much is this? – Kam hadha?
  12. I need help – Ana bححجة ila musaa’da
  13. I don’t understand – Ana la afham
  14. Where is the bathroom? – ‘Ayna al-Hammam?

While Arabic is the official language, you’ll find that many people, especially in the service industry, understand and can communicate in English or French, which can be quite helpful for tourists.

Where to Stay? 🏨

Lebanon offers a wide range of accommodation options for tourists, catering to various preferences and budgets. Here are some popular places to stay in Lebanon:

  1. Beirut: Lebanon’s capital city, Beirut, has a diverse selection of accommodations, including luxury hotels, boutique hotels, and budget-friendly options. Staying in Beirut allows easy access to the city’s vibrant nightlife, cultural attractions, and historic sites.
  2. Jounieh: Located along the coast just north of Beirut, Jounieh offers beachfront resorts and hotels with beautiful sea views. It’s a great option for travelers looking to relax by the Mediterranean.
  3. Byblos (Jbeil): Byblos is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and offers a charming historic atmosphere. You can find boutique hotels and guesthouses in this picturesque town.
  4. Baalbek: If you plan to explore the ancient ruins of Baalbek, there are a few accommodation options available in this historical city.
  5. Bcharre: Located in the mountains of northern Lebanon, Bcharre is a great base for exploring the Qadisha Valley and the Cedars of God. It offers a variety of guesthouses and small hotels.
  6. Zahle: Zahle, in the Bekaa Valley, is known for its wine culture and vineyards. There are some lovely boutique hotels and guesthouses in the area.
  7. Tyre (Sour): Tyre is a coastal city in southern Lebanon with historical significance. It offers various accommodation options, including hotels and guesthouses.
  8. Mountain Resorts: In regions like Faraya and Mzaar Kfardebian, you can find hotels and chalets that cater to winter sports enthusiasts and offer stunning mountain views.
  9. Bekaa Valley: The Bekaa Valley is known for its vineyards and wine culture. Consider staying at winery guesthouses or boutique hotels in this region.
  10. Airbnb: Lebanon has a presence on Airbnb, which can be a great option for travelers looking for unique and locally hosted accommodations.

When choosing your accommodation in Lebanon, consider your travel itinerary and the specific experiences you seek. Keep in mind that some areas may have limited accommodation options, so it’s a good idea to make reservations in advance, especially if you have a particular place in mind.

What to Eat? 🍽️

Lebanese cuisine is renowned for its flavorful and diverse dishes. As a tourist in Lebanon, you should definitely sample some of the following must-try foods:

  1. Hummus: This creamy blend of chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, and garlic is a classic Lebanese dish, often served as an appetizer with pita bread.
  2. Falafel: Deep-fried balls or patties made from ground chickpeas or fava beans, typically served in a pita bread with tahini sauce and vegetables.
  3. Tabbouleh: A refreshing salad made with bulgur wheat, finely chopped parsley, tomatoes, mint, onions, and seasoned with olive oil and lemon juice.
  4. Kebabs: Lebanese kebabs, whether made with grilled lamb, chicken, or beef, are seasoned to perfection and are a staple in Lebanese cuisine.
  5. Shawarma: Thinly sliced marinated meat (often chicken or beef) served in a flatbread wrap with garlic sauce, tahini, and vegetables.
  6. Moutabbal (Baba Ghanoush): A smoky eggplant dip similar to hummus, blended with tahini, garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil.
  7. Manousheh: A Lebanese flatbread often topped with za’atar (a spice blend of thyme, sumac, and sesame seeds), olive oil, and sometimes cheese.
  8. Kibbeh: A dish made from ground meat (usually beef or lamb) and bulgur wheat, typically shaped into balls or patties and either fried or baked.
  9. Warak Enab (Stuffed Grape Leaves): Grape leaves stuffed with a mixture of rice, ground meat, tomatoes, and various spices, then cooked to perfection.
  10. Labneh: A strained yogurt that is often served as a dip or spread, commonly drizzled with olive oil and served with fresh bread.
  11. Makanek: Small sausages made from lamb or beef, seasoned with aromatic spices and usually cooked in a rich tomato sauce.
  12. Knafeh: A delicious dessert made from shredded phyllo dough layered with sweetened cheese or semolina, baked to a golden brown, and soaked in orange blossom or rose water syrup.
  13. Lebanese Sweets: Explore the wide variety of Lebanese sweets, including baklava, ma’amoul (date-filled cookies), and atayef (stuffed pancakes), which are often enjoyed with a cup of Arabic coffee.
  14. Fresh Juices: Lebanon is known for its fresh fruit juices, like pomegranate and orange juice. Try these to quench your thirst.

Lebanese cuisine is a delightful fusion of flavors, and tasting these dishes is an essential part of experiencing the local culture. Be sure to explore the diverse restaurants, street food vendors, and local markets to savor the authenticity of Lebanese cuisine during your visit.

What to See? 🔍

Lebanon is a country rich in history, culture, and natural beauty. Here are some must-see places and attractions for tourists in Lebanon:

  1. Beirut: Lebanon’s vibrant capital city is a must-visit. Explore the historic neighborhoods, visit the National Museum of Beirut, and enjoy the city’s lively atmosphere.
  2. Byblos (Jbeil): One of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Byblos offers a charming old town with historic sites, including the Crusader Castle and Phoenician ruins.
  3. Baalbek: Explore the ancient Roman ruins in Baalbek, including the massive Temple of Jupiter, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
  4. Jeita Grotto: Discover the breathtaking underground caves of Jeita Grotto, featuring stunning stalactites and stalagmites.
  5. Sidon (Saida): Visit the historic city of Sidon, with its Crusader Sea Castle, old souks, and a bustling fishing port.
  6. Tyre (Sour): Explore Tyre’s archaeological sites, such as the Roman Hippodrome, Al-Mina ruins, and Al-Bass archaeological site.
  7. The Cedars of God: Experience the majestic Cedar Forest in Bcharre, which is home to some of the oldest cedar trees in the world.
  8. Qadisha Valley (Kadisha Valley): Known as the Holy Valley, this UNESCO-listed site is a breathtaking natural reserve with monasteries, grottoes, and stunning landscapes.
  9. Harissa: Visit the pilgrimage site of Harissa, home to the iconic Our Lady of Lebanon statue, which offers panoramic views of the coast and Beirut.
  10. Chouf Mountains: Explore the Chouf Mountains, which are dotted with picturesque villages and the historic Beiteddine Palace.
  11. Tripoli: Discover the historical city of Tripoli, known for its well-preserved medieval architecture, souks, and citadels.
  12. Batroun: Enjoy the charming coastal town of Batroun, known for its beautiful beaches, ancient Phoenician wall, and lively nightlife.
  13. Anjar: Explore the well-preserved Umayyad city of Anjar, featuring a remarkable blend of Islamic and Roman architecture.
  14. The Al-Ouadi (Al-Wadi) Valley: Hike and explore the scenic beauty of this valley, including rivers, waterfalls, and lush vegetation.
  15. Beiteddine Festival: If you visit in the summer, consider attending the Beiteddine Arts Festival for a cultural experience featuring music, theater, and dance performances in the stunning Beiteddine Palace.

Lebanon’s rich history and diverse landscapes provide an array of unique and captivating places to visit. Whether you’re interested in archaeological sites, natural wonders, or cultural experiences, Lebanon has something to offer every traveler.

What to Do? 📸

As a tourist in Lebanon, there are numerous exciting activities and experiences to enjoy. Here are some must-do things to make your visit to Lebanon memorable:

  1. Explore Beirut: Immerse yourself in the dynamic capital city, Beirut. Stroll along the Corniche, visit the National Museum, indulge in Lebanese cuisine, and experience the city’s vibrant nightlife.
  2. Visit Ancient Ruins: Explore historical sites like Baalbek, Byblos, and Tyre to witness Lebanon’s rich archaeological heritage, including Roman temples, Phoenician ruins, and Crusader castles.
  3. Lebanese Cuisine: Savor authentic Lebanese dishes like mezze, kebabs, shawarma, and baklava at local restaurants and street vendors.
  4. Byblos Fishing Port: Watch local fishermen at work, enjoy fresh seafood, and explore the historic fishing port in Byblos.
  5. Jeita Grotto: Take a boat ride through the magnificent underground caves of Jeita Grotto and marvel at the stunning rock formations.
  6. Cedars of God: Visit Bcharre to witness the ancient cedar trees, symbols of Lebanon, and explore the surrounding natural beauty.
  7. Qadisha Valley: Hike through the picturesque Holy Valley, where you can explore monasteries, caves, and scenic landscapes.
  8. Wine Tasting: Lebanon is famous for its wine. Visit wineries in regions like the Bekaa Valley to sample local wines and learn about the winemaking process.
  9. Hike and Nature Adventures: Embark on hikes in Lebanon’s various mountain regions, such as the Chouf Mountains, to appreciate the country’s diverse landscapes.
  10. Cultural Festivals: Check out local events and festivals, like the Beiteddine Arts Festival, for a taste of Lebanese culture through music, dance, and theater performances.
  11. Religious Sites: Explore religious diversity by visiting churches, mosques, and historical religious sites, including Harissa, home to the Our Lady of Lebanon statue.
  12. Sidon Souks: Explore the bustling souks in Sidon and immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere of this coastal city.
  13. Breathtaking Sunsets: Witness breathtaking sunsets along the Mediterranean coast, from Beirut’s Corniche to coastal towns like Batroun.
  14. Bargain at the Souks: Practice your haggling skills at traditional souks (markets) and buy souvenirs like handicrafts, spices, and textiles.
  15. Scuba Diving: Discover the underwater beauty of Lebanon’s coastal waters through scuba diving in popular dive spots like Tyre, Sidon, and Byblos.
  16. Street Art and Murals: Admire Beirut’s vibrant street art scene, with colorful murals and graffiti adorning buildings throughout the city.
  17. Lebanese Coffee: Enjoy a cup of Lebanese coffee at a local café and savor the rich, aromatic flavors.

Lebanon offers a diverse range of activities and experiences that cater to all types of travelers, from history buffs and nature enthusiasts to foodies and adventure seekers. Embrace the local culture, savor the cuisine, and explore the country’s rich heritage for a truly memorable visit.

Culture and Safety 🦺

When traveling to Lebanon as a tourist, it’s essential to understand and respect the local culture while prioritizing your safety. Here are some tips for navigating cultural aspects and staying safe in Lebanon:

Culture:

  1. Dress Modestly: Lebanon is relatively diverse, and attire varies, but it’s generally a good idea to dress modestly, especially when visiting religious sites and rural areas. In more cosmopolitan cities like Beirut, you can dress more freely.
  2. Greetings: Lebanese people are friendly and welcoming. Greet locals with a polite “Marhaba” (hello) and be open to social interactions.
  3. Ramadan: During the holy month of Ramadan, respect local customs by refraining from eating, drinking, or smoking in public during daylight hours.
  4. Friday Prayers: Keep in mind that Friday is the Muslim holy day. Some businesses may close for Friday prayers, particularly in smaller towns.
  5. Alcohol: Lebanon has a vibrant nightlife, and alcohol is widely available. However, it’s important to drink responsibly and be aware of local customs and laws.

Safety:

  1. Travel Advisory: Before your trip, check the latest travel advisories and safety information for Lebanon from your government’s travel department.
  2. Local News: Stay informed about the current situation in the country by following local news sources and staying updated on any potential security concerns.
  3. Local Contacts: Establish local contacts, such as your hotel staff or tour guides, who can provide insights and advice on the current safety situation in specific areas.
  4. Health Precautions: Stay updated on necessary vaccinations and health precautions, and be aware of any specific health risks in different regions of Lebanon.
  5. Travel Insurance: Ensure you have comprehensive travel insurance that covers medical emergencies, trip cancellations, and other unforeseen events.
  6. Road Safety: If you plan to drive, exercise caution on the roads, as traffic in Lebanon can be chaotic, and road conditions may vary.
  7. Avoid Border Areas: Avoid traveling near Lebanon’s borders, especially with Syria, due to security concerns.
  8. Political Protests: Lebanon has experienced periods of political instability. Avoid political gatherings and protests, which can sometimes become unpredictable.
  9. Emergency Numbers: Keep a list of emergency contact numbers, including your country’s embassy or consulate in Lebanon.
  10. Cultural Sensitivity: Be culturally sensitive and avoid discussing sensitive political or religious topics in public.

While Lebanon is generally a safe destination for tourists, it’s essential to stay vigilant, follow local advice, and exercise caution, especially in areas where there may be political tensions or security concerns. By respecting local customs and staying informed about the safety situation, you can have a rewarding and enjoyable travel experience in Lebanon.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Lebanon is a captivating destination for tourists seeking a blend of history, culture, and natural beauty. From exploring ancient ruins to savoring delicious cuisine, Lebanon offers a rich tapestry of experiences. While being mindful of local customs and staying informed about safety, travelers can embrace the warm hospitality of the Lebanese people and create lasting memories in this multifaceted country.