Lebanon - Beirut, the Bekaa Valley and Beyond

Despite its tiny size, Lebanon has a history dating back to the dawn of human civilization, and a wealth of natural attractions to explore. This trip will show you the very best that the country has to offer the visitor, including a few hidden gems that most overlook. Starting in Lebanon’s capital and most cosmopolitan city, Beirut, we uncover what remains of its Ottoman legacy and explore its vibrant souks. Moving away from Beirut we head to Tyre, a UNESCO World Heritage site containing the world’s largest Roman hippodrome, and on to the old Phoenician port city of Sidon, with its more relaxed and traditional way of life.

Leaving the cities behind, we venture into the Bekaa Valley’s largest wetland, a delicate ecosystem which houses an astonishing number of bird and animal species, and of course visit Baalbek, a lasting testament to the glory of the Roman empire. We continue on to Jeita with its magnificent limestone grottoes, before stopping at the charming town of Byblos and heading into the Batroun Mountains to spend the night.

From here we continue to the rugged and wild Qadisha Valley. Exploring here offers a fantastic opportunity to discover Lebanon’s natural beauty, with some of the most spectacular scenery in the country, as well as impressive monasteries that date back almost a thousand years. On our way back to Beirut, we stop at Lebanon’s second city Tripoli with its evocative historic quarter, Mamluk-period architecture, and bustling markets.

Moving on from a troubled past, Lebanon is one of the Middle East’s best kept secrets, with few visitors compared to some of its neighbours. Charming, understated and with an atmosphere all of its own, we think it’s one of the most exciting countries in the region.

Highlights

  • The incredible Roman temple of Baalbek
  • Explore vibrant Beirut
  • Walk in the Qadisha Valley
  • Stunning mountain scenery
  • The Phoenician heritage of Tyre

Day 1 - Beirut

Arrive into Beirut and transfer to hotel. Overnight Bellariva Hotel or similar. 

Beirut
Surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea lies Beirut, a city home to over two million people. Beirut has transformed itself since the 15 -year civil war in Lebanon from 1975-1990, and now exudes much of the city’s pre-war cosmopolitan and epicurean charm. Restored Ottoman architecture, a pervasive and chic café culture and a variety of souks define downtown Beirut, while the southern suburbs provide a poignant reminder of the city’s roots – home to thousands of Palestinian and Shi’ite Muslim refugees and immersed in the wider Middle Eastern politics, it provides a contrast to the modernity of the north.

Beirut’s reconstruction has been both physical and psychological, and the locals are friendly, tolerant and varied in comparison to much of the rest of the Middle East. Nightlife, cinemas, art galleries and theatre are commonplace here, reflecting the cosmopolitan quality of the city as a whole.

Day 2 - Tyre – Sidon - Beirut

Leaving Beirut city behind, we head to the Phoenician city of Tyre, and explore its excavated ruins including the public baths, Roman necropolis and hippodrome. We continue to Sidon to visit the old town with sites including the sea castle, old souks, Debbaneh Palace and Saint Nicholas Cathedral. If time permits, we will stop at the Phoenician site of Echmoun on the way back to Beirut. Overnight Bellariva Hotel or similar. (B)   

Sidon
Lebanon’s third largest city, Sidon, or Saida, dominates much of the south of Lebanon. Home to predominantly Sunni Muslims, it is conservative, laid back and traditional compared to the more dynamic capital, with little nightlife to be found at all. In fact, only one restaurant in the entire city serves alcohol at present. However, what it lacks in vibrancy, it makes up for in authenticity, with traditional souks and artisan trade indicating an archetypal Arab city.

Sat on the coast of Lebanon, Sidon took advantage of its favourable geographic location to establish an empire. Despite this, it was heavily affected by the civil war and by Israeli occupation. Surrounded by thickets of bananas and citrus fruits, today it offers a relaxing few days, with picturesque scenery, museums, a fishing port and the well-known sea castle.

Tyre
Tyre’s main attraction lies in its functional and traditional fishing port – home to colourful boats, seafood restaurants and friendly fishermen at work – authentic and lively souks, Roman architecture, including some beautiful churches, and archaeological sites. During the summer months, the beaches also come alive with music, parties and food, with alcohol permitted despite the Muslim population.

A number of festivals take place in Tyre throughout the year. The Ashura festival is an annual festival of remembrance and is of the utmost religious importance for the Shi’ite locals. Taking place in a nearby village over a nine-day period, this festival is entirely unique, even in Lebanon, and involves women screaming, children chanting and men cutting themselves with razors to re-enact the suffering of the prophet.

Day 3 - Beirut – Deir el Qamar – Beiteddine

Explore Beirut city’s downtown district, with its souks, churches and mosques. Later we drive to the old village of Deir el Qamar, with its well-preserved 17th and 18th century architecture, mosques, palaces and public squares, before making our way to Beiteddine, to visit the impressive palace here. We explore the palace complex and its museums to see costumes and weapons from the era as well as a fine collection of well-preserved Byzantine mosaics.  Overnight Bellariva Hotel or similar.  (B)


Day 4 - Barouk – Chtaura

Visit the 17th century Moukhtara Palace and then head to the largest nature reserve in Lebanon where some of the trees are estimated to be 2000 years old. We take a short hike and our guide will explain the flora and fauna of the area. From the summit of the mountains, you will have a panoramic view of the countryside, eastward to the Bekaa valley and Qaraoun Lake and westward towards the Mediterranean. Overnight Massabki Hotel or similar. (B)


Day 5 - Aamiq Wetland – Ksara – Baalbek - Chtaura

Visit the Aammiq wetland, a biosphere reserve and important area for migratory water. In the afternoon we visit a family of farmers in Qaa and have lunch with them, stopping at the country’s oldest winery for a tasting en route. Later we drive to Baalbek, Lebanon’s greatest Roman treasure and one of the wonders of the ancient world. Overnight Massabki Hotel or similar. (B)

Aammiq Wetlands
A vast area of land, made up of marshes, lakes and swamps, the Aammiq Wetlands is Lebanon’s largest freshwater reserve and one of the few remaining in the Middle East. It lies on one of the most significant migratory bird routes in the eastern Mediterranean, home to over 250 species of bird including the endangered Greater spotted eagle, Lesser kestrel and Ferruginous duck. This thriving ecosystem is also home to swamp cats, otters, foxes, hedgehogs and many more. It is a flourishing and essential habitat and is home to a plethora of Lebanese flora and fauna.

In the past, man-made activity such as hunting, the dumping of waste and farming threatened irreparable damage to the wetlands. In 1996, the organisation A Rocha Lebanon intervened, committing themselves to saving the marshes and its wildlife population. They continued their essential work since – not only has hunting been restricted, but research, conservation and educating local communities and students is being carried out in order to emphasize the importance of this precious area of land.

Day 6 - Jeita – Harissa – Byblos – Douma

Visit the archeological site ‘Qalaat Faqra’ with its Roman and Byzantine ruins.From here continue to the magnificent grottoes of Jeita, then later head to Harissa to visit ‘Our Lady of Lebanon’ overlooking the bay of Jounieh. Finally we reach Byblos, which has been continuously inhabited since the 6th millennium BC. Overnight Byblos Sur Mer Hotel or similar. (B)

Byblos
Byblos is one of the oldest continuously inhabited towns in the world and this is immediately apparent when visiting. Reflecting the past and present in equal measure, the town’s architecture exists as a reminder of its history. UNESCO listed the town as a World Heritage Site in 1984, recognising the importance of its archaeology and the fascinating history of the town. Most significantly, when inhabited by the Phoenicians, the town gave birth to the alphabet upon which our modern version is based – aptly named ‘Byblos’ by the ancient Greeks.

Quaint and charming, Byblos is home to a working harbour, still reflecting its humble beginnings as an unexceptional, Neolithic fishing port. The port is surrounded by seafood restaurants, stunning landscapes and souks which offer the best and most unique souvenirs in the Lebanon. The Byblos International Festival is held annually during the summer months and hosts a variety of musical performances, from Flamenco and Jazz to Opera and Pop, by both local and international artists. Voted the Arab world’s best tourist city by UNWTO in 2013 and residing close to the country’s capital, Byblos is definitely worth a visit.

Day 7 - Becharre – Qadisha Valley - Qozhaya

We make a stop at the impressive Baatara gorge waterfall in Tannourine before continuing to Becharre and onwards to the Cedar Woods. After visiting the museum of famous poet Gibran Khalil Gibran, we take a walk in the woods where the trees are up to 1500 years old and once forested the entire Lebanon mountain range. We then take a walk in the ‘Wadi Qadisha’ or the ‘Holy Valley’ where we will find caves and sanctuaries which were inhabited from third millennium BC until the Roman period, visiting Qozhaya Monastery, which dates back to 12th century. Overnight Ehden Country Club or similar. (B)

Qadisha Valley
Qadisha Valley, meaning ‘Holy’ Valley, is a beautiful example of Lebanese nature and scenery. Expect to see vast mountains, waterfalls and flora such as buttercups and poppies, when visiting this spectacular valley. As a very important, ancient Christian monastic settlement – one of the most important in the world – Qadisha also has a fascinating history.

During spring and summertime, Qadisha Valley is perfect for trekking and hiking, especially in such unspoilt and magnificent terrain. The valley is wild and raw in comparison to surrounding cities, and the mountain passes are often treacherous and steep. However, the beautiful surroundings make the challenge worth it.

Day 8 - Tripoli – Batroun - Beirut

Visit the second largest city in Lebanon, Tripoli, including the old part of the city with its colourful souks, Crusaders Fortress, narrow alleyways, hammams and mosques. On the way back to Beirut we visit Batroun, which lies on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and boasts charming streets, gardens, ancient churches and archaeological landmarks. We also stop at the rock-hewn Kaftoun Monastery. Overnight Bellariva Hotel or similar. (B)  

Tripoli
Tripoli is a vast city – the second largest in Lebanon and home to a population of 250,000, mostly Sunni Muslims. Often overlooked, this city offers a vast array of Mamluk-period architecture, one of the largest collections in the world, as well as traditional souks and a plethora of artisans selling anything from jewellery to authentic, tailored clothing. Arguably Tripoli’s only recognisable monument is the Crusader Castle of Raymond de Saint-Giles, which has been reconstructed numerous times over recent years, dating back to the first crusade. There are a number of beautiful mosques in the city too, demonstrating magnificent Mamluk architecture. They are definitely worth a visit – especially the Taynal Mosque.

Day 9 - Beirut

Transfer to the airport for your flight home. (B)


Mosque in Beirut - Beirut tour
Lebanon mountain scenery
Monastery on Qadisha Valley tour

What's included?

  • Airport transfers

    We include arrival and departure transfers regardless of whether you book flights yourself, or we book them for you. If you’re booking them yourself, then please let us know the details so that we can arrange the transfers. Please note though that if you arrive earlier than Day 1 of the tour, and leave after the final day, we may need to make an additional charge for an airport transfer.

  • Accommodation

    Accommodation as listed in the dossier. The nature of the destinations that we operate may sometimes mean that we need to change hotels, but we’ll always endeavour to keep the same standards. Please be aware that as we operate in many countries where tourism is in its infancy, hotel standards may not be the same as you’re used to elsewhere.

    While we prefer to use centrally located hotels where possible, this is not always practical and in some locations they may not be the best option in terms of standards or reliability.

  • Guides

    You will be accompanied by an English speaking guide.

  • Meals

    As listed within the itinerary / dossier (B-Breakfast, L-Lunch, D-Dinner). These will vary from trip to trip – in some areas it makes sense to include all meals while in others there is a good choice of restaurants and we feel people might like to ‘do their own thing’ now and again. Please note that when meals are included, sometimes these will be in hotels, as often these are the most appropriate option, and will sometimes be set menus. Local restaurants are often lacking in variety, as well as the capacity to cater for groups. Drinks are not included and are at your own expense.

  • Entrance fees

    Entrance fees are listed for those sites that we mention within the itinerary. If there are any other sites that you’d like to see, these would be at your own expense.

What's not included?

  • Visas

    We don’t arrange visas for our travellers, but if an invitation letter is necessary then we will arrange this for you. If you need any advice with visas then just give us a call, or alternatively a visa agency such as Travcour (www.travcour.com) can assist.

  • International flights

    Many of our travellers arrive from different destinations and so we don’t include international flights in the cost of our tours. If however you would like us to book flights for you, then just give us a call and we’ll be happy to discuss your options.

  • Travel Insurance

    If you need any assistance with this, then let us know – although we can’t arrange it ourselves we can point you in the direction of a reputable provider that can assist.

Visas

All travellers, including British citizens, can obtain visas upon arrival at Beirut International airport. You should ensure that your passport has at least six months’ validity after the end date of your trip. We also strongly recommend that your passport has a minimum of two blank pages next to each other – on rare occasion it may lead to problems with visas and immigration authorities if it does not.

Visa regulations and requirements can change however and so we recommend that you contact your nearest embassy for the most up to date information.

Health and vaccinations

We are not medically qualified and so we recommend that you speak to your doctor or nearest health professional for advice concerning recommended vaccinations. For more advice on vaccinations you can also visit www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk. 

Insurance

It is a condition of joining our tours that you have suitable travel insurance in place, and we cannot accept travellers without insurance. All policies differ in terms of what they will cover, but as a minimum you need medical and health cover which will cover you for the whole time that you are away. Most policies will also include cancellation cover, which will cover you if an unforeseen circumstance obliges you to cancel your trip. We recommend that you obtain your insurance as soon as you book your trip.

Please note that government travel warnings often affect the validity of your travel insurance, and you should check this with your insurance company.

Money

The local currency in Lebanon is the Lebanese Pound. If you want to bring money to exchange while here, US dollars in smaller notes would be best, although the banks will also exchange major foreign currencies such as sterling and euros. ATM’s will be available and relatively widespread, dispensing USD or Lebanese Pound

Local conditions

When travelling to some of the destinations we offer you need to bear in mind that things won’t always work here as we’re used to them working at home. Travelling in underdeveloped and untouristed destinations requires both patience and a sense of humour. There may be problems with infrastructure, attitudes may be different, and maintenance may not be as high a standard as we would always like, but this is very much part and parcel of travelling in such a place. We aim to resolve any issues as quickly as possible, and thank you for your patience.

Travel advice

We keep a very close eye on the travel advice issued by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office so that we can keep you up to date with any warnings. At the time of writing the FCO advises against travel to Tripoli, which we visit on this trip. Should you have any concerns over safety please do not hesitate to contact us and we can address your concerns. We work very closely with our local team and are fully confident that we can operate tours safely in Lebanon.

This relates to advice from the British government – other nationalities need to check the stance of their own governments.

Mosque in Beirut - Beirut tour
Lebanon mountain scenery
Monastery on Qadisha Valley tour
Date(s)
Price (PP) Exc. Flights
Single Supplement
Trip Status
Date -
18 September 2021
Price (PP) -
£1,999
Single Supplement -
£400
Trip Status -
Available
Date -
07 May 2022
Price (PP) -
£2,099
Single Supplement -
£400
Trip Status -
Available
Date -
17 September 2022
Price (PP) -
£2,099
Single Supplement -
£400
Trip Status -
Available