When exploring Lebanon, you will probably spend most of your time in Beirut. The vibrant capital city offers plenty of cultural and historical spots to visit – you can easily spend a few days here. However, the area around Beirut features even more stunning places: several impressive UNESCO sites, idyllic fishing towns, and beautiful nature reserves. If you want to experience the real diversity of Lebanon, head out of the city and into the countryside on various day trips.
In May and June 2018, I had the chance to spend some time with Lebanese friends and went on several day trips to get to know the country a little more in depth. In this post, I´m sharing with you 13 awesome day trips from Beirut, some of which are well-known locations. However, some of the ideas below are a lot more off the beaten path and will hopefully make your whole trip unique and memorable.
A few kilometers outside of Jounieh, you’ll find the base station of the Teleferique, a cable car operating since 1965. These authentic and safe cabins take you, between apartment buildings, right up to Jounieh mountain. At the top, you’ll not only have a panoramic view overlooking Jounieh Bay but also you will see the imposing statue Our Lady of Lebanon, which is a famous place of pilgrimage. There’s also a Maronite church and numerous shrines where you can light candles.
Jounieh is located about 20 km north of Beirut. Consider combining your trip to Harissa with a visit to Jeita Grotto or Jbeil.
Jeita Grotto is an impressive limestone cave system and one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature. It has a total length of 9 km and consists of two separate but interconnected caves. While the upper cave can be visited on foot, the lower cave can only be explored by boat.
Jeita Grotto is located about 18 km north of Beirut and can easily be combined with a visit of either Harissa or Byblos.
Jbeil aka. Byblos is the oldest town in the Middle East and believed to have been continuously inhabited since 5000 BC. The romantic fishing town with its narrow old souk and Crusader castle ruins can easily be explored on foot. It also features a couple of lovely beaches both north and south of the city as well as numerous cafés and restaurants overlooking the sea. By the way, visiting Jbeil was one of my overall travel highlights in Lebanon.
Jbeil is located about 40 km north of Beirut. Many people also visit either Harissa or Jeita Grotto on the way to Jbeil.
The coastal town of Batroun is one of the most ancient cities in the world, yet only little is known about its history. The town features traditional Ottoman houses, a gorgeous old town, a Phoenician port and wall, several cathedrals, chapels and a castle. In summer, Batroun is famous for its bustling nightlife, beach resorts, and seafood restaurants.
Batroun is located about 55 km north of Beirut and may be combined with a visit of either Byblos, Harissa or Jeita Grotto on the way.
Tripoli is Lebanon’s second-largest city and situated on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. It used to be the center of ancient trading and is home to some impressive Ottoman and Crusader architecture. Most tourists come here to visit the Citadel and stroll around the bustling lanes of the old souk, which is one of the most authentic in the country. Narrow alleyways, handicrafts and seafood restaurants can also be found in one of the largest districts of Tripoli, called Mina.
Tripoli is located about 80 km north of Beirut. On the way to Tripoli, you could also visit Jeita Grotto or Harissa.
Qadisha Valley has some of the most beautiful scenery in the country. Also, it is home to numerous rock-cut monasteries, which is the reason this place is often referred to as The Holy Valley. Some of the ancient monasteries can only be explored on foot after a 5-hour trek, others can be visited as part of a day trip.
>> See also: 7 Ways To Explore Qadisha Valley
Going to Qadisha Valley in the north of Lebanon is a good 2-hour ride by car, even though the distance is only 95 km. However, roads in the mountains are narrow, and traffic on the motorway is crazy. Once you’re in the area, consider visiting the Cedars of God as well.
Cedars Of God
Lebanon used to have an abundance of cedar trees all over Mount Lebanon. Over centuries, the cedars had been exploited. Today, 300 millennial cedars is all that remains. Some of these majestic trees can be seen at Arz Forest in the north of Lebanon.
The Cedars of God Forest is located about 8 km from Bcharre and 110 km from Beirut. Visiting the cedars can also be combined with a trip to Qadisha Valley.
The ancient temple ruins of Baalbek are among the best-rated attractions in Lebanon. The temple complex is enormous, and the history behind it is stunning. Most parts can still be visited today. This is a must-do for all history enthusiasts and photographers visiting the country.
Baalbek Temple is situated in the Bekaa Valley around 90 km from Beirut. After visiting the temple ruins, you can also do some wine tasting at some of the historical wineries in Bekaa Valley.
Bekaa Valley Wineries (Ksara)
Did you know that Lebanon is among the oldest wine production sites in the world? Based on historical tradition, wines were produced in the land of Canaan, which is the coastal strip of today’s Lebanon. Today, the fertile Bekaa Valley is still home to numerous vineyards, most of which have been operating for decades. One of the oldest wineries is Chateau Ksara, which offers not only incredibly tasty wine but also ancient Roman caves inside their cellar system worth checking out.
Ksara and other wineries are located in the Bekaa Valley about 50 km east of Beirut. Sampling some of Lebanon’s most excellent wines can easily be combined with a visit to Baalbek Temple, which is also located in the Bekaa Valley.
Not far from Bekaa Valley and at an elevation of 1000 m, you will find the City of Wine and Poetry, Zahlé. Stop here for a scenic lunch at one of the numerous riverside restaurants. Enjoy the pleasant climate, beautiful nature around and incredibly fresh food brought straight from Bekaa Valley.
Zahlé is located about 55 km east of Beirut. Combine your visit with some wine tasting in Bekaa Valley and/or explore the ancient temple ruins of Baalbek.
Sidon aka. Saida is another ancient Lebanese city and has been continuously inhabited since its establishment by the Phoenicians. Its historical significance can be seen in the Crusader Sea Castle constructed on top of a Phoenician temple, Eshmoun Temple ruins, the ancient marketplace Khan el Franj or in one of the various museums. Just like Tripoli, Sidon is home to a very old and traditional souk.
Sidon is located about 45 km south of Beirut.
The Mediterranean town of Tyre is Lebanon’s fourth largest city and most famous for both its extensive Roman ruins awarded the UNESCO honor and beautiful, clean beaches. Tyre is characterized by numerous purple painted houses, which still signifies the importance of the purple dye that had been made from locally harvested murex shells and traded to many countries in back ancient times.
Tyre is located about 80 km south of Beirut. If you don’t want to spend the whole day in Tyre, consider paying a short visit to Sidon on the way.
Did you know you could also go diving in Lebanon? With many well-preserved wrecks from the 20th century as well as a shark point and several dive sites with an abundance of turtles and stingrays, diving in Lebanon can be quite a unique experience. If the weather is good and you’re up for some underwater action, consider a dive or two and add Lebanon to your log book. I may recommend diving with Calypso Diving Center. These guys will not only make your dive day both fun and affordable but also you will have the chance to ride a Harley at a depth of 35 m.
Also, be sure to check out my ultimate 5 travel highlights in Lebanon – places you should definitely not miss when traveling to this Middle Eastern gem.