In the Eastern Mediterranean, there is a place that has an almost magnetic energy which drags you towards it. A welcoming presence greets you, as you encounter the warmth of the people & the amazing place they will want to share with you. The deliciously prepared range of food garnished expertly with spices, waits ready to entice your taste buds. Humbling ancient forests provide shelter high up in the mountains whilst the coastline provides a setting to see stunning sunsets & signal the start of after-hours socializing. Read on to explore Lebanon & find out where is worth adding to your travel itinerary.
The nation’s capital is most people’s first stop. It’s been inhabited for over 5,000 years & it’s not hard to notice what attracts people to this place. It’s a city rich in culture with a visible mix of Middle-Eastern and French in its architecture, lifestyle & traditions. The elegant Ottoman styled Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque welcomes visitors to experience it’s impressive attention to detail both inside & out. Walk along the Corniche, to take in the magnificent coastline which leads you to Pigeons’ Rock. After dark, discover the neighbourhood of Hamra. It’s where to meet locals, experience the city’s music scene & immerse yourself in Lebanese nightlife.
2. Jeita Grotto
Just north of Beirut are two beautiful systems of limestone caves. This place is so unique that it was even shortlisted to be one of the 7 New Wonders of the World. The phenomenal cave network is a national landmark, providing drinking water to over a million people in Lebanon. The entire complex is split into an upper section & a lower section. The upper cave has plenty of mysterious rock formations to send your imagination wild whereas the lower cave is explored by boat down still river leading into an eerie underground lake.
3. Cedars of God
The cedar tree is synonymous with Lebanon, but due to extensive deforestation in the country, only a few forests remain. ‘Cedars of God’ is one of those remaining forests. It is a UNESCO protected world heritage site found in high up in the mountains of Northern Lebanon. The centuries-old forest provides much-needed shelter from the punishing Mediterranean sun & the uplifting aroma adds to the fantastic atmosphere of the place. Visiting this special place which has been referenced numerous times in holy scriptures, helps to appreciate the role nature has in shaping human history.
The medieval seaside city has been inhabited by humans for thousands of years & its abundance of ancient artefacts is a testament to that. Around the World Heritage City is the Crusader Castle dating back to the 12th Century, Roman temple & theatre ruins as well as excavations of the Byblian civilisation that thrived here. In addition to its archaeological sites, Byblos’ famous quaint old souk is considered the best in all of Lebanon & is filled with traditional antiques found in the Eastern Mediterranean.
5. Baatara Gorge
Located in the area of Tannourine & requiring a short hike to get there, Baatara Gorge is considered a valuable part of Lebanese natural history. Connected by three natural bridges & formed of limestone rock, the gorge is by far one of the highlights of Lebanon. It has a steep 250m plunge into its depths, with Spring being the best time of year to witness it. During this time, meltwater creates a stunning waterfall, which has been busy eroding this incredible landscape for millions of years.
Whatever the thoughts of the mainstream media about this area, you start to see those ideas as somewhat unfounded after actually experiencing Lebanon for yourself. People here are adaptable to the ever-changing world around them be it through political changes around them or natural occurrences that are beyond our control. Wherever you visit in this country, its spirit is seen in the landscapes and in the people who call this place home, so why not give it a visit sometime and see it for yourself.