First city of Phoenicia
Our first of the two day trips we would be doing while in Lebanon from our base in Beirut, was of course for visiting some of the greatest archaeological sites and natural wonders in the country, starting with ancient Byblos. After all, this is one of the major reasons why to chose this country and not going just to be in the capital, Beirut. As you know by now, we are not that kind of person who travel to countries for the sake of ticking “I’ve been here” and counting up the number of countries they’ve been. Not at all and actually it is all the opposite in our case especially when travelling farther beyond Europe and considering our continuous running out of holidays because so much travelling.
So as the planning for a trip to Lebanon came to a reality, then was the hardest task, what to see and where to go. A first stage is easy for someone like me who love to collect UNESCO World Heritage Sites. A quick search and some of the answers were defined. The whole trip would pivot around Baalbeck, Byblos and Anjar, the three major WHS, and of course the capital. Anything else would be extra and very welcomed. However with such a limited time we had altogether, the only way to visit as much as we could was getting into organised tours, and so we did. This is not the first time we do so, where in certain countries is strongly recommended like in Lebanon. Yes, it’s a rather secure and safe country, but it’s nicer to refrain from driving as a tourist.
While over the internet you can find lots of tour operators offering similar day trips, pay attention to what’s and what is not included. From this experience I found tours which did not include lunch and entrance fees to the sites, quite silly right? While other agencies were listing everything included and even at more competitive price. It’s a matter of some research then all is straightforward, and if you want to have it already done, let me tell you which one is the best for the tours we did in this country (as of May 2018): Viator. Not only the best in the quality and quantity of tours they offer, but also one of the most trustful out there as it belongs to TripAdvisor. This is the tour we selected, click here.
Having the tour organised all you have to worry is about being on-time at the pick-up location (the lobby of your hotel, as easy as that) and bringing whatever you consider you will need, that’s all. This is great as you get to enjoy some time to rest when travelling between the places they take you and discover everything along the way and in-situ with a great local guide explaining the history and the facts.
In this tour, you get driven first to Jeita Grotto some 20 kilometres from Beirut. Afterwards to Byblos where lunch will also be served at a traditional Lebanese restaurant nearby, and as last, Harissa before returning to your departing point, the lobby of the hotel you’re staying. Including are the entrance fees, lunch, transport and guide. Excluded, like in any tour anywhere in the world, gratuities.
For more information about the sites you will visit in this tour, I would recommend you to read some of the great articles in Wikipedia. Lebanon’s currency is the Lebanese Pound (LBP, LL). Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
What you will see
- Jeita Grotto This is one of the most fascinating cave in the world, with an average length of 9km in two galleries, upper and lower. What makes it special is being home to the world’s largest stalactite ever recorder located in the upper gallery, and the underground river which you will navigate in a boat.
- Byblos One of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities, believed to have been occupied at least 8800 BC, it was built by Cronus as the first city in Phoenicia. It is one of the major tourist destination in Lebanon for the great quality of archaeological remains from Phoenician, Roman and the Crusader periods, the nice beaches and the beautiful landscapes with the nearby mountains.
- Harissa The most important pilgrimage site in Lebanon for Christians around the world for being the site of the shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Lebanon (Notre Dame du Liban), which has become one of the most important shrines in the world honoring the Virgin Mary. The views from the monument are simply spectacular, with the city down below, the Mediterranean Sea and the mountains.