Lebanon is not a big country, but it is packed with fun things to do and amazing things to see. But how can you experience all that in only 10 days? I put together the ultimate 10-day Lebanon itinerary that makes a perfect road trip. From central buzzing Beirut to Northern Tripoli and Southern Tyre. From Cedars to snow and the amazing Bekaa Valley. I’ll show you the things to do in Lebanon in 10 days and how you can arrange for it yourself.
Ultimate 10-Day Lebanon Itinerary
Help Beirut and the people of Lebanon after the harbor explosion of August 4, 2020
10 Days in Lebanon
When I first started looking into going to Lebanon, I figured one week would feel a bit rushed and hectic. I decide to fly in on a Thursday evening and I found a flight out on Sunday evening. This would give me 1 solid day of travels, arriving late in Beirut and 10 whole days to explore the country. I absolutely loved it! Actually, it has been 2 months since I’m back and I’m already putting Lebanon back on my list of places I want to visit.
About my 10-day Lebanon itinerary
I’m from the Netherlands and I traveled to Lebanon as a solo female traveler in my mid 30’s. I choose to rent a car but also used local transport for one of my day trips. In the past, I’ve traveled solo to Turkey, Iran, Morocco, and Jordan, as well as Peru and Bolivia and the most part of Europe.
I knew Lebanon would be expensive, so I tried to find the cheapest places but still with a lot of comforts, like the perfect location, private rooms, breakfast included, free parking and decent reviews. If I wanted to, I could have saved a bit more money if I would have picked shared accommodation like hostels or staying in Beirut for 10 days. As you can read below, I didn’t do that but I did make conscious decisions about the tours I did or didn’t take, mainly based on my budget and value for money.
I paid for everything in full myself. I was not paid or sponsored. This post does contain affiliate links to services I used or recommend. If you decide to purchase something via one of my links, I’ll earn a small commission. This is at no extra cost to you.
I traveled to Lebanon in April. My last few days in Lebanon was around Easter. The first few days were lovely and sunny, after this, storms came in and I saw a lot of rain. It was also very cold and the weather was unpredictable. This influenced my trip quite a bit.
Top Things to do in Lebanon
This post is intended to help you decide what you can do in Lebanon in 10 days. And how to arrange it yourself. Below I walk you through the logistics of each travel day, what you can see and do in Lebanon, how to get there and where to stay. If you’re interested in a particular location, jump straight ahead, otherwise, I’ll take you on my 10 days in Lebanon in chronological order.
- Day 0: Arrive in Beirut, Lebanon
- Day 1: Explore Beirut
- Day 2: Sidon & Tyre
- Day 3: Jeita Grotto, cable car to Our Lady of Lebanon and Jbeil/Byblos
- Day 4: Batroun and 2 Roman Ruins, Tripoli
- Day 5: Qadisha Valley, Cedars of God or Horsh Ehden National Park
- Day 6: Hiking in Qadisha Valley
- Day 7: Tannourine Cedars National Park and Baalbek
- Day 8: Anjar and Zahlé
- Day 9: Shouf National Park
- Day 10: Beiteddine, Moussa Castle, Deir el-Qamar village
My Ultimate Lebanon Itinerary
I always try to pack as much into these shorter and smaller country trips. My days were quite full and I didn’t allocate any time to lazy on the beach or go for days of skiing or snowboarding. If that is what you’d like to do, make sure to add an extra day or two in your itinerary. Here is what I did with my 10 days in Lebanon.
Arrive at Beirut Rafic Hariri International Airport
I arrived in Beirut at around 8 pm and I call this day 0. I went through customs and I had a taxi driver waiting for me with my name on a sign. We went to the downstairs car park and from there, made our way to Beirut. I learned all the prices for a pre-arranged taxi from the airport to Beirut (Hamra) are all the same. I arranged one with my hotel, but you can also use Allo Taxi app or book your Taxi transfer here.
3 nights in Beirut
I checked into the J Hotel and Spa, in downtown Hamra neighborhood. I stayed here for 3 nights, allowing for 2 full days in Beirut. The place was lovely with their own fridge, AC that was working and generous comfortable beds. The people at the reception were also very helpful and their breakfast was exuberant.
I choose the Hamra neighborhood because it is the advised area to stay in. It is central, there are 100 places to stay and it has loads of restaurant options and evening activities.
On my first evening, I went to a local mobile phone shop and bought a SIM card for Lebanon. As a blogger/ modern traveler, I cannot live without the internet. During my recent trips to Iran and Jordan, I experienced it was so effortless to rely on my mobile phone working without WiFi, it was a no brainer for me. For 50$ I got a sim card with 5GB of data and some minutes to make calls, which I didn’t use.
If you want to hit the town running and not miss a thing, consider a Beirut Night Tour to explore the city by night. Starts at 6 pm so only possible when you’ll arrive earlier than I did. Check for more details here.
1-day walking tour around Beirut
To be honest with you. I’m not a big city person. Looking at the map of Beirut, I felt immediately intimidated by the maze of streets and the lack of overview. That is why I only allowed myself 2 days in Beirut, of which one I would get out of the city. If fine dining, vibrant nightlife and shopping is your thing, you must add at least 2 full days to your itinerary to spend in Beirut.
I decided to go on a self-guided walking tour of Beirut on my first day in the country. I wanted to see some sites and experience some of the Beirut life. It was wonderful!
I left the hotel around 11 am and I started walking until I couldn’t walk anymore. It was roughly 5 pm when I arrived back at my hotel. I just marked interesting things on my google maps and walked around the city.
If you feel like you need a bit more guidance, you can join a Beirut walking tour here:
- Beirut Bites Food Tour (food and walking!)
- Historical Walking Tour (focusses on history)
- 4h Beirut City Tour (incl. transport)
- 7h Beirut Tour (incl. transport so not that much walking)
I took my time, wandering around the streets, taking pictures and making video snippets. I had a long lunch and walked the whole Corniche as it was a lovely day (and got a sunburn!)
If you don’t like walking, Beirut now also offers a Hop on Hop off tour. Make sure to check it out here.
Day Trip to Sidon and Tyre
For my second day in Beirut, I choose to leave the city and go south. I took a day trip to Sidon (Saida) and Tyre (Sour). These two smaller cities are easily combined and make for a nice full day trip. I set out early, around 8 am and got back at my hotel in Beirut around 6 pm.
I chose for local transport, mainly because I wanted to have my own experiences with local transport as many people use Beirut as a base, and explore the rest of the country from Beirut. And I must say: it is perfectly safe and doable.
I found the minibusses not so comfortable though, and it took some time to fill them up. If you’re traveling in a larger group things might speed up a bit but overall, I was exhausted from a day of sightseeing by local transport.
I first went to Tyre and explored the Tyre Necropolis and the Roman Hippodrome. It was marvelous and I absolutely loved it. It was one of the (many) highlights of my 10-day trip to Lebanon and can highly recommend it.
I continued to downtown Tyre where I visited another set of Roman ruins and had the best and cheapest lunch during my time in Lebanon. I’m actually contemplation going back to Tyre to eat once again at this small kebab shop.
After Tyre, I visited Sidon and the Crusader castle in town. I found it a bit disappointing and wandered around the Souk. You can also visit the soap museum but I choose to find the remote ruins of Eshmoun.
Road Trip Itinerary for Lebanon
The next morning was a Sunday and I made my way back to the airport early morning. I didn’t go to the airport to fly home, but to pick up my rental car! On Sunday, all the rental car offices are closed so I had to go to the airport. But this allowed me to drive through Beirut on the least busy day of the week. I compared prices for rental cars at Beirut airport here, and found the best rate for my road trip.
Driving or Day Trips from Beirut?
Now, I hear you think: driving in Lebanon? I think everyone and their mother will discourage you from driving in Lebanon. But I did it and I actually found it quite easy. Yes, Beirut was crazy hectic and I definitely recommend to avoid driving in Beirut. But otherwise, I found the freedom to explore more remote places invaluably. It actually made my trip.
Yes, I might have pissed some drivers off with my more than polite driving skills, but other than that, I don’t think it is that bad.
Day 3: Drive to Jbeil/Byblos
This day can also be done very well as a day trip from Beirut, I’ll give some suggestions at the bottom. But let’s assume you did like me and you rented a car, so I can continue my story.
I whizzed through Beirut, sweaty palms and cars overtaking me left, right and center. Yes, the first few miles were a bit intimidating but I soon got the hang of it and once I left Beirut behind, traffic numbers dwindled and I basically had the road to myself.
One of the most see things in Lebanon and a mandatory stop on your Lebanon itinerary is Jeita Grotto. I contemplated skipping Jeita Grotto, as the entrance price is quite steep, but decided to do it regardless. And I’m glad I did because I absolutely loved it.
I parked the car for a small fee, got my ticket and hopped on the first cable car up the mountains. There, I had to store my phone, camera, and GoPro in a locker as filming or photography is not allowed. I entered the Grotto which is basically a cave with a well-lit pathway through it, guiding you to one amazing formation of stalactites and stalagmites after another.
Some were free-standing, others formed sheets hanging from the walls, and yet another arose in the middle of the path. I was definitely wowed. You can walk all the way to the back of the Grotto to climb via a staircase to a viewing platform before you have to return the same way you came.
After this, we all got in a touristic train and were brought to the lower cave. Here we would make a small boat ride on the Grotto’s inner lake. It was only 10 minutes but absolutely spectacular. Being out on the water, inside a grotto, surrounded by dripping stalactites was impressive.
The whole visit took maybe an hour or 1,5 hour but it was a quiet day. If the Jeita Grotto is busier, you might need to allocate more time for waiting in line to go inside or on the boat trip. I visited early morning before the crowds and the buses.
Cable Car to Our Lady of Lebanon
Another popular thing to do in Lebanon and usually combined with a day trip to Jeita Grotto is a ride on the cable car to Our Lady of Lebanon. As I drove by in my rental car, the line up to the mountains looked impressive and I’m sure you have a spectacular view. However, when I was there, a big storm was rolling in from the Mediterranean and visibility was poor so the cable car wasn’t operating.
If you don’t like to rent a car and drive yourself, you can always hire a driver from Beirut who brings you to Jeita Grotto and the Cable Car. Make it a full day to include Byblos too. The common rate seemed to be 100$ per day for a private driver. You can also do this as a day trip from Beirut, but you have to take the local buses and take a taxi to Jeita Grotto from the main road.
Go on a guided day trip to Jeita Grotto, the cable car and Byblos with a licensed guide. Check for options here.
From Jeita Grotto, I drove straight to Byblos. I arrived around 2 pm and could already check into the Aleph Boutique Hotel. I picked it because it has free parking in front of the hotel and is situated right at the turn off of the main road. And it looked absolutely ‘boutique’ and lovely. At their exorbitant breakfast, I discovered it has a 180-degree view of the coastline and the ruins of Byblos. I highly recommend this hotel for your Lebanon itinerary.
The rest of the afternoon I explored the old Souk of Jbeil and visiting the castle and ruins of Byblos. I loved the relaxed vibe in the small city. On this Sunday afternoon, the small streets were packed with families having lunch, I heard music everywhere and the village was bustling with sounds and smells.
I spend nearly 1.5 hours exploring Byblos Castle and ruins which contain several layers of history, from the Phoenicians to Romans, Greeks, and Crusaders. After my visit, I walked to the old harbor, stopping at the St. John-Marc Cathedral and admiring the fierce waves crashing on the beach. I absolutely adored Jbeil and I wish I could have stayed longer.
If 1 day is all you’ll have, visit Jbeil and Byblos on a day trip from Beirut.
Day 4: Drive to Tripoli
Today, I intended to make good use of my rental car. I first went to Batroun and then visited 2 very remote Roman ruins in the mountains before I went to Tripoli. If you’re not that much into Roman Ruins, I understand, but driving through the mountains was still spectacular. Below, I explain more about Tripoli and if you should go or not.
Batroun is known for its live and vibrant Souk and ancient Phoenician wall. I decided to stop there and check things out. As I walked from the car park to the sea, I encountered an abandoned maze of closed shops and restaurants. Old wooden doors were shot and building works were ongoing literally everywhere I looked. I roamed around the empty streets, found the wall, looked at it and disappointingly returned.
Somewhere, I took a wrong turn and this landed me at the surprisingly lovely St. Stephan’s Cathedral which looked adorable with all the school children posing in front of it. I spotted a sign that said: Roman Theatre so I had to check it out!
All in all, Batroun wasn’t that bad and I think when you visit on any other day than Monday morning, it will probably be much nicer. It did allow me a peek into non-touristy Lebanese life, which I liked very much. I wouldn’t stay in Batroun though and maybe stop here only if you have time.
Roman Ruins of Bziza & Qasr Naous Temples
I set out in my rental car and headed for the mountains. The road was now empty and I could slowly meander up the mountain until I found the tiny hamlet of Bziza. There I stopped for 5 minutes to admire the Roman Temple.
A bit disappointed by its size, I was hoping Qasr Naous would be more worth the detour and it sure was. Qasr Naous is a ruined temple complex situated high up in the mountains. If the weather wasn’t so bad, the views must have been stellar. I loved how those two temples just sat there, abandoned and forgotten. I imagine it makes for a great picnic place in the summer.
1 night in Tripoli
I wanted to see Tripoli for myself. Some people might advise against visiting Tripoli because it might not be safe. I did not experience any safety issues in Tripoli. It felt like any other big city.
I stayed at an apartment in the Al-Mina neighborhood. The owner of Azur Apartments helped me park my car and I admired the lovely little apartment. If you feel like cooking yourself, this is the place to do it. Tripoli doesn’t have many accommodation options, so it is either Azur or the Via Mina Hotel.
I left my car in Al Mina and took a shared taxi to downtown Tripoli. I wanted to visit the Crusader castle and experience the Souk. The Castle was absolutely impressive. Such a strong defense structure with all its courtyards and walls you can walk on. The views of the city are unrivaled and at the same time intimidating.
After the Castle, I tried to find my way around the Souk. There are several Mosques that are really beautiful but the one I found, I was not able to visit. The others remained hidden behind a maze of small alleys and doors. It didn’t really help that it was pouring with rain and I had a long day. I found the soup Souk and bought some soap souvenirs for home.
Should you add Tripoli to your 10 days in Lebanon?
Good question! Out of all the places I visited in Lebanon, Tripoli was disappointing. Not that it wasn’t safe, I just felt out of place. Downtown Tripoli is enormous. The Souk area is a puzzle of small streets, closed doors, and grey buildings. I didn’t find any beauty in it. I’m sure, if you have a local guide and take your time to explore, Tripoli might unravel her hidden beauty. I just didn’t see it.
You can also visit Batroun and Tripoli on a day trip from Beirut. Find your driver or tour here.
Day 5: To the Qadisha Valley
It is time to hit the road again and head for the mountains. I left Tripoli behind and set out to Bcharre, a small village overlooking the Qadisha Valley. I booked a 2-night stay at the Bauhaus Chalets in town, to explore the surrounding National Parks and explore the Qadisha Valley.
As soon as I got closer, the road started to twist back and forth and slowly I sneaked up to a spectacular view of the Qadisha Valley. It was especially beautiful with the first apple blossoms on the trees.
Explore the Cedars of God
After check-in, I headed out again with my rental car and I make my way to the Cedars of God natural park. This is one of the smallest parks where you can find Cedars, but it is high up in the mountains. Although it was only 8 km (5 miles) from town, it took me well over 45 minutes to get there. I soon realized I might have been too early in the season. Or the snow was still late in the season. The road was abominable!
Potholes everywhere, small patches of sand and loads of snow at the side of the road. Finally, I arrived at a small ranger’s station and I asked if I could visit. The ranger showed me how far I could visit and I soon realized it was a mission impossible. The snow was waist-deep and only a small path for say 200 meters was cleared. I did get a tiny peak in the beauty of these majestic trees, especially with the snow on them.
Explore Horsh Ehden National Park
After the Cedars of God, I returned to Bcharre and I continued to Horsh Ehden National Reserve. A much larger national park with a wide variety of flora and fauna. As I was creeping up the mountain, the sunny weather flipped. Clouds started to drift in.
The higher I got, the thicker the clouds got.
I parked my car at the ranger’s station, but it wasn’t manned, so I couldn’t ask for directions or walking paths. Online, I had read there were numerous walking trails and the area around the parking lot seemed free of snow, so I decided to give it a go.
I first walked up a cobblestone path that was indicated as a fun walk for kids. A few steps in, I found several great learning opportunities, but the path quickly headed over rocks up the steep mountain. The ground was slippery and more fog was rolling in. I decided it was a bad idea and I turned back.
I decided to head in the other direction and walked through a gate. The path in front of me was broad and flat. Not as interesting but luckily also not as challenging. I knew I had to turn into the forest at some point if I wanted to walk a loop, but after 30 minutes or so, I could hardly see 100 meters in front of me. A thick soup drifted in front of me. I couldn’t enjoy the view and could not even make out the top of the trees. I decided to turn around and leave the mountain.
Driving in the mountains of Lebanon
I arrived safely at my car and quickly got in. I was freezing by now and wanted to get off the mountain. The weather really took a turn for the worst and I slowly made my way down the mountain. Heavy rain tormented my windshield and I could not see the road in front of me. It was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done.
In this area, the road twists and turns, the potholes are everywhere and markings on the road are nowhere to be found. I put the car to the side of the road and tried to calm down. After 5 minutes, the weather got even worse and I decided to continue. I figured, as soon as I would make it below a certain altitude, I would be fine. And I was. 5 minutes later, the road dropped and the skies cleared.
Lesson learned: the weather can be very unpredictable and when it looks bad, you need to turn around before it is too late as it might get even worse.
Day 6: Hike in the Qadisha Valley
I spent most of the night before, contemplating if I should hike the Qadisha Valley solo. Until now, I had never hiked solo before and I did not know what the terrain would look like. I was a bit scared of getting too tired and then still having to hike out of the valley. The night before, I went to check out Mar Lichaa monastery that would be my starting point.
I went to the look-out point and saw a car slowly drive down. I spent the rest of the evening googling and I found that there is a car park at the bottom of the valley. It would mean I would have to hike out and return the same route, but I figured that would be a safe way to try my first solo hike. And so I went out!
Hiking Qadisha Valley
I did exactly so. I drove my rental car to the bottom of the valley, parked my car and followed the trail into the valley. And it was lovely, I enjoyed the silence, the scenery, and the surroundings. The water rushed with an extreme force down the stream, the trees stood tall above me, holding on to the valley’s walls. It was gorgeous.
I set out early in the morning, the sun came out and I had a lovely walk. I didn’t take any side tours or climbed any rocks or ledges. When I arrived at Qannoubine Monastery, I took a break, taking in the silence of the monastery. I checked out the little shrine of Santa Maria a little bit further and then decided to head back.
It took me nearly 3 hours to walk there and back again. I still had some energy left, so I also checked out the Saint George’s Church with the amazing views of the valley and the cliffs surrounding it. If you like nature and history, then I can definitely recommend hiking the Qadisha Valley.
Although the Qadisha Valley is quite a drive from Beirut, you can visit on a day trip too. I’d recommend a full day trip to make the journey out there worth your time.
Find the best Qadisha Valley Day Trips from Beirut here.
Day 7: Drive to Bekaa Valley & Explore Baalbek
After spending two days in the Qadisha Valley, it was time to move away again. I set out to the Bekaa Valley as I wanted to visit the ruins of Baalbek. When I planned my trip, I just looked at the map and figured it was an easy 1 to 2-hour drive and I could easily manage it all on 1 day.
I was wrong. I didn’t factor in that the road I saw on the map was actually a road over the mountains. Snow-covered mountains, only open from June till September. There was no way I could pass them. I decided on the alternative route over a smaller mountain range and not drive back to Beirut.
Tannourine Cedars National Park
This would allow me to stop at the Tannourine Cedars National Park. Maybe I was overconfident from the solo hike the day before, but I figured I could visit the national park and take a short hike and then continue my road trip in Lebanon to the Bekaa Valley.
The trip from Bcharre to Tannourine was breathtaking. I had the road to myself and the air was bright and crisp. I set out early in the morning and slowly crept up the steep, windy mountain pass. At a certain altitude, patches of snow lined the dirt road and I even took on a hitchhiking old man.
Hiking in Tannourine Cedars National Park
Finally, I arrived at Tannourine Cedars National Park. I was the only one but the park ranger gave me a map and I happily stepped on the crisp snow. I followed a path around one of the easiest and shortest walks in the park. It took me nearly 1.5 hours to complete it as the ground was very unstable as the snow started to melt, making the ground slushy and slippery. I even trotted through knee-deep patches of snow, hoping I wouldn’t lose the trail.
For me, it was quite the adventure. 2nd solo ‘hiking’ adventure in such conditions, while I was actually on a tight timeline. But girl was it worth it. I got to several viewpoints where I could overlook the rugged mountains, covered with tall standing cedars and other snow-covered trees.
The sky was a gorgeous delicate blue, birds were chirping and I felt so blessed to be able to see such beauty. Conditions were not ideal but all the more beautiful.
Qalaat Faqra Roman Ruins
From Tannourine, I continued my journey inland. I figured I could follow the main road at Mzaar Ski Resort and then enter the Bekaa Valley there. One winding road after another, passing through small villages and tiny cities, I finally arrived at the Qalaat Faqra Roman Ruins.
I figured this would be another great stop on my Lebanon itinerary. But the weather flipped. I was quite high up in the mountains but it was getting a bit chilly. Clouds filled with rain drifted in and out.
The Roman Ruins of Qalaat Faqra are quite impressive as they are hewn from the rock. There are several ruins you can look at, but during my visit, I kept looking at the big mountain range in front of me. That was where I was supposed to pass but I couldn’t see the top of the mountains. I could see snow and fog. There was no way I could pass there.
That morning, I left Bcharre at 8 am. I stopped a few times but it took me till 3 pm to arrive in Zahlé. I was so happy and relieved to finally be able to cross a mountain range and see the broad and green Bekaa Valley in front of me. During this day of intense driving, I saw so much of the interior of Lebanon but it came at a toll. I felt a migraine throbbing underneath my templates and I felt like my face was burning up. I could feel my body was protesting.
I checked into my guesthouse in Zahlé, the Beit el Kroum Boutique Hotel, and contemplated what to do. Outside, the blue sky beckoned me to come outside. Inside, my phone’s weather app would tell me bad weather was on the horizon for tonight and tomorrow. I would have 2 hours to get to Baalbek and explore one of the best-preserved Roman ruins in the world.
Quickly, I decided to head out and give it a try. I could always go back tomorrow if I felt I missed out on some things. And that is how I ended up rushing through the Baalbek ruins. I arrived roughly at 4.30 pm and figured I had until 6 pm to explore. It turned out they kicked me out at 5.30 pm.
Exploring Baalbek Ruins
The plus side of this story was that I had the Baalbek ruins almost completely to myself. I could roam around and take quick pictures without anyone in my view. Which was perfect. I tried my best to take in the site and the views but I did feel a bit rushed. However, I did take my time to set up my camera for a few selfies at some of the greatest ruins I have ever seen.
By 5.30 pm, the guards kicked me out. I couldn’t see the museum and the Temple of Venus but the things I did see, made me fall in love with Baalbek. It was perfect that I had the site to myself which allowed me to move quickly around and take in the history.
And I was glad I did it because the weather was perfect. The next day, it even snowed in Baalbek!
Day 8: Explore the Bekaa Valley
But that evening and night, I felt my body revolt to the stress of that day. Or it allowed for a bug to settle in my stomach and disrupt my whole system. I was cold and I couldn’t get warm anymore. And I couldn’t keep in any food. I rushed to the toilet every hour of the night, leaving me cold, weak and ill the next morning.
For me, I was glad to stay in such a homestay type of accommodation I stayed in bed nearly all day. Mostly because I felt too ill to go out but also because rain and hail were covering the Bekaa Valley.
Ruins of Anjar
At the end of the afternoon, I did decide to go out for a bit. I drove to Anjar, only 40 minutes away and visited the ruins of the Umayyad court of the 8th century. There Unesco World Heritage Ruins are remarkable because they only cover one period in time. They were not reused or repurposed by future generations.
It was convenient to park in front of the ruins and I could follow the grid and layout of the old city. Sadly, my umbrella could barely hold up the constant stream of rain and hailstones, so I did a quick tour of the site.
If you’re not ill and the weather is better, I recommend spending 1 to 1.5 hours here to explore the ruins, take in the old Grand Palace and walk the streets of Anjar. It reminded me a little bit of Pompeii even.
Zahle wine tasting
Because of the heavy rain, I cut my visit to Anjar short and returned to Zahle. Only 15 minutes out, the sky cleared up and the sun came out. Just my luck. Instead of turning around and revisiting again, I decide to continue and stop at one of the famous wineries in Zahlé.
The Chateau Ksara was on my route to my guesthouse, so I decided to check in and see if they were open. They were and I joined an English tour of the wineries caves.
This was really short but impressive. The guide took us to the underground labyrinth of caves and niches, with barrels of wine lining the walls and bottles of wines stacked behind closed gates. She explained that the monks used to produce so much delicious wine, that the higher power in the church ordered them to stop their commercial activities with the delicious wines.
They sold the winery and Chateau Ksara was born.
Tour Ksara Wine House
After the tour, we watched a video of the harvest and it was really an interesting twist on the other things I’ve seen so far in Lebanon.
All the while, I was contemplating to do the wine tasting or not. I was driving after all and it seemed like a bad idea. But I really wanted to taste the wine. In the end, I decided to choose safety over sampling the wine.
My big tip for you would be to get a driver or take a taxi and drink and taste and sample as much wine as you can! I heard raving reviews about the wine at Chateau Ksara.
As the Bekaa Valley and Baalbek are one of those epic must-see things in Lebanon, there are numerous tours and day trips to Baalbek. Some combine a day trip with Anjar and a wine tasting in Zahlé. Check out the best tours here.
Day 9: Drive to the Shouf National Reserve
Although I wasn’t feeling much better, I had to leave Zahlé and the Bekaa Valley. My next stop would be the Shouf. This mountain range is dominated by tiny villages and several national parks to see the Cedars.
I rested a bit and went to the pharmacy for some antibiotics and some ORS rehydration salts to prevent me from dehydrating. With so many liquids coming out, I felt my bodies need to stock up on electrolytes and keep in some of the fluids.
My recommendation for you would be to leave early and explore as much of the Shouf National Park as possible. The Shouf consists of several different smaller parks, each with entrances at different roads. I tried to visit all of them but the weather and wintery conditions made it difficult.
Palais des Cedres Hotel
From Zahlé, I took the main road to Beirut for a while and was a bit overwhelmed by how busy it was. After driving for nearly a week on small mountain roads, passing empty villages, the main highway was a bit of a shock. This was also the first time I drove on the main road during mid-day so I was glad when I reached the turn-off to the Shouf and continue on the tiny mountain roads again.
I arrived at the Palais des Cedres Hotel and I nearly cried when I entered my room. It was so beautiful, so warm and the intense smell of thick cedar wood was everywhere. It sure helped they upgraded me to a royal room and I could see the mountains from my bed and balcony. Although I wanted to stay in and vegg out, I decided to head out again and try to explore some of the Shouf Cedars National Park.
Shouf Biosphere Reserve Barouk Cedars Forest
The hotel is really close to one of the main entrances to the park. It was 5 minutes to the Ranger Station at Barouk National Reserve. I needed to buy my ticket and I could continue by car. Unfortunately, again, hiking was not possible. The ranger told me I could drive till the end of the road and look around, but then I would have to come back.
I didn’t quite get what he meant, as my google maps showed the road going up the mountains to Maasser Cedar Forest Shouf Biosphere Reserve and over the mountains to Kefraya but I soon found it.
But, I got in my car and followed the road. I quickly climbed and soon the snow was lining the road again. The road twisted and turned up the mountains and fog was drifting in again. I passed a small patch of cleared snow where I could see a trail but I continued. Until I couldn’t go any further.
The last few meters I drove on snow and the road wasn’t cleared. And then I hit a wall of snow. Well, I didn’t actually hit it but it was clear I couldn’t continue anymore. The road was blocked by a mountain of snow. As it was half of April, I was surprised but it clearly shows that I am not used to the mountains.
After looking around, I returned the same way I came from.
Maasser Cedar Forest Shouf Biosphere Reserve
I still was slightly disappointed. I drove back to Barouk and took the valley road to Maaser El Chouf village. Unfortunately, the main visitor center was closed or had vanished, so I drove up another mountain to reach the Maasser Cedar Forest Shouf Biosphere Reserve.
It was a bit busier here and there were several rangers in the hut. I could access this part of the park with the same ticket as in Barouk, so this saved a few Lebanese pounds.
One of the rangers walked with me and explained which path I could follow and where I had to go to see the oldest Cedar tree in Lebanon.
Oldest Cedar Trees in the world
The path was horrible. Patches of snow, mixed with slush and frozen puddles. I slipped and slithered up the path and tried to enjoy the scenery. The fog crept up on me and obstructed any views of the National Park and Forest.
I reminisced on the glorious sunny morning I had in Tannourine National Park and decided this wasn’t working. I’m still not sure if I saw the oldest Cedar tree. I did see several old and big cedars but I didn’t see a sign, so I think I haven’t seen it.
I retreated to the luxurious warmth of my hotel room and watched movies for the rest of the night.
If the weather is better or you visit during a different season, I highly recommend the several Shouf Cedar parks. Although I didn’t see much of it, I could see they have good infrastructure, spacious parking lots and there were rangers at the post to guide you around the park. Several trails were clearly set out and what I did see of the parks was well maintained.
I can’t wait to go back during the summertime!
Day 10: Beiteddine and Beirut Airport
I realize my Lebanon itinerary starts to sound a bit like: I was sick, the weather was bad, I didn’t do that much. I’m sorry for that but it hugely impacted the last days of my 10-day trip to Lebanon. I’m sharing the things I did do or could have done to show you what you can do when you make your own itinerary but the truth is, not everything worked out for me.
After I left the Palais des Cedres with pain in my heart, I slowly made my way to Beirut airport. I wanted to visit the Beiteddine palace and then move to the coast and wait for my flight home from Beirut airport.
I wanted to visit the grotto of Beit Nazein, but I learned it was closed for the public until further notice.
In the morning, I drove to Beiteddine and was excited to visit this palace complex of Emir Bashir II of the Shihab dynasty (1788-1818). I wanted to see the courtyard, the stairway and the palace wings with my own eyes, but unfortunately: it was closed.
So, I parked in the parking lot and contemplated what to do next as it was still raining and it seemed like the perfect indoor activity for my last day in Lebanon. I wasn’t the only one who was disappointed, as several tour groups and family came to the gate to return disappointed.
Deir al-Qamar Village
I decided to drive around the valley, which offered lovely views and settle for a coffee at Deir al-Qamar. I stopped at Moussa Castle, a fairy tale whimsical make-belief palace by a guy with too much money but decided to continue. Once in Deir al-Qamar, I was charmed by the buzzing lively feel of this small village.
Flowers lining the streets, cute houses and shops and a romantic feel. I drove two circles around the village to find a spot to park my car, but I had no luck. By now, I was quite fed up with the weather and the inability to do something fun and entertaining and the rain that I decided to give up and head to the airport.
If the palaces are open, allocate 1 to 2 hours to explore Beiteddine Palace and another hour for Deir Al-Qamar. Make that 2 or 3 hours if you include a nice lunch stop there.
Beiteddine and the Shouf Valley is an easy and popular day trip from Beirut. Find the best tours and prices here.
Back to Beirut Airport
I went back to the airport. I found a Starbucks and gave in to my need to be near a bathroom and use high-speed internet. There, I am only human.
As we glided in the air, looking down on the bright lights of Beirut, I had a content smile on my face. Despite the illness, despite the rain and the last few days, Lebanon charmed me in a way I did not expect.
I found the mixture of religions, opinions and natural and cultural sites to visit intriguing and surprising. It left me already craving for me and I don’t rule out that I will return to Lebanon in the near future.
10-day Lebanon Itinerary
I think I could have spent another week in Lebanon and not get bored at all. For a first acquaintance, 10 days in Lebanon is a good amount of time to get a first taste. I hope I was able to show you how to arrange your own road trip in Lebanon and gave you plenty of practical suggestions on things to see and do.
Practical tips for your Lebanon Trip planning
As always, I like to leave you with some practical tips and advice to make planning your own Lebanon itinerary easier.
- I do recommend to rent a car in Lebanon. Get the best rates and conditions and compare the best car rentals here.
- Lebanon’s tourism industry is up and coming but it is also a perfect independent backpacker country. If you do want to go sightseeing but wants more guidance and let someone else take care of the logistics, book your day trip tour here.
- Bring US Dollars and pay with them and get the locale Lebanese Pound in return. No need to take out money from the ATM or exchange at an exchange office. The rate is fair and it is super easy.
- Many airlines fly to Beirut, like the nation’s MEA airline. I flew from Amsterdam direct with Transavia to Beirut but you can search for your flight here.
- Book your hotels in advance. Hotels outside of Beirut are not that common or well advertised. I’m sure you sometimes can show up and get a room but booking ahead can help you a lot. I always use Booking but Hostelworld also offers nice budget accommodations too. Some unique stays can be found on Airbnb as well.
Lebanon hotels for your trip
To make things easier for you, here is a list with the hotels I stayed at during my Lebanon trip. I recommend all of them wholeheartedly, so feel free to book your stay there too:
- 3 nights in Beirut at the J Hotel and Spa
- 1 night in Jbeil/Byblos at the Aleph Boutique Hotel
- 1 night in Tripoli at Azur Apartments
- 2 nights in Bcharre in the Qadisha Valley at Bauhaus Chalets
- 2 nights in Zahlé at the Beit el Kroum Boutique Hotel
- 1 night in Barouk at the Palais des Cedres Hotel
Are you thinking of going to Lebanon? What is at the top of your must-do list? Or do you have a favorite place in Lebanon that you recommend? I’d love to read it, feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below.