Lebanon is not a country that comes to mind when planning a holiday. If you tell someone you are going to Lebanon, they will say you are insane because all they can think of is the war. It may be sandwiched between Syria and Israel, but despite the unrest in neighboring countries, Lebanon is a safe country for tourists.
But why Lebanon? When planning my trip to Jordan, I was looking for other places to combine that do not require long flights and Lebanon got my interest. It arouses my curiosity that most travelers don’t choose Lebanon as a destination. I had my weakness in the Middle Eastern countries, it’s started since my last trip to Saudi Arabia. Although the living standard in Saudi Arabia is pretty high compared to Lebanon, but that doesn’t change the fact that Lebanon is not worth it, it is a country that you should definitely visit at least once in your life!
For more details about Lebanon, read this post: How Safe is Lebanon? A Solo Female Traveler.
In this itinerary, I base myself in Beirut and make some day trips to places mentioned in this blog. Six days are sufficient to see the highlights of Lebanon. You may manage do it on your own by taking a bus. Just be aware that buses in Lebanon are not reliable I was thankful to Zingy Ride in Beirut for arranging my tour. If you use this code BBZ5% you get a 5% discount per tour you booked.
Places that you’re going to visit in Six days: Beirut where I spend three days exploring the city. Sidon was combine with Tyre and Maghdouche. I spend one day in Tripoli. And Jeita Grotto, Harissa, and Byblos were on the same day. I booked a three-day tour, and to be honest, I was glad I did. One thing I don’t want to do in Lebanon as a solo traveler is to take the buses.
Day 1– Arrival in Beirut
It depends on your arrival time. I landed in Beirut at noon coming on a flight from Jordan. I was too excited to explore the city after settling down at my hotel I walked to the Corniche, a half-hour away from where I stayed in the Hamra district.
If you can’t make it to the Corniche on the first day don’t worry. Beirut is not a big city and you will likely see it in one day. If you don’t feel like walking a lot on the first day after a long flight, Hamra street is the ideal place to get your city bearings. No matter what situation is in Lebanon, life goes day and night here. This is the bustling district of Beirut filled with cafes and restaurants.
Day 2 – Beirut
If you haven’t made it to the Corniche on the first day walk through this area. This is something you can’t miss in Beirut. Here you will find the iconic Pigeon Rocks one of the significant attractions in Lebanon. This long boulevard is very popular with locals as well as for tourists. If you want to get a clear view of the rock go inside one of the restaurants. At the backside, they have some terraces facing the Mediterranean sea.
If you like to get closer to the rocks take the boat. There are boat rides available that will take you around the crag. Anyway, If you want to spend more time in the area you can walk down to the beach. Just keep in mind that it’s a steep walk going up.
After having a picture with the pigeon rock, you can continue to Zaitunay Bay following the Avenue General de Gaulle. It’s quite a long walk or you can take a taxi. Zaitunay Bay is an upscale area in Beirut, a well-designed marina home to expensive yachts and futuristic buildings. It has a relaxed and chilled-out vibe a complete different airspace from the rest of Beirut. There are many restaurants along the waterfront, which makes a perfect place for dinner or just having a coffee.
Day 3 – Beirut
Place d’Etoile, one the best areas in Beirut, the jewel of the square is the clock tower with its four-faced rolex clock. It used to be a vibrant place full of life with numerous restaurants and cafes. Now this area has been shut down and abandoned and some buildings were destroyed. Despite its no longer being a vibrant place the gorgeous architecture remains. It’s like you’re wandering in Paris…they say that Beirut is the Paris in the Middle East. Well, it feels like it in Place d’Etoile.
Not far from the square you have the Roman Bath Ruins, Roman Forum, Martyrs’ Square, and the iconic letter, I love Beirut. The highlight here is the Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque – the mosque dominates the entire square. It’s just too bad that visitors are not allowed inside.
Mar Mikhael is another district of Beirut, repleted with trendy bars and restaurant . You may love or hate this place because of the hassle and bustle and so many beggars. However, if you ignore all that, you will have a good time in Mar Mikhael. One of the main things to see here is the old stairways that hold memories of the past. These were the passage for residents between Mar Mikhael and Geitawi. You don’t even need to search for it, because you might walking through them. The smaller ones are less impressive, but try to search this in your map Massad Stairs – known for its iconic and vibrant color.
This is the area to discover the raw side of Beirut and a place to get lost. Here, you will find old buildings that give a unique character, and some have a French style. I compare this place in the Alsace France. Beirut is a captivating city -what happened in the past can still be seen.
Here and there you will find some buildings that are neglected and decayed but still inhabited. And to be honest, this is one of my preferred areas to walk around. One thing that I like to explore on foot it allows me to experience the culture and beauty of a city. Not a single day I took a cab in Beirut except to the airport.
Day 4 – Sidon
Sidon can be easily visited from Beirut by taking the buses. However, if you take the tour, they will take you to three places in one day and Sidon will be the first stop. The castle on the sea is one of the tourist attractions in Sidon that holds Lebanese history. This picturesque fort is still intact, and you can climb on both sides to get some coastline views. However, not all tourist attractions in Lebanon are free. To visit the castle – you have to pay an entry of 2 euros, which is worth the price.
Another interesting not to miss in Sidon is the souk – one of the best preserved remaining souks in the country dating back to the 13th century. It’s a labyrinth where you can get lost but makes a great place to wander like stepping back in time. The fact that this is not a tourist souk but more like one for locals gives you a real flavor of the traditional Arabian market. It is exactly what you might imagine in a bazaar.
In between the souks, you will find the soap factory museum. It’s more like a hidden place, but you will find it in your map. If you have a local guide, the entry to the museum is free. Otherwise, you have to pay one dollar to visit inside. Inside the museum, you will get some insights into the history and soap-making process. And there is a gift shop where you can purchase some soaps! Great for Lebanese souvenirs.
Tyre is a lovely place in the South of Lebanon, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1984. In this magnificent area, you can admire the hectares of ruins. If you are looking to dive deep into ancient history, Tyre is the place to be. There were two archaeological sites to visit in Tyre: the Hippodrome and the excavation Al-Mina. Both are worth visiting, but you must have a local guide that will explain the whole history. If you walk around without knowing what you see, it is useless.
Although I have seen a lot of ruins during my trip to Jordan, the history of Tyre is impressive and emblematic of pre-independence Lebanon, which is obvious. Besides breathtaking historical ruins, Tyre has beautiful beaches, it is in fact, one of the few places in Lebanon where sandy beaches are. Remember you have to pay on each site 120 pounds! Both are worth the price.
Maghdouche is a pilgrimage site in Lebanon that lies three kilometers inland on a hillside. If you are visiting Southern Lebanon, it is worth stopping by. The people of Magdhdouche built a cathedral as a symbolic site for Christians. Next to the church is the modern tower crowned with a bronze statue of the Virgin Mary and child. Climbing the peak, it offers panoramic views of Sidon and the valleys of Lebanon. The attractions are free! It only takes your time to climb the tower.
Day 5 – Tripoli
Tripoli is an off-the-beaten-track destination located in the north of Lebanon, not far from the border with Syria. The ancient city is chaotic, dirty, busy, and rough. And due to opinions generally held about it – Tripoli is often skipped by most visitors. If I have to miss something in Lebanon, it should not be Tripoli. This was in fact, the highlights of my trip to Lebanon. There weren’t daily tours to Tripoli, so the agency in Beirut adjusted my schedule so I don’t miss it.
Nevertheless, for safety reasons, I suggest going with a local guide or booking a tour. Do keep in mind that these are the most conservative areas in Lebanon. You must be very careful how you dress in public. Be conscious when visiting mosques in Tripoli, as a woman you need to wear a Jilbab (abaya) before entering. If you are going by yourself you must bring it with you. My guide provides one for me.
There are many things to keep you up for one day. Imagine there are nine souqs in Tripoli. Even with a local guide I didn’t see them all. Tripoli is a city that needs to be explored more deeply. And to make the most of your trip, it’s good to have a guide to learn the city’s history.
The most significant site you can’t miss here is the Al-Uwaysiyat mosque – an interesting Mamluk period. And the Taynal Mosque – the most reserved authentic religious house. Your trip to Tripoli will not be complete without visiting the Citadel – which dominates the city. Moreover, there are a few bathhouses to visit but you can’t find them so easily if you have no local guide.
Day 6 – Jeita Grotto
You can’t leave Lebanon without visiting Jeita Grotto. You can easily take a taxi from Beirut, but it is handy if you go on a tour because they combine these with Harissa and Byblos. It says Jeita Grotto, is the biggest cave in the Middle East. The vast presence of stunning stalagmites and stalactites was incredible. It’s just a bummer that you cannot take pictures inside. You are required to leave your camera and phone outside the storage.
Take note! You pay 135 Lebanese pounds for entry, which allows you to visit two caves: upper and lower. On the lower part, where you take a boat ride, you can have as many pictures as you want.
If you want to see the beauty and nature in Beirut with history – Harissa is the one. This mountain-top religious site can be accessed by cable car or a vehicle. But I recommend to take the cable car for a marvelous vista. These will cost 5.00 USD for a back-and-forth ticket, which is worth it. The ride takes approximately ten minutes to the top – an enjoyable trip that allows you to take many pictures on the way.
Once you’ve reached the mountain, the striking statue of Our Lady Mary is the first thing you see when you come out of the cable car station. This is a religious sanctuary where people come to pray. Don’t be surprised if you see people climbing to the shrine with their knees. These individuals are believers and sacrifice themselves. You’ve got to get to the top of the statue, where awe-inspiring view of the Mediterranean Sea.
Byblos in Arabic is Jbeil, located 40 km north of Beirut, for some travelers Byblos is the highlights in Lebanon. Undeniably one of beautiful city in the country one can spend the entire day as there’s no shortage of things to do. Byblos, tourist attractions are the old souk, Citadel, and the old harbor. Don’t forget Byblos has beautiful beaches. Some people come for a day just to soak up on the beach. No worry, you don’t need a car to get around in the city. The citadel is connected to the old port and the souk – a versatile experience that Byblos has to offer.
Byblos Souk is different from the others you see in Lebanon, which reminds me of Albania. Walking through this old area feels like transporting you back in time. And everything you can think of can be found here, like souvenir shops, snack bars, restaurants, pubs, etc.
If you continue walking from the souks you arrive at the citadel, an enchanting and massive place with an incredible history. However, you just can’t go inside without paying 300 Lira, not like the one in Tripoli that was free, but this is worth the price! Byblos Castle is a great place to experience the various civilizations that pass through the city. Unfortunately, there is not much left of the castle but the combination of architecture makes a visit worthwhile. The views from the top of the castle are fantastic across Byblos town and along the coast towards Beirut.
Byblos Old Port is not like any other you’ve seen. This is an ancient port with significant Phoenician history. It was the most important timber shipping center in the eastern Mediterranean. Nowadays, the port is home to many traditional Lebanese restaurants that overlook the water. The small harbor has its charm with fishing boats around and ruins that remind me of Paphos Cyprus. Some fishing boats offered this activity taking tourists to the sea to view Byblos city from another perspective.