Discover Lebanon's beautiful rural heartland, dramatic mountain scenery and warm hospitality on this cycle adventure. With a cuisine as rich and varied as its history, Lebanon is a small country where east meets west, with surprises at every corner. Beautiful cycling - In the Chouf Mountains, Mount Lebanon range and Qadisha Valley Ancient cultures - Remarkable Phoenician, Roman, Ottoman and Crusader sites Lebanese food - Feast on Levantine cuisine and try fine wine in the Bekaa Valley
Beirut, the country's cosmopolitan capital known for its art, culture and fashion, has been inhabited for over 5000 years through Phoenician, Roman, Crusader and Ottoman times. The city was largely rebuilt after the heavy damage sustained in the Lebanese Civil War between 1975 and 1990 and hotel is located in the Hamra neighbourhood and was used as a base for international journalists in this turbulent period. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into Beirut-Rafic Hariri International Airport (BEY), which is around 20 minutes from the centre. The Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 7pm for the welcome meeting and for those that wish, there is the chance to go out for dinner. There are no included excursions planned today, so you are free to arrive in Beirut at any time. Should you miss the meeting, your Leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up. If your flight arrives earlier in the day, perhaps you might choose to have a stroll on the coastal footpath. Today is your first opportunity to delve into the delicious local food and drink. The Lebanese, quite rightly, take great pride in their varied and healthy cuisine and many of the ingredients are grown locally and eaten in season. Tables are generously covered with small mezze sharing dishes such as fresh tabbouleh salad, hummus, grilled meats, fish, seafood and baba ganoush.
We start our first ride from Barouk after a 1.5 hour drive from Beirut. After some time to get comfortable with our bikes, making any required adjustments, we start cycling. The Chouf Mountains form the southern section of Lebanon's mountainous spine and the Mediterranean landscapes provide a beautiful backdrop for today's ride to Jezzine. The Chouf is the heartland of the Maronite Christians and Druze minority, and we will cycle through villages of these breakaway religious groups that have long made the area their home, fleeing persecution and sectarian rivalry. There are some steep sections to cycle up today, though nothing more than a few kilometres maximum each time, more often less distance, as is the case with every ride on this holiday. After lunch we drive to Sidon (1hr) to explore this historic port town. Once a rich and flourishing Phoenician city with trade links to ancient Egypt and beyond, the crusaders built a sea castle here in the 12th century. We plan to visit the castle, renovated khans and the old souk. Finally we drive (1hr) back up into the Chouf Mountains to Deir Al-Qamar and our hotel for the night. Our total cycling distance today is approximately 40 kilometres (820 metres total accumulated ascent and 960 m descent).
After breakfast we drive a short distance to visit the restored 19th century Beiteddine Palace complex. Built in the period of Ottoman rule on the remains of a former Druze hermitage, this beautiful palace is an intricate mix of Italian Baroque and Arabian styles. Following this visit we drive for 45 minutes higher into the Chouf Mountains and are soon rewarded with views over the Bekaa Valley and beyond as we cross the range. Today's ride is relatively short as, after a short ascent, we descend rapidly to the valley floor and continue in the valley, riding on backroads past many vineyards to the town of Ghazee. After lunch we drive through the Bekaa Valley, making a stop at a winery along the way to learn about the ancient heritage of wine-making in the Lebanon and of course to sample the wine. Upon arrival to Baalbek we plan to visit the vast Roman ruins. The jewel in Lebanon's crown, Baalbek is one of the best preserved and most important Roman sites. The almost intact Temple of Bacchus is a highlight with its ornately decorated stonework and giant columns. Not far from the site, a Roman quarry reveals some of the giant stones that were being prepared for construction. Our total cycling distance today is approximately 31 kilometres (120 metres total accumulated ascent and 995 m descent).
After breakfast we drive (2 hours) out of the Bekaa Valley and into the Mount Lebanon range to Zaarour. We start cycling in cool mountain air at around 2000 metres above sea level with views of Mount Sannine and our route immediately descends on good roads to Baskinta. The town is known as an outdoor hub with ski, hiking and biking routes nearby. It was also the native village of Mikhail Naimy, one of Lebanon's greatest thinkers and men of letters famous for his spiritual writings. We continue cycling on quiet backroads in a poor state of repair, with some steep short ascents along the way, taking in superb mountain scenery. The ride ends after a long descent to Faraiya village and we drive from here to our accommodation near Mayrouba. Tonight we stay in modest comfort, with en suite rooms, in the Saydet Al Nour Convent for the Sisters of Nazareth. Our total cycling distance today is approximately 46 kilometres (970 metres total accumulated ascent and 1150 m descent).
We start the day with a short drive to help avoid a very steep section. Our cycle route today is a beautiful ride through the mountains, on a road in a poor state of repair that few tourists travel on, with some steep ascents, past terraced farmland and villages. We plan to have lunch at the end of the ride in Tannourine and from here we drive (1hr) to the stunningly beautiful and verdant Qadisha Valley - translated as the Holy Valley on account of the large number of Christian monasteries founded here and hidden away by the towering walls of the gorge. The cedar tree is a national symbol that features on the flag of Lebanon but rapid deforestation means that only a few small areas of protected ancient cedar forest remain and we plan a short walk in the Cedars of God reserve on arrival to admire these mighty trees. Finally we continue by vehicle to our accommodation at St Anthony's Monastery located deep in the valley. Dating back to the 12th century, the monastery is still in operation today under the control of the Lebanese Maronite Order, home to resident hermits and the centre of many pilgrimages. We'll be spending the night in the simply-furnished guesthouse that has been built within the monastery grounds. The rooms are either twin or triple share and all have en-suite bathrooms. Our total cycling distance today is approximately 37 kilometres (820 metres total accumulated ascent and 980 m descent).
After breakfast we bid farewell to the Qadisha Valley as we start our ride to the coast. The start of the route involves a few hundred metres of very steep ascent and some may prefer to travel in the support vehicle to avoid this section. The route then follows slightly busier roads in good condition as we descend and rapidly leave the mountains behind us, entering a drier landscape of bush and scrub and a hotter, drier climate. The small back roads become slightly quieter and with more broken surfaces as we approach the coast. We end our final ride in the seaside town of Batroun where we plan to have lunch, visit the souk and see the Phoenician sea wall. You may like to try a glass of the refreshing local iced-lemonade. Later this afternoon we drive the short distance to Byblos and we plan to visit the citadel 12th century Crusader castle on arrival, to explore this archaeological site and take in panoramic views over the ruins and surrounding coastline from the top of the castle's keep. The castle is the main attraction here but there is evidence of continual occupation of this site as far back as the Bronze Age. We spend the night here in Byblos, thought to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. You may be tempted to have a dip in the Med from Byblos\ inviting beaches. Our total cycling distance today is approximately 47 kilometres (670 metres total accumulated ascent and 1580 m descent).
We start our drive back to Beirut this morning after breakfast. Our first stop is in the hills of Harissa where we have the chance to climb the statue of Our Lady of Lebanon for fine coastal views. We make our next stop shortly afterwards at the impressive Jeitta Caves, where we plan to visit the upper cave on foot and lower cave by boat. Afterwards we drive for about 45 minutes to downtown Beirut where we start a city tour in the afternoon. Travelling by bus and on foot we plan to take in the major sites, starting in the National Museum where we can see well-preserved treasures from Lebanon's different periods of history. Following the Green Line, the dividing line of Beirut during the civil war, we will visit Martyrs Square and Mohammad Al Amin Mosque. Much of the city has been rebuilt since the war ended but there are plenty of reminders, including the bullet-ridden Holiday Inn that have been left as a reminder of these dark days. Finally we plan to walk part of the Corniche, taking in the cityscape, and start to understand how the city was divided and how the regeneration projects have created modern-day Beirut. No cycling today.
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Beirut. There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day, luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you'll need to depart from Beirut-Rafic Hariri International Airport (BEY), which is around 20 minutes from the centre.
7 Break Fast(s) 2 Dinner(s)
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