Uncover Lebanon's fascinating history on this one week holiday. Stand in front of the vast Roman ruins at Baalbek, discover Crusader castles and Phoenician ruins and see the reminders of the civil war on a walking tour in Beirut. Cedars of God - See the 1000-year-old Lebanon Cedars set high above the Qadisha Valley Coastal Cities - Uncover the rich heritage and maritime histories of Byblos and Batroun on the Mediterranean coast Lebanese cuisine - Taste red wine in the Bekaa Valley and feast on fresh hummus, labneh and falafel in the narrow streets of the souks
Arrive in Beirut, Lebanon's historic capital city. Broken down into many different districts on the edge of the Mediterranean Sea, Beirut is a city of contrasts and home to a diversity of ethnicities, languages, religions and cultures. For those arriving on time our Leader plans to welcome you in the hotel reception at 7pm and offer information on where to go out for dinner. There are no other activities planned today, so you are free to arrive in Beirut at any time. 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 30 minutes from the airport depending on traffic. Due to flights arriving throughout the evening on day one, the official welcome meeting will take place after breakfast on day two. If your flight arrives earlier in the day, perhaps you might choose to take a walk along the sea front or go in search of freshly-cooked falafel to get a taste for the Middle East.
After breakfast we'll make our way to the National Museum, starting here we can begin to understand the civilisations that have shaped Lebanon. The museum is located at the end of the Green Line, this line divided the city during the civil war and for those 15 years the museum was closed, its facade suffering serious damage throughout the conflict. Thousands of artefacts are on display including sarcophagi from the Phoenician period to ornate mosaics from the Roman city of Baalbek. Moving further down the Green Line we'll visit Martyrs Square and the Mohammad Al Amin Mosque. The mosque resembles the Blue Mosque in Istanbul and it's minarets stand at 65 metres tall making it a very useful navigation tool! Much of the city has been rebuilt since the war ended but there are plenty of reminders of the 15 year civil war that Lebanon lived through, we'll pass the bullet-ridden Holiday Inn which still stands, with talks of demolishing the building or preserving it still taking place. Walking along the Corniche is a must when in Beirut, and we'll join locals drinking strong, sweet coffees as we go. With the sea to one side you can take stop, take in the city landscape and start to understand how the city was divided during the war and how the regeneration projects have created modern-day Beirut. Our hotel is based in the Hamra neighbourhood and was used as a base for worldwide journalists covering the war. Before dinner tonight we'll take a drink in the bar and understand a little more about what life was was like in Beirut between 1975 and 1990.
This morning we'll leave the city and drive south to Sidon. Once an important trade port on the Phoenician sea route, Sidon is now a busy seaside city, where remnants of its ancient past can be found at every turn. We'll start at Qalaa al-Bahr, a defence sea castle built in 1228 by the crusaders. The castle is a great display of how each civilisation built on the previous one, with Roman ruins used by the Crusaders to add support to the walls, then the Ottomans arriving and building a mosque on the west wall of the castle. We'll explore the souk and the renovated khans, including Khan al-Franj which dates back to the 17th century and once operated as an 'inn for foreigners', offering lodgings for many the merchants and traders that travelled through on the way to Mediterranean. There are many good spots to eat in Sidon and we'll have lunch here by the coast before moving inland to the Chouf area of Lebanon. Our base for tonight is the sleepy village of Deir Al-Qamar, set on a hilltop looking down towards the coast it is a great place to relax watch the sunset.
We'll have a relaxed breakfast today before checking out and taking a short drive to the the 18th century Beiteddine Palace complex. Beiteddine translates to 'House of Faith' and the palace is built on the remains of a Druze hermitage. The design is an intricate mix of Italian Baroque architecture and Arabian styles which perfectly symbolised the power and wealth of it's creators. Crossing over the Chouf Moutains we'll descend in to the fertile Bekaa Valley and drive to the village of Ammiq, set on the slopes of Mount Lebanon. Here the villagers mostly work in agriculture and are using less intensive, more environmentally friendly methods of farming. We'll have lunch in Tawlet Ammiq, their restaurant which celebrates traditional recipes using the freshest ingredients. This afternoon we will continue our journey through the Bekaa Valley and stop at a small winery to learn about Lebanon's wine industry and of course sample the range of red wines produced. At the end of the day we'll drive to the town of Baalbek, known as the 'City of the Sun'. Staying close to the ruins we'll be able to get a sense of the incredible Roman site that we will discover tomorrow.
Today, we will see the jewel in Lebanon's ancient crown; Baalbek. After breakfast we'll walk through the town to one of the world's finest remaining examples of Roman architecture. The details of Baalbek's true origins and history are a highly emotive topic among historians and archaeologists but it's widely agreed that the site dates back some 5,000 years. The site is a dedication to the gods of Jupiter, Venus and Mercury, and was classed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984. Entering through the forecourt into the remains of the Hexagonal court you can begin to imagine the city at its peak. The Temple of Bacchus is without doubt the highlight of the site with its ornately decorated stonework, niches and columns surrounding an ancient theatre. We'll spend plenty of time exploring the site and in the afternoon we leave Baalbek and drive through the mountains to the Cedars of Lebanon Forest. We'll stretch our legs and follow trails through the forest in an area known as Cedars of God, walking between trees over 1,000 years old! Once upon a time, Lebanon's mountains were covered in thick, dense Cedar forest but rapid deforestation due to nobility and industry has led to strict conservation efforts. This now-precious tree is the country's national emblem. We'll walk here for approximately one hour before the final leg of the journey to St Anthony's Monastery. 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. Please note: Due to availability, departures starting on 17th October and 24th October will not stay at the monastery. These groups will stay at a nearby hotel in the village of Bcharre but will still have the opportunity to visit the monastery and attend morning prayers (subject to monastery permission).
We'll wake early this morning to the sound of the monastery bells ringing and there will be an opportunity to attend the monks' morning prayers inside the church. The Catholic service is spoken in Arabic and everyone is welcome to attend. After the service, there will time for breakfast before a 90 minute hike in the valley. The gentle walk follows dirt paths, surrounded by fruit trees and the route offers spectacular views through the valley and is a great chance to look back at the monastery which is built into the cliff face. Around mid-morning we will leave the monastery and the Qadisha Valley behind, travelling back towards the Mediterranean coast to Batroun. One of the world's oldest settlements dating back over 5,000 years, Batroun has played an important role in different phases of ancient civilisation but is now a relaxed coastal city. Together with our leader, we will walk around the ancient sea wall, the fort and the old souk before free time for lunch. For a refreshing break, be sure to try a glass of the Batrounian lemonade - it is said that people come from near and far to try it and the locals fiercely debate who makes the best! Later this afternoon, a short drive will take us to Byblos. Another ancient port city rich in history and home to some of the earliest known inscriptions using the Phoenician alphabet. We'll take a short walk to the 12th century Crusader castle 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 are ruins in various stages of decay dating as far back as the Bronze Age, and the site is an excellent example of the many reigns of power that have ruled this area over the millennium. The rest of the day will be free to shop in the old Ottoman souks, choose a quiet spot for a strong coffee, or alternatively head down to the fisherman's' harbour to watch the sunset over the Mediterranean. There are many choices for an evening meal but the seaside location means a great selection of fresh fish options.
We have a relaxed start to the morning with free time to watch the fishing boats in Byblos harbour, pick up some souvenirs in the souks or just grab a coffee and take in the views. Later this morning we will start our journey back to Beirut. On the way we'll make a stop at Jeitta Caves. The caves were discovered by chance by an American missionary, out on a hunting expedition he fired his gun towards the sound of running water and investigated more on hearing the echoes! The upper section of the cave has a 750 metre pathway allowing you to walk beneath giant stalactites and look down on the river water and stalagmites below. The entrance to the caves is a little touristy with a toy train and gift shops but once on in the caves photography is banned and noise is kept to a minimum giving you the chance to fully appreciate this impressive feat of nature - where it takes at least 100 years for 1cm of new rock to form. Returning to Beirut we'll celebrate the last night of the trip with a traditional mezze dinner. In Lebanon food is such a key part of family life and is an experience to be enjoyed rather than a necessity; tables are covered generously with small mezze dishes that are shared and accompanied with home-grown wine. There is something for everyone and particular favourites include fresh tabbouleh salad, grilled meats and smoky baba ghanoush.
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Beirut. There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Beirut 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 need to depart from Beirut-Rafic Hariri International Airport (BEY), which is around 30 minutes from the hotel depending on traffic.
7 Break Fast(s) 1 Lunch(es) 2 Dinner(s)
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