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Welcome to Lebanon

A guide to middle east arab countries

Introduction

Lebanon is at the crossroads of Europe, Africa and the Middle East, being just a few hours flight from most major cities in these regions. Lebanon offers archaeological and historical wealth, the country benefits from 200km of coastline and two mountain chains, with peak culminating above 3000m in altitude.

The exceptional sunny climate and snowy peaked mountains provide unique opportunities to develop all year round tourist activities with the combination of outdoor, leisure, cultural and historical attractions.

Beirut

Beirut

Fast Facts

Official name: Republic of Lebanon, "Al Jumhuriyah al Lubnaniyah"

Capital: Beirut

Population: Approximately 3.8 million

Location: Lebanon lies to the east of the Mediterranean, sharing borders to the north and east with the Syrian Arab Republic, and to the south with Israel/Palestinian Territory.

Monetary Unit: The official Lebanese currency is the Lebanese pound or lira (LL). U.S. dollars are used widely throughout the country.

Language: While Arabic is Lebanon's official language, English and French are widely spoken. Most Lebanese speak at least two or three languages, and visitors will find no problems communicating.

Religion: Islam and Christianity are the main religions.

Time difference: GMT + 2 (GMT + 3 from April to September).

Telephone: 961.

Electricity: Electric current is 110/220 volts, 50 cycles. A two-pin plug, with round pins is commonly used.

Tipping: The average rate in restaurants is 10-15%, whereas with other service providers ,depending on service and quality provided.

Clothing: Generally there are no particular cultural rules for this matter in Lebanon. Diversity appears also in the Lebanese clothing. For instance, mini skirts can be seen beside Islamic veils. However, wearing short clothing, such as short pants, is to be avoided in certain places such as the souk of Tripoli or Sidon… To visit religious places, modest clothing is required. Women need headscarves when visiting mosques, usually provided there.

Opening hours: Shops and businesses are typically open Monday through Saturday, 9:00-18:00. Hours vary, and in summer many establishments close early. Restaurant hours vary, and many restaurants, especially in Beirut, are open late.

Banking hours are Monday through Saturday, 8:30-12:30. Working hours for government offices and post offices are typically 8:00-14:00.

Climate: Mediterranean climate, with cool, wet winters and hot, dry summers.

Driving: It is necessary to have an international driving license in case you don’t have a Lebanese one. Be sure at all times to drive on the right side of the road.

Taxi: Lebanese taxis are comfortable and reasonably priced.

Buses: Three different sorts of public transportation operate in Lebanon: Buses, mini-buses and "services" (the local name for collective taxis).The large number of vehicles engaged in public transportation and their extensive routes allows them to cover all the Lebanese regions, from rural areas to urban ones. While buses have definite bus stops, minibuses and "services" do not. In both cases, you can flag down drivers at any point in the street.

Baalbek

Baalbek

Market street in Byblos, Lebanon

Market street in Byblos, Lebanon

Places to visit

Beirut is the cultural epicenter of Lebanon. The city is bustling with life and oozing with charisma. Beirutis live life to the full, taking in all the city's gastronomic delights, ambience, and leisure activities. Between the time they leave work and the time they arrive home, a true Beiruti fits in shopping along Rue Hamra, a gallery opening, drinks with friends at a new bar, dinner around 10pm, and a Lebanese espresso, before hitting a nightclub in Achrafiyé around midnight.´ Beirut Central District. Solidere The trendy Solidere area of downtown Beirut has been beautifully restored and is a center for family outings, cafes, shopping, and leisurely walks. The government has paid special attention to rebuilding this area since the war, and today the buildings are magnificant architectural gems, with yellow stonework, arabesque archways, and wrought-iron scrollwork. The cobblestone pedestrian streets are lined with shops selling unique traditional crafts, trendy designer fashions, jewelry, and many other things. There are over 70 restaurants and sidewalk cafes, which are popular places to spend a warm evening. At the center of Solidere is the Place d’Etoile and Clock Tower, a popular area for children to ride bikes and play while their parents relax at a nearby cafe. Solidere is also home to several Roman ruins sites that have been uncovered and preserved, several notable mosques and churches, and the National Parliament Building.

Notre Dame du Liban: Saydet Loubnan

Erected in 1908, the gigantic bronze statue of the Virgin Mary,is located at Harissa, on a mountain summit 600 meters above the bay of Jounieh, and it offers a beautiful panoramic view of the coastline. A cable car (telepherique) can be taken up the mountain from Jounieh to reach the shrine.There is a chapel at the base of the statue and a spiral staircase leading to the top.

Grotto of Jeita

The Jeita Grotto is the largest cave in Lebanon (9,050m long). First discovered in 1836, the cave serves as the source of the Nahr Al Kalb (Dog River). Jeita is composed of an upper and a lower cavern. A cable car ride takes visitors to the entrance of the upper cavern, which is open for walking tours year round and has impressive stalactites and stalagmites. A small train takes visitors to the lower cavern, where you can tour the underground lake by boat in spring, summer, and fall. There is also a sound and light show in the caverns.

Jbail (Byblos)

Believed to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, the modern port city of Jbail is built upon multiple layers of ruins, dating back to as early as the Stone Age and extending to the more recent Ottoman days. A visit to Jbail is a chance to walk through the annals of Lebanese history and experience firsthand the diverse cultures that have made this area a mosaic of civilizations. Jbail is not simply a picturesque seaside town, but has a history that has been closely tied to the Mediterranean for millennia.

Bcharre At an elevation of 1,400m, the pristine village of Bcharre commands a prime spot overlooking the Qadisha Valley, just below the Cedars. The red-roofed village is famous for being the hometown of Gibran Khalil Gibran, the Lebanese essayist, poet and painter.

Tripoli . Citadel of Raymond de Saint Gilles massive and impressive fortress, 140m long and 70m wide, which began as a much smaller fort and encampment used by Raymond and the Crusaders to lay siege to Tripoli beginning in 1101. Following the reconquest of Tripoli by the Mamluks in 1289, the fortress was destroyed. In 1308, Esendemir al-Kurji, then governor of Tripoli, constructed a citadel to house troops on this site. Under Ottoman rule, significant restoration work and additions were made to the citadel. The present state of the citadel is largely the result of work undertaken by Mustafa Barbar Agha, governor of Tripoli at the beginning of the 19th century.

Al Shouf.The Al Shouf Cedar Reserve is the largest nature reserve in Lebanon. It comprises 6 cedar forests stretching over 50,000 hectares in the Mount Lebanon range.

Beiteddine

Is the name of a village in the Shouf and a beautiful 19th century palace located there. The Ottoman-appointed governor, Prince Emir Bachir Chehab II, had the palace constructed over a 30 year period.

Deir El Qamar

Located in the Chouf, the picturesque village of Deir El Qamar was the residence of the Ottoman-appointed governors of Lebanon beginning in the 16th century with Emir Fakhreddine II and lasting until the 18th century when Emir Bechir II Chehab moved the capital to Beit Ed Dine. Under Fakhreddine II, many steps were taken to beautify the town including the construction of new buildings and restorations of older ones, such as the Mosque of Fakhreddine.

Baalbek, located in the fertile Békaa Valley,awe-inspiring temples and city ruins are among the largest and finest examples of Roman architecture in the world.It was originated in Phoenician times as a place of worship to Baal,the Phoenician Sun God.The Temple of Jupiter was the largest Roman temple ever constructed. Today, just six of the original 54 Corinthian columns remain standing. Each column is 22 meters (66 feet) high and 2 meters (7.5 feet) in diameter, hinting at the temple's enormous size in the time of the Roman Empire .
The Temple of Bacchus is the best-preserved Roman temple in the Middle East. Although smaller than the Temple of Jupiter, the Temple of Bacchus is still larger than the Parthenon in Athens. The dedication and purpose of this temple, and its relationship to the rest of the temple complex, remain a mystery.
The Temple of Venus is a smaller, domed structure set apart to the southeast of the complex. During the Byzantine period, the temple was converted into a church honoring Saint Barbara.
Only part of the staircase from the Temple of Mercury can still be seen on Sheikh Abdallah hill, a short distance away from the main temple site.
Visitors can easily spend several hours, or an entire day, exploring the wonders of this ancient city Baalbek is truly a wonder of the ancient world and should not be missed by any visitor to Lebanon.

Zahle is the third largest city in Lebanon and the capital of the Bekaa region. Situated at an elevation of 1,010m on the slopes of the Anti-Lebanon range, Zahle is known for its mezzes and the nearby wineries and arak producers. The Bardouni River flows through the town, making it a splendid location for its many open-air cafes and restaurants. You will eat and drink well in Zahle while taking in the beautiful old architecture and scenery.

Anjar.Most notable for its graceful stone arches and wide arcades, the ruins of Aanjar offer visitors a unique opportunity to step foot upon an ancient Islamic trading hub connecting Damascus to the Mediterranean Sea. Situated at the southern end of the Békaa Valley, Aanjar is among the world's few known ruins of the 8th century Umayyad dynasty and is one of the region's only examples of an inland commercial center.

Phoenician Sour (Tyre) was queen of the seas, an island city of unprecedented splendor.She attracted the attention of jealous conquerors, among them the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar and Alexander the Great. There are two major archaeological sites in the town that can be seen today. The Al-Bass Site consists of an extensive necropolis, a three bay monumental arch, and one of the largest hippodromes ever found. All date from the 2nd century A.D to the 6th century A.D. The City Site, located on what was originally the Phoenician island city, is a vast district of civic buildings, colonnades, public baths, mosaics, streets, and a rectangular arena.

Beiteddine

Beiteddine

Bachustempel in Baalbek

Bachustempel in Baalbek

Jbail (Byblos)

Jbail (Byblos)

Grotto of Jeita

Grotto of Jeita

Saydet Loubnan

Saydet Loubnan

Things to do

With a rich variety of terrain, adventure-lovers will find any outdoor sport under the sun. In summer, many seaside and mountain resorts offer the perennial favorites, such as swimming, water-skiing, tennis, golf, and parasailing. Diving and snorkeling are is also very popular. You can explore Roman and Phoenician ruins off the coast of Saida (Sidon), Jbail (Byblos), or Sour (Tyre) or the wreckages of a World War II submarine at Khaldé, south of Beirut. In addition, ecolodges, clubs, and small outfitters offer mountain biking.

The Al-Shouf Cedar Reserve, the largest nature reserve in Lebanon, is a mountain ecosystem at the southern part of the Mount Lebanon range, covering over 5 percent of the country's land area. Al-Shouf is home to six magnificent cedar forests, with the largest concentration of cedar trees remaining in the country. Some trees are over 2,000 years old. The Reserve is also home to 27 species of wild mammals (including wolves, hyenas, wild boars, gazelles, foxes, and lynxes), 104 species of birds, and 124 species of plants. The Al-Shouf Cedar Reserve is a popular destination for hiking and trekking, with trails accessible for all fitness levels, as well as mountain biking and bird watching.

In the Middle East, Lebanon is the preferable destination for skiing because snow covers its mountains during five months at least and its ski resorts are very well equipped to receive families and groups.

The Cedars, Faqra, Qanat Bakich, Zaarour, Laklouk and Faraya,are one of the many resorts you have to practice ski.

Al-Shouf Cedar Nature Reserve

Al-Shouf Cedar Nature Reserve

Visa Requirements

All foreigners must have a valid passport and visa to enter Lebanon. Passports must be valid for at least six months. Visas can be obtained in advance at Lebanese embassies and consulates around the world. Nationals of many countries can also obtain business or tourist visas upon arrival at the Beirut Airport and at other ports of entry on the Lebanese border. At the Beirut Airport, visa stamps can be purchased at a window directly across from passport control. You can pay in cash in U.S. dollars or Lebanese pounds. Contact the Lebanese embassy or consulate in your country.

Important Note: Travelers holding passports that contain visas or entry/exit stamps for Israel are likely to be refused entry into Lebanon.

Where to Stay

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Events

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