Lebanon Road Trip Guide 2021: A 1-Week Itinerary Through All the Highlights

Akoura, Mont-Liban, Lebanon 2

The author goes through a dream Lebanon road trip itinerary to explore this Middle Eastern country highlights in just one week.

With just an area of 10,452 square kilometers (4,036 sq mi), Lebanon is a country that you must visit. Lebanon is actually the oldest country name in the world, remaining unchanged for over 4,000 years. Recently, National Geographic declared it as one of the world’s oldest countries.

When you think of the middle east, you usually tend to imagine a desert. However, Lebanon is the only Arabian/Asian country that does not have a desert but actually has a huge seacoast from North to south, 16 rivers, 13 nature reserves, 28 protected forests, 17 natural sites, and even some islands. Lebanon is charming and would only take 1 week or even less to discover its beautiful places and popular locations! 

Below I will present a guide to a 1-week road trip in Lebanon.

Day 1: Beirut

When your plane lands in the “Beirut International Airport”, it is best to rent a car and start your week in beautiful Beirut. 

Beirut is the capital and largest city of Lebanon. Greater Beirut has a population of 2.2 million, which makes it the third-largest city in the Levant region and the thirteenth-largest in the Arab world.

Beirut is a gem on the Mediterranean coast and one of the oldest cities in the world; it emerges in records kept by the ancient Egyptians. There is a lot to see in Beirut.

Head to the downtown of Beirut where the famous blue mosque and trendy Beirut souks are located. Then, take a stroll along the Corniche and check out the famous Raouche Rock which is a natural landmark that formed after a big earthquake hit the area in the 13th century. 

You can enjoy a cup of coffee with the view of the rock on the many cafés that surround the rock. Then, head to Hamra (by car or on foot) and have a nice traditional Lebanese lunch. I recommend Café Em Nazih because it is very affordable and extremely delicious and authentic. 

Then, head to the famous “American University of Beirut” and check its beautiful campus. The university has a great Archaeological Museum and art galleries that host a variety of exhibitions and events. Then, head to Ashrafieh and check the tallest building in Lebanon “Sama Beirut”.

To finish off the day, have some dinner and drinks in the lovely and quaint bars and restaurants of Gemmayzeh and Mar Mikhael.

Day 2: Jounieh / Jeita / Byblos

Start your car and head to Jounieh in the early morning. Grab a Manoushe on your way there from any shop along the highway. Manoushe is a must-try popular Lebanese breakfast and is eaten on the go.  Try the za’atar, cheese, and keshek manoushe! 

Jounieh is a coastal city in the Keserwan District, about 16 km north of Beirut. Head to the famous village of Harissa where the “The Shrine of Our Lady of Lebanon” is located overlooking the bay of Jounieh.

You can take the gondola lift, the Téléphérique, from the city of Jounieh to Harissa and enjoy a breathtaking view. 

After that, head back down and drive to the popular Jeita Grotto which is just 15 mins away. The Jeita Grotto is a natural wonder and was one of the top 14 finalists in the New 7 Wonders of Nature competition. Jeita Grotto is actually the longest cave complex in the Middle East (9 kilometers long). You can take a short ride in a rowboat in the lower cave and discover this wonderful landmark on the way. 

After seeing the grotto, head to Byblos (35 mins away) where you will be spending the night. Make sure to book a hotel on the beach ahead of time. To save time, stop by a shawarma place on the way and order endless amounts of chicken or meat shawarma which are to die for!

Byblos (Jbeil) is one of the 20 oldest cities in the world, and it has been constantly inhabited ever since it was formed in 5,000 B.C.  Byblos is linked with the history of the diffusion of the Phoenician alphabet. When in Byblos, take a stroll through its old stone cobbled street (souk) where they sell everything from traditional embroidery to souvenirs and hand-made jewelry.

Also, do not forget to check the well-kept Byblos castle which was built by the Crusaders in the 12th century from indigenous limestone and the remains of Roman structures. If you do not have time on this day, check the castle quickly the next morning before heading to Batroun as they open pretty early (8:30 a.m). 

Extra Tip: If you want to do something else, you can head to Baatara gorge waterfall which is 40 mins away from Byblos. The waterfall is an impressive natural wonder and plunges 255 m (837 ft) down the Three Bridge Chasm, which is a limestone formation formed as a result of millions of years of erosion. Geologists say that the rock formation is around 160-million years old and was present in the Jurassic period.

Day 3: Batroun / Chekka

Batroun is only 15 mins away from Byblos and is definitely the place to be. Head to the Phoenician Wall and grab a coffee or breakfast and go sit down on the wall and enjoy the gorgeous view. Then, head to the beach for a swim/tan day in the cyan blue waters of Batroun.

The weather in summer is so beautiful and perfect. Visit the free joining beach and lay there. You can order fresh fish and delicious appetizers and beers at the joining kitchen. After lunch, have a walk in the old Batroun souks and stop at The Colonel Brewery, which is a hip, dog-friendly bar on the beach with live bands, surfing, and seafood. 

Later, head to Chekka where you will be staying the night (hotel or camp). Chekka is a beautiful place with huge and tall cliffs and caves by the beach. While in Chekka, check Saydet el Nouriyi Monastery (Hamat, Lebanon).

Day 4: Anfeh / Tripoli 

Head to Anfeh which is another beach town and is known as the little Greece of Lebanon because it has white and blue houses and resorts all over. Enjoy a morning tan in Anfeh and grab breakfast by the sea.

After, head to Tripoli where you will be staying the night. It is 18 mins away by car and is filled with things to do. 

Tripoli is known for its delicious food and desserts. Visit Al-Mina in Tripoli which a beautiful place with pretty alleys, old architecture, and bright colored walls. Have lunch in one of the Mina restaurants which range from small seafood shops to big restaurants with extravagant menus that sell fresh seafood.

Then, visit the Hammams in old Tripoli (Trablos), which are old Turkish baths. Hamman Al Jadid is Tripoli’s best-kept Hamman (not operational but worth the visit). Also, check Khan Al-Saboun (Soap Khan) where you can buy olive and olive-oil-based products which include a wide range of soup (even a soap made of gold). 

Later, have a stroll in the old Tripoli souks where you can see the traditional coffee and Tripolitan Ka’ak vendors. Do not forget to try the pastry and dessert; there is a pastry shop on every corner in Tripoli. Try the Baklava, Maamoul, Daoukiyeh, Owaymet, Kallaj, and my two favorites; Znoud El Sit and Halawet el Jibn.

Finish your day by checking out the Tripoli Expo (Rashid Karameh International exhibition) at sunset. The Rashid Karameh International exhibition center looks abandoned, but it is a breathtaking place designed by the famous Oskar Niemeyer. 

Extra Tip: If you have time or an extra day (during summertime), discover the four small islands offshore of Tripoli. The Palm Islands were declared a protected area because of their status of haven for endangered loggerhead turtles, rare monk seals, and migratory birds.

The Palm Islands Nature Reserve is open to the public between July and September.

Day 5:  Bcharré and the Qadisha Valley

The Qadisha Valley, a Unesco World Heritage, is home to the legendary Cedars of God, the most highly valued building materials of the ancient world. 

The trip to the mountain village of Bcharré is very scenic and takes you through the most gorgeous views of mountains and snowy slopes and a spectacular view of the Qadisha Valley (also known as Kadisha Valley).

Bcharré is home to the famous poet and author, Gibran Khalil Gibran. If you are a big fan, head to the Gibran Khalil Gibran museum which houses the content of Gibran’s studio in New York, including his furniture, his manuscripts, his personal belongings, 440 original paintings, and his private library. This museum used to be a grotto for monks seeking shelter in the 7th century and now is Gibran Khalil Gibran’s tomb and museum. 

After that, head to the Cedars of Lebanon (Cedars of God) which is one of Lebanon’s most beautiful nature reserves and home to the oldest Cedar Forest. Near the reserve is the Cedars Ski Resort which is located in the Bsharri mountains, North Governorate. It is Lebanon’s oldest ski area and home to Lebanon’s first ski lift, built in 1953.

One of the most amazing Lebanese experiences is checking the snow wall in the Cedars during the summer. The snow can sometimes stay until September especially in Qurnat as Sawda’, which is the highest point in Lebanon and the Levant, at 3,088 meters above sea level.

The historic Qadisha valley offers a great opportunity for hiking in the beautiful and quiet valley trails and isolated mountain landscapes.

Related read: Road Tripping Oman

Day 6: Baalbek / Aanjar

The next day, head to Baalbek in the Bekaa district, which is home to the most extraordinary archaeological sites in Lebanon and is a UNESCO World Heritage site along with Tyre, Anjar, the Cedars of God, Qadisha Valley, and Byblos.

Baalbeck is going to be an extraordinarily rich cultural and historical trip. Check the Baalbek Roman Ruins which are great ancient temples built by the Phoenicians, the Romans, and other civilizations that have conquered the region. Make sure to check the Temple of Bacchus which is one of the largest Roman temple ruins in the world. 

The Temple of Bacchus is dedicated to Bacchus, the god of wine, grape harvest, fertility, and theater. The temple is very well preserved to the extent that the carvings of bulls, lions, and eagles are still visible.

It is believed that the temple was constructed between 150 A.D. and 250 A.D. Also, check the temple of Jupiter and the temple of Venus.

After this cultural trip, have lunch in one of Bekaa’s delicious authentic Lebanese restaurants. Then, head to Anjar and check the Ummayad Citadel which is one of Anjar’s most celebrated sites.

You can also check the neighboring village of Riyak, where you will find a family-run winery called “Chateau Rayak”. The owners will gladly give you a tour around their vineyards and let you taste their wine and arak. 

Related read: 10-Day Israel Road Trip Itinerary

Day 7: Marjaayoun / Saida / Tyre

On your way to Saida, pass through the lovely Marjaayoun. Take a stroll through the cobblestone market squares, which have served as the town center since Ottoman times. While in Marjaayoun, visit the Beaufort or Belfort Castle, known locally as Qal’at al-Shaqif or Shaqif Arnun, which is a Crusader fortress in Nabatieh Governorate, 1.30 hours’ drive from Beirut.

Later, head to Tyre, which is among the world’s 20 oldest cities. It is a Phoenician city that dates to 2,750 B.C. One of its main sites that you must visit is a Roman hippodrome which is on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites. This Roman hippodrome stands as the best-preserved in the world and is even larger than the Circus Maximus in Rome herself.

Also, make sure to check the Triumphal Arch of Tyre nearby. This arch is one of the city’s most remarkable archaeological relics.

After this historical and cultural trip, head to the clean beaches of Tyre and enjoy a swim and some seafood! You can also visit the Tyre Coast Nature Reserve which is 380 hectares (940 acres) and is divided into three zones: the tourism zone (public beaches, the old city, and Souks, the ancient port), the agricultural and archaeological zone, and the Conservation zone that includes the Phoenician springs of Ras El Ain.

The last stop would be Saida (Sidon) and then you are back in Beirut. Once in Saida, go to the gorgeous Sidon Sea Castle (Crusader Castle). From the castle, you can see the “Ziri Island” which is a tiny rocky island with a lighthouse, located 1.5 Kilometers off the coastline of Sidon. You can actually go to the island by several ferry boats from Sidon’s port.

Also, check the beautiful Debbane Palace and the museum of Sidon. The palace was ruined by the war and was eventually restored in 2000 and visitors were welcomed in 2001. Later, head to a pastry shop and get the delicious Kanafeh and walk along the Corniche. Kanafeh is a traditional Middle Eastern dessert made with shredded filo pastry, soaked in sweet, sugar-based syrup, and typically layered with cheese.

It will surely guarantee that you stay full for at least 3 hours!

Then, head back to Beirut on a full stomach.

Related read: 4 Arabian Countries of the Gulf You Should Visit Next

Summary

Lebanon is a beautiful little country and must be on your bucket list for your next destination. Despite its current turmoil economic crisis, this country will not fail to give you a great authentic middle eastern experience.

Filled with great food, desserts, friendly people, rich history, art, culture, gorgeous beaches, and scenery that will make one hell of a trip; don’t hesitate to give Lebanon a shot. You will thank me later!


About Katy Terroz – Travel Writer & Blogger

Katy is a travel blogger and writer from Lebanon/Ukraine. She completed her undergraduate studies in Beirut (Lebanon) while playing on the university rugby team. Katy enjoyed traveling around the Middle East, camping all over Lebanon, and volunteering with FoodBlessed, a local hunger-relief initiative.

After graduating, Katy moved to Italy to follow her dream of studying abroad. While pursuing her master’s degree in Food Security, Katy took every opportunity she had to travel all over Europe and fell in love with it.

Living in Rome gave Katy the chance to deeply explore Italy and its wonders. She loves experiencing the local life and tries to make every travel experience genuine and authentic. Katy is passionate about exploring new places and different cuisines while making sure to snap beautiful pictures and write down her experiences. She also enjoys getting lost in beachy areas, small medieval towns, and the beautiful quaint cities of the world. 

You can follow her travels on her Instagram and blog.