Along the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea is the tiny Middle Eastern nation of Lebanon. From its stunning coastline and breathtaking snow-covered mountains to the urban jungles of Beirut, Lebanon is a country of breathtaking beauty and diverse culture. Its rich history and vibrant culture make Lebanon is a magical travel destination. We will dive into it all in this ultimate Lebanon travel guide!
Whether you prefer the sun-soaked beaches of Sidon or the ancient ruins of Baalbek, Lebanon has something for everyone. The country also boasts a vibrant and unique cuisine that spans local dishes and those popular throughout the Levant. Add in the warm and friendly locals and you have a beautiful destination everyone should visit. I spent a week and a half exploring this incredible nation with my friends and guides Nico and Armando in January of 2022. I fell in love with it, and I think you will, too.
I’ve already covered Beirut in a dedicated article, but now I wanted to share all the things you need to explore outside of the city. From the best places to visit and where to stay, to the best things to eat and do, this guide will provide you with all the information you need to make your Lebanon trip one for the books. So, get ready to explore the beauty of Lebanon with my ultimate Lebanon travel guide!
Lebanon has been near the top of my must-visit list for nearly two decades. Its cuisine was part of it, but the main thing I wanted to experience is the ancient city of Baalbek. This city is home to some of the most iconic landmarks in the country, and I was thrilled to explore its history and sample its cuisine.
When I arrived, I was immediately struck by the ruins of the Temple of Venus, surrounded by dilapidated columns and a sea of stone blocks. I also had the chance to visit the ruins of the Temple of Jupiter, which were even more impressive with their towering marble columns and snowcapped mountains in the distance.
The highlight for me was the Temple of Bacchus. Even thousands of years after its construction, it’s still grand and imposing. The temple is characterized by its enormous stone blocks and massive columns. There are also lion statues and carvings of wine, grapes, vines, and wheat, signifying Baalbek’s status as a center of agriculture. Seeing it in person was a dream reminded me why I love traveling.
Lastly, I experienced a truly unique moment when I visited Lakkis Farm to sample some traditional Lebanese meat pies known as sfeeha. The dough was filled with juicy lamb and onion, while the fatteh sfeeha was topped with ghee, garlic, and nuts. The cold yogurt with the rich, meaty lamb and onion was unforgettable combination.
Next up in my Lebanon travel guide is Batroun. Batroun is a coastal city in Lebanon, roughly a one-hour drive north of Beirut. known for its historical monuments and its reputation as one of the oldest continuously-inhabited cities in the world.
When in town, Hilmi’s House of Lemonade is a must. This lemonade museum dates back to 1888 and has a rich history. We sampled some of the unique varieties on offer, such as Red Moon lemonade, On Fire (with tequila!), and the original tart, cold, half-frozen lemonade.
The ancient sites of Batroun are also a necessity. St. Stephen’s Church is among the city’s most important landmarks. You also should not miss the nearby Phoenician Sea Wall, which is 1.5 meters thick and 225 meters long. It’s a phenomenal sight!
When it comes to food, I recommend Georges Maalouf Seafood & Snack for some delicious seafood sandwiches. My raw fish sandwich contained a reddish fish similar to tuna. If you like squid, you should also try the calamari sandwich with lettuce, lime juice, coriander, salt and olive oil.
For dinner, I suggest Colonel Brewery & Distillery. Their ice-cold passionfruit lager and milky arak are sensational. Don’t miss out on their phenomenal seafood dishes, including shrimp rolls, fish kibbeh, fried calamari, tajin with lionfish, and garlic shrimp. The lionfish tajin and garlic shrimp were out of this world!
Just outside of Beirut, you’ll find the city of Beit Meri. I traveled there on a food adventure to try some authentic Lebanese mezze. I visited Mounir, a restaurant that has been in business since 1970. It’s known throughout the country for its farm-to-table mezze.
At our table, we had a huge spread of Lebanese mezze which included loubya bi zayt, ful, hindbeh, moudardara, tabbouleh, and more. My favorite dishes included the kibbeh nayye with pita and olive oil and the moudardara.
If you’d like to imbibe in an alcoholic drink, their arak is smooth and extremely tasty. I also enjoyed their fattoush and the tabbouleh lettuce wraps. The tabbouleh lettuce were fresh and zesty and had my mouth watering!
For dessert we had atayef. It’s made of vermicelli noodle biscuits with ashta cream and pistachios between them. They also gave us some fantastic ashta cream with honey. The meal was so good, I had to include it in this Lebanon travel guide—it’s phenomenal!
No Lebanese travel guide is complete without talking about the coastal city of Byblos. This ancient city is thought to be one of the oldest continually-inhabited cities in the world, and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. I was lucky enough to experience some amazing, unique foods and explore some incredible ancient sites while I was there.
If you’re looking for a delicious local breakfast, stop by L’abeille D’or. Their knafeh is a popular snack and breakfast item with a crispy semolina crust and a creamy ackawi cheese filling. You can even get it stuffed inside a flaky croissant topped with chocolate sauce! As you might expect, it’s rich, sweet, and decadent and a fun way to kick off your day!
Byblos’ historical sites in the vicinity of its Old Souq include a Roman-era mosque, a Crusader fort, Roman columns, and Byzantine houses. I also recommend visiting Memoire du Temps, a shop that sells 100 million year old fish fossils from the area.
Finally, I ended my day by dining at Feniqia Restaurant. This hotspot is famous for their presentations—they suspend your order from the ceiling via hooks! Everything on their menu is top-notch, but their sawdeh (chicken liver), lahme ras asfour (chopped lamb), and batata harra (crispy potatoes) are next level. Try them with the pomegranate molasses!
In the mountains of south-central Lebanon, roughly 45 minutes southeast of Beirut, is Deir al-Qamar. This historical village dates back to the 13th century and is known for its cobblestone streets, sandstone structures, and castle.
Flatbreads called manakish are staples in Lebanese cuisine, and one of the best places to try it is Paradise Four Manakish Bakery. You can try many varieties, including manakish topped with cheese, meat, wild thyme and cheese, and a spice blend called za’atar.
Another local highlight is Moussa Castle. It’s a modern structure, completed in 1969. It’s noted for its individually carved bricks that feature images of snakes, turtles, axes and more. It also boasts beautiful mosaics and a terrace that overlooks the village and forest.
Deir al Oumara Restaurant is a great lunch spot where you can sample several local dishes. Their fresh fattoush salad with fried pita is a highlight, as is the sawdeh, or chicken liver. The rakakat cheese rolls, batata harra, and muhammara (walnut paste) were also fresh and tasty.
Everything was also incredibly affordable at only $13 USD in total. If you’re a foodie reading this Lebanon travel guide, this restaurant is a must!
Visiting Hrajel, Lebanon in winter 2022 was a remarkable experience, with deep snow and ancient ruins providing the backdrop. The city is known for its delicious bakeries, offering an array of traditional foods including cheese and lamb manakish, lahm bi ajeen flatbread, kebabs, and labne yogurt.
The Qalaat Faqra archaeological site is one of the area’s top attractions. Built by Emperor Claudius in 44 AD, they are stunning. Unfortunately, I visited the country right after a historic snowstorm, so the site was closed due to deep snow. But even so, viewing the ruins from a distance was still a highlight of the trip.
One spot I had to include in this Lebanon travel guide is Jalset al Erzal Restaurant. One of their specialties is bayad ma’a qawarma (chopped lamb and eggs). Trust me, it is delicous! Try it with some labne, jibneh baladi (local white cheese), and kofta (kebabs). It’s affordable, tasty, and a filling breakfast or lunch dish. Wrap up with their halawa for a sweet sesame dessert!
Located high in the mountains just over an hour southeast of Beirut, Jezzine is known for its natural beauty. Jezzine Waterfall, the city’s most famous site, is the highest waterfall in the Middle East. Another popular site is Jezzine Spring, a natural spring in town where locals collect fresh water from the nearby mountains.
Jezzine’s Al Chalouf Restaurant is also the perfect place to try Lebanon’s signature raw meat dishes. The tebleh (plain raw lamb) is a treat, but the kibbeh nayye contains lots of unique local spices. Try the versions containing bulgur wheat and kamouneh, a rich spice mix containing cumin, cinnamon, basil, and marjoram. They also have a fantastic 2015 Saint John wine blend from Karam Winery!
Finally, I also recommend La Maison de la Forêt, a resort in the middle of a pine forest with bungalows, a conference center, and a restaurant. Try their strong and dark Turkish coffee!
This Lebanon travel guide wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Jounieh, a coastal town 30 minutes north of Beirut.
One of the city’s top eateries is Malak Al Tawouk. This popular local sandwich shop has been around for 25 years. They specialize in the tawouk sandwich, a wrap with grilled chicken chunks, cole slaw, garlic paste, pickles, a red sauce, and French fries. It’s full of flavor and the perfect snack for late-night outings.
One thing you must do is take the local funicular, Teleferique, to Our Lady of Lebanon. This gorgeous statue is among the top attractions in Lebanon and stands 8.5 meters tall over the city. The site also includes a the chapel where you can buy and light candles. It’s a special experience that I can’t recommend enough!
Although I wrote a full guide about Sidon, I couldn’t not include it in this Lebanon travel guide. Located roughly 45 minutes south of Beirut, Sidon is a gorgeous coastal city with a rich past and food scene.
You can’t go wrong at Al Baba Sweets, where we tried knafeh stuffed in kaak bread and topped with sugar syrup, as well as namoura, sanyoura, and basbousa. The sanyoura was a Sidon specialty and had pistachio inside. Their rich knafeh, nutty ma’amoul, and meaty lahm bi ajeen make a trip to Sidon well worth the visit!
Finding a shop in its Old Town selling sheep brain sandwiches is a highlight of the city. Get it with tarator (garlic sauce), tomatoes, and pickles. Also, the falafel sandwiches at Falafel Al Akkawi are some of the best I had in Lebanon. Also, be sure to pay Sidon Sea Castle a visit!
Tripoli is an ancient coastal city and the second-largest city in Lebanon. Not to be confused with the city of the same name in Libya, it dates back to at least the 14th century BCE. It lies roughly an hour north of Beirut and is the country’s northernmost city.
At the legendary Palace of Sweets shop, I recommend trying traditional Lebanese sweets. They make confections like halawet el jebn, pistachio mafroukeh, ashta cream knafeh, and maamoul. Try them out and see which one you like best!
The Citadel of Raymond Saint-Gilles is a 12th-century Crusader fortress with a moat and windows from which archers defended it. You can also explore the old souq and sample za’atar, moghrabieh, shanklish, and even fresh strawberries.
Finally, El Mina Restaurant sells a delicious grilled chicken served with a garlic sauce called tarator. The tarator is tasty but potent, and the food is outstanding. It’s the perfect lunch in Tripoli and is another highlight on this Lebanon travel guide.
Roughly one hour south of Beirut is the ancient city of Tyre. The country’s fourth-largest city, it’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Like many other Lebanese towns, it’s among the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities.
Its most famous site is the Tyre Hippodrome. This site, still beautiful even in its partly ruined state, was an ancient chariot racing venue. It could hold up to 20,000 clamoring spectators. Don’t miss its old houses, crumbled walls, and grand arches as you explore.
Next, in the Old Town of Tyre, you’ll find Sandwich Mahfouz, which specializes in fatayel sandwiches. I got one with sliced lamb, tomatoes, pickles, and tarator wrapped in pita bread. But they also sell versions containing brain, sausage, liver, and kidneys!
You’ll find one of Tyre’s top dining experiences at Le Phenicien Restaurant. This Lebanese spot sells a variety of seafood, including fried calamari, fish kibbeh, and batrakh (spicy fish liver). They’re all out of this world! Also, don’t miss the succulent shrimp with coriander and lime, the tajin (fish and tahini dip), and abou sin (raw fish). It’s one of the best seafood meals I’ve ever had in my life!
Elsewhere in Tyre are the ancient Roman ruins at the Al Mina Archaeological Site. Many of the sites structures crumbled away long ago, but several pillars from the Sea Temple still stand. You can also see the remains of mosaics, old house, and a stadium.
One hour east of Beirut, is the city of Zahle. My guide Nico is from this area, so he took me to several of his favorite spots in and around town. One of them is Laiterie Massabki, known for their famous labneh, a savory yogurt that they add to various sandwiches along with ashta cream, tomatoes, cucumber, and halloumi cheese.
Taanayel Park and Farms is a great place to see the production of fresh milk and cheese. They have an aged gouda cheese that blew me away! In fact, their gouda would have paired well with the incredible Heritage collection wines at nearby Caves de Ksara Winery. I loved them all, but my favorite was the red Le Prieure, which contained cherries and strawberries.
Finally, enjoy a some rolled chicken kebab sandwiches at Tabliyit Massaad Restaurant. Try them with some fries, hummus, coleslaw, pickles, tarator, and tabbouleh on the side. It was a delicious end to my day in Zahle and a must in my Lebanon travel guide!
With so much history and natural beauty, Lebanon should be on any traveler’s to-do list. From the stunning ruins of Baalbek to the sunny shores of Sidon, this country has a lot to offer. Its exquisite cuisine, with its fresh ingredients and bold flavors, is among my favorite cuisines in the world. And its wonderful and friendly people will capture your heart and make you feel right at home. So book a trip to Lebanon today and experience this glorious country for yourself!