Lebanon, home to a glorious national cuisine, a string of sexy beach resorts and the Middle East’s most glamorous, hedonistic city (Beirut), this is also a country where the fiery orators and fierce foot soldiers of Hezbollah are based, and where huge populations of Palestinian and Syrian refugees currently shelter. Damaged by decades of civil war and the invasions and interventions of neighbouring nations, Lebanon is nonetheless blessed with magnificent mountain vistas, majestic ancient ruins and an indomitable, hospitable people. Lonely Planet Publications.
Byblos POP 35,000.
A pretty fishing port with an ancient harbour, medieval town centre, Crusader-era castle and atmospheric archaeological site, Byblos is a wonderful choice if you fancy a night or two out of Beirut, but it’s also an easy and enjoyable day trip. The seaside, good accommodation and eating options, and a lively party scene in the old souq make it a likeably hedonistic place that packs out in summer.
Baalbek POP 35,000.
Known as the Heliopolis or ‘Sun City’ of the ancient world, Baalbek’s ruins comprise the most impressive ancient site in Lebanon and are said to be the best preserved in the Middle East. The temples here, which were built on an extravagant scale, have enjoyed a stellar reputation throughout the centuries, yet still manage to maintain the appealing air of an undiscovered wonder because of their semi-rural setting.
Journey time from Beirut: allow 3-hours one way to take into account traffic and minibus changes. Route (from Hamra district): take minibus 24 to Cola, then a minibus to Choudra (saht shtwra) then a minibus to Baalbek. This last minibus may drop you off on the highway turning for Baalbek, in which case you will need to take another minibus for the final few kilometres. Total cost, for the whole trip, should be no more than 8,000 Lebanese Pounds ($5.00 USD). Entrance fee to the Baalbek archeological site is currently 15,000 Lebanese Pounds ($10.00 USD).