TO­WARDS THE NORTH

JOUNIEH, BY­B­LOS, BA­TROUN, TRIPOLI, BCHARRE

Lebanon Traveler - - MINI GUIDES -

JOUNIEH

Just a half-hour drive from Beirut, the city of Jounieh is a great get­away for a day trip or week­end. The area has plenty to of­fer in terms of na­ture, ur­ban fun, and his­tory. Whether you go for the day or night, for the wa­ter or the moun­tains, it is one of Le­banon’s most ac­ces­si­ble des­ti­na­tions.

GET­TING THERE

By car: Fol­low the high­way north­bound out of Beirut to­wards Tripoli un­til you see signs for Jounieh.

By pub­lic trans­port: Head to Dora to find a van head­ing to Jounieh. Vans leave ev­ery 10 min­utes and the trip costs just 2,000 LBP. Al­ter­na­tively, you can grab a taxi to Jounieh from Beirut for around 30,000 LBP.

WHAT TO DO The Tele­ferique and Harissa (Our Lady of Le­banon)

The Jounieh Tele­ferique (09 936075, tele­feriquelb.com) is one of the city’s main des­ti­na­tions and the coun­try’s most well-run tourist at­trac­tions. For just 9,000 LBP on week­days and 11,000 LBP at the week­end (round trip), en­joy an ex­cit­ing and slightly nerve-rack­ing ca­ble car ride up to take in some in­cred­i­ble views. Af­ter the nine­minute ride, the Tele­ferique pops you out on top of Harissa, where a well-main­tained park lines the walk­way to the mag­nif­i­cent Our Lady of Le­banon statue. You don’t have to be a re­li­gious tourist to ap­pre­ci­ate the beauty of this statue, which stands arm­sopen above the stun­ning bay of Jounieh.

Jeita Grotto

It goes with­out say­ing that the Jeita Grotto (09 220840, jeita­grotto.com) is an ab­so­lute must while in Le­banon. Mil­lions of years of sub­ter­ranean move­ment have pro­duced an ab­so­lutely breath­tak­ing un­der­ground cave sys­tem that can be en­joyed by vis­i­tors. With an en­trance fee of around 18,000 LBP, the up­per and lower grot­tos take ap­prox­i­mately two hours to ex­plore on foot and by boat. The site is closed on Mon­days.

WHERE TO EAT Punta Del Este

This pop­u­lar Jounieh restau­rant spe­cial­izes in Ar­gen­tinian cui­sine and its food, views, and cock­tails do not dis­ap­point. Punta Del Este (09 830788/76 933466) of­fers items like em­panadas, tuna tar­tar and a juicy burger that make it great for a date, or a night out with friends.

Do­rado Sur Mer

If you are in Jounieh for a day trip, this restau­rant is per­fectly lo­cated at the foot of the Tele­ferique. With tasty mezze and an out­door seat­ing area fac­ing the sea, Do­rado Sur Mer (09 914414/70 227025) is a beau­ti­ful place to find fresh seafood and some tra­di­tional Le­banese mezze af­ter a trip up the mountain.

Ha­bana

A firm fa­vorite among lo­cals, Ha­bana (09 638166/03 664285) is the quin­tes­sen­tial Mex­i­can diner. Set in a re­stored French colo­nial house, with green shut­ters and a cav­ernous in­te­rior, the restau­rant of­fers an ap­pe­tiz­ing menu, and a great at­mo­sphere to match.

WHERE TO SLEEP BURJ on BAY Ho­tel

Though the BURJ on BAY Ho­tel is 15 min­utes north of Jounieh’s main hub, it is well worth the de­tour. This ho­tel is the first of its cal­iber to ar­rive in the area, with a gym, a pool and awe­some views of the bay from ev­ery room. 09 855941, bur­jon­bay.com

BY­B­LOS & BA­TROUN

A combined trip to By­b­los and Ba­troun makes for the per­fect sum­mer va­ca­tion in Le­banon. Just a 20-minute drive from each other, the two towns guar­an­tee enough beach, ad­ven­ture, and his­tory to keep even the most de­mand­ing tourist sat­is­fied.

GET­TING THERE

By car: Take the high­way north­bound out of Beirut, past Jounieh, un­til you reach By­b­los. From there, Ba­troun is less than a 20-minute drive north.

By pub­lic trans­port: Head to the Charles Helou Bus Sta­tion in Beirut and hop on the By­b­los bus for 5,000 LBP or get on the bus to Tripoli and ask your driver to let you off in By­b­los. To get from By­b­los to Ba­troun, you can ei­ther take a taxi for around 15,000 LBP or wait on the main road for the lo­cal bus to pass by for 2,000 LBP.

WHAT TO DO Ru­ins of By­b­los

Like many of Le­banon’s coastal towns, By­b­los has wit­nessed the on­slaught of Le­banon’s con­quer­ing armies, from the Phoeni­cians to the Greeks to the Cru­saders. Lay­ers of civ­i­liza­tion are lit­er­ally piled on top of one an­other in this ex­pan­sive arche­o­log­i­cal site. A Per­sian fortress from the 5th cen­tury B.C., a Cru­sader cas­tle, me­dieval city walls, and an Obelisk tem­ple dat­ing back to the times of the an­cient Egyp­tians, are some of the in­cred­i­ble relics you can visit.

A wan­der around the old souks is also well worth it, par­tic­u­larly if you’re look­ing for lo­cal hand­i­crafts. Check our “Trail through the Souk” ar­ti­cle on page 70 for ideas on where to pick up sou­venirs and tra­di­tional items to re­mind you of your visit.

Port of By­b­los

One of Le­banon’s most pic­turesque har­bors, By­b­los old port is a col­lage of pas­tels and deep blues. Fish­ing boats speckle the wa­ter­front and the deep blue of the sea mir­rors the bright sky above. You can en­joy a stroll along the port or stop by one of the many cafés and restau­rants that of­fer un­par­al­leled views of the sea.

Beach Clubs

Go­ing to By­b­los and Ba­troun in the sum­mer is a na­tional pas­time. Lin­ing the coast are back-to-back beach clubs, rang­ing from su­per lux­u­ri­ous re­sorts to shabby chic bars. Check out our full beach guide on page 20 for the best op­tions to suit your taste.

WHERE TO EAT Pepe’s By­b­los Fish­ing Club

Over­look­ing the By­b­los wa­ter­front, Pepe’s By­b­los Fish­ing Club ( 09 540213) has been a pop­u­lar restau­rant for fresh seafood since 1962. Host­ing Hol­ly­wood glit­terati and in­ter­na­tional politi­cians through­out its his­tory, the views don’t get much bet­ter than Pepe’s ter­race. Be sure to visit the mu­seum, show­cas­ing the in­cred­i­ble ar­ti­facts Pepe re­trieved from ship­wrecks dur­ing his life at sea.

Lo­canda a la Granda

Serv­ing fu­sion-style cui­sine and spe­cial­iz­ing in re­design­ing fa­mous tra­di­tional Le­banese and in­ter­na­tional dishes, Lo­canda a la Granda (09 944333/09 946333, lo­can­daala­granda.com) oc­cu­pies a prime spot in By­b­los’ old souk. En­joy the view from the ter­race while you en­joy the de­li­cious food and the restau­rant’s spe­cial Lo­canda Beer.

Chez Maguy

If you find your­self crav­ing home-cooked and freshly pre­pared food in Ba­troun, a visit to Chez Maguy (03 439147) is a must. Run by Maguy her­self, the restau­rant opened 26 years ago and de­spite its pop­u­lar­ity, has main­tained the homey feel of a small fam­i­lyrun restau­rant.

Colonel Beer Mi­cro­brew­ery

Since it opened in 2014, Colonel (06 743543, colonel­beer.com) has been at­tract­ing beer con­nois­seurs and hip­sters, who come for the lo­cally brewed beer and stay for the view. With plenty of events dur­ing the sum­mer months, Colonel has be­come a hang out for lo­cals and for­eign­ers look­ing to en­joy a mi­cro­brew­ery with good am­bi­ence and chilled out vibes.

WHERE TO SLEEP L’hô­tel de Mon Père

Set on a hill­side in By­b­los over­look­ing the sea, the cozy L’hô­tel de Mon Père of­fers bou­tique style ac­com­mo­da­tion. The fam­i­lyrun es­tab­lish­ment boasts 17 charm­ing rooms and is lo­cated within a 15-minute walk of the beach and a short drive from the his­toric sites of By­b­los. Double rooms start at 120,000 LBP (80 USD) per night in­clud­ing break­fast. 09 795996/70 225987, lhotelde­mon­pere.com

Beit Al Ba­troun

This unique bed and break­fast is a lit­tle piece of Le­banese par­adise. Flow­ers fill each cor­ner of Beit Al Ba­troun and a calm­ing vibe in­hab­its the airy space. There is a large gar­den and pool in the out­door area, which opens in the sum­mer. The ser­vice at Beit Al Ba­troun ex­em­pli­fies true Le­banese gen­eros­ity. Rooms cost 240,000 LBP (160 USD) a night in­clud­ing break­fast. 03 270049, beital­ba­troun.com

TRIPOLI

Tripoli is Le­banon’s sec­ond largest city and pro­vides vis­i­tors with a great tra­di­tional Mid­dle East­ern vibe. Tripoli has avoided the com­mer­cial­iza­tion that has de­fined many large ci­ties, and its unique fla­vor is in­fec­tious. Wan­der around the wind­ing mar­ket places and his­tor­i­cal sites and you’ll soon find your­self fall­ing for its charm.

GET­TING THERE

By car: Tripoli is a big city so a car comes in handy. Sim­ply take the coastal high­way north and fol­low the signs to Tripoli.

By pub­lic trans­port: Buses leave for Tripoli from Beirut’s Charles Helou Sta­tion ev­ery 15 min­utes. The fee is nom­i­nal at just 5,000 LBP, but the jour­ney takes around two hours.

WHAT TO DO Old Souks

Your first stop in Tripoli should be the old souks. Head into the souk, a fre­netic maze of jew­elry shops, kaake ven­dors, and juice stands. Scat­tered through­out its tight al­ley­ways are var­i­ous Mam­luk, Cru­sader and Ot­toman relics, like the Man­souri Mosque, the Khan Al Saboun, a beau­ti­ful court­yard where soap is still made by hand, and Ham­mam El Ja­did, a ham­mam with stun­ning mo­saics and a glass dome ceil­ing.

Ci­tadel of Ray­mond de Saint-gilles

Tripoli’s Ci­tadel was built by Ray­mond VI of Saint Gilles, a knight of the very First Cru­sade, who set out to con­quer Tripoli and erected the cas­tle around 1100 A.D. En­trance to the site costs 5,000 LBP and is well worth the price. You can roam through the sprawl­ing grounds of this Cru­sader Cas­tle and ad­mire its Frank­ish and Ot­toman foun­da­tions. Ev­ery stone stair­case leads to a new deck and each door­way opens up into a grand hall from Le­banon’s past. Climb­ing through the struc­ture to the very top of the cas­tle, vis­i­tors will find an un­matched panorama of Tripoli from above. The site is open from 10 am to 6 pm daily.

El Mina and Cor­niche

Roam­ing around the laid-back sea­side neigh­bor­hood of El Mina is a must in Tripoli. The El Mina quar­ter juts out into the sea and is de­fined by its re­laxed and quaint at­mo­sphere. Build­ings are old and beau­ti­ful, and there is a ten­able small town feeling, com­plete with col­or­ful houses, lo­cal churches, and charm­ing back-al­leys.

Palm Is­land Re­serve

The Palm Is­land Re­serve con­sists of three is­lands. De­clared a pro­tected site by UNESCO in 1992, the is­lands are pop­u­lated with en­dan­gered species of rab­bits, monk seals and tur­tles. The largest is­land, Nakheel, fea­tures around 2,500 palm trees, with paths laid out for vis­i­tors. The is­lands are open to the pub­lic from July to Septem­ber so take ad­van­tage. Just re­mem­ber to ne­go­ti­ate the price of your boat trip at the port, pack some food and float away.

WHERE TO EAT Sayad’s Sand­wiches

Walk­ing into Sayad’s Sand­wiches, a shabby lit­tle kiosk, you might not ex­pect to find some of the fresh­est fish sand­wiches in Tripoli. Made to or­der, peo­ple stand in line to en­joy their tasty fried fish, spicy fish, shrimp, oc­to­pus and cala­mari sand­wiches.

Al Balha Ice Cream

If you want ice cream made the old-fash­ioned way, head to Al Bahla in the El Mina district for a cone filled with fresh ice cream and smoth­ered in pis­ta­chios. Al Bahla is well known for us­ing lo­cal in­gre­di­ents, like rose wa­ter and lemon, to make re­fresh­ing sor­bets.

WHERE TO SLEEP Via Mina Ho­tel

The charm­ing Via Mina Ho­tel is the per­fect place to rest af­ter a busy day in Tripoli. Its col­or­ful walls, out­door pool, and taste­ful dé­cor cre­ates an idyl­lic oa­sis in this hec­tic city. Each room is equipped with air­con­di­tion­ing, com­pli­men­tary bev­er­ages and snacks, and all-or­ganic toi­letries. A deca­dent and lo­cally sourced break­fast is in­cluded with the room, which you won’t want to miss. One night in­clud­ing break­fast costs around 240,000 LBP (160 USD) for a double. 06 222227, vi­amina.com

Beit El Nes­sim

Beit El Nes­sim is an­other great op­tion in the El Mina neigh­bor­hood. They have a beau­ti­ful rooftop ter­race from which to ad­mire the sur­round­ing area, and the space is thought­fully dec­o­rated. The owner is a yoga in­struc­tor and will ar­range les­sons for an added fee. Rooms start at 150,000 LBP (100 USD) for a sin­gle room. 06 200983, beit­el­nes­sim.com

BCHARRE

Perched atop the stun­ning Qadisha Val­ley, Bcharre is an idyl­lic mountain vil­lage. There are tra­di­tional mountain houses, panoramic views, cedar trees, and great restau­rants dot­ted through­out the area. The town of Bcharre is a UNESCO World Her­itage Site, and af­ter spend­ing a day in this pris­tine mountain town, it’s not hard to see why.

GET­TING THERE

By car: Take the north­ern coastal high­way to Ba­troun and fol­low the signs up into the moun­tains, past Chekka, Amioun and Kousba, un­til you reach Bcharre.

By pub­lic trans­port: Buses leave from Dora ap­prox­i­mately ev­ery hour and cost around 7,000 LBP. There are no buses on Sun­days.

WHAT TO DO Khalil Gi­bran Mu­seum

Bcharre is the home­town of the fa­mous Le­banese poet Khalil Gi­bran (1883-1931), whose po­etry and art­work re­flects his up­bring­ing in Le­banon’s moun­tains. The mu­seum it­self is a 19th cen­tury monastery that was cut straight into the rock. The ex­hi­bi­tion con­sists mostly of Gi­bran’s paint­ings, snip­pets of his orig­i­nal po­etry, and even his cof­fin. En­trance to the mu­seum costs just 5,000 LBP, but it is closed on Mon­days. 06 671137, gibrankhalil­gi­bran.org

Cedars of God

A short car ride away from Bcharre are the Cedars of God, a beau­ti­ful re­serve hold­ing the an­cient and epic trees Le­banon is fa­mous for. The Cedars of God are ab­so­lutely ma­jes­tic. These mam­moth trees have been around longer than any liv­ing thing and their sub­dued mag­nif­i­cence ex­ude an al­most spir­i­tual aura. Out­side the re­serve you’ll see sev­eral sou­venir and snack shops. The re­serve is open from 10 am to 6 pm daily.

Qadisha Val­ley

The Qadisha Val­ley is the kind of place you might think only ex­ists in movies. This mag­nif­i­cent val­ley cuts into the land and is sur­rounded by soar­ing, pine-cov­ered moun­tains on both sides.

The best way to en­joy the val­ley is on foot. Hike on the dirt road, which leads deeper into the val­ley and turn back whenever you get tired. For a more ar­du­ous hike, there are trails lead­ing from Qadisha to Eh­den that span 16km. For more in­for­ma­tion on the hikes, con­tact the Le­banese Mountain Trail As­so­ci­a­tion (05 955302, lebanon­trail.org).

Qadisha is also home to var­i­ous her­mitages and monas­ter­ies. If you want to visit the monas­ter­ies, the Monastery of Mar Elisha and Deir Mar Se­maan, a her­mitage founded in 1112 A.D., are both beau­ti­ful and easy to get to. Just ask around and you’ll be pointed in the right di­rec­tion.

WHERE TO EAT Abou Joseph

Abou Joseph (03 277898) is lo­cated in the Qadisha Val­ley and is eas­ily one of the most scenic places you can go to for a Le­banese mezze. Al­though the dé­cor is sim­ple, with plas­tic chairs and ta­bles, the river and the soar­ing moun­tains will make you feel at one with na­ture.

Cedars Heaven

Lo­cated be­tween the Cedars of God and Bcharre, this small out­door restau­rant sits on top of the Qad­disha Val­ley and boasts one of the most ex­pan­sive views of the area. Due to its out­door lo­ca­tion, Cedars Heaven (03 743760) is only open dur­ing the sum­mer.

WHERE TO SLEEP Ho­tel Ch­bat

Ho­tel Ch­bat is the most lux­u­ri­ous ho­tel in Bcharre, with suites over­look­ing the val­ley, a rooftop pool, and an up­scale restau­rant. The ho­tel’s ameni­ties are all modern and the views from the val­ley-fac­ing rooms are noth­ing short of spec­tac­u­lar. 06 672672, hotelch­bat.net

Tiger House

Tiger House is a fa­vorite among budget trav­el­ers in the area due to its low prices and con­ve­nience. Tiger House is a good place to spend the night in the moun­tains and use as a base while you nav­i­gate the sur­round­ing area. They of­fer pri­vate or dor­mi­tory style rooms. 03 087126

The Tele­ferique

Beit Al Ba­troun

Ci­tadel of Ray­mond de Saint-gilles

Via Mina Ho­tel

Qadisha Val­ley

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