TOWARDS THE NORTH
JOUNIEH, BYBLOS, BATROUN, TRIPOLI, BCHARRE
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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 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
Beit Al Batroun