Lebanon is beautiful yet melancholic. Perhaps many recalled its turbulent period of internal and regional conflicts; but overlooked how much the country has to offer as a travel destination. Lebanon has amazing landscape – rolling hills and snow-capped ranges, deep gorges, Mediterranean seaside towns. It has fine examples of multi-religion and cultural co-existences, where mosques and churches standing side by side, sounds of church-bell mingled with calls for prayer. Lebanese like to dress-up, it is the most westernized nation in the Middle East, its capital Beirut is known as Little Paris of the Middle East.
Take a wee-hours flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beirut, upon arrival transfer to downtown hotel. Lebanon capital city – Beirut – was once called the Paris of the Middle East, for its French colonial architecture, and as a hub of arts and cultures in the region. Beirut is a fusion of the West and the East, of tradition and modernity. Walking tour to explore iconic sights in downtown, from archeological ruins, evidences of co-existence between Christians and Muslims, to traces of war and revolt.
Embark on a road trip towards the north. First stop Jeitta Grotto, a series of limestone caves with interesting stalagmites, stalactites, and underground river; access the upper grotto via walk paths, then explore the lower grotto by boat. Later, proceed to Jounieh, take gondola lift to the Shrine of Our Lady (Mary statue) located on hilltop for awesome panoramic view. Late afternoon arrival in Byblos, an ancient Phoenician port city. Visit the Crusader Castle (12th century) ruins, flanked by Roman, Egyptian, and Phoenician structures; take a stroll by the harbour during sunset.
Morning free and easy to explore the Old Souks of Byblos covered with cobbled streets and old structures, lined with picturesque cafes and small local shops. Around noon, transfer to Baatara Gorge, en-route visit Laqlouq Lake – multiple artificial irrigation lakes scattered across hill villages. Later hike to the Jurassic age limestone cavity carved by melting snow from Mount Lebanon every spring, forming waterfall that drops 255m into a cave through three natural bridges, raise one above another and overhang the chasm. After the enjoyable walk in nature, proceed to Tripoli for stay.
Morning visit the ancient Citadel standing by the riverbank, it was first built by the Arabs in 7th century, later occupied by Crusaders, and over time used by the Mamelukes and Ottomans. Around noon, enjoy food walking tour with a local guide, explore the old souks filled with traditional shops and crafts, and sample delicious local snacks, pastry, and sweets along the way. Afternoon free and easy to roam the old quarter dotted with aged old mosques, madrassa, caravanserai, and hammam. Around sunset, visit nearby ancient Anfeh village for sea view dinner.
Morning, drive to Qadisha Valley, home to the first Christian monasteries of Lebanon. Explore the beautiful nature of the valley on foot – take a 4km-long loop hiking trip (2 hour) with a local guide. Along the way, visit several monasteries and cave churches, learn about the stories of the monk and hermit life, and about the many saints worshiped in the area. After lunch, visit Mar Elisha, one of the largest monasteries in the valley, which is hewn out of the rock face, and it houses an 8th-century icon of St Elisha. Overnight at Bcharre Village.
Morning take a stroll in the Cedars of God forest reserve near Bcharre Village. The small forest is an ancient grove of cedars, dating for thousands of years old. Cedar is a symbol of Lebanon (featured in the country’s flag), it had been exploited for centuries by the Phoenicians, Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Romans, and Turks, from building ships to railway. Later, drive to Baalbek, the “Sun City” of the ancient world, best preserved imperial Roman architecture in the Middle East, listed as a UNESCO world heritage. Overnight in Bekaa Valley.
Bekaa Valley is Lebanon’s most important farming region, while its Zahle region is known for wine production for centuries. Tour a vineyard, visit wine cellar, followed by lunch complimented with wine. Later, drive to Sidon, en-roue visit Mleeta Landmark – a memorial and museum that commemorates Hezbollah’s fight against the 1982–2000 Israeli occupation and the month-long 2006 Israel-Hezbollah War. Upon arrival at the ancient seaside town of Sidon, explore the souks and admire the Sea Castle. Late evening drive back to Beirut for overnight stay.
Day time free & easy. Late afternoon transfer to Beirut international airport, catch a flight bound for Kuala Lumpur. Arrive home the following day.
Arrival in Kuala Lumpur. End of tour.
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A passionate globetrotter, Lam Li once spent two years on an overland journey from Asia to Europe, and another half a year tramping along the ancient Silk Road in Central Asia. A former journalist, Lam Li is keen on collecting local tales while on the road, and she strives to understand the social and political fabrics of places she visited. She has lived and worked in Beijing for six years, and has published a book in Chinese entitled “The Wall Street Diary: US under Financial Storm” . She has also recorded her travelogue on film, and directed a feature-length documentary named “Surviving Beijing”.
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