Major Sites and sounds

Deir el Qamar

Located a short 5 KM’s from Beiteddine is Deir el Qamar (“Monastery of the Moon”). A small village of red-tiled roofs and stone houses, it houses the 15th Century Fakhreddine Mosque and Palace as well as the Moussa Castle. The Castle was built single-handedly by Moussa El Maamary, a Lebanese visionary born in 1931. Folklore says that Moussa was in love with a class mate in School who wanted to marry a man who owned a Castle. Determined, stubborn and driven, Moussa made that dream a reality.

Echmoun

The Temple of Echmoun, less than an hour from Beirut, is situated one kilometer from Saida (Sidon) in a lush valley of citrus groves on the Awwali River. The site is known locally as “Bustan esh-Sheikh.” Whether you visit in spring when the air is fragrant with blossoms, or early winter when the fruit is ripe, Echmoun is a special place to visit.

This Phoenician temple complex, dedicated to the healing god Echmoun, is the only Phoenician site in Lebanon that has retained more than its foundation stones. Building was begun at the end of the 7th century B.C., and later additions were made in the following centuries. Therefore, many elements near the original temple site were completed long after the Phoenician era, including a Roman-period colonnade, mosaics, a nympheum, and the foundations of a Byzantine church. All of these structures testify to the site's lasting importance.

Faqra

A maze of limestone formations known as "houses of ghosts" welcomes the visitor to Faqra. Situated at an elevation of 1550m, Faqra is famous for its temples and its good skiing. The temples of Qalaat Faqra are the most extensive Roman ruins of all Mount Lebanon. The site is dominated by a huge tower 15 meters square, which originally had a third story and a pyramid-shaped roof. An interior staircase leads up to the top. A Greek inscription on the northeast corner of the tower and another above the door indicate that the building was restored by the Roman Emperor Claudius in 43 AD. The temple site is also the venue of a summer cultural festival

Amchit

About 2 km north of Byblos, this ancient coastal town climbs briefly up the lower elevations of Mount Lebanon. Amchit is known for its many traditional houses including the residence of French writer, Ernest Renan, who lived here in the 19th century.The Tomb of Henriette Renan, his sister, can also be visited. East of the village is a funerary cave made into a chapel dedicated to Mar Sophia(Saint Sophia) and her daughters. A sarcophagus with a Greek inscription serves as an altar. Look for other antique remains and traces of rock carvings in the same area. The Church of Saint George near the village was apparently built on an ancient temple and the altar here has both Greek and Arabic inscriptions. Nearby are Saydet Naya, where there are more rock excavations, and Deir Mar Zahia, with an ancient rock-cut necropolis.

Harissa

Harissa, located at 650 meters altitude, is an important pilgrimage site located above Jounieh (ca. 15 KM’s from Beirut City Center). The main attraction here is the 15 ton statue of the Virgin Mary, known as “Our Lady of Lebanon”. The statue, built in the 19th century, houses a small Maronite chapel below it. Our descent from Harissa will be Telefrique (Gondola Lift). This will give you the chance to enjoy the spectacular views of Beirut, Jounieh and the Mediterranean.

Jeita Grottos

We then make the brief 20 KM drive to the north of Beirut towards the Jeitta Grottos. One of Lebanon's most unusual tourist attraction, an enormous cavern festooned with every shape and size of stalactite and stalagmite. The 9 KM labyrinth is on two levels with the lower level offering us the chance to take a flat-bottom boat tour past the “weeping willows”, and the upper grotto which offers us tremendous views of mineral animals. A finalist in the “New Seven Wonders of the World” competition, it is one of the most unforgettable experiences on your trip!

Ksara Winery

The Chateau Ksara in the Beqaa Valley is Lebanon’s most famous producer of quality white and red wines, as well as Arak and Brandy. Although not as famous as its most illustrious European counterparts, the wines have recently won several accolades at the Vinalies Internationals in Paris. We will take a tour through the winery as well as have the opportunity to sample the award winning wines along with a sommelier from the house of Ksara.

Mar Elisha

Originally built as a hermitage around the 12th-13th centuries, the Monastery of Mar Elisha hosted a Maronite Archbishopric during the 14th century. Shallita and Assia are the names of two famous hermits who lived and died here during the 17th-18th centuries. The Lebanese Maronite Order was founded at this monastery in 1696. When the Order was divided between the Lebanese and the Aleppine monks in 1770, the Monastery of Mar Elisha was granted to the Aleppines (who became known as the Maronite Mariamite Order in 1969). Except for some small sections, most parts of the monastery building date from the 20th century.

Moussalayha Castle

About 3 KM beyond Batroun in the narrow valley at Ras ech-Chekka is the attractive Moussalayha Castle which used to defend the only land route between Beirut and Tripoli. Standing on a rocky outcrop, it is built on the summit in such a way as to look like part of the living rock. Although the site is very ancient, the castle probably dates back to the 16th Century

Robert Mouawad Private Museum

The Robert Mouawad Private Museum, located in Lebanon's Beirut Central District, constitutes a perfect mix of artistic oriental and occidental cultures. Housed in the Pharaon Palace, it was once the home of the famous Lebanese jeweler and collector of art pieces, Robert Mouawad.

It is a combination of objects of great value, be it unique collections of books, ceramics, historical columns, Pottery, ancient weapons, unique carpets or sophisticated Jewellery pieces, objets d'art and rare precious stones.

This Arab Palace, built by Mr. Henri Pharaon back in 1911, near the "Grand Serail", was adorned with genuine wooden panels dating from the fourteenth to the nineteenth centuries. Mr. Robert Mouawad acquired this historical state-of-the-art residence to host his precious collection of fine arts and antique pieces. Synonymous with the Mouawad tradition and heritage of conceiving and achieving the more refined and most exquisite, The Robert Mouawad Private Museum constitutes a cultural legacy and the cultural reference in the Middle East.

A visitor to the palace is immediately carried back to the romantic epoch of oriental pomp and luxury, the era of subtle beauty, perfect harmony and good taste.

Saifi Village

Saifi Village, commonly referred to as Le Quartier des Arts, is an upscale, residential neighbourhood in Beirut, Lebanon. Saifi Village is located at the southeastern periphery of Centre Ville. The neighbourhood is also known as Le Quartier des Arts due to its numerous art galleries, antique store, artisan shops, and speciality boutiques. Every Saturday morning, farmers sell their fresh organic produce and other products at Souk el Tayeb in a little square in the village.The neighbourhood was completely destroyed during the war in Lebanon. However, Solidere has rebuilt the neighbourhood and restored its historic, French-colonial buildings and winding cobblestoned streets. The buildings are painted in various pastel colors. It was initially planned by French architect François Spoerry. Saifi Village is a perfect example of a New Urbanist-style neighbourhood with apartment buildings, town houses, and shops.

Sarafand Glass Blowers

During the hey-day of the Phoenician civilization, the trading post of ancient Serepta would have had a thriving artisan community with glass makers, potters and timber merchant selling their wares to sea-farers. Today Serepta is better known as Sarafand.

The potters and glass blowers have long gone, one family however is determinedly keeping the ancient tradition alive. The Khalifeh family has been blowing glass for about 40 years, selling their goods in a local shop or to wholesalers. A visit to their store on Sarafands Main Street, is a throwback to the ancient time of the Phoenicians.

Sidon

Sidon; ancient Sidouna, one of the famous names in ancient history, was an open city with many cultural influences, including the Egyptian Pharaohs and the Greeks. During the Persian period, Aegean sculptors contributed to the nearby temple of Eshmoun; the city's god, which was associated with the Aesculapius, the Greek god of healing.

The Crusader period (1110-1291 AD) brought Sidon new prestige, as second of four baronies of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Today you can enjoy visiting the ruins of the fortress church known as the Castle of the Sea which was erected by the Crusading Knights of St. John, and the Shell of the Castle of St. Louis (the Land Castle) which sits atop the Phoenician Acropolis near Murex hill, so named after the Murex shell from which the famous Phoenician purple dye extracted.

Tawlet Souk al Tayeb

Starting as a farmers market in 2004, this Beirut institution now offers delicious regional Lebanese dishes as well as a range of organic preserves, jams and sweets. Established originally to protect the interests of the local small farmers and producers, enabling them to compete against the larger institutions, Tawlet has now become synonymous with healthy, organic, locally produced foods. Only producers – farmers, bakers and cooks – come and sell their own products, goods and dishes. Here you will be able to sample authentic Lebanese home cooking.

Al Shouf Cedar Reserve

The largest of Lebanon nature reserves, Al-Shouf Cedar Nature Reserve stretches from Dahr Al-Baidar in the north to Niha Mountain in the south. blanketed with oak forests on its northeastern slopes and juniper and oak forests on its southeastern slopes the reserve's most famous attractions are its three magnificent cedar forests of Maasser Al-Shouf , Barouk and Ain Zhalta - Bmohary . These Cedar forests account for a quarter of the remaining cedar forest in Lebanon , and some tress are estimated to be 2,000 years old.

Baalbek

Known in Roman times as Heliopolis, Baalbek is famous for its exquisitely detailed yet monumentally scaled temple ruins! Lebanon’s greatest Roman treasure (and indeed among the World’s best preserved), it can be counted among the wonders of the Ancient World. Towering high above the Bekaa plain, their monumental proportions proclaimed the power and wealth of Imperial Rome. The temple complex of Baalbeck is made up of the Jupiter Temple and the Bacchus Temple adjacent to it. A short distance away is the circular structure known as the Temple of Venus.

Batroun

A charming and friendly city located on the Mediterranean coast 50km north of Beirut, Batroun is famous for its Phoenician wall, old souk, and wonderful fresh lemonade. In recent years, it has become the entertainment hub of the North.

The city sits in a triangular shaped plain crossed by the river Nahr el-Jawz. It is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the west, the foothills of Mount Lebanon to the south and east, and the Ras ech-Chaqa'a plateau to the north. Just northeast of Batroun is the imposing Mussaylha Fort, constructed by Fakhr ed-Dine II high on a strategic limestone rock

Tripoli

Known as the capital of the North, Tripoli is Lebanon's second largest city. Tripoli was founded by the Phoenicians in 800 BC and was named Athar, during the Persian era it became the center of Sidon, Tyre and Arados Island (Arwad in Syria) confederation, where Phoenicians met to debate their important affairs, thus became known as Tripoli or "the three cities".

Towering above the Abu-Ali River nearby stands the Fortress of Saint Gilles (Sinjil), built by Raymond de St. Gilles on Mount Pelerin in the early 12th BC and which was since remade and enlarged by the Mamluks and Ottomans.

Anjar

A World Heritage Site, Anjar was formally known as Gerrha, a stronghold built by Umayyad Caliph Al-Walid ibn Abdel Malek in the 8th century. Unlike some of the sites in Lebanon that have been inhabited such as Byblos which have been inhabited since the day they were founded, Anjar flourished only for a few decades only to later be abandoned. Anjar has a special beauty. The city's slender columns and fragile arches stand in contrast to the massive bulk of the nearby Anti-Lebanon mountains - an eerie background for Anjar's extensive ruins and the memories of its short but energetic moment in history.

Bcharre

Bcharre is a Lebanese town at about 1,950 m of altitude, near the Kadisha Valley. Bsharri is just under the Cedar forest and is the birthplace of the famous poet, painter and sculptor Khalil Gibran who now has a museum in the town to honor him.

Beirut City Tour

Beirut, a city that was once known as the “Paris of the Middle East” has undergone tremendous reconstruction since the end of the civil war in 1990. Our first stop today will be a visit to the Solidere district which best illustrates the extent of the reconstruction and the determination of the Lebanese to once again become a regional commercial hub. We then proceed to visit the Corniche and stop for a short walk along Beirut favourite promenade along the Mediterranean. The Corniche offers spectacular views of the infamous pigeon rocks, and is lined on one side with an array of restaurant and cafes. We conclude the Beirut tour with a visit to the National Museum that documents the history of Lebanon till 3,000 B.C. and is located at the site of the most intense fighting during the civil war, the Green Line.

Beit Shabab (Pottery and Bell factory)

This village has retained its traditional crafts of pottery and bell making into the modern age. The only bell foundry in Lebanon, the craftsmen here cast the half-ton bronze bells in a single mold. The bells are usually made for Lebanon's Christian churches, who order them to a specific pitch.

Pottery workshops, which are open only during the summer months, turn out a selection of pottery ware including the huge storage jars that are traditionally used for olive oil, preserved meat or arak.

Beiteddine

Beiteddine is located in the Chouf district of Lebanon, the home of the Muslim Druze community. The main attraction in Beiteddine is the magnificent Beittedine Palace, built between 1788 and 1818 by Emir Bashir Shihab II. Originally the Emir’s residence, it was later used by Ottoman authorities as a government residence and then later as an administrative center under the French Mandate. After independence in 1943, the Palace became the summer residence of the president of the Republic. The decorated ceilings, mosaics, Turkish baths, and Harem suites are surrounded by beautifully groomed gardens.

Byblos

The Phoenician city of Byblos. Ca. 42 KM from Beirut it serves as the perfect introduction to the many layers of civilizations that have existed in Lebanon from the fourth millennium BC. We will visit the Phoenician ruins that are inscribed with the first ever alphabet, the temple of the Obelisks dating back to 1800 BC, the remains of a Palace from Persian occupation, as well as the Crusader Castle and Church dating back to 1108. The rest of the afternoon will be for us to enjoy the many souks and surrounding streets of Byblos at leisure.

Cedars

The cedars are among the last survivors of the immense forests that lay across Mount Lebanon in ancient times. The Cedars resort is set in an area of unusual natural and historical interest. In only 30 minutes you can drive from the crest of the mountain, which soars nearly 3000 meters above the resort, down to the bottom of the steep-sided Qadisha Grotto; a natural cavern with stalactites and stalagmites formations, at less than 1000 meters. Within this area are rivers, springs, waterfalls, caves and other natural formations as well as rock-cut churches, monasteries and interesting villages to visit. There is always the promise of a friendly welcome from the hospitable people who live there.

Cedars of God

120 km north east of Beirut, known to the Lebanese as Arz Errab (the Cedars of the Lord). Cedars are among the last survivors of the immense forests that lay across Mount Lebanon in ancient times. The citizens of ancient Byblos, Tyre, and Sidon used "cedrus libani" to build houses and fashion masts for their ships. From Lebanon's cedar forests, King Solomon (pbuh) got the timber to build his temple and palace in Jerusalem, while the Egyptian Pharaohs used the wood to carve their sarcophagi and sun-ships. Also, Phoenicians and Greeks used its wood through the centuries in their homes, temples, sarcophagi, and galleys.

Chateau Kefraya

The chateau's first vineyards were planted as far back as the 1950's and more than a quarter of a century; the vineyards have been yielding flawless wines, making their first appearance in the Lebanese market in 1979. Since then, Chateau Kefraya has established itself as a key winemaker in Lebanon and abroad, becoming available nationwide in Lebanon and exported to 35 countries worldwide. Although 70% of Chateau Kefraya's wines are red, the estate has been producing white, rosé, sweet wines and Arak for many years now.

The red wines, created from five varieties of grapes, provide a unique taste and a complex aromatic bouquet that is ever-changing with the aging of the respective labels and vintages. Since its establishment as a premier wine producer in Lebanon, Chateau Kefraya has gained international praise from Europe, North America, and Asia. To create the most perfect blend of flavors and tastes, Chateau Kefraya's founder, President and Chairman, Mr. Michel de Bustros, has brought to Kefraya the classical and noble French vines Cabernet-Sauvignon, Grenache and Syrah.

Cilicia Museum (Armenian Art)

The gorgeous collection of Armenian religious and cultural artefacts at the Cilicia Museum is one of Beirut's best-kept secrets. And secrets play a major role in the history of this museum, as most of the collection was smuggled out of what was known as Turkish Armenia in 1915, by monks from the Monastery of Sis in Cilicia.

Given just several days to flee the genocide by the Turks, the monks removed as much of their treasure as they could and began their dangerous overland journey, eventually arriving in Aleppo (Syria).

Chateau Musar

After a long stay in France, Gaston Hochar returned to Lebanon in 1930 and created Château Musar in the cellars of the old 'Mzar' castle in Ghazir, overlooking the Mediterranean sea. What began as a hobby soon became a passion; a passion inspired by an initial encounter with renowned viticulturist Ronald Barton while he was stationed in Lebanon during the Second World War.

The red wine, which is the best known is made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault, Carignan, Grenache, and Mourvèdre grapes in varying amounts each year. The whites are made from Obaideh (related to Chardonnay) and Merwah (related to Sémillon). Both wines contain classic Bordeaux grapes, however they are very different, as they are made in a natural wine style with significant bottle variation. The wines generally improve with age, both the red and whites.

Clos St. Thomas

Clos St. Thomas winery was established in 1997 by Mr. Said T. Touma and his family on a hill looming over the Bekaa valley. The first vineyard had been planted three years before and the first vintage year appeared in 1998. The estate comprises a vineyard spreading over forty hectares and a wine storehouse of vinification and maturation linking between tradition and new technology. The plantation of this noble grape variety extends to the neighboring areas of the castle and the production increases year after year.

The estate plants and bottles the following varieties; Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan, Chardonnay, Cinsaut, Clairette, Grenache Blanc, Grenache Noir, Merlot, Muscat d´Hamburg, Syrah and Ugni Blanc.

Debbane Palace Museum

The palace was built in 1721 by the Moroccan Hammoud family who sold it to the Debbané family in 1800. The sumptuous palace is a beautiful example of Ottoman period architecture in Lebanon. It is located within the souk of Old Tripoli and parts of it are actually above the souk, with an arched passageway passing underneath. The museum includes an exhibition of artefacts, texts, documents and manuscripts

Deir el Qalaa

Deir el Qalaa, located near the village of Beit Meri in the mountains 15km east of Beirut, is a Roman temple complex and Byzantine residential-industrial complex built on a promontory 800 meters above sea level. The name Deir (meaning “monastery” in Arabic) refers to the fact that a monastery was built at this site by Maronite monks during the 18th century. The monastery was built over a Roman temple dating back to the first century A.D. This temple is considered to be the third largest Roman temple in Lebanon, after the Baalbek and Niha temples.