Visit Lebanon and its main attractions despite war raging in neighboring Syria with notes from my trip The Great Eastern Summer.
Lebanon was once a famous country for tourism but struggled to rebuild its reputation after a long civil war that ended in 1990. Today it is plagued by the Syrian conflict to the east.
However, the same incredible attractions that once made Lebanon a top destination are still drawing visitors today. With reduced crowds, you’ll have world famous museums and archeological parks to yourself and be able to have a more personal and adventurous visit.
Over a couple of days you should be able to see the major sights of the capital, enjoy some nightlife, dine on delectable Lebanese cuisine, and visit one of the major sights.
As a city that has been inhabited since the 15th century BC, Beirut holds a wealth of history and culture. Even after the Civil War, the city once coined the “Paris of the East” has been recognized as one of the top cities in the Middle East. Today the city is relatively safe and life goes on as usual despite the war to the East in Syria.
There are several important sights to visit such as the National Museum with impressive prehistoric artifacts, Nijmeh Square where you can see the Lebanese Parliament, Grand Serail, the Martyrs Statue, the ruins of the Roman Baths and the turquoise roofed Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque. Visitors can walk along the Corniche to visit the Pigeon Rocks or go shopping at the Beirut Souks which unlike the name is a high-end mall.
Known as Heliopolis during the Roman times, this large park contains some of the best ruins I’ve ever seen and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With a temple dedicated to Jupiter, Venus, and Bacchus, a visit here is a must.
During our visit there were only two or three other groups in the entire park.
Built in the 700s by the Umayyad Caliphate, the city of Anjar offer visitors a glimpse of life in the ancient palace-city. Also designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Anjar lies south of Baalbek on the main road to Damascus.
This awesome site was completely deserted during our visit.
Both Baalbek and Anjar have travel advisories, so check first with your embassy and locals before visiting to assess the situation. During our visit, machine gun fire could be heard from Baalbek and the day after ISIS took over Aarsal, a town just an hour north of Baalbek.
Perhaps it is best to wait until the situation calms in this area, but if you are looking for adventure and do decide to visit, the travel to the ruins is an experience in itself as you will pass through serious Lebanese military checkpoints with machine gun nests and tanks. No pictures allowed. Near the border you’ll see the many refugee camps for Syrians escaping the war.
The coastal areas of Lebanon are safer to visit than inland, but whatever destination you choose you are set for an exciting visit.
Have you been to Lebanon recently? What was your impression?