When a friend suggested we meet in Beirut for a couple of days I said yes without hesitation (as I always do) then suddenly realized I didn’t know a lot about the destination itself. So, I did a little research on things to do and places to stay and really went there with no expectations or idea of what it would be like. What I discovered far surpassed any preconceived ideas of Beirut or Lebanon I may have had.
It turned out to be the perfect blend of diverse cultures and religions, delicious food, beautiful weather, interesting architecture and a fascinating history. Top this off with there being very few tourists and many incredibly welcoming locals- I can safely say that this was one of the most underrated places I had ever been to.
By writing this I feel like I am about to share with you a secret, unspoiled spot left undiscovered by dreary tourists.
The Hotel Albergo is an old enchanting hotel in the coolest part of Beirut with a rooftop terrace restaurant and individually styled rooms. This soft pink suite we stayed in was filled with dried rose petals and hand acquired antiques. It completely made me feel like a princess.
Every part of the service and amenities at Hotel Albergo is carefully thought out. From the Rose Bath salts made with salt from the dead sea held in beautiful handmade glass jars to the fresh fruit basket replenished daily and the delicious mini cookies left for turn down service, the staff went above and beyond to provide an exceptional luxury service equal to the opulent décor.
The rooftop restaurant is the ideal place for a shaded indulgent breakfast surrounded by geraniums and greenery while overlooking Beirut, or for a romantic al-fresco candle light dinner in the summer time.
While there we organised with our hotel to have a private guide show us the best parts of Lebanon. It was such a great idea as we could explore at our own pace, and our local guide was incredibly knowledgeable about both the archaeological aspects of where we explored and about the general knowledge and history of Lebanon. As well as this he introduced us to some cheap, delicious local delicacies and suggested a wonderful restaurant we would have never found on our own. It also took the stress out of the long drives as he knew the roads and how to avoid the notorious traffic so we could snooze in the back seat! I would highly recommend Daniel as an invaluable addition to your Beirut or Lebanon visit. You can contact him on firstname.lastname@example.org or +961 76 398 685
Baalbek is an ancient Phoenecian city 85 km from Beirut which dates back as early as 3rd century B.C. It is home to the largest noble Roman and temples ever built which are among the best preserved in the world with breath-taking detail and 20metre high columns still intact. The large temple site where a triad of deities were worshiped is truly tear inducing beautiful. The only thing that is possibly more impressive than the ruins themselves was the fact there were NO tourists here, I could literally count on one hand the amount of other people we saw which meant we had this monumental, jaw dropping piece of history all to ourselves.
This was a great little stop on our way to the Temples of Baalbek. The Ksara winery offers guided tours of its huge underground roman caves followed by a tasting. Ksara have been making wine consistently since 1857 and is the country’s oldest winery. A nice little break and a pick me up for the long drive to Baalbek.
I have done the blue grotto’s in Italy, and the Waitomo caves in NZ. Yet nothing could have prepared me for the gargantuan incredible caves of Jeita. At a height peak of 120m the caves located 25km from Beirut were in the finalist for the new 7th wonders of the world and came in at 14th place- yet it appears no one has ever heard of it! It contains the worlds largest stalactite at 8.2 metres high, and spans an overall length of over 9km. Again, there were sections of it where we were the only ones around and you couldn’t help but imagine what it would have been like for the first people who discovered this magnificent natural beauty. It truly feels as though you are entering a lost world. Unfortunately, I was not able to take photos in the caves and these images from the internet really do not do it any justice. You just have to see this for yourself.
40 km north of Beirut lies Byblos, an ancient world heritage UNISECO coastal town possibly the oldest continually inhabited one in the world being occupied since 5000bc. Not only is it packed with archaeological artefacts and beautiful ancient ruins but it has a great bar and restaurant scene where you can sip rose’s and eat fresh seafood in the sunshine either by the sea or in its inner medieval walls. I can recommend Chez Pepe for delicious seafood and authentic Lebanese dishes.
This small and quiet museum had a great collection of modern art and some interesting history about the building itself. My favourite part was a fascinating little section devoted to early European travellers exploring Lebanon and Syria which to me was truly captivating. It provided a little glimpse of travel before the days of blogs, Instagram, Google Maps or even telephone lines. They have guidebooks from the early 20th century talking about how to travel in Syria & The Middle East and which hotels to stay in – A peep into a very fascinating and different past. At the front of this museum there is also a delightful little gift shop and outdoor café which is great to sit in the sun and drink delicious Lebanese rose.
Beirut is laden with tumultuous history which is reflected in its buildings and architecture. Take an afternoon to wonder the beautiful flower filled streets and discover some of its most impressive abandoned buildings.
If you have any other questions about Lebanon or Beirut please feel free to comment below or send me a message. I look forward to sharing more adventures with you
Eat well, travel well, live well,