Rating in Lebanon
$ 1258

Essential Lebanon

Culture
Culture
min $ 1258
Per person
Tour details
Destinations: Beirut, Sidon, Baalbek
Guide language: English
Price: min $ 1258
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  • Overview & dates
  • Itinerary
  • What's included

Overview & dates

INTRO

A turbulent recent history means this beautiful and welcoming country sees few visitors. However a trip to Lebanon is a deeply rewarding experience. Its ancient history, friendly and forward-looking people and wealth of natural beauty, ensures that this small country packs a lot of punch. Come see for yourself. Take a boat through the cave complex at Jeita, journey back in time at the incredible Roman complex of Baalbek and explore Byblos, the birthplace of the alphabet and the ancient heart of world-shipping before indulging in Ksara’s finest wines.


DATES

  • 28 Oct 2018 to 02 Nov 2018 - £ 995 - GD
  • 12 May 2019 to 17 May 2019 - £ 995 - AV
  • 27 Oct 2019 to 01 Nov 2019 - £ 995 - AV

If these dates do not suit you but you are interested in this tour, please contact us for alternative dates.

AV - Available
GD - Guaranteed
LM - Limited places left
OR - On request (contact us for status)
CL - Closed for bookings


All tours in Lebanon


HIGHLIGHTS

The historic Southern towns of Sidon & Tyre

Experience Beirut's beguiling mix of antiquity and modernity

The Temple of Eshmun

Visually stunning Jeita’s grotto

Byblos, ancient town and port

The spectacular Qadisha Valley

Baalbek, vast Roman complex

Sample the finest wines at Ksara winery


PLACES VISITED

Beirut - Sidon - Eshmun - Tyre - Jeita's Grotto - Baalbek - Byblos - Aanjar - Ksara Winery Beirut
Sidon
Eshmun
Tyre
Jeita's Grotto
Baalbek
Byblos
Aanjar
Ksara Winery

Itinerary

ITINERARY

Short | Detailed | PDF


Choose departure date28 Oct 2018 -- 02 Nov 201812 May 2019 -- 17 May 201927 Oct 2019 -- 01 Nov 2019

Day 1 : Beirut

Arrival. Pick up from airport and drop to hotel. Overnight in Beirut (Hamra area).

Arrival. Pick up from airport and drop to hotel. Overnight in Beirut (Hamra area).

Meal plan : n/a


Day 2 : Sidon - Eshmun - Tyre

Drive to Sidon (Saida) for the souk, sea castle adn fish market. Then Tyre (Sur) for the ruins. Return to Beirut for overnight.

Early start. Drive to the South of Lebanon, to one of the oldest Phoenician cities, Sidon (Saida) and explore the colourful souk, the sea castle and the fish market (the name 'Sidon' means fishery). Visit the nearby Temple of Eshmun. Continue to another Phoenician town, Tyre (Sur), and visit its spectacular ruins. Learn the complex history of invasions by Persians, Egyptians, Ottomans and Babylonians. Return to Beirut for overnight.

Meal plan : Breakfast


Sidon (a.k.a. Saida) is located at the meeting point of three continents and, as such, has been the crossroads of many civilizations whose traces may still be seen today. It is known as the capital of the South. Sidon’s inhabitation goes back as far as 6000BC. Its trade links with Egypt aided its rise during the Phoenician period in the 12th to 10th centuries BC. Despite invasions in 1200 BC by Philistines and in 675BC by Assyrian king Esarhaddon, Sidon reached its pinnacle under the Persian Empire (550 - 330 B.C.). At the end of the Persian era in 351 B.C., unable to resist the superior forces of Artaxerxes III, the Sidonians locked their gates and set fire to their city rather than to submit to the invader - more than 40,000 died in the blaze. After the disaster the city was too weak to oppose the triumphal march of Alexander the Great in 333 B.C. This city’s turbulent history of invasion and destruction is evident in its buildings and sites and makes for a fascinating visit. The city’s sea castle, lively port and excellent seafood also make it a popular spot for locals.

The Temple of Eshmun is an ancient place of worship dedicated to Eshmun, the Phoenician god of healing. The site was occupied from the 7th century BC to the 8th century AD, suggesting an integrated relationship with the nearby city of Sidon. Although originally constructed by Sidonian king Eshmunazar II in the Achaemenid era (c. 529–333 BC) to celebrate the city's recovered wealth and stature, the temple complex was greatly expanded by Bodashtart, Yatan-milk and later monarchs until the fall of Paganism under Christianity. The continued expansion spanned many centuries of alternating independence and foreign hegemony, and today the sanctuary features a wealth of different architectural and decorative styles and influences. Compromising an esplanade, a grand court, a huge limestone terrace and a monumental podium, the sanctuary features a series of ritual ablution basins fed by canals channelling water from the Asclepius river (modern Awali) and from the sacred "Ydll" spring. These installations were used for therapeutic and ‘purification’ purposes by the cult of Eshmun. The sanctuary site has yielded many artefacts of value, especially those inscribed with Phoenician texts, providing valuable insight into the site's history and that of ancient Sidon. 

Legend has it that Tyre, (or Sur in Turkish), was the birthplace of Europa (a Phoenician woman of high lineage from Greek mythology after whom Europe was named) and Dido (Queen of Carthage). Tyre has a long and illustrious history. In ancient times it was the most important city of the Phoenicians, amassing great wealth and power from the export of purple dye. In the first century AD, Tyre was the home of a Christian community visited by St. Paul, and it became a major stronghold of the Crusaders in the 12th century. Today, Tyre is the fourth largest city in Lebanon and is famous for its ancient ruins and a Roman Hippodrome, which became a UNESCO world heritage site in 1984. 

Day 3 : Beirut - Jeita's Grotto - Byblos

Half day tour of Beirut. Afternoon - drive to Jeita’s grotto. Drive to Byblos for overnight in hotel.

Half day tour of Beirut including the modern downtown, the historic Green Line, the bustling Hamra and the charming waterfront, known as The Cornice. In the afternoon drive to Jeita's grotto. Spend some time exploring these incredible caves with one of the world's most impressive collection of stalagmites and stalactites. Drive to Byblos for overnight in hotel.

Meal plan : Breakfast


Beirut's history goes back more than 5,000 years. According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, its antiquity is indicated by its name, which is derived from the Canaanite be'erot ("wells"), and refers to the underground water table that is still tapped by the local inhabitants. Historically occupied by the Romans, the Crusaders and the Ottomans among other ruling dynasties, Beirut’s art and architecture has had multiple and diverse influences. Excavations in the downtown area have unearthed layers of Phoenician, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Crusader and Ottoman remains. The first historical reference to Beirut dates from the 14th century BC, when it is mentioned in the cuneiform tablets of the Amarna letters, three letters that Ammunira of Biruta (Beirut) sent to the pharaoh of Egypt. Biruta is also referenced in the letters from Rib-Hadda, king of Byblos. The oldest settlement was on an island in the river that progressively silted up.

The city was known in the Roman period as Berytus, and the old Roman coins showed the head of Tycle, goddess of fortune, and the city’s symbol of a dolphin entwined around an anchor. Beirut’s rich artistic and archaeological history is reflected in its vast number of museums. Berytus' power was destroyed by an earthquake, tidal wave and fire in 551 A.D. In the following century Arab Muslim forces took the city and in 1110 it fell to the Crusaders. In 1291 it was conquered by the Mamlukes. Ottoman rule began in 1516 and lasted for 400 years until the defeat of the Turks in World War I. 

The French Mandate Period followed and in 1943 Lebanon gained its independence. Set between the Mediterranean and dramatic mountains rising up in the background, Beirut is one of the Middle East’s most lively cities. The rejuvenation of the Beirut Central District is one of the largest, most ambitious urban redevelopment projects ever undertaken. While Beirut has become one of the Middle East’s most modern cities, it still maintains its fascinating history and beautiful sites, as well as a thriving arts scene. Until the civil war ended in 1990, most of the archaeological sites discovered were found by accident. However, since then there have been excavations to uncover and investigate these phenomenal sites. The Green Line was a line of separation between the Muslims in West Beirut and the Christian front in East Beirut. It was green because it was uninhabited and therefore covered in vegetation. The local people are renowned for being extremely friendly and charming.


Jeita's Grotto is a group of Caverns that have been sculpted over thousands of years by water. These caves were discovered in 1836 by Reverend William Thomson, an American missionary. The caves provide a tunnel or escape route for the underground river, which is the principal source of the Nar el-Kalb (Dog River). The lower galleries, discovered in 1836 and opened to the public in 1958, are visited by boat. The upper galleries, opened in January 1969, can be explored on foot.

Day 4 : Byblos - Qadisha Valley - Baalbek

Tour of Byblos (Crusader castle and Roman ruins). Afternoon - Qadisha Valley. Baalbek for dinner & overnight in hotel.

Take a tour of Byblos, famous archaeological sites including its Crusader castle and Roman ruins. Wander through the beautiful souk and down to the harbour, once the nerve centre of the world's shipping, for lunch. Nowadays there's little more than a quaint little port. After lunch, drive to the stunning and historic Qadisha Valley, stop in Bsharreh to visit the Gebran museum, dedicated to the Lebanese artist, writer and philosopher, Khalil Gibran. Take a walk through a Cedars grove. Drive to Baalbek for dinner & overnight In hotel.

Meal plan : Breakfast & dinner


The coastal town of Byblos is located on a cliff of sandstone 40 km North of Beirut. Byblos bears outstanding witness to the beginnings of the Phoenician civilization and scholars say the site of Byblos goes back at least seven thousand years. Touted as the birthpace of the modern alphabet, Byblos was also once the epicentre of the world’s shipping. The remarkable Crusader Castle was built in the 12th century. The castle, along with the town was captured and its walls destroyed in 1188. The Crusaders recaptured and rebuilt it in 1197. 

Declared as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1998, the stunning Qadisha Valley offers spectacular scenery and a unique atmosphere. With the Qadisha River running through the bottom of the gorge, the valley is considered one of Lebanons most beautiful places to visit. Qadisha comes from a Semitic root meaning ‘holy’. Scattered with caves and rock shelters from the third millennium B.C. to the Roman period, the valley is filled with cave chapels, hermitages and monasteries cut from rock.
 

Khalil Gibran, a Lebanese-American artist, writer and poet was born in Bsharreh in 1883 and lived until 1931. His best known work is his ‘The Prophet’ and, after Shakespeare and Lao-Tzu, he is the 3rd best selling poet in the world. 

Day 5 : Baalbek - Ksara - Aanjar - Beirut

Visit Baalbek, Ksara, Aanjar and return to Beirut for overnight.

Visit Baalbek (the "Sun City"), arguably the most important Roman site in the whole Middle East. After marvelling at the temple complex in Baalbek, drive to the famous Ksara winery to take a tour of the winery and to sample some of Lebanon's finest wines. From Ksara drive to the predominantly Armenian town of Aanjar. Visit the beautful Umayyad ruins here before stopping for lunch in Aanjar town. After lunch return to Beirut. Rest of the day free.

Meal plan : Breakfast & lunch


For centuries the temples of Baalbek (a.k.a the “Sun City”) lay under metres of rubble, obscured by medieval fortifications. Excavation and restoration work began in 1898 however and it has since been recognized as hugely important in Roman history as it acts as a model of Imperial Roman architecture. It is probably the most important Roman site in the whole of the Middle East. Baalbek's temples were built on an ancient tell that goes back at least to the end of the third millennium B.C. The temple was begun in the last quarter of the 1st century B.C., and was finished by the 3rd century AD. The temples were closed in 313 AD when Christianity became the Roman Empire’s official religion. Baalbek’s collection of stunning temples, mosques, courtyards and statues are a must for any visit to Lebanon.
 


Whereas, most sites in Lebanon are a mixture and culmination of different rulers and eras in history, the archaeological site in Aanjar is exclusively from one period – Umayyad. These Umayyad ruins date back to the 8th century and are unique in being the only inland historical commercial centres. Since 1943, archaeologists have been intrigued by what these ruins tell of the Umayyad dynasty that ruled Damascus. Aanjar has a special beauty and is a rectangular town, protected by walls, each with an impressive gate protected by towers. Nowadays, It is the only walled city remaining in Lebanon.

Lebanese wine tradition dates back 5,000 years, when the ancient inhabitants of Lebanon, the Phoenicians, first began tending vineyards. The Phoenicians exported wine to ancient Egypt, Rome, Greece and Carthage, introducing the world to viticulture and oenology. Lebanon is also said to be the place where Jesus performed the miracle of turning water into wine.   Originally started in 1857, Ksara winery has blossomed in recent years, producing some excellent vintages. Over the past decade, Ksara has seen the introduction of new grape varieties that have grown into vines nurtured by the Bekaa Valley. Ksara has also seen developments in technique such as vines cultivation on wires and the attentive application of advanced science by French oenologists, who watch over the vinification, fermentation and decanting processes. You will enjoy a self service lunch at the winery including salad, local cheeses, desserts and wine.

Day 6 : Departure

Breakfast. Transfer to Beirut airport.

Breakfast. Transfer to Beirut airport.

Meal plan : Breakfast


What's included

INCLUDED Airport pick-up & drop-off Ground transport Accommodation Entrance fees to sites Breakfasts and some meals (refer to itinerary for meal plan) Drivers and guides
All tour descriptions and conditions are given in accordance with the information of Travel The Unknown
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