Overview & dates
Home to some of the Middle East’s most ancient archaeological sites, Lebanon has a rich and varied heritage which has stood the test of time. Discover the birthplace of the modern alphabet at Byblos, and marvel at the stunning Roman complex of Baalbek. Explore the Sea-Castle of Sidon, wander through the ruins of Ancient Tyre and marvel at the Temple of Eshmoun, as you uncover the secrets of this desert-swept land.
This trip can be run on dates to suit you, please contact us for more information and to let us know when you would like to travel.
All tours in Lebanon
Experience Beirut's beguiling mix of antiquity and modernity
The National Museum in Beirut
Byblos, birthplace of the alphabet
Baalbek, vast Roman complex
Ancient cities of Sidon and Tyre
The Temple of Eshmun
Beirut - Byblos - Baalbek - Anjar - Sidon - Tyre - Eshmun Beirut
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Day 1 : Beirut
Flight to Beirut. Evening free to relax. Overnight in Beirut.
Arrive into Beirut airport where you will be met by your Travel The Unknown representative and transferred to your hotel. Evening free to relax.
Meal plan : n/a
Day 2 : Beirut
Entire day sight-seeing in Beirut. Evening at your leisure. Overnight in Beirut.
After breakfast, spend the entire day sight-seeing in Beirut. Evening at your leisure.
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 The first historical reference to Beirut dates from the 14th century BC, when it is mentioned in the cuneiform tablets of the Amarna letters, three letters that Ammunira of Biruta (Beirut)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.
Day 3 : Byblos
Breakfast. Travel to Byblos. Explore the site. Return and overnight in Beirut.
After breakfast, travel to the ancient wonder of Byblos and explore the site. Return to Beirut for a free evening and overnight stay.
Meal plan : Breakfast
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.
Day 4 : Baalbek - Anjar
Breakfast. Travel to Baalbek and Anjar. Return and overnight in Beirut.
After breakfast, depart to visit the historic cities of Baalbek and Anjar. Overnight in Beirut.
Meal plan : Breakfast
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.
Founded during the Umayyad period under Caliph Walid Ibn Abd Al-Malak (705-715), the city of Anjar was an inland commercial centre, at the crossroads of two important routes: one between Beirut and Damascus and the other crossing the Bekaa and leading from Homs to Tiberiade. Only discovered by archaeologists at the end of the 1940s, excavations uncovered a fortified city surrounded by walls and flanked by forty towers, a rectangular area (385 x 350 m). Dominated by gates flanked by porticos, an important North-South axis and a lesser East-West axis, superposed above the main collectors for sewers, divide the city into four equal quadrants. Public and private buildings are laid out according to a strict plan: the great palace of the Caliph and the Mosque in the South-East quarter occupies the highest part of the site, while the small palaces (harems) and the baths are located in the North-East quarter to facilitate the functioning and evacuation of waste waters. Secondary functions and living quarters are distributed in the North-West and South-West quarters. The ruins are dominated by spectacular vestiges of a monumental tetrapyle, as well as by the walls and colonnades of the Umayyad palace, three levels of which have been preserved. These structures incorporate decorative or architectonical elements of the Roman era.
Day 5 : Eshmun - Sidon - Tyre
Journey to Sidon, Eshmoun and Tyre. Retur to Beirut for the evening and overnight stay.
Journey to visit the archaeological site of Sidon, stopping first to visit the Temple of Eshmun. Continue to Tyre for a visit of the town. 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.
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.
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.
Day 6 : Beirut
Breakfast. Visit to The National Museum of Beirut followed by a trip to the American University of Beirut. Overnight in Beirut.
After breakfast in the hotel, make a leisurely visit to the National Museum of Beirut. Followed by a trip to the American University of Beirut.
Meal plan : Breakfast
The National Museum of Beirut is the main archaeological museum in Lebanon. Opening in 1942, it boasts around 1,300 artefacts which date from pre-historic times to the Medieval Mamluk era. Most of the finds are Medieval, but the museum holds a reputation for ancient Phoenician objects.
Day 7 : Beirut
Breakfast. Flight home.
After breakfast you will be taken to Beirut International Airport for your return flight home.
Meal plan : Breakfast
All tour descriptions and conditions are given in accordance with the information of Travel The Unknown