Lebanon…From Antiquity to the 21st Century

February 3-14, 2023

Lebanon in a Nutshell

Lebanon has been a melting pot of many civilizations, beginning with the Phoenicians, to later conquerors, occupiers and more; Persians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Crusaders, Arabs and more. The diversity of Lebanon is embodied in the country’s Constitution which provides representation for its eighteen confessional groups, ranging from Christians, Muslims, Druze and other confessional groups.

Today, Lebanon is playing host to more than two-million Syrian refugees, swelling the country’s own population of some six million people. This has put an enormous economic strain on the country, compounded with a very corrupt government that has also drained the banking system. As a result, what was a rather easy currency situation until October 2019, where the US dollar and the Lebanese pound were interchangeable, the Lebanese currency has since been devalued 90%. Thus, many Lebanese who were middle class are now quite poor and thus, one is often confused as to the prices of nearly all commodities and services from day to day, as people adjust to the currency exchange of the day. This banking currency issue has been compounded by the August 2020 bombing at the Beirut port, which not only brought death, but left many families homeless, as well as destroying many businesses, particularly in some of the liveliest areas. Despite all of this, the liveliness and resilience of the Lebanese people will be very evident and remains one of the nicest features of Lebanon. 

Your guide, Elie, will enlighten you about this and further explain the situation.

 

 
Tour Itinerary

Day 1, Friday, February 3– Beirut arrival
Upon arrival to Beirut airport, our driver will transfer you to your boutique hotel in central Beirut. Take some time to relax and recover from your flight.

At night, there will be a “Welcome Dinner” introducing you to your fellow travelers and what will be the first of many Lebanese culinary treats that will be interwoven throughout the trip. Overnight in Beirut. (D)

Lebanese culinary treats

Day 2, Saturday, February 4 – Beirut
Beirut is a wonderful walking city. It has many neighborhoods, often a reflection of the demographic make-up of its residents. Today’s touring will be interspersed with walking, driving in the city and a visit to the National Museum.

Archaeological ruins found in central Beirut while rebuilding after the Civil War

You will learn throughout this trip how the many faiths and ethnic groups among the Lebanese interact in daily life, from the confessional system of the government to Beirut neighborhoods and to more outlying regions of Lebanon, that we will visit in the days to come. You tour includes the National Museum of Beirut, with its extensive archaeological remains.

Marble, the Santuary of Eshmus, found near Sidon, Lebanon. Ca 350 BC

Your walking tour will take you to what were prior to the Civil War, the souks of Beirut…souk el balad. Today, the old souks are gone and replaced by modern stores and cafes.  This is all near Martyr’s Square, where political protests frequently take place.

Saturdays are also a day to visit Souk-a- Tawlet, an interesting project that gives small farmers and food producers an opportunity to show their products in the heart of the city. Open only on Saturday mornings, you will find stalls with everything from honey, cheese, bakery goods, wine plus much more!

Dinner and overnight in Beirut.  (B)

Souk-a-Tawlet, displays of honey, olives, jams and more…

Day 3, Sunday, February 5 – Jelta Faqra, Jeita, Harissa, Byblos

Today’s touring will take you north of Beirut and will begin with a visit to one of Lebanon’s most known sites, “Our Lady of Lebanon”.  A statue of importance to Lebanon’s large Maronite Catholic population, though visited by Lebanese and tourists of all backgrounds, while also providing a view of nearly all of Beirut and the sea.

We will also be visiting Jelta Faqra today, one of Lebanon’s largest Roman sites.

Your touring continues with a visit to the Jeita Grotto, which are natural caves of magnificent stalactites and stalagmites.

As you continue north, you can stop for lunch in Jounieh, a primarily Christian town that also is known for its casino, which attracts visitors from all areas of Lebanon, or another town depending on your hunger level.

Continue your drive north to the charming town of Byblos. Sundays in Byblos are full of families enjoying the peaceful setting of flowers, cafes and nice seaside views. You will have the opportunity to visit the remnants of Phoenician, Roman and Crusader presence.

We suggest enjoying some of the many cafes or restaurants in Byblos for dinner.  Fresh fish is always available, as well as good Lebanese wines. You won’t be driving, so live it up!!!

Dinner and overnight in Byblos or Byblos.  Overnight in Byblos. (B)

Approaching one of the many ruins in Byblos

Day 4, Monday, February 6 – Byblos, Tripoli

This morning we drive north to Tripoli, the second largest city in Lebanon. Tripoli has a long history of importance, having been on the trade route of many civilizations who have left their marks, not limited to but including Mameluke and Ottomans, whose influence is found today in the city’s architecture and primarily Muslim population. 

Return to Byblos. Dinner and overnight in Byblos (B)

Tripoli is the only town that still has an old-style souk

Day 5, Tuesday, February 7 – Batroun, Smar Jebel Church and Castle

This morning we visit Batroun, a city that claims to be one of the oldest, continually inhabited cities in the world. The town is the capital of the Batroun District, whose population is a mix of Maronite and Greek Orthodox.

Your touring continues to Smar Jebel Church and Castle. Said to be one of the oldest towns in Lebanon, the castle is built on a hill overlooking the Mediterranean. It was home to Maronites who found its location played a strategic role in being able to see on coming invaders. The Romans came and took over the town, so one can find remaining Roman ruins. It was then controlled by the Byzantines, who persecuted the Maronites. When the Crusaders came, they took control and following the Crusaders, the Mamluks came in the 13th century. They were in turn defeated by the Ottomans who came in the early 16th century.

Before driving to Byblos, you visit Our Lady of Nouriyyeh church, also known as Our Lady of Light.  Legend has it that the church was built by two sailors in the 4th century. It is a pilgrimage site for Christians of Lebanon. Overnight in Byblos. (B, L)

Day 6, Wednesday, February 8 – Tyre, Anjar, Kefraya, Masser e Chouf

You will have the opportunity to visit other churches and monasteries, as well as be treated to some amazingly beautiful mountain vistas.  We will also visit Sidon, another coastal city approximately forty-five minutes from Tyre. Return to Tyre. Dinner and overnight in Tyre. 

Day 7, Thursday, February 9 – Tyre
Today will be devoted to touring Tyre, visiting the areas around the seaside and port, as well as the historic area where Roman ruins remain. Overnight in Tyre. (B, L, D)

Day 8, Friday, February 10 – Anjar, Beauford Crusader Castle, Zahle |

This morning, we leave Tyre heading in a south and easterly direction, partly to avoid going through the mountains, which may likely be hampered by snow. Dinner and overnight in Zahle. (B, L, D)

From Tyre, you drive east for less than an hour to the Beaufort Castle. The war with Israel in 2000 designed to rid Lebanon of Hezbollah was another destructive time in Lebanon’s modern history.

Our touring continues to take us to the 11th century Ommayid ruins of Anjar, which has a large Armenian population till today.

From Anjar, we drive to Kefaya, a beautiful small town in the mountains of central Lebanon.  We will visit the winery of Kefraya and have lunch.  One of the principals will talk about how they developed the winery, while also having to contend with Lebanon’s civil war.

Lebanon has a robust wine industry that has origins dating back to thousands of years.  You will visit one of the many wineries in the Bekaa Valley, as well as having lunch.

Continue to the charming town of Zahle. Dinner and overnight in Zahle. (B,  L, D)

Day 9, Saturday, February 11 – Baalbeck, Ksara winery
This morning we drive to the highlight of Lebanon’s archaeology, Baalbeck. Set deep into the Bekaa Valley. Baalbek is a massive and impressive archaeological site, whose origins date to the Greek period from the 3rd century BC and then under the Romans.  One can easily spend at least two hours exploring the site, as well as its museum.

Following the visit to Baalbeck, followed by a nice winery, you return to Beirut. Overnight in Beirut. (B, L)

Scenes of Baalbeck

Day 10, Sunday, February 12 – Beiteddine ,Deir El Qamar
Today’s touring includes Beiteddine and Deir El Qamar, following by an early return to Beirut. The remainder of the afternoon in Beirut is independent. Overnight in Beirut. (B, L).

Day 11, Monday, February 13 – Beirut     
Today is a free day in Beirut to explore on your own. We gather this evening for a Farewell Dinner. Overnight in Beirut. (B, D)

Day 12, Tuessday, February 14 – Departure from Lebanon
You will be transferred to the airport for your departure flight out of Lebanon.

By now, you certainly seen most of the landmarks of Lebanon, and you must be thrilled by what you’ve seen and learned.

 
Accommodations/Hotels
 
Costs/Expenses
Services included in the package:
  • Itinerary in Lebanon as described, including entrance fees on sites indicated in the program
  • Private English-speaking guide, plus private vehicle with
  • Meals as indicated by B, L, any other reference to meals is for narrative purposes, only.
  • Hotels as noted.
  • Airport transfers as noted
 
Services not included in the package:
  • Gratuities to Lebanese guide and driver
  • International flight to Lebanon.

Total COST $7,295 per person. NO SINGLE SUPPLEMENT