We would be the first to recommend cosmopolitan Beirut as the ideal base for discovering Lebanon’s wealth of historical and natural sights, but we would also urge you to spend at least a couple of nights away from the capital for the opportunity to see a very different side of this diverse Mediterranean country.
Whilst Beirut boasts an ever-growing number of luxury hotel options, leaving the bustling capital behind for a few days, gives you the chance to enjoy Lebanon at a more grassroots level by experiencing some of the charming homestays and cosy boutique hotels scattered across the country.
Byblos, for example, just 35km north of Beirut, is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and is a UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site. The city’s touristic heyday was in the 1960s and ‘70s when it garnered a reputation as an upscale resort for the rich and famous. Big name visitors included Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando and the hotel of choice for these high rollers was always the Byblos Sur Mer. With a prime position right on the city’s horseshoe-shaped harbour, this boutique property has never looked in better shape and, once more, Byblos is re-emerging as an upscale and hip destination for the discerning traveller.
Perhaps one of the most exciting stories to have come out of Lebanon recently is the news that Baalbek – one of the world’s most stunning Roman sites (pictured top) – has returned to the travel map following an update by the FCO of their Lebanon travel advice. Having languished within a “no-go zone” for years, visitors to Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley can now once again look forward to exploring a site that rivals Jordan’s Petra in its magnificence.
Arguably, the closest hotel to Baalbeck is the delightful L’Annexe, a five-room boutique hotel just steps away from the site. This lovingly restored 19th-century traditional Lebanese home boasts warm hospitality and has an unbeatable location for exploring one of the Middle East’s most breathtaking UNESCO sites.
Lebanese cuisine is renowned the world over and there is no denying that Beirut has some amazing restaurants but heading into the countryside opens up opportunities to sample some delicious home-cooked fare. In the picturesque village of Douma (80km northeast of Beirut), the Beit Douma is a rustic 19th-century Ottoman-style house where the home-cooked food is so good, it’s difficult to tear yourself away from the dining table. What better way to start the day than with a traditional breakfast on the property’s terrace, followed by a guided walking tour of this delightful village, nestled in the magnificent Batroun Mountains.
Heading south, Tyre is another ancient city that is worthy of a night or two. Dating back to the times of the Phoenicians, it is also situated on the coast (85km south of Beirut) and an ideal place to overnight while discovering Lebanon’s southern attractions. The city itself has more than its fair share of archaeological wonders including the mighty Roman Hippodrome, another of the country’s five UNESCO sites.
The lovely Dar Alma is a boutique hotel that is extremely well located for independent exploration. Its position in the historic part of the city and close to the harbour means discovering the old town on foot is a real joy and, when you are done, the property’s bijou private beach or inviting outdoor patio, are both lovely places to relax and listen to the mesmerising sounds of the Mediterranean Sea before having sundowners and a traditional Lebanese dinner in the hotel’s cosy restaurant.
Lebanon may be a small country but it has always packed a punch when it comes to unforgettable sights… Roman ruins, Crusader castles, a stunning coastline, mouth-watering cuisine, beautiful scenery – need we go on? However, the increasing number of luxury guesthouses and characterful boutique hotels that are peppered across different regions of the country mean you don’t have to always travel back to the same base after a full day of sightseeing. Overnighting outside of Beirut offers a wonderful opportunity to get off the beaten track, explore a little of rural Lebanon, enjoy traditional hospitality, and slow your holiday down to a leisurely pace.
Contact our experts to discuss how these and other handpicked luxury guesthouses and boutique hotels in Lebanon can be incorporated into a personalised tailor-made holiday.