Tour type: Small Group
Group size: Min: 2 | Max: 12
Accommodation: 4-star hotels, guesthouse & monastery
Transport: A/C car/minibus/coach
Highlights: Beirut, Beiteddine Palace, Tyre World Heritage Site, Sidon Souk, Baalbek temple complex, Ksara Caves wine tasting, Cedar Forest, Qadisha Valley, Baatara Gorge & Waterfall, Byblos harbour & history, Jeita Grotto, Harissa cable car
Spend 8 days exploring Lebanon, located on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. Though small, Lebanon is rich with history, culture and was the site of some of the world's oldest human settlements.
On this tour, you will visit the great Phoenician cities of Tyre and Sidon. You will see Byblos, the oldest continually inhabited city in the world, and the City of the Sun, the most well-preserved temple complex in the Middle East.
This Lebanon tour is also perfect for lovers of nature and scenery. You will see several natural phenomena, including the Ksara Caves, Rock of Raouche, the Baatara Gorge Waterfall, and the Jeita Grotto. You will visit the birthplace of the renowned poet Khalil Gibran and see the famous Lebanon cedar trees, mentioned in the Old Testament.
Your tour starts with your arrival at Beirut International Airport. Our representative will meet you, and you will be transferred to your hotel. Overnight in Beirut.
Extra day in Beirut - pre-tour
Single Room Supplement (LBSGLE)
We leave Beirut after breakfast and today's first destination is Barouk Cedar Nature Reserve, also known as the Al Shouf Cedar Nature Reserve. It is the largest nature reserve in Lebanon and is rich in biodiversity, with 500 species of plants and 32 species of wild mammals calling this sanctuary home. The most famous of course are remnants of Lebanon's ancient cedar forests, mentioned in the Bible. Barouk Cedar Nature Reserve also contains several important archaeological and architectural sites and is classified as an Important Bird Area (IBA), with 200 species.
Next, we drive to the Chouf Mountains to visit the village of Deir al Qamar, its name meaning "Monastery of the Moon". The village is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was the capital of Lebanon during the 17th century. It is quaint and charming, with stone houses and winding roads.
We then continue onto the beautiful Beiteddine Palace. The palace, constructed in the 19th century by Emir Bashir, is exceptionally well-preserved and is a testament to the opulence of the time.
The remainder of the day is spent touring Beirut, Lebanon's capital and largest city. It is one of the oldest cities in the world, and has had a turbulent history, both ancient and modern. This is evident in the contrast of modern buildings seen alongside small old houses and historical architecture, some still displaying bullet holes and damage from the civil war in the 1970s. Highlights visited include the Beirut Souks, the Corniche, and the downtown region. We will also see the Pigeon Grotto, or the Rock of Raouché, a famous natural formation rising out of the sea.
Today we tour the south of Lebanon. We begin by visiting Tyre, also known as Sour in Arabic. It is more than 4,000 years old and was a great ancient Phoenician city. Tyre is filled with important historical landmarks and is currently a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Our next destination is Sidon, or Saida, also an ancient Phoenician city, possibly the oldest. The city became wealthy due its excellent production of glass, as well as a purple dye extracted from murex, a type of shellfish. It is now a fast-growing city, and important both administratively and commercially.
In Saida, we will visit the Crusader Sea Castle, the great Mosque, Khan el Franj, and other interesting sites. You will also get the chance to stroll through the old souks. Overnight in Beirut.
Today we head to Baalbek, a definite highlight of any visit to Lebanon. Called "Heliopolis" or "City of the Sun" by the Romans and Greeks, it is home to a famous temple complex that is superbly well-preserved. This complex, which is one of the finest examples of Roman architecture at its peak, was built as a sanctuary dedicated to worshipping the Heliopolitan triad of god- Jupiter, Venus, and Mercury.
Pilgrims would flock to the temple in their thousands in order to venerate the triad. Still largely intact, the temple has outstanding artistic and historical value.
We then visit the Umayyad city of Anjar, located in the Bekaa Valley. Founded in the 8th century by Caliph Walid, it provides evidence of excellent town-planning and features mosques, palaces, and baths. It also features 600 shops, indicating that it was an important commercial centre.
The last stop of the day is at Ksara Caves, where we find the oldest winery in Lebanon. It was founded in 1857 by Jesuit priests. The caves are approximately two miles long and were used as cellars to stores the wines. We enjoy a guided tour of the caves and the winery, where you can sample some of the finest wine in Lebanon.
Today, we head to The Cedars Ski Resort, found in the north of Lebanon, famous for skiing and snowboarding. The area known as the Cedars of God is found nearby, and contains the last remaining groves of the cedar forests that once thrived in the region. The cedar trees of Lebanon- Cedrus Libani- are famous- they are mentioned in the Old Testament and are the national symbol of the country.
We drive to the nearby village of Becharre, the birthplace of the iconic novelist and poet of Lebanon, Kahlil Gibran. The village contains a museum dedicated to him, featuring his paintings and manuscripts.
During the afternoon, we visit Qadisha Valley, another UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is known as the Holy Valley, and the Holy River, Nahr Qadisha, flows through it. Many caves are found along its steep cliffs, used as shelters and burial sites in ancient times. We spend the night in the Monastery of St. Anthony, in a separate building with simple but comfortable en-suite accommodation.
Mar Antonios Kozhaya Monastery
Those interested may rise early this morning to join morning prayers with the monks of the monastery. Later after breakfast, we visit the unique Baatara Gorge sinkhole, where during the winter and especially rainy periods a 255-metre waterfall cascades into an enormous cavern known as the Baatara Pothole. The cave is also called the Cave of the Three Bridges, for the three natural stone arches over which the waterfall drops. This is a spectacular natural phenomenon and we have time for a short hike here, and can also explore nearby Douma Village. A traditional Lebanese lunch is included today.
We finish the day in the beautiful coastal town of Byblos and can spend a pleasant evening exploring the old streets around the harbour which are busy with cafes and restaurants.
Today we start by touring Byblos, another ancient Phoenician city that has been inhabited since 5000 BC. It is known locally as Jbeil and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Byblos is filled with significant historical and archaeological sites, and also features a lovely Phoenician harbour.
Next, we visit Harissa, famous for containing an important Christian shrine dedicated to the Virgin Mary, known as Our Lady of Lebanon. We take a cable car to the top of the Basilica, from where we can enjoy a spectacular view of the Bay of Jounieh.
We then experience a thrilling visit to the spectacular Jeita Grotto. Here a system of limestone caves spans a distance of almost 9 kilometres, and contains one of the largest collections of stalactites and stalagmites in the world. It is a symbol of the country and was a finalist in the New 7 Wonders of Nature competition.
Today is the last day of the tour and your time is free to explore Beirut some more until you are transferred to the airport for your departing flight home.
Extra day in Beirut - post-tour
Winter Season adjustments:
During the winter season from December till March, the monastery accommodation at Mar Antonios Kozhaya, and the tours on Days 4-6 may be adjusted subject to the weather conditions (as snow does sometimes close some of the roads). Should this be the case, the itinerary will be adjusted to suit the current conditions. Should any locations/activities be missed, they will be replaced by other tours and activities in Lebanon that are not affected by the winter weather.
This tour has regular small-group departures all year round starting on Saturdays. The tour is also available privately on any other dates. Please contact us for more information and prices.
The hotels and accommodations listed below are the ones we most often on this tour. From time to time we may exchange these for similar properties at the same level. In general, specific hotels cannot be guaranteed on our group tours, but you may select your preferred options if you are booking a tailor-made trip.
Three o Nine Hotel
The 309 Hotel can be found in the centre of Ras-Beirut, giving you easy access to excellent restaurants, the seaside Corniche, the Hamra shopping district and Beirut's popular downtown.
The 309 Hotel has a host of different accommodation options, ranging from single deluxe rooms, double deluxe rooms, junior deluxe suite, single superior rooms, double superior rooms, junior superior rooms and executive superior suites.All rooms are fitted with air-conditioning, LCD televisions, cable tv, a mini bar, complimentary tea and coffee, blackout draping, heated towel racks, hairdryers and more.
This rustic B&B hotel is located in the Zahle city centre, within walking distance from the souks. It has several room types, and offers free WiFi. It features a bar, coffee shop, business centre, and garden.
Auberge Braidy is located in the heart of Zahle, surrounded by pubs and restaurants and near to the Zahle souks. It is a former old political house that has been refurbished into a rustic B&B hotel. It features standard, double, and twin rooms. Free WiFi is available in the rooms and public areas, and there is a business centre on site. Facilities include a coffee shop, bar, terrace, and garden, as well as a health club available for use at a partner property.
The Qozhaya Monastery is located in Lebanonâ€™s Qadisha Valley, a World Heritage site. The guesthouse is set apart from the monastery and features simple rooms with en-suite facilities, with charming decor.
The Qozahya Monastery of St. Anthony is found in the Qadisha Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for the caves found along its steep sides. There is a guesthouse located at the monastery, which features simple but comfortable accommodation. The rooms are charmingly decorated and have en-suite facilities.
Aleph Boutique Hotel
This boutique hotel overlooks the Mediterranean in the historical city of Byblos. It is located close to the famous Byblos ruins, and has 26 rooms and suites. Free WiFi is available, as well as a range of facilities and services.
Aleph Boutique Hotel is found within the historical city of Byblos, overlooking the Mediterranean, just 5 minutes from the world’s oldest ruins. It has 26 rooms and suites with unique decor, each with TVs, minibars, and hairdryers. There are conference facilities, a rooftop restaurant, beach accessibility, a concierge service, and free WiFi in the lobby and rooms.
Our tours are designed to include all that you need to enjoy a really special time in the destination youre visiting. However, we do also offer some extra options to complement the tour and add some additional sightseeing or activities, or some extra time at either end of the tour.
All accommodation based options (e.g. Single supplements, extra nights, cruise upgrades) should be booked and paid for in advance so that we can make the appropriate arrangements. Other options may either be booked and paid for in advance or while you are on the tour, though we recommend booking in advance to ensure there are no issues with availability.
Many options are priced the same throughout the year, but some may incur single or high season supplements - full details are given on the tour reservation form or on request.
The detailed Tour Notes below have been written to give you some more detailed information about how the tour runs, what to expect, and how to prepare for your holiday. We recommend downloading an up to date copy of these shortly before you travel in case of any changes.
This tour uses a mix of accommodation including good quality 4-star hotels in Beirut and Byblos, a comfortable guesthouse Zahle and rooms in a separate new block at Monastery of St. Anthony in Qozhaya. Rooms at the monastery are simple but comfortable and en-suite and you may join the monks for their morning prayers.
Accommodation is based on twin or double en-suite rooms with air conditioning. Please visit the accommodation tab of this tour for examples of the hotels normally used on this tour. These are subject to change to alternative properties of a similar standard. If you have any specific accommodation requests please let us know and we'll be happy to provide you with a customised quotation for a private tour.
Single travellers may choose to share a same-sex twin room with another traveller on the tour. Should a room share not be available, the single supplement is payable, but will be refunded should a room share become available later. Room shares are arranged in order of booking.
Our trips feature a mix of different transport options. We want you to feel like you're really experiencing the country you're travelling through, but at the same time we want you to finish journeys refreshed enough to enjoy the next stage of the tour. Our routes in Lebanon and the small distances involved mean that we use private vehicles throughout this tour. Vehicles will be selected to be comfortable for the number of travellers in the group.
Your airport transfers are only included on the first and last day of the set tour itinerary, plus on any additional days if you book your hotel room with us. If you make your own arrangements for additional accommodation at either the beginning or the end of the tour then you will need to arrange your own airport transfers on these days.
We want to give you as much flexibility as possible when it comes to booking your holiday with us. So, to take account of people with varying travel plans, we don’t include your international flights in the main tour price. We are however very happy to suggest flights to go with the tour. Please contact us with your preferred dates and departure airport and we’ll give you a selection of airlines, times and fares to choose from.
Your airport arrival & departure transfers are included on the first and last days of the tour.Nearly all our Lebanese tours start and finish in Beirut airport (BEY).
Our small-group tours in Lebanon run with a minimum of 2 and maximum of 14 travellers in the group.
Tailor-made tours are priced based on 2 people travelling. Discounts and customised quotations will be provided if you are travelling in a larger party.
In Lebanon we provide fully trained, local English-speaking guides for all of the sightseeing tours. At Encounters Travel we aim to only use local guides and reps. We feel this gives you the best experience of the country and the sites you are seeing.
The tour price includes entrance fees to all the tourist sites mentioned in the itinerary. If you visit any sites not mentioned in the itinerary then you will need to cover the entrance fee costs.
Tipping is common practice in Lebanon, as a sign of appreciation for services provided. You may therefore wish to tip your guide and driver at the end of the tour. You should not feel obliged to tip any particular amount, and should consider your personal budget. We are often asked to provide a guide however, and can suggest that approx. GBP 5 / USD 8 per person per day would be appropriate.
You should ensure you are fully insured for medical emergencies including emergency evacuation and repatriation.
Recommended vaccinations and other health protection measures vary according to the country you are visiting and where you are travelling from. We recommend you contact your GP/medical practitioner or a travel clinic for current information on vaccinations needed for your destination. You should ensure that you are up to date with vaccines and boosters recommended for your normal life at home, including for example, vaccines required for occupational risk of exposure, lifestyle risks and underlying medical conditions.
In addition, additional courses or boosters normally recommended for the countries in this region are:
Egypt: Tetanus, Typhoid, Hepatitis A
Jordan: Tetanus, Hepatitis A
Israel: Hepatitis A, Poliomyelitis
Lebanon: Dipheria, Hepatitis A
Malaria is not generally present unless it has been contracted abroad; you do not need to take malaria prophylactics.
Note: We are aware of some places in Egypt using 'black henna' instead of pure brown henna. Black henna contains a chemical dye PPD (paraphenylenediamine) which can result in severe allergic reactions and resultant scarring. To be safe we recommend avoiding any henna tattoos while in Egypt unless you are certain they are using pure brown henna.
Passports should be valid for at least six months after your departure from the country. Please do not bring an almost full or almost expired passport. Visa arrangements are the responsibility of the traveller, and requirements are subject to change by the local authorities.
For many nationalities visiting Lebanon a visa on arrival is possible at Beirut International Airport. This applies to most countries of the Commonwealth, European Union, Russia, Japan and the US continent. Even if you are eligible for a visa on arrival, it is prudent to check up to date requirements with your nearest Lebanese consulate.
Other nationalities may require a visa prior to arrival and to obtain this in advance, please contact your local Lebanese embassy or consulate or a visa agency for details.
IMPORTANT: The Government of Lebanon denies entry to Israeli passport holders, Israeli visa holders (valid or expired) and those with any evidence of travel to Israel within their passport.
The time in Egypt, Jordan, Israel and Lebanon is GMT plus 2 hours and in UAE GMT plus 3 hours. Daylight saving adjustments have historically been applied in some years but not others. At present it appears that there will be no daylight saving changes in Egypt 2016 and beyond, though this may change at short notice (with a resulting impact on flight times and schedules). In Jordan and Israel, daylight saving of one hour is generally applied between the end of March and the end of October, making it GMT plus 3 hours. Exact dates vary from year to year and sometimes the changes may be scrapped altogether.
Sockets are two round pronged and 220 volts (Type C). Universal adaptors are available in most airport shops if you don't have one already. Standard European adapters will work fine, though sometimes they may feel a little loose in the sockets. All hotel rooms have electrical sockets where you can re-charge cameras, phones etc. Hair dryers are normally available on request from the hotel reception if not in your room already.
If you have US appliances (110 volts) you will need a voltage converter as well as a plug adapter.
The local currency in Lebanon is the Lebanese Pound (called Lira). You do not need to arrange to bring any Lebanese currency with you as exchange facilities are available in the international airports and in most hotels, banks and bureau de changes in major towns. You should try to obtain and keep hold of small denomination notes or coins on you during the tour as these are useful for toilets, tips and small purchases. ATMs are readily available in major towns and many local shops will accept VISA/Mastercard or Amex, but may charge additional fees - check before you pay. Travellers cheques are not recommended as they can not be changed in many places now, and can incur high fees.
While in Lebanon you will need sufficient funds to cover meals not included in the itinerary, drinks, snacks, souvenirs and personal expenses such as laundry. These should generally all be paid for in local currency, though tips for guides and drivers may be paid in hard currency (GBP, USD, EUR).
It is difficult to recommend a level of personal spending money which will suit everyone as this can differ greatly, but as a guideline, we would suggest allowing USD 25-35 per person per day as a minimum. Allow more if you plan on doing lots of shopping, or buying many alcoholic drinks.
Luggage: Suitcases, rucksacks or fabric holdalls are all fine to bring with you to Lebanon. You should also bring a small daypack/bag to take out during the day. Your main luggage will normally be left in the hotel during your sightseeing trips – you will not need to carry it far, and there are nearly always hotel porters to assist.
Luggage limits: There is no luggage limit for this tour. However, most airlines restrict you to between 20kg and 25kg for your hold luggage and between 5kg and 10kg for hand luggage. Please check with your airline before travelling to the airport.
Clothing: The Lebanese climate varies widely from hot days in the summer to cold and wintry days in the winter. At night, especially in the mountains, the temperatures can drop quite dramatically. So you must pack for cool and potentially wet conditions. Formal dress (eg. suits & ties) is not required. Modesty rates highly in some parts of Lebanon, especially for women, so to respect the local culture and people, we recommend all clothes are loose fitting and not revealing. Shorts (not hot-pants) are OK in tourist sites, as are T-shirts, but these should not show too much bare flesh (we suggest that your shoulders should remain covered). When visiting any mosques, legs and arms should be covered. Bikinis and swimwear are however commonplace on some of the country’s beaches.
Other items: We also recommend you bring a sun hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, a basic first aid kit, toiletries, money belt, small torch, camera & charger.
Small-group departure dates run regularly all year round, starting on Saturdays. The tour is also available privately on any other dates if our group tour dates don't work for you or if you would prefer to travel in just your own party. Please contact us for more information and prices to fit your preferred dates and number of travellers.
If you would like to book a place on this tour, please complete the online reservation form on our website (via the Dates & Prices tab on the tour page). You may make a deposit or full payment online, or just hold a reservation if you prefer (full payments are due 8 weeks before departure). We will then contact you with more details about how to complete your booking. Payments may be made by debit or credit card (subject to a card processing fee), or by making a bank transfer, or posting us a cheque/bank draft. Full details will be provided in your booking confirmation email. Please contact us if you would like any more information or have any questions before making a booking.
Travel insurance is compulsory on all of our tours and needs to cover personal accident & liability, medical expenses and repatriation, travel delay & abandonment. We also strongly recommend that you take out cover against cancellation and lost/stolen baggage. Personal medical insurance does not normally provide sufficient cover and is generally not suitable for travel on our tours. You will not be able to join your tour if you have not provided us with details of your insurance or if you arrive without cover in place (no refunds will be due in this event). More information...
You may arrange your own insurance, or you can take advantage of a comprehensive policy that we can arrange for you through Endsleigh Insurance which has been designed to be suitable for our tours. The policy is available to travellers of all nationalities and you do not need to live in the UK to take out the policy. For full details of cover provided, prices and to apply for one of our policies, please complete travel insurance application form.
Note: Any country that borders the Mediterranean is considered as 'Europe' for the purposes of travel insurance (including Turkey, Israel, Egypt and Morocco). If you are doing a tour that visits one country in 'Europe' and one that is 'Worldwide' (for example, an Egypt and Jordan tour), then you need a 'Worldwide' policy. When completing the form you should enter your travel dates including any extra days involved in overnight flights or connecting travel between your home and the tour. Our policies are not able to cover any extra time or activities other than your tour and options booked with us and your travel to & from home.
Note - to comply with insurance sales regulations, our travel insurance policies are only available to customers booking directly with us. If you have booked through a travel agent you will need to arrange your own insurance.
If you plan to arrange a hot air balloon flight locally, or do some scuba diving during your tour, you should check the small print in your policy to make sure these are covered (these are covered in our policy). Please also check the maximum altitude that you will be reaching and that full cover including emergency evacuation is provided up to this altitude.
If you are taking expensive camera gear or other electronic equipment with you then please check the coverage and the fine print of your policy to ensure that you have sufficient cover.
IMPORTANT: We must have your travel insurance details (policy number and type of insurance) before you depart or you may not be allowed to join the tour. If you haven't told us already, please let us know the details when you can. You should take a paper copy of your insurance policy with you as you may be asked to show this at the start of the tour.
We are a UK registered company and an ABTA Member (Y4447) and you can be confident when booking with us that your money is safe and protected.
Financial failure insurance is also provided through Affirma to protect all customers for the land portion of your tour.
Please see our website or booking conditions for more information.
It is impossible not to have an impact on the local environment, cultures and eco-systems when you travel. However, it is very possible to try and ensure that these impacts are as limited, or positive as possible. We are committed to ensuring that we try to leave our host countries in a better state than we found them and encourage and assist our travellers to help us with this.
The following are a few simple tips that require very little effort on your part but which will help ensure that any effect you have on the locations you visit is positive rather than negative.
All porters are employed and equipped following guidelines set by the International Porter Protection Group (IPPG).
You can stay in touch with us online by following us on Facebook and Twitter. We post updates on relevant travel news in our destination countries, special offers and discounts and other interesting travel related news and information.
www.twitter.com/encounterstravl (yes, without the 'e')
It is important when considering and preparing to travel anywhere in the world that you have a good understanding of the country you are visiting, its laws and customs, and the possible risks and situations that may occur. This includes specific risks related to your itinerary (eg. does it involve water & can you swim, are you fit enough for the activities included), as well as more general risks such as terrorism and natural disasters.
General details and links to more information about health risks, visa requirements, money, and travel insurance are given in these tour notes. We recommend that you re-read all these before your departure as well as the small print of your travel insurance policy so you know exactly what is covered and what is not.
You should take copies of your important travel documents with you and ideally also store them online securely as a backup. Make sure that you have given us your emergency contact details and told that person where and when you are travelling. Ensure you take enough money with you and that you have access to emergency funds.
Finally, you should read through and stay updated with the current official government travel advice for your destination. We are registered partners with the UK Foreign Office's 'Travel Aware' campaign which provides further useful and invaluable information.