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HOME > Lebanon



10 days ,  Dec'17- Jan'18



Kind of travel:
Me and my wife Elisa with our 5 yo daughter INES and 1yo ENEA in an independent travel

28th Dec'17- 8th Jan'18

Do I need a visa:
No, your passport is enough, unless you do have a Israel stamp on it, then your entry in the country will be rejected. If you are going to travel in the south nearby the Israeli border (as we did) you need a special permit issued by the Security Army Office in Saida (read here). Do not even try to enter the country with any evidence of a trip to Israel, left alone an Israeli visa.

How I moved:
We rented a car in Beirut and we dropped it at the airport (30€/ day). In total we drove 1000km around the country

Freezing or baking:
On the coast temperature ranges between 15C and 20C but rainy days aren't unfrequent. While Beka valley turned out colder than we thought with freezing temperature around 2-5C. On the way from Beirut to Beka Valley (Baalbek) be ready to cope with the snow (we found the road closed twice, read here)

Where I slept:
In the cheapest place we found on booking.com or airbnb, even if Lebanon in term of accommodation is pricey ranging 50-75€ for a triple room. In particular in the south (Saida or Tyre) since cheap accommodation are almost not existing, we ended up in a private room by (Brenda and Denis) in Tyre (45€ for 3 people)

What I liked:
The unique contrast between the Southern/ East Muslim Shia part and the Northern Maronite Christian one, in particular in December when the latter has plenty of Christmas decorations. Visit the sites and learn about the recent war described by different point of views, The unexpectedly wild and snowy mountains and the last but not the least by the world biggest Roman columns in Balbek

What I disliked:
The unfrequent rainy days that make travelling harder, sweeting while driving due to the complete anarchy on the road and the costs since I was expecting a cheaper country. The last but not the least country is very dirty and in particular most of the beaches, so don't expect a sea paradise

How much daily:
Be aware that Lebanon is not as cheap as most of his neighbours: Accommodations (for 3 beds) range 50-70€, car rental 40€/day, dinner for 3 people at the restaurant (30-35€). Considering the extra the budget for 2 adults, 1 toddler and 1 baby has been :160-180€/ day


From 1975 to 1990 Lebanon had been off limits due to the civil war between Christians (backed by Israeli) and the Muslim-Palestine Liberation Organization (backed by Arab countries). For Lebanon the war meant a massively bombing of the capital, receiving hundreds of thousands of Palestinian fled from Israel to the refugee camps and the last but not the least the Israeli occuption of the souther part of the country. What made it painful is that Israel mantained the militar control of that area even after the war ended in 1990. In fact only in May 2000 Lebanon could celebrated the liberation of the country with the Israeli withdrawal whose simbol is the border at Fatima Gate.

click to enlarge
Lebanon cicil war map, click on to enlarge


It's hard for me to be objective about Lebanon, since being interested about geopolitics, I'm attracted by this part of Middle East regardless of the highlights or of the beauty of the country. Having said it there are some pearls as the archaeological site of Balbeek or one of the unique mountain range of Middle East, but still I deem these aren't the real charm of the country since you can find more in the neighbouring ones as Jordan or Israel. What makes the trip worth is the unique religious division in the country, where in the southern part the vast majority is Muslim Shia and the northern Maronite Christian. You'll find to different countries, that's why from my point of view visiting the south should be a must in your travel.


Day Transport Night Price Duration
1 Milan-Beirut
1 night
  Hotel Mozart
75€/ night
Taxi, on foot
2 night
  Hotel Mozart
75€/ night
Beirut to Tyre
Mleeta (Hebollah headquarter)
By rental car
3 night
  Airbnb: Denis and Brenda
50€ per room
Fatima Gate and Beafourt Castle
By rental car     all day
4 night
  Airbnb: Denis and Brenda
50€ per room
5 Tyre, Tyre to Jounieh By rental car     3h
5 night
  Hotel Vanda 55€ night  
6 Jounieh to Tripoli (and back)
By rental car
6 night
  Hotel Vanda 55€ night  
Jounieh to Baalbek
By rental car     6h
7 night
Baalbek   Hotel Kaanan 75€ night  
Baalbek, Baalbek to Jounieh
By rental car
8 night
  Hotel Vanda 55€ night  
9 Byblos
9 night Beirut   Hotel Luxury apartment 40€ night  
Beirut to Milano       6h


The whole family (2 adult,a 5yo toddler and a 1yo baby) landed in Beirut after a short flight from Milan stopping over in Istanbul. We reached the city centre by a 20 min taxi drive relatively costly ( 25$). Temperature, ranging 18 to 20 C, was very pleasant in particular for those coming from the freezing and grey Milan. Our first day we visited the main highlights of the capital: the shopping street called Hamra, seaside walk (‘Corniche) and the city centre. The latter is the one I liked the most, since despite having being completely rebuilt after the 92, the area has still a middle eastern-colonia charm. Definitely Beirut won’t be the highlight of your trip in Lebanon since chaotic and dirty but you cannot miss a glance at least.
The day after we rented a car in the city center (30$/ day + baby seat + full coverage insurance). Driving in Lebanon is feasible but it’s something for the fainted hearts. That’s why I didn't hesitate to have a full coverage insurance, even if at the end I luckily didn’t use it! Needless to say there isn’t respect for any rules and I’m wondering if there’s any rules!
We reached Saita (Sidone for non arabs) to get the permission at the Security Army Office to visit the area around the Israeli Border. Frankly speaking It  came out quite flawless (better of you have your papers erady , read here), and after 2 hours we were already heading to the former Hezbollah headquarter called Mleeta. The site, perched on the very top of a mountain, has been the headquarter till 2010 and now it has turned in a kind of museum to display the Hezbollah weapons, the ones confiscated to the enemies (read Israel), the bunkers with the offices, the mosque….
We spent overnight in Tyro in a room (50$ for 3 beds) managed by Brenda and Denis, an amazing American couple living there since 20 years; I will never recommend enough them because either  most of the hotels are not affordable (about 100€/night) and they are among the best hosts I’ve ever met! If you are curious you can learn a lot by them about the country.
The following day we visited the Israeli border and the Beaufort castle; despite being relatively near to Tyre, due to the winding roads, it has been a long day trip. At the border the most symbolic point is Fatima Gate, where the Israeli army withdrew in 2010. Be ready to find yourself in a militarized area plenty of check points and NATO convoys patrolling  such endless double barbed wire fence on both sides of a narrow no man land strip. Nearby Fatima Gate it becomes a high concrete wall with plenty of murals. On the other hand the Beaufort castle is a scenic 15th century fortress perched on the top of a hill. Apart of the empty fortress, both the scenic drive and the view from the top is  worth.The night was the new year eve, and we were going to celebrate it in Tyre, but we found ourselves so exhausted that we fell asleep enjoying the midnight fireworks from our bed.
Unfortunately the next morning turned out to be quite rainy, but it didn’t prevent us from visiting the archeological sites in Tyre.  Frankly I expected more, since the sites, despite being historically very meaningful, have poor explanations and are badly maintained. On the other hand it’s a pity we couldn’t enjoy Tyre in a sunny day, since it’s popular as the cleanest site for bathing in Lebanon.
Next leg of the travel it has been Jounieh, a city 20 km north of Beirut , where we planned to meet a friend of us working for a local NGO.That’s why we caught the chance to visit all together Tripoli that it’s less than a 2h drive. It has been by far the most authentic town I’ve seen in Lebanon, in particular for the citadel dominating the town uphill of the suq, from where the view is jaw-dropping.
For the following day we aimed to reach Balbeek, the main archaeological site of Lebanon (and maybe of middle east) placed in Bekass valley, on the other side of the Lebanese mountain range. Hence we couldn’t miss the opportunity to have a glance to the Lebanese ski resorts in particular Mzaar, the most popular one. Despite it was snowing, we didn’t hesitate to leave since the hotel receptionist confirmed us the pass was opened, despite it was snowing. In 2 hours drive we were under the ski lifts, but it was so freezing we took few steps on it snapping some pics. Once back on the road, after a couple of km we got halted at a checkpoint since road was closed. So we had 2 options: the first driving back to the cost and crossing the mountains by southern pass, or (the most stupid) finding some gravel road to bypass the closed pass.
Guess what, we chose?
Yes, the stupid one, handing over our destiny to google drive.
After 3 hours, just before the dusk, we were at almost 2000 m, on our crappy Micra (forget 4 wheel drive!) on a muddy snowy untarred road crossing the finger to not get stuck in the middle of nowhere. Remember we had one baby and one toddler on board with us! At the top of the pass we found a jeep 4WD stuck in the snow while another one was pulling them out. Thanks to the help of one of the drivers, we managed to pass through, but after 100m the road got so steep and bumpy uphill that I was pretty sure Micra wouldn’t have managed to climb it up and we had no chance to drive back passing the tough part in the darkness.  With a beating heart I pushed on the accelerator and I could hear the bottom of the car scratching the ground while shaking and bumping. Finally we managed to pass through and my hands were still trembling when we reached the tarred road; definitely I wouldn’t do again.
Once in the Bekaa valley (a long valley along the Syrian border) I realized that, being at 1000m ,it’s unexpectedly freezing. Balbeek is a complex of Roman temples, being the major archeological site of Lebanon and together with Petra and Palmyra the main of the whole middle east. I’m not such big fan of stuff dating so old, where you can hardly figure out something from stones spread around in the fields. However Balbeek impressed me since the structure of the site is relatively intact and above all by the feeling of being so tiny at the feet of the biggest columns worldwide. You cannot leave Lebanon without visiting it!
For Our last day in the country we drove back to the coast to Byblos,  a town that in the past has been one of the most important port of the Mediterranean sea. It’s the most touristy destination of Lebanon, where you can spend a good part of the day visiting the fortress, eating in overpriced restaurants and  buying stuff at the souvenirs shop, that I don’t even dare to define ‘suq’. Byblos is a nice place but not the right one, if you are looking for an untouched Lebanese atmosphere.

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