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Highlights of Lebanon

Categories:

  • Holidays
  • Middle East

Price:

From $1,950

Stay:

7 nights

Travel Dates:

Saturday 21st of September 2019 until Saturday 17th of October 2020

Description:

Highlights of Lebanon - 8 Days / 7 Nights - from $1950* per person (with Explore Worldwide).

Highlights

- Walking in the cedar forests of the Qadisha Valley, following trails among 1,000-year-old trees
- Sleeping in the grounds of St Anthony’s monastery
- Tasting traditional mezze in Beirut
- Breakfast in the souks
- Wine tasting and learning about the wine making process in Lebanon’s oldest winery, dating back to 1857   
- Discovering the crusader city of Byblos
- The jewel in Lebanon’s ancient crown: Baalbek

Itinerary:

Day 1 - Arrive in the capital, Beirut. If time allows, you may choose to take a walk along the waterfront or go in search of Beirut's best falafel. Depending on your arrival time, you will be greeted by your leader or information will be left for you at the hotel regarding tomorrow morning's meeting time. Accommodation: Mozart Hotel (or similar) Single room available Meals Provided: None

Day 2 - This morning, after our welcome meeting, we'll drive south along the coast to Tyre. Now a relaxed, beachfront city, Tyre was once the producer of precious Tyrian purple dye, heart of the Phoenician Empire and an influential port city through many different periods in history. Now naturally divided into two distinct parts, modern day Tyre sits on a headland jutting out into the sea while archaeological Tyre El Bass stands firmly on the mainland; a mere 30 minute walk between the two areas and yet centuries between them. We'll begin exploring the city on foot starting along the seafront to see the once great port now lined with little fishing boats. Continuing through the narrow roads flanked by colourful houses before making our way to the archaeological site of Tyre El Bass. Here, a Roman triumphal arch dating back to the 2nd century AD still stands proud above the ruins. We'll be walking for around three hours over some uneven ground and cobbles, so comfortable shoes are essential. After lunch, the day will be free to relax by the Mediterranean Sea, wander further around the picture-perfect old town with plenty of time to choose somewhere to try the local dish of Saiyadit al-Samak (baked fish and rice) for dinner. Accommodation: Al Fanar Guesthouse (or similar) Single room available Meals Provided: Breakfast

Day 3 - This morning we'll head into Tyre's old souk to seek out a breakfast spot. The Lebanese are known for being overwhelmingly friendly with a love of food, so we'll do as the locals do, and scoop up portions of foul (fava beans) and hummus (chickpeas) with thick, warm bread. After breakfast, we will leave Tyre, travelling north on a short drive to Sidon. Once a very important trade port on the Phoenician sea route, Sidon is now a busy seaside city, where remnants of its ancient past can be found at every turn and the busy souk is draped beautifully in bougainvillea. We'll explore the town's highlights for a couple of hours with our leader, including renovated khans that date back to the 17th century and once operated as 'inns for foreigners' for many the merchants and traders that travelled through on the way to Mediterranean. The local population here is majority Sunni, so dressing respectfully is essential in the old town and souk. Moving on after lunchtime, we'll make our way inland to the Chouf area of Lebanon where we will visit the 18th century Beiteddine Palace complex. Constructed under the orders of Emir Bashir, the palace is an intricate mix of Italian Baroque architecture and Arabian styles which perfectly symbolised Bashir's power and wealth. After a guided tour here, we'll continue on our final short journey to Deir Al-Qamar. This sleepy village, said to be one of Lebanon's prettiest places thanks to its hilltop location and brilliant sunsets, is our stop for tonight. The evening is free to relax. Accommodation: La Bastide (or similar) Single room available Meals Provided: Breakfast

Day 4 - Today, we will see the jewel in Lebanon's ancient crown; Baalbek. After breakfast we will drive east to the Bekaa Valley, arriving at the 'City of the Sun', one of the world's finest, remaining examples of Roman architecture. The details of Baalbek's true origins and history are a highly emotive topic among historians and archaeologists but it's widely agreed that the site dates back some 5,000 years. We'll spend time this morning exploring in more detail with a local guide. After a stop nearby for lunch, we will continue our journey through the Bekaa Valley to Chateau Ksara. Here, we'll learn about the wine-making process as we wander through the two kilometres of Roman wine cellars and around the vineyard of Lebanon's oldest winery dating back to 1857. Of course, the tour will be followed up with the opportunity to try the produce, including the range of red wines for which they are known. Later this afternoon a short drive will take us to Taanayel Ecolodge, our home for the night. Developed together with an NGO to promote sustainable tourism within the region, the lodge is styled like a traditional home to offer an insight into rural family life, with a focus on the hearty food that is common in Lebanese households. Tonight, we'll eat a fresh, homemade dinner of Lebanese dishes under the veranda. The simply furnished rooms have been constructed to resemble old-style mud brick houses surrounding a courtyard where time can be spent relaxing. As well as community focus, the property sources food locally and the water is heated by solar energy. The accommodation only has seven rooms, so depending on group size you may be sharing in a twin or triple room (triple rooms will be same-sex) and each room has a private bathroom. Accommodation: Taanayel Ecolodge (or similar) Meals Provided: Breakfast & Dinner

Day 5 - We'll start the day with a cup of tea and delicious, generously served breakfast in the shady courtyard. We'll depart after breakfast, drive through the mountainous region as we make our way to the Cedars of Lebanon Forest. The drive will take most of the morning along the windy mountain roads but the views down the valleys offer some of Lebanon's most breath-taking scenery making it a very worthwhile and enjoyable journey. Later this morning we'll follow trails through the forest in an area known as Cedars of God, walking between trees over 1,000 years old! Once upon a time, Lebanon's mountains were covered in thick, dense Cedar forest but rapid deforestation due to nobility and industry has led to strict conservation efforts. This now-precious tree is the country's national emblem and is mentioned in the bible over 70 times. We'll walk here for approximately an hour before making our way to the small mountain town of Bcharre for lunch and a little free time. The final leg of the journey is just 30 minutes and leads us to St Anthony's Monastery where we will have free time before a dinner. Dating back to the 12th century, the monastery is still in operation today under the control of the Lebanese Maronite Order, home to resident hermits and the centre of many pilgrimages. This afternoon you may choose to explore in more detail, visiting the church and the small museum, as well the grotto where miracles are said to have taken place. We'll be spending the night in the simple guesthouse that has been built within the monastery grounds. The rooms are twin-share and all have en-suite bathrooms. Accommodation: St. Antoine Monastery (or similar) Meals Provided: Breakfast & Dinner

Day 6 - We'll wake early this morning to the sound of the monastery bells ringing and there will be an opportunity to attend the monk's morning prayers inside the church. The Catholic service is spoken in Arabic and everyone is welcome to attend. After the service, there will time for breakfast before a 90 minute morning hike in the valley. The gentle walk follows dirt paths, surrounded by fruit trees and the route offers spectacular views through the valley and is a great chance to look back at the monastery which is built into the cliff face. Around mid-morning we will leave the monastery and the Qadisha Valley behind, travelling back towards the Mediterranean coast to Batroun. One of the world's oldest settlements dating back over 5,000 years, Batroun has played an important role in different phases of ancient civilisation but is now a relaxed coastal city. Together with our leader, we will walk around the ancient sea wall, the fort and the old souk before free time for lunch. For a refreshing break, be sure to try a glass of the Batrounian lemonade - it is said that people come from near and far to try it and the locals fiercely debate who makes the best! Later this afternoon, drive bring us to the crusader city of Byblos. Later this afternoon, a short drive will take us to Byblos. Another ancient port city rich in history and home to some of the earliest known inscriptions using the Phoenician alphabet. The rest of the day will be free to shop in the old Ottoman souks, choose a quiet spot for a strong coffee, or alternatively head down to the fisherman's' harbour to watch the sun set over the Mediterranean. There are many choices for an evening meal but the seaside location means a great selection of fresh fish options. Accommodation: Ahiram Hotel (or similar) Single room available Meals Provided: Breakfast

Day 7 - After breakfast we will walk to Byblos's 12th century Crusader castle to explore this archaeological site and take in panoramic views over the ruins and surrounding coastline from the top of the castle's keep. The castle is the main attraction here but there are ruins in various stages of decay dating as far back as the Bronze Age, and the site is an excellent example of the many reigns of power that have ruled this area over the millennium. Later this morning we will make our final journey back to the capital, Beirut. Depending on traffic it can take over an hour to reach the city, so on arrival we'll have some free time for lunch before we begin a three hour walking tour with a Beiruti guide. We'll make our way to the geological landmark of Pigeon Rocks that jut out from the sea just beyond the mainland and to the well-preserved remains of the former Roman bathhouse. In addition to these sites, our guide will focus on giving an insight into daily life, how recent history has shaped the community and what it is like to live in the capital where east meets west. We'll celebrate the last night of the trip with a traditional mezze dinner. In Lebanon food is such a key part of family life and is an experience to be enjoyed rather than a necessity; tables are covered generously with small mezze dishes that are shared and accompanied with home-grown wine. There is something for everyone and particular favourites include fresh tabbouleh salad, grilled meats and smoky baba ghanoush. Accommodation: Mozart Hotel (or similar) Single room available Meals Provided: Breakfast & Dinner

Day 8 - The trip ends this morning. Depending on your flight time this morning, some transfers will depart for the airport before breakfast is served. Meals Provided: Breakfast

Departs: Selected departures from 21 Sep 19 to 17 Oct 20

Conditions: * It is our policy to present the cost of our flights & holidays inclusive of all airport and government charges. Please accept however that these charges are not within our control, therefore we reserve the right to pass on any increase. Travel agent professional service fees where charged, will be additional to the advertised prices. 

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