This is the ultimate 5 day Lebanon travel itinerary. It will thoroughly explain how to do day trips from Beirut to the Rock of Raouché, Jeita Grotto, Harissa, Byblos, Chouwen Lake, Baatara Waterfall Gorge, Baalbek Ruins, Kadisha Valley and Cedars of God.
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Lebanon 5 Day Itinerary
Lebanon is a fantastic country to visit. I (Dan) grew up in multicultural Sydney in the 1990/2000s and had 2 Australian-Lebanese best friends. They first opened my eyes to the vibrant Lebanese culture. Their families were warm, hospitable and generous people who prioritised family and community. They fed me delicious traditional Lebanese cuisine, until I could eat no more.
I particularly remember one of these friends returning from a trip to Lebanon. He went to Lebanon to visit his family when we both were 13 years old. I had never been overseas before and wouldn’t for another 5 years. He told me about his holiday and challenged my stereotypes of what I imagined the landscape of the country to be. I would think of the Middle East and I would think of the desert. “There is no desert in Lebanon” my friend would say. “There are beaches and mountains. You can surf and ski all in the same day if you wanted to”.
His comments would stick with me. It would be 15 years later that I would visit this beautiful country. Unfortunately, stereotypes exist. Many people would double take me when I told them my next trip would be to Lebanon. It is true that few tourists will visit.
Lebanon Travel Itinerary Details
I believe this to be one of the most thorough 5 day Lebanon guides on the world wide web. However, if you have more than 5 days to explore Lebanon, I recommend reading Against the Compass. His detailed 2 week Lebanon itinerary is excellent.
Day 1 – Beirut City & The Rock of Raouché
My flight arrived mid morning which gave me from midday onwards to explore the city and coastline. If you arrive late and are therefore unable to explore the city, please add another day to your itinerary!
SIDE NOTE: My style of travel is generally focused on escaping the hustle and bustle of metropolitan areas. Thereby exploring unique landscapes and the great outdoors. Although today will involve seeing beautiful sea stacks from the coastline, to truly experience Lebanon and its way of life, walking the city of Beirut is a must! Take note, that walking here is completely safe. Just be careful when crossing roads as the locals’ driving here can be pretty erratic. Also, be prepared for Syrian refugees that may beg for money. Interestingly, of the 6 million people living in Lebanon, 2 million are refugees. 1.5 million are Syrian refugees.
1. Beirut City
The city: After my host kindly fed me Lebanese pizza upon arrival, I set off to the National Museum of Beirut. Entrance was 5,000LBP ($3.33USD). The Museum houses a great array of prehistoric archaeological artefacts. The focus is it’s collection on Lebanon’s pre-war history. Interestingly though, the museum was closed during the Civil War (1975-1990) as it was in the firing line. There is an interesting section detailing curators’ having to save the museum’s collections, hiding them in the basements.
After 1-2 hours here, head to Nijmeh Square (town square) to see the famous Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque and Saint George Maronite Church side by side. Because of the protests though, Nijmeh Square had turned into a tent city which was gated off. The protests mainly occur during the night. So there wasn’t really much to see, other than an unrecognisable town square! I looked around to satisfy my curiosity but I didn’t feel the need to stay for long. Thankfully, I could see the beautiful religious buildings from afar. At least there were some Roman Bath ruins close by that were interesting to view.
2. The Rock of Raouché
Lebanon’s famous sea stacks: I then headed to the area of Raouché, on the coast. From there, the Rock of Raouché, otherwise known as the Pigeon Rocks were beautifully set. A truly lovely spot for sunset! Grab a shawarma from a nearby restaurant for dinner.
Day 2 – Jeita Grotto, Harissa & Byblos Day Trip with Zingyride
Epic day trip: When in Lebanon, hiring a car is not really an option unless you’re feeling very brave with driving! Also, public transport is just about non-existent. So this itinerary will involve doing group tours. This is generally the easiest way to see the main attractions. Although, a nice Japanese couple told me they were able to get a minivan to Byblos from Beirut. Catching a minivan is indeed what I did for another day trip (Baalbek Ruins), but consider the day’s itinerary. They missed out on seeing other beautiful places on the coast that were possible to do on a tour.
I can highly recommend Zingyride. They offered a group tour for $35USD. The cheapest online price. It was great value. Would you believe, there was only one other person on the tour. You guessed it, another Aussie! Additionally, they offer accommodation pickup. Our guide @ogadragon was a friendly, funny and honest guy. He organised the day well, but also educated us on the current situation in Lebanon which was fascinating and eye opening! If you would like to book a Zingyride tour, use our promo code ZTMMDIY5 at the checkout for a 5% discount on any tour!
3. Jeita Grotto
Firstly, we headed to Jeita Grotto. The jewel of Lebanese tourism. It narrowly missed out on being chosen as a new Wonder of the World! The spectacular interconnected limestone caves span nearly 9km! It was certainly worth the 18,315LBP ($12USD) entrance fee. The tour does not cover the fee. You will visit upper and lower caves; of which the latter will be explored by a rowboat. Please note that Jeita Grotto is closed on Mondays.
Afterwards, you will arrive at Jounieh. Here, you will enjoy a cable car ride up to the Statue of Our Lady of Lebanon in Harissa. This point overlooks Jounieh Bay, offering stunning views of the town and coast.
Finally, you will explore one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world dating back 8,000 years. The beautiful port town of Byblos. We explored Byblos Castle which was worth the 7,000LBP ($4.70USD) entrance fee. It is a partially restored crusader castle from the 12th Century. The castle houses many fascinating plaques detailing the history. Also around was the old souq, a gorgeous old port and the quaint St. Jean Marc Church.
Day 3 – Chouwen Lake & Baatara Waterfall Gorge with Zingyride
Another day, another Zingyride tour! Not only did I have the pleasure of exploring Lebanon with the fantastic guide @ogadragon once more, but I would be lucky enough to be the only person on this group tour. So I only paid $75USD for a group tour but essentially had a private tour worth $150USD. This was likely because I visited outside of peak season. Again, use our promo code ZTMMDIY5 for 5% off any tour.
Usually the Chouwen Lake trip is a full day tour. However, we finished the hike quicker than expected. It was too cold for a swim. So the amazing @ogadragon agreed to also take me to the Baatara Waterfall Gorge. This is usually an entirely different day trip on its own! However, I cannot guarantee that your Lebanon travel itinerary will include this! This is because since then , Zingyride has grown in stature. They still offer THE cheapest tours in Beirut, but the trip I did may now classify as a customised private tour. This would cost more than I paid. Nevertheless, the guides from this company are super flexible, accommodating and easily the best in Beirut. So don’t hesitate to organise a tour with them!
6. Chouwen Lake
The Chouwen Lake is a hidden gem of not only Lebanon, but of the Middle East. My good friend from Sydney had been to all of the places on this itinerary, except this lake. He didn’t even know it existed! That is how unknown it is. Instagram is to thank for its emergence as an attraction. The hike is an easy 7.2km return taking no longer than 3 hours at a moderate pace. The highlight was a viewpoint halfway into the hike towards the lake with sublime views of the emerald green water. Truly stunning!
The weather will dictate how long you spend at the lake itself. It was a cooler overcast day for us. So we chilled at the lake for a while but decided not to swim. Actually, we got absolutely soaked on the way back. There was even some small hail stones! Luckily I had my Osprey Ultralight Raincover for my backpack.
7. Baatara Waterfall Gorge
Lebanon’s famous waterfall: Afterwards we headed to the Baatara Waterfall Gorge, otherwise known as the Cave of 3 Bridges. I visited in early November when the waterfall was minimal. It was actually barely noticeable. Just a trickle! The best time of year to visit would be February-May once snow has melted from the peaks above the valley. Nevertheless, the gorge opening created an epic amphitheatrical natural wonder. The waterfall is actually possible to walk behind! It drops 255 metres into the Balaa Pothole; a cave of Jurassic limestone. Best of all, you may have the whole place to yourself this time of year.
Day 4 – Baalbek Ruins
I’m not exaggerating or overstating when I say that seeing the Baalbek Ruins was one of the most amazing travel experiences I have ever had! The Baalbek Ruins was my highlight of the entire Lebanon travel itinerary. The temples at Baalbek are the largest of the Roman Empire. Also, the town of Baalbek is one of the oldest areas of civilisation going back 9,000 years!
Zingyride now offers a cheap group tour day trip to Baalbek, Anjar and Ksara for $40USD. I would have chosen to do this tour if it existed when I visited! However, I managed to get there and back independently. This was at least the most budget friendly option!
Are the Baalbek Ruins Safe to Visit?
Safety: Many people will ask this question. This is fair, considering it is located in the Bekaa Valley nearing the Syrian border. Personally speaking, I had no issues visiting the Baalbek ruins. I felt safe the entire time. Although, please note that sometimes it’s possible to hear shelling (gunfire) coming from Syria. The sound will be amplified in Baalbek as the town sits in a valley, producing an echo that makes the sound seem closer. I was assured that the conflict would unlikely cross the border. It is heavily guarded. Plus, the last time war spilt over the border directly affecting Baalbek was in 2013.
Another reason people question the safety of Baalbek is because the Bekaa Valley is an area of heavy Hezbollah presence. There have been incidents of kidnappings in the past. However, kidnappings of tourists have become rare since the end of the Civil War. The last documented kidnappings involved 2 Germans abducted in 2013. Prior to that, 7 Estonian cyclists were kept hostage and freed 4 months later in 2011.
Baalbek Ruins Safety Verdict
More on safety: Fortunately for tourists but unfortunately for Syrians, extremists involved in such woeful acts now turn their attention to the many Syrian refugees. In seeking refuge from their war torn country, they carry all their possessions and wealth on them. So these refugees sadly become easy targets for kidnappings and similar horrific acts.
Nowadays a trip to the Baalbek ruins should be safe. Perhaps going with a tour group will put your mind at ease. However, I managed an independent trip just fine.
Getting to the Baalbek Ruins
Getting there: Catch an Uber to the ‘Cola’ bus station. It was a 15-20 minute ride from my accommodation near Mar Mikhael was $5.70USD. From there, find the minivan that goes to Baalbek. A nice man directed me to the right one. Once it’s full, the minivan will leave. About 30 minutes later, we were on our way to the Baalbek ruins! The driver stopped many times throughout the 2 hour journey to pick up passengers for smaller journeys. The trip was 7,000LBP ($4.70USD) each way. We were dropped off just outside of town. This meant we needed to get a taxi to the Baalbek ruins. I shared the ride with a couple for 2,000LBP ($1.33USD) between us. Entrance to the Baalbek Ruins was 15,000LBP ($10USD).
8. The Baalbek Ruins
The three temples of Bacchus, Jupiter and Venus are truly spectacular. From start to finish, you will be in constant awe at the sheer size of the ruins at Baalbeck and how well they’ve been preserved. One potential downside to doing a group tour would be that you will spend only 1-2 hours here if you are visiting other places on the same day. You could happily wander the ruins and associated museum for hours. It was actually difficult to pull myself away. However, around 4pm it was time to head back to Beirut as the last of the minivans leave around late afternoon.
Day 5 – Bcharré Village, Kadisha Valley Tour & Cedars of God with Zingyride
Unfortunately due to a lack of participants, this tour that I was very keen on did not take place. This was certainly a downside to visiting Lebanon outside of peak season.
Given my friend’s recommendations, I insist that your Lebanon travel itinerary involves a visit to the gorgeous Kadisha Valley. It has the Mar Lichaa Monastery magnificently built into the vertical cliff wall. Other monasteries are similarly located within the valley and date back to the 14th Century. The stunning valley is home to the serene town of Bcharré. It acts as a starting point for accessing the valley. For which, there is great hiking.
The simple yet elegant Cedar Tree is a native species. It’s significance as an emblem of the country is obvious. The tree is on the Lebanese flag. The Cedars of God, found in the nearby beautiful Tannourine Cedar Forest Nature Reserve is also a must see. The oldest, most famous and therefore most visited reserve in Lebanon. This tour with Zingyride is $80USD. But apply our promo code ZTMMDIY5 for 5% off this and any other tour.
What About Tyre, Sidon and Maghdouché?
Other Lebanon day trip ideas: For those looking to save or those with more time to travel Lebanon, an alternative or additional group tour is now offered by Zingyride. A day trip Tyre, Sidon and Maghdouché could be added to the Lebanon travel itinerary. It is $35USD. Highlights include discovering the many monuments of the UNESCO World Heritage listed Tyre, visiting the Sidon Sea Castle built by the crusaders in the 13th Century, followed by admiring the Old Cave and Al-Saydeh Ancient Church of Maghdouché.
Honestly speaking though, if you had to choose one, go to the Kadisha Valley. Its attractions are more unique and different from the rest of the itinerary. Tyre and Sidon do sound genuinely amazing. But because you will already visit the lovely seaside town of Byblos with its crusader castle, as well as Harissa with its famous Lady of Lebanon monument, the Tyre, Sidon and Maghdouché day trip would be to some extent similar to Day 2 of the itinerary.
Lebanon 5 Day Itinerary Recap
Lebanon is a wonderful country to visit. There is really something for everyone here. Phenomenal history, fascinating culture, delicious food, amazing attractions and spectacular natural landscape. Being a hiking enthusiastic, you’ll have some fantastic trails to conquer in a beautifully serene setting. Given circumstances as of late 2019, it is worth being diligent and researching the current socio-political situation before deciding to visit.
Is it Safe to Travel to Lebanon?
Smart Traveller is the Australian government’s official online directory for travel advice. They generally advise against travel to Lebanon. But as a whole, as of November 2019, Lebanon is a safe country to visit. It is by far one of the safest countries in the region. Although there are areas to avoid. For instance, you must not travel to areas nearing the Syrian border or the often volatile north-eastern Bekaa Valley region. The 5 day Lebanon travel itinerary does not intend on visiting such areas anyway so never fear!
Although the Baalbek Ruins are located in the Bekaa Valley nearing the Syrian border, they’re still a safe distance away. I will go into more detail about the Baalbek Ruins later in this post.
Obviously though, the situation can always change. Please read the news and stay up to date with your government’s travel advice before deciding to travel follow this Lebanon travel itinerary.
I don’t claim to be an expert on geopolitical or sociopolitical matters of the area. So I will not go into much detail concerning such topics. However, it is necessary to mention the current Revolution taking place there in regards to impact on travel.
The 2019-2020 Revolution
The Revolution: I booked a flight to Beirut about 3-4 months in advance. One of the downfalls of being so organised was that I did not take into consideration a changing social environment upon my arrival. I even considered cancelling my trip. However I was assured by my friend that it would certainly still be safe to go. As long as I used common sense and was mindful of my interactions and surroundings.
I won’t go into detail about the Revolution itself. Although I wish the absolute best for the Lebanese people in these times of political and social unrest. But I will say that personally speaking, I visited in November 2019 and luckily my travel wasn’t affected. This was after thousands of demonstrators took over the streets of Beirut to protest only a few weeks earlier. I went about my itinerary with no issues. Albeit there were days in October 2019 and other sporadic days since, when roadblocks have made travel very difficult and unpredictable.
Getting to Lebanon
Flights: There are many flight connections from Europe and most Middle Eastern countries to the Beirut Rafic Hariri International Airport. Beirut is also where you’ll be based for the 5 days. It is possible to drive the entire length of Lebanon in around 3-4 hours! So being based in Beirut, as exemplified in this Lebanon travel itinerary, shall not stop you from seeing the breadths of the country. Even the Baalbek Ruins can be easily seen on a day trip from Beirut.
Getting From the Airport to Your Accommodation
STORY TIME: A VERY valuable lesson was learnt at the airport. Scam taxi drivers will charge you an arm and a leg to drive you from the airport to the city centre. I had even been warned beforehand. But I still got scammed! A trip that should cost no more than $20-25USD set me back $50USD! I thought I had gone to the official taxi rank but someone approached me from there. He insisted his taxi was official but parked around the corner. I wrongfully followed and continued to walk with him just outside the perimeter of the car park. In hindsight, this set off my alarm bells and I should have followed my gut instinct and walked away. But I had already committed. So I went along as he was nice enough.
Lesson learnt! If anyone approaches you or seems desperate to offer their taxi service at the airport, it’s likely a scam.
Unfortunately, there are no public transport options from the airport (nor any public transport in the entire country other than minivans). A fellow traveller told me he had got an Uber from the airport to the city centre for around $10-15USD. So Uber is my recommendation. True to my word, the return Uber trip to the airport when leaving 5 days later was $12USD!
Airbnb: Using Airbnb, I booked an entire flat for $24.50USD/night for 5 nights. It was a standalone rooftop level flat atop a five storey apartment. Essentially, a family that lived in one of the flats downstairs also owned this. They help guests throughout their stay. The family was incredibly welcoming, accommodating, helpful and friendly. Because I was staying at the Airbnb, they considered me family. Upon returning each night, the hosts’ mother had cooked snacks and even dinner. A true insight into Lebanese hospitality. Accommodation in Beirut is generally expensive so the Airbnb was great value!
The Airbnb was located in North Beirut. Close to the trendy Mar Mikhael with it’s bars and restaurants. I admittedly didn’t explore too much as I was always too full to move after devouring my host family’s cooking!
I highly recommend an Airbnb. I’ve even read there is a big Couchsurfing community in Beirut. Either way, you will get an enhanced cultural experience staying with locals. Thereby, enjoying the real Lebanon! I wouldn’t recommend Booking.com for this trip. Hotels are very expensive and so are hostels, relatively speaking.
Currency: In November 2019, due to the economic crisis, banks were closed. ATMs had stopped dispensing money! So I would need to take cash, but in what currency?
My friend gave me a heads up on this matter before I went. Basically, everywhere accepts $USD. Also, the LBP (Lebanese Pound) can be difficult to attain outside of the country. So take $USD! In Lebanon, they use a standard conversion rate of $1USD = $1500LBP (1:1.5 ratio). Change is generally given in LBP. This can get confusing.
Hopefully this guide can roughly help with estimating how much $USD you will need to take. See ‘Total costs’ below for more information.
The traditional cuisine is a good reason to visit Lebanon. The list of delicious Lebanese foods is very long. The pastries like Ma’amoul, fried delights like Kibbeh, Tabouli salad, the dips like Hummus and Baba Ganoush, the desserts like Knafeh and Nammoura, the Kafta meat and their style of pizza – Manoush with Za’atar. Oh the mouth waters! Luckily, the Airbnb host family cooked most of these meals for me on most evenings free of charge.
Eating out at restaurants in trendy areas like Mar Mikhael can cost between $20-30USD/night. Cafes and bakeries that sell many of the traditional treats and pastries including Za’atar Manoush are very cheap. It’s a good way to try all the different pastry type of food on offer.
As of late 2019 and early 2020, inflation has made shopping at supermarkets much more expensive than usual. I was surprised that groceries in Beirut cost more than in London! So unless you’re particularly fussy, buying your food from the many mini markets and corner stores in the neighbourhoods of Beirut will be much cheaper.
A 5 day Lebanon travel itinerary certainly wasn’t enough time to see everything. However, 5 or even 4 days are necessary to see the bare minimum. Ideally, 7 days would give you the opportunity to see the highlights of the country.
Egypt would be my next destination. Flying to Cairo from Beirut wasn’t particularly cheap. Using Skyscanner, I flew Beirut to Cairo with Middle East Airlines for $98USD and booked through Travelgenio. Travel light if possible to save on checked in baggage.
- Flight to Lebanon: $18USD.
- Taxi from airport: $50USD (don’t pay more than $25USD though)
- Accommodation: $24.50USD/night.
- Zingyride Jeita Grotto, Harissa & Byblos day trip: $35USD
- Zingyride Chouwen Lake: $70USD.
- Ubers: $17.70USD.
- Baalbeck Ruins entrance fee: $10USD.
- Transport to & from Ballbek Ruins: $10.70USD.
- Flight out of Lebanon: $98USD.
- Food: $75USD
Total costs will depend on what tour you decide to do on Day 5.
Given the current economic crisis in Lebanon and subsequent inflation, visiting now would not be as economical. Lebanon is by no means a cheap place to travel. This is due to the prices of group tours. But this is unavoidable with a lack of public transportation and difficulty in being able to safely drive a hired car.
One may argue though, that it is possible to get around all of Lebanon using minivans which is very cheap. This may be possible, but very time consuming. It would not be ideal if you have less than a week here. Also, Lebanon is one place where I think it’s worth having a tour guide for not only peace of mind but an insight into the culture and current ways of life.
Five Travel Essentials for Lebanon
- Long sleeved shirt (or base layer) – for the days you head into the mountains, it can be surprisingly cold, so pack layers.
- The North Face TKA Glacier snap fleece jacket – ditto!
- The North Face Venture 2 waterproof/windproof jacket – I was happy to have this one me during the Chouwen Lake hike as there was an unexpected period of heavy rain and hail.
- Columbia water repellent convertible hiking trousers – just in case it rains!
- Travel wallet – securely store your money and any important documents.
If you are hiking with a tour group then you shouldn’t have to worry too much about working out trail navigation. But if you’re needing navigation help during the hike and don’t have any phone reception, consider using Maps.me. Although you need to have at least downloaded the map of the general area beforehand.
- Most Lebanese are at least bilingual: You’ll be happy to hear that the majority of Lebanese people I met spoke excellent English. Even outside of Beirut, English was spoken all around the country, including at the Baalbeck Ruins.
- The Revolution: Protests happen at night. Most nights in my Airbnb I would watch the News, fascinated by the ongoing social upheaval. Although the protests are relatively peaceful, there have been reported deaths and injuries. Also, vandalism and destruction of property was clearly visible in the city centre. Simply avoid areas of protest at night.
- If travelling during the Revolution, expect the unexpected: Roadblocks can happen out of the blue during times of protest. So, if you decide to travel to Lebanon during this time, don’t be surprised by unpredictable events making travelling around or even in/out of the country more challenging.
- Power Outages: It is common for neighbourhoods to have allocated times of the day (e.g. 4-8pm) when power is cut off. This is organised by the government to reduce costs associated with running electricity. It meant I was left in my Airbnb without any power (or Wifi) on numerous times during the trip.
On longer trips, I always travel with a travel wallet to safely store extra money, bank cards and important documents. Visit 66 Items You Must Travel With for recommendations on gear that will help you travel safer and smarter.
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