When you think of the Middle East, inevitably countries like Israel, Syria and Iraq come to mind immediately. Not many people think of some of the ‘quieter’ countries like Jordan, Iran and Lebanon, depending what you class as quiet! Despite recent upheavals in the Middle East, several of the countries remain safe to travel to, with minor regional alerts, primarily when concerned with land borders. If you haven’t been to the area before, one of the best countries to cut your Middle Eastern teeth on is the country of Lebanon.
Lebanon – An Introduction
Lebanon is a beautiful and intriguing coastal Middle Eastern country, enjoying warm, dry summers and cool, wet winters. Despite the heat in the summer, it remains the most popular time of year to visit as between the months of June to August rain is virtually non-existence, meaning you don’t necessarily have to prepare for wet weather, but to avoid mass tourist crowds spring and autumn are ideal along with cooler weather and less humidity. Lebanon recognises both Muslim and Christian holidays so it’s best when planning your trip to keep in minds the popular holidays of Ramadan, Christmas and Easter. Lebanon has a fairly generous visa policy for many, with visas being offered on arrival and a number nationalities being able to enjoy at least one month visas, extendable up to two months. Check in advance for your individual nationality as some require a lengthy visa application process.
The capital city of Lebanon, Beirut is a large bustling city with something to offer everyone. From the traditional markets that line backstreets to the more modern and westernised shopping malls, finding what you need in Beirut is easy. The downtown core of the city of Beirut is a huge draw for tourists, which is comprised of many open air cafes which offer locals and tourists the opportunity to just kick back, relax and people watch. Beirut is generally a beautiful place to get lost in the backstreets of the city, where many unique shops and cafes can be found, along with truly local eating options which can be lower in price than in the more tourist centres. There is a vibrant nightlife in Beirut which is enjoyable to experience if one is so inclined, but if not, there is a plethora of other restaurants, cafes and places where people of all ages seem to intermingle to enjoy the company of friends.
Lebanon is awash with numerous regions of stunning beauty that must be seen to be believed. Places like the Jeita Grottoes, underground caves with stunningly blue-green waters, lit up to be even more strangely serene and welcoming, is just one example of some of the natural beauty that can be seen throughout the country. The grottoes are located north east of Beirut, the grottoes are an easy day trip from the capital. The Qadisha Valley, in north Lebanon, located south east of the city of Tripoli is an impressive region comprised of deep gorges, mountains, hills and hiking trails dotted with villages, chapels and mosques and is a perfect option for travellers to Lebanon who like the outdoors.
So there you have a quick run down on Lebanon for first timers. Lebanon is such a welcoming, safe country with so much to see and do, it’s easy to see why it experiences increased tourism year after year, especially for first timers to the region.