11 Non-Touristy Experiences in Lebanon
Lebanon | © rabiem22/ Flickr
Lebanon is definitely a Middle Eastern tourism hot spot, but being a small country, it may be hard to find original ways to spend your time. Here are some places to visit and things to do that remain off many visitors’ radars. You’ve just got to know where to look.
Akkar, a stretch of land making up most of Lebanon’s north, is largely underappreciated and untouched by rampant development. Rent a car and drive up north, wander through small villages and marvel at Lebanon’s natural beauty. There are several villages scattered here, and it is one of Lebanon’s best natural treasures. Some of the best places to see are Qammouaa’, one of the highest points in the region. There are lots of places to rent motorbikes, as well as camping sites. Check out Kobayat, the home of Akkar’s music festival and one of the best places to stay.
Akkar District, North Governorate, Lebanon
Mountains, North | © Amani El Charif
Zaitunay Bay is a large waterfront venue in Beirut. It’s a hub of restaurants and shops with high-end vibes, and is especially popular with locals for breakfast. Restaurants like Zaatar ‘w’ Zeit and Bartartine are favorites. The posh atmosphere is supplemented by the yacht club, looking over the waters.
Whenever anyone mentions skiing in Lebanon, people think of the Cedars. While Cedars is beautiful, there are other spots where locals go to for their winter skiing, like Faraya. The resort is Lebanon’s finest, with well-maintained slopes of varying difficulty and several hotels, like the Intercontinental and Terre Brune. Its peaks are as high as 2465 metres, with breathtaking views of Beirut and Jounieh. If you want a high-end ski weekend then this is the place to come.
Faraya Slopes │ | © Taras Kalapun/ Flickr
Marvel at the Baatara Gorge Waterfall
While this could be considered touristy, trips to the waterfall are not as organized or as mainstream as those to many other places. You’ll definitely feel the beauty and isolation of nature. Marvel at this natural wonder and enjoy taking some pictures. Who said being a tourist is always a bad thing?
Baatara Waterfall, Chatin, North Governorate, Lebanon
Baatara Gorge Waterfall, Tannourine © diak / Shutterstock
Go camping in Chouwen
Jannet Chouwen is one of the best places to set up camp in Lebanon. Nestled in the Jbeil District, this lake, hiking and camping ground is the perfect place to enjoy Lebanon’s nature. The main draw of the site is the swimming lake, and it’s especially good to camp beside. Chouwen village is the starting point for hikes through the Jabal Moussa reserve and towards the lake. This reserve is a natural haven with secret walkways, historical buildings and rich wildlife, including small mammals like badgers, hedgehogs and squirrels.
Chouwen Lake, Aabra W Chouaneh, Mount Lebanon Governorate, Lebanon
See Lake Qaraoun
This artificial lake should be your next stop when visiting Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. Enjoy a boat ride around the lake and picnic surrounded by magnificent views. It’s the largest artificial body of water in Lebanon, and home to pelicans, storks and raptors. Try to distinguish between the 110 species of ducks on the water!
Qaraoun Dam Overlook, Qaraoun, Beqaa Governorate, Lebanon
There are many vineyards and wineries in Lebanon, and they’re excellent places to relax. Places like Chateau Kefraya and Chateau Ksara offer wine, food and views to enjoy. Lebanese wine is rapidly gaining a wide audience and is enjoyed regularly by locals.
Chateau Kefraya | © objectivised/ Flickr
Wander through Taanayel Walks
Taanayel is a farm village that can be visited in all seasons, as in each it offers unique spectacular views. There are shops to eat at and nature to take a walk in. Better yet, rent a bike and fly through the site’s amazing trails.
Taanayel, Beqaa Governorate, Lebanon
Climb the Mar Mikhael Stairs
Not sure where to take the perfect picture on your visit? Walk up the Mar Mikhael Stairs in Beirut and snap a few Instagram-worthy shots of these colorful steps. The steps themselves date from the Ottoman Era, but were painted by locals and the local design school A.L.B.A (Academie Libanaise Des Beaux-Arts) in an effort to draw the public’s attention to them and to help in their conservation.
Mar Mikhael, Beirut, Mount Lebanon Governorate, Lebanon
Mar Mikhael Stairs | © Amani El Charif
Walk through Tal in Tripoli
Tripoli is a curious city with a mix of old and new buildings and a touch of chaos. In the center is the Tal district, where you can clearly see Tripoli’s different stages of development, as new apartment building blend into old ones. The district offers a vision of what Tripoli used to be like in the 20th century.
Al Tal, Tripoli, North Governorate, Lebanon
El Tal, Tripoli | © Amani El Charif
Don’t have a Lebanese friend to invite you over for lunch? Away from the touristy restaurants, there are many that serve Lebanese food you’ve probably never heard of. Other than the typical tabbouleh-hummus-kabab combo, there are many other dishes worth trying. Some great local restaurants include Hallab and Baytna in Tripoli. Make sure to try the famous Warak Inab, vine leaves stuffed with rice and ground meat, or Kousa bi Banadoura, a stuffed zucchini cooked in tomato soup.
Kousa Mahshi | © Fanfo / Shutterstock