- Magnificent Baalbeck
- Cedar of Lebanon
- Flavours of Lebanon
- Palace of Beiteddine
Lebanon: Pearl of the Middle East
- Small Group 24 or less
- VIP door to door
- Full board
Discover Lebanon – a land for the curious and adventurous
Historic and beautiful, the small country of Lebanon is home to one of the world’s oldest inhabited settlements, five UNESCO World Heritage Sites, mountain vistas, and the majestic ‘Cedars of God’. It’s also known for its cuisine – regarded as some of the finest in the Middle East, and the warm hospitality of its people.
During your tour, look forward to visiting a variety of important sites and cities including the capital – Beirut, the coastal city of Sidon, UNESCO-listed Tyre, and the ancient Roman city of Baalbeck. Lebanon is still largely an ‘undiscovered’ tourist location although the importance of its archaeology and the unique beauty of its countryside have been appreciated for centuries. This tour provides an opportunity to see accessible parts of the country and its unique highlights, with the chance to visit remarkable historic sites and cities, engage with welcoming people and marvel at the countryside.
For information and advice on visiting Lebanon we recommend you consult the Foreign & Commonwealth Office information which can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/lebanon.
8 nights in hotels
8 breakfasts (B), 7 lunches (L), 7 dinners (D)
Saga tour manager
- Return flights and transfers
- Porterage at all hotels
- Tourist visa for full British citizens resident in the UK
Included excursions and visits
- Tour of Beirut
- Visit the National Museum of Beirut
- The Crusader Sea Castle in Sidon
- Sidon’s old Souks
- Al Bass Archaeological site in Tyre
- Palace of Beiteddine
- Walk in the Chouf Cedar Reserve
- Wine tour and tasting at Chateau Ksara
- Archaeological UNESCO World Heritage Site of Baalbeck
- Gibran Museum, Bsharri
- Walk in the Cedars Forest of the Qadisha Valley
- Hike in the Qadisha Valley visiting religious sites including monasteries
- See the Citadel of Byblos
- Tour of Jeita Grotto
Use of audio headsets on guided tours
Day 1 UK-Beirut
After taking your VIP door-to-door travel service to the airport, fly to Beirut, arriving late evening.
Transfer to the 5-star Le Commodore Hotel (4Q) where you stay for the next three nights. Enjoy some small snacks and fruit in your room on arrival. Situated in the Hamra district of the city, facilities at the hotel include two restaurants, a lounge bar, outdoor pool, and exercise room (situated seven minutes walk away at the nearby ‘Lifestyles’ Health Club). Each of the 203 bedrooms is equipped with a telephone, television, tea and coffee-making facilities, safe and hairdryer.
Day 2 Beirut
Enjoy a leisurely start, before meeting your guide mid-morning and embarking on a tour of Beirut. By the 3rd century AD Beirut had become a city of note when it emerged as a centre for law in the Roman world. It subsequently fell into Crusader control, followed by the Ottomans and finally the French in 1920, before achieving independence in 1940. In 1975 the harrowing civil war erupted, ending in 1991 leaving the city in ruins.
Today large parts of Beirut have been rebuilt including the stylish waterfront and downtown area, but evidence of the conflict can still be seen in the ruined ‘Holiday Inn’ building now regarded as symbol of the civil war, and those in the former ‘green line’ area. The city has a bustling cosmopolitan centre known for its art, culture and fashion, and some of the highlights which you may see include the beautiful Corniche offering views of the Mediterranean and Mount Lebanon, Martyrs’ Square which represented the demarcation line during the civil war, the Al Omari Mosque and Orthodox Cathedral.
During your tour you’ll visit the National Museum – an archaeological treasure house. Throughout history, civilisations and people converged in Lebanon, connecting East and West in ancient times, leaving the legacy of a rich and varied culture which today is reflected in the museum’s collections. Housed in a handsome neo-classical building, the collections range from statuary and mosaics dating from 3000BC to the Byzantine period, as well as a large collection of objects spanning prehistoric to Mamluk periods (13th-16th century AD).
You’ll also visit Beirut Roman Baths – an outdoor site discovered in 1968 and renovated some 20 years later. Excavation continues but these impressive baths with their original hypocaust still intact, offer a glimpse into Roman life in the city. Today they serve also as a popular meeting and performance space.
After your tour return to your hotel and enjoy dinner this evening. B, L, D
Day 3 Sidon and Tyre
Today visit Sidon and Tyre. The coastal city of Sidon has a long history dating back to the 4th millennia BC and beyond, and was an important Phoenician city and commercial hub trading with Egypt. Flourishing during the 5th-3rd centuries BC it was overcome by Alexander the Great and endured changing fortunes during later centuries. One of Sidon’s most important monuments is the Sea Castle which you’ll see today. Built by the crusaders in the 13th century on the site of a former temple, the castle was damaged when taken by the Mamluks and renovated in the 17th century. Within its two towers and connecting walls, lies a small mosque and room. The castle also offers fine views over the city. Please note: parts of the castle are not in a good state of preservation. Walking may be over uneven, sloping or rocky ground.
There will also be an opportunity to see the city’s souq with its narrow lanes and old buildings, including some restored khans – a form of inn with associated buildings that also acted as a centre for trading.
Afterwards, travel south to Tyre which suffered badly during the civil war, but has since been the subject of rebuilding and restoration. The town has a long history of colonisation including the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Crusaders and Ottomans. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage site by virtue of the remains of the great Phoenician city that once stood here. Evidence of the town’s rich past is contained within the Al Bass Archaeological Site which is home to the remains of Roman baths, a colonnaded road and a later cathedral and castle. The site is made up of two areas, the other housing a ruined necropolis and a wide walkway with an impressive triumphal arch (2nd century AD), as well as the remains of a large hippodrome. Tyre is also renowned for the discovery and manufacture of purple pigment known as Tyrian, which was obtained from murex shellfish and used for royalty and nobility from Phoenician times. Lunch is included during today’s tour.
After your tour return to your hotel in Beirut. Enjoy dinner this evening. B, L, D
Day 4 Beirut-Deir El Qamar
After breakfast, depart from your hotel as you travel south to the Chouf region of Lebanon. This historic area with its backdrop of valleys and mountains including Mount Lebanon, was once the home of the country’s Emirs. One of the most celebrated – Bachir Chehab II – was a Maronite christian who ruled during the first half of the 19th century and was responsible for the building of the Palace of Beiteddine nearby, which you’ll visit today. Constructed between 1788 and 1818 this elegant palace with its fine views, has been used by various dignitaries including the country’s first president post independence. Comprising a series of charming courtyards enclosed by elegant buildings the palace features beautiful interiors and also houses a fine collection of Byzantine mosaics.
Afterwards, continue to the nearby village of Deir el Qamar (29 miles, one hour) where you will stay for the next two nights. The home of emirs during earlier times, this enchanting village with its elegant buildings and far reaching views has a souk, museum and historic centre. Enjoy an included lunch.
Later today, take a short walk in the Chouf Cedar Reserve – the country’s largest cedar reserve. Declared a UNESCO Biosphere in 2005, the reserve covers some 5% of the country and is one of the biggest protected mountain areas in the Middle East. Within it lies over six square kilometres of cedar forest, as well as 520 species of plants, 250 bird species and 31 species of reptile. During your walk you’ll see the cedar forests – some of the oldest of all documented forests. Recorded by the Sumerians and mentioned in Gilgamesh and the Bible, these stately trees are revered and feature on the national flag. Growing up to 130 feet high and with a life span of up to 1,000 years, walk amongst these legendary giants before relaxing at your hotel.
Stay 2 nights at the 3-star Deir Al Oumara Hotel (3Q). Set within the historic village the hotel was converted from a former education institution in 2014 and has been listed by the Ministry of Tourism as an historic hotel. From its attractive terrace you can enjoy fine views over the Chouf region. Built in traditional stone the hotel features a restaurant housed in the converted chapel, serving Lebanese food which can be enjoyed inside or outdoors in the courtyard. Each of the 18 tastefully decorated rooms is equipped with facilities including a television and free Wi-Fi. B, L, D
Day 5 Baalbeck
Travel from your hotel to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Baalbeck today, pausing en route at Chateau Ksara, where you can enjoy a wine tasting. Established in 1857 the Ksara vineyard is situated in the Beqaa Valley at an altitude of around 3,000 feet. Grapes are grown organically here on a series of vineyards with the rarest and fine vintage wines stored in caves that date to the Romans. Enjoy a tour of the winery and caves as well as a tasting of a selection of wines produced by the estate. Afterwards continue to Baalbeck, pausing for lunch.
The ancient city of Baalbeck fell under Roman control around 64BC and subsequently became a Roman colony. Today it is a UNESCO World Heritage site, comprising the remains of a series of magnificent temples that stood here, built over a period of 200 years. It is one of the most famous of all Roman sanctuaries, evidenced by its extraordinary architectural and artistic achievements, and sheer size. The heart of the site is dominated by the towering Temple of Jupiter – the largest temple in the Roman world, with its massive 75-foot high columns, of which six remain standing. With stones weighing between 60 and 100 tons, how the Temple was constructed continues to puzzle archaeologists. Close by lies the stunning and remarkably well preserved Temple of Bacchus, its carving and decoration depicting Bacchanate scenes. Although smaller than the Temple of Jupiter, this is perhaps the most spectacular of the buildings at Baalbeck. Take time to admire the relief decoration and sculpture on this temple, including the dancing Maenads found on the parapet. Perhaps contrast these two principal buildings with the more restrained but beautiful Temple of Venus with its curved profile, which can be found closer to the entrance. During your visit look forward to an informative commentary from your guide, helping to bring this important site to life. B, L, D
Day 6 Deir El Qamar-Bsharri
Set off after breakfast for Bsharri in the Qadisha Valley (95 miles, three hours), birthplace of the artist and poet Kahlil Gibran.
Gibran was author of numerous books including ‘The Prophet’ – comprising 26 prose poems representing the collected wisdom of Al Mustapha – a fictional figure who shares his views on the important questions of life with the residents of an island where he lived in exile. Today, ‘The Prophet’ has been translated into 50 languages and has never been out of print since it was published in 1923. Despite being initially criticised by the western world, Gibran’s work achieved huge popularity and inspired the creation of academic chairs. Visit the Gibran Museum housed in a 19th century monastery in Bsharri, which chronicles his life and time spent in America, along with examples of his manuscripts and original art works. Later, after lunch, look forward to a walk in the Cedars Forest. This small forest of the Cedar of Lebanon – also known as the Cedars of God – is one of the remaining group of cedars that once grew in the Mount Lebanon. The wood has been valued throughout history and was in great demand in the ancient world by the Phoenicians, Babylonians and others.
Stay overnight at the 4-star Cedrus Hotel (3Q) in Bsharri where facilities include a restaurant, bar, outdoor terrace and free Wi-Fi. Each of the 40 rooms is equipped with a telephone, television, tea and coffee-making facilities, safe, and hairdryer. B, L, D
Day 7 Bsharri-Byblos
The Qadisha Valley is a UNESCO World Heritage Site not only due to the presence of the Cedars of Lebanon forest, but its significance in terms of early Christianity. The valley was a centre for religious communities and hermits, and the monastic settlements found in this rocky mountainous landscape range from hidden chapels to hermitages, monasteries, and fresco-decorated caves carved into the rock. Set off today for a hike in the valley seeking out these unique sights and taking in the landscape that inspired their development here. The hike will be of easy to moderate difficulty and will take approximately three hours.
Please note: you will be walking over terrain that may be rough, uneven and sloping. A reasonable level of fitness is required and you should ensure you wear appropriate footwear. Should you have any doubts as to your suitability for the trek, please speak to your tour manager beforehand.
After your trek, you’ll continue to the town of Byblos (44 miles, three hours), where you’ll visit the Citadel. Byblos was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984 in recognition of the the many civilisations that have inhabited the area since Neolithic times. From the Bronze Age and Phoenicians to the Romans and Crusaders, the town has unique and historically important antecedents. During your visit look forward to exploring the citadel when you’ll visit the 12th century Crusader Castle, perhaps walking amongst Neolithic, Greek and Roman remains to be found in the adjacent archaeological site – testament to the town’s importance.
Lunch is included during the day.
Spend the next two nights at the 5-star Byblos Sur Mer (4Q), a boutique, beachfront hotel. Facilities at the hotel include a restaurant, private seafront deck, bar and a seasonal outdoor pool. Each of the 30 bedrooms is equipped with a telephone, television, free Wi-Fi, minibar, safe, and tea and coffee-making facilities. B, L, D
Day 8 Byblos
Explore one of Lebanon’s natural wonders today as you travel to Jeita Grotto in Keserwan, Discovered in 1836 the site consists of two limestone caverns or ‘grottos’. Travel to the upper cave by cable car enjoying views of the surrounding countryside, before entering the cave which is over 1.3 miles long. With its cathedral-like appearance, dotted with stalactites and stalagmites and other sculpture-like stone formations, take in this limestone ‘wonderland’. You‘ll also see the lower cave which extends to some five miles, travelling via a small train and then small boat as you explore this spectacular cave from the water for around 400 metres (quarter of a mile). During your visit look forward to a light lunch.
Return to your hotel mid to late afternoon and enjoy relaxing before dinner this evening. B, L, D
Day 9 Byblos-Beirut-UK
After breakfast, travel to Beirut airport for your return flight and your included UK door-to-door travel service home. B