Lebanon Group Tour Holiday - Vineyards and Valleys of Lebanon


Lebanon - Vineyards and Valleys of Lebanon

Style: TravellerCultural discovery away from the crowds
Duration: 8 days
Type: GroupTravel with a small group of other travellers

Dossier

Lebanon was known in the 1960’s as the Switzerland of the Middle East. Today Lebanon has rebuilt itself after a devastating civil war that ended in 1991. This small country extending for only 250km’s North to South and 50 km’s from East to West excels in its diversity of experiences and exceptional sense of hospitality. On our journey we will experience the vibrant city of Beirut, both old and new. However this tour offers much more. Get to grips with the heart of Lebanon as we spend 5 nights out of the big city. We will journey to ancient settlements such as Byblos and Batroun on the shimmering Mediterranean coast, wander through the atmospheric souks of Sidon, and admire the noble emblem of Lebanon: the majestic Cedar Forests of the Chouf Reserve. Stay in a monastery in the lush Qadisha Valley, cook with locals, and enjoy the magnificent food and wine of Lebanon in the fertile Bekaa Valley. For history lovers, standing in front of the magnificent Roman temples of Baalbek (UNESCO) is sure to inspire and delight as well as castles from Crusader times and the UNESCO town of Deir Al Qamar with its excellent examples of grand feudal architecture.  This exciting new tour has something for everyone and in our view should be high on the list of travellers must see destinations.

Tour Rating

Fitness ●●○○○○ | Off the Beaten Track ●●●●○ | Culture ●●●●○ | History ●●●●○ | Wildlife ●●○○○

Tour Pace

Moderate

Tour Highlights

  • Explore the fascinating city of Beirut, Gate to the Orient where old meets new
  • Stroll in the narrow streets of Byblos, constantly inhabited since the 6th Century BC
  • Soak up the atmosphere of the charming coastal town of Batroun
  • Stay in a monastery in the verdant Qadisha Valley
  • Marvel at ancient Cedar trees, a key emblem of Lebanon
  • Take in the fresh air and impressive scenery of the Mount Lebanon range
  • Observe ancient Lebanese architecture in Deir el Qamar (UNESCO)
  • Visit Beiteddine Palace, notable for its exquisite mosaics
  • Wander the atmospheric souks of the port Phoenician city of Sidon
  • Stand before some of the best preserved Roman architecture in UNESCO site of Baalbeck
  • Revel in amazing Lebanese food and wine in the fertile Bekaa Valley

Tour Essentials

Accommodation: Mixture of comfortable tourist class hotels/guesthouses

Included Meals: Daily breakfast (B), plus lunches (L) and dinners (D) as shown in the itinerary.

Group Size: Maximum of 12

Start Point: Beirut

End Point: Beirut

Transport: Minibus or similar

Country Visited: Lebanon

Valleys and Vineyards of Lebanon

Tour itinerary notes

While our intention is to adhere to the day-by-day itinerary as printed below, a degree of flexibility is built in. Overnight stops may vary from those suggested and on occasions alternative accommodation, of a similar standard to that named below, will be used.

Tour Guide

Our guides are a key strength, chosen for their knowledge of and passion for the areas in which they work. All of our guides are carefully hand-picked, and are not just passing through these countries, but are usually locally born. Unlike some companies it should be noted we do not send a guide or tour leader from Undiscovered Destinations in the UK as we have every confidence in our locally appointed representative who is responsible for operating the tour on our behalf. Where possible you will have the same guide throughout your trip but on occasions it may be necessary to change the guide at one or more points during the tour.

Itinerary

Day 1 - Arrival Beirut
Arrive in Beirut and transfer to your hotel. Depending on your time of arrival, there may be time to explore the city. Overnight Hotel Le Caramel Boutique Hotel or similar. No meals included.

Beirut
Beirut, the Gate to the Orient, Destroyed and rebuilt seven times, it owned the title of “the city that refuses to vanish”. Solidere has succeeded in re-creating life in the heart of Beirut, making it once more the vibrant place where young and old from various countries come together. The capital still has many attractions to offer, such as many archaeological and religious sites in the Downtown, the National Museum, the Moawad Museum, the Pigeons Rock, the Sursock Museum, Shopping Centres, and lots of Restaurants with delicious menus of International and Lebanese cuisine.

Day 2 – Beirut – Byblos (Approximate driving time today is 1 hour)
This morning after breakfast, start the day with a stroll on the breezy and bustling corniche, an activity enjoyed by many local Beirutis. During the walk, learn about how the area was shaped by the civil war and the regeneration efforts since. Stark reminders of the conflict are very much still visible including the bullet ridden Holiday Inn hotel building which has remained derelict and were the scenes of intense battles. Continue to Martyrs Square and the impressive Mohammad Al Amin Mosque complete with its towering sandstone minarets. We will also stop to see the archaeological site of the Roman baths in the centre of the city. Continue to the National Museum where we take an enriching visit and learn about the turbulent history of Lebanon which will give the experiences of the coming days added context. This afternoon drive up the coast to the ancient town of Byblos, said to have been continuously inhabited since the 6th Century BC. Spend the afternoon exploring this delightful place with its picturesque harbour, the well restored 12th century crusader castle and the roman archaeological site with a beautifully situated small amphitheatre overlooking the shimmering Mediterranean Sea. The evening is at leisure and you may wish to explore the easily accessible and atmospheric souk area and perhaps try a dinner of seafood down near the harbour. Overnight Hotel Ahiram or similar. (BL)

Byblos
At 37 Kms north of Beirut, Byblos city has constantly been inhabited since the sixth century BC until today. Its lovely alleys in the old town, all ochre stoned, invite long walks where churches (including the Crusader church of Saint John), chapels and houses are worth visiting. Its tiny port, the most beautiful one in the country, is a nice place to relax on one of the terraces with a glass of Lebanese wine. Byblos is rich in history and is also notable.

Day 3 – Byblos – Batroun – Tannourine – Qadisha Valley (Approximate driving time today is 2 hours)
After breakfast, continue a short distance up the coast to Batroun. Explore the narrow cobblestone streets and observe the traditional Ottoman style houses. Also take a stroll through Batroun’s old souk and the magical ruins of the Phoenician port including the ancient sea wall.  Enjoy a local picnic style lunch in Batroun before heading inland from the coast to Baatara Gorge Waterfall in Tannourine – also known locally as Bala’a. This is an extraordinary sight. The gorge has 3 natural bridges connecting it from side to side. We take an easy walk here. In the spring the water falls an impressive 250 metres into a natural sinkhole. Later, continue to the splendid Qadisha Valley and to our accommodation which will be a peaceful 12th Century monastery in a lovely setting. Overnight Saint Antoine Monastery or similar. (BLD)

Day 4 – Qadisha Valley – Bcharre – Cedars Forest – Baalbek (Approximate driving time today is 2.5 hours)
This morning after breakfast, explore the sites of the Qadisha Valley including the main town of Bcharre located in the refreshing mountain air at an altitude of 1450 meters above sea level. The road leading to this traditional town offers stunning views over the town’s red roofed houses and the lush valley that surrounds it. After a light local lunch, continue the short distance to the Cedars of Lebanon Forest. Known as Arz Ar-Rab (The Cedars of the Lord), this is one of the most beautiful places in the country. We will take an easy walk in the forest in amongst these majestic and precious trees some of which are many hundreds of years old and which represent a symbolic emblem of Lebanon, and features on the national flag. After the walk, continue to Baalbek which will be our overnight stop. Overnight Hotel Palmyra or similar. (BLD)

Qadisha Valley
The Qadisha Valley is one of the deepest and most beautiful valleys in Lebanon. The word Qadisha means “holy” and Wadi Qadisha is the “Holy Valley.” Filled with caves and rock shelters inhabited from the third millennium B.C., the valley is scattered with cave chapels, hermitages and monasteries cut from rock. The Valley area is surrounded by many important sites like: Monastery of St. Elisha, St. Antonios Qozhaya and Our Lady of Howqua’s chapel, etc... The valley with its caves and churches is inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Day 5 – Baalbek (UNESCO) – Bekaa Valley Vineyard – Deir Al Qamar (Approximate driving time today is 2.5 hours) 
This morning after breakfast we visit what surely must be regarded as one of world’s most astonishing Roman archaeological sites. We spend ample time in the softer morning light exploring the site which is believed to date back some 5000 years. The site is so grand in its scale that is not hard to visualise what the city must have been like in its pomp. After the visit we continue to Anjar Citadel for a visit before we stop for lunch at small and welcoming vineyard in the Bekaa Valley. Here enjoy a tour of the cellar and the production areas before enjoying degustation of the excellent wines and a delicious lunch of typical Lebanese mezze dishes. After the leisurely lunch, continue to Deir Al Qamar and our overnight accommodation. Overnight La Bastide Guesthouse or similar. (BLD)

Baalbek (UNESCO)
Located in the Bekaa valley and at 1,170 meters above sea level, Baalbek is home to the largest and best-preserved examples of Roman architecture standing proudly in the city. An 85 km drive away from Beirut, this marvellous example of historical architecture is an important piece of Lebanon’s history and should not be missed.  Those standing before the spectacular row of age-old pillars of this UNESCO World Heritage site will be stunned by the beauty and the elegance of the site which was built by the Romans to pay tribute to the god of the sun (Baal) and the gods of Jupiter, Venus and Mercury.

Anjar Citadel
Standing at the crossroad of two important trade routes, the ancient city of Anjar is home to astounding archaeological ruins from the Umayyad civilisation. Only discovered by archaeologists at the end of the 1940s, the historical site unveils the complex of Umayyad ruins, including two palaces, a mosque and a public bath. Traces of Greek, Roman and Byzantine architecture can also be found. Towering over the ruins, the anti-Lebanon mountains stand proud giving another dimension to the visit for a unique experience.

Bekaa Valley and Wine in Lebanon
The Beqaa Valley is a fertile valley in eastern Lebanon and the most important farming region if the country. The valley is 120 kilometres long and 16 kilometres wide and is blessed with a Mediterranean climate of wet, often snowy winters and dry, warm summers making it an ideal place to harvest grapes and where 90% of Lebanon's wine is made. The south of the Valley is where the more fertile soils can be found with a large variety of vineyards ad orchard.

Day 6 – Deir Al Qamar (UNESCO) – Beiteddine Palace - Chouf Cedar Reserve - Tyre (Approximate driving time today is 3 hours) 
After breakfast, stroll in the quiet streets of the well-preserved village of Deir Al Qamar and enjoy the traditional Lebanese houses and style of architecture. Many of the houses are adorned with colourful flowers and walled gardens. The walk ends at a picturesque square complete with a lovely church. Continue the short distance to the 18th century Beiteddine Palace complex notable for its elegant mixture of Italian and Arab influenced architecture. The palace contains important archaeological collections including some stunning mosaics. The views from the grounds are also a delight. After the walk, return to the coast, this time at the southern most ancient city of Tyre. Overnight Al Fanar auberge or similar. (BLD)

Deir Al Qamar (UNESCO)
Deir Al Kamar (meaning Monastery of the Moon) is a charming town with many historical buildings, famous for its palaces which reveal the ancient Lebanese style in architecture. It played a very important role in the history of Lebanon. The most famous sites to visit in Deir Al Qamar are: Emir Fakhr Eddine’s mosque and Palace, the Kayssaryah, the church, etc... Considered as a well-preserved traditional village, it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, which not only preserves its grand feudal architecture, but its old stepped streets, walled gardens, and picturesque corners as well. Continue to the Chouf Cedar Reserve where we stretch our legs on a short easy circuit to admire more of the majestic Cedar trees and the splendid mountain vistas.

Chouf Cedar Reserve
The largest of Lebanon’s nature reserves, it was declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 2005. This Cedar forest accounts for a quarter of the remaining cedar forest in Lebanon, and some trees are estimated to be 2,000 years old. The size of the reserve makes it a good location for the conservation of medium size mammals such as the wolf and the Lebanese jungle cat (although visitors are unlikely to see them), as well as various species of mountain plants. It covers about 5% of the overall area of Lebanon including 24 villages and overlooks both the Bekaa valley to the east and Shouf region to the west. The altitude of the Reserve varies from 1000 meters to 2000 meters above sea level.

Tyre (UNESCO)
The southernmost city in Lebanon and located on the coast at about 80 km from Beirut, tyre is an ancient Phoenician city and home to a majestic UNESCO Heritage Site. Against the modern cityscape and high-rise buildings, the beauty of the Roman streets, arcades and the well-preserved Roman hippodromes is striking.

Day 7 – Tyre – Sidon – Beirut - (Approximate driving time is 2 hours today)
This morning we travel from Tyre to Sidon, once a prosperous and flourishing Phoenician city. Visit the 13th Crusader Castle of the Sea and Khan el Franj 17th century, before taking a leisurely stroll in the atmospheric narrow streets of the old souk where once can observe all manner of tradesmen and craftsmen and the kaleidoscope of colours of the fresh produce on offer is striking. After the souk, we visit the interesting Soap Museum which traces the history of soap production in the region and the building dates from the 13th century. Also learn about the production of olive oil soaps. Lunch will be taken at an authentic falafel shop where the freshest ingredients are used and speed the ingredients are married together is a sight to behold! Thereafter, continue back to Beirut and visit Les Quartier Des Arts which is full of interesting shops and boutiques where you can look for a gift or a souvenir to remember your visit to this fascinating country.  This evening we enjoy a farewell dinner in a local restaurant in Beirut and a farewell drink in a nearby bar. Overnight Le Caramel Boutique Hotel or similar. (BLD)

Sidon
Sidon is a port city on the coast 48 km south from Beirut, was one of the most remarkable Phoenician cities and trade ports of the 12th century BC. It is an atmospheric and lively place, bringing together traders of all kinds, with craftsmen, restaurants and authentic cafes.

Day 8 – Depart Beirut
The final day is at leisure until your airport transfer. If time allows you may wish to spend some final time enjoying the sea breeze and local scenes of the Corniche. (B)

 

Tour Inclusions/Exclusions

Inclusions

Arrival and departure airport transfers
All accommodation as per the itinerary or similar
Land transportation
Services of an English-speaking guide/tour leader
Meals as listed (B – Breakfast, L – Lunch, D – Dinner)
Entrance fees for sites as listed as part of the itinerary

Excluded

International flights
Travel Insurance
Items of a personal nature
Visa
Drinks
Tips (discretionary)