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  • The backpacker’s guide to Lebanon

    Beirut, photo by austinevan

    Lebanon is not what most people imagine the Middle East is like. This small country is green and mountainous, sand dune-less and modern, with great care invested in preserving its rich historical heritage. Lebanon hasn’t always been a perfect place for a holiday, but there’s no doubt about it today: if you want to go to the Middle East, start with Lebanon.

    Friendly people, cities with great nightlife, loads of historical sites ranging from the old to the very old, and an incredible cuisine, make Lebanon irresistible. What’s more, Lebanon can be visited on a budget, so here’s a backpacker’s guide to Lebanon.

    Getting around

    Baalbek, photo by isawnyu

    Lebanon is so small that it only takes 3 hours to drive from north to south, which is good news for backpackers who want to explore most of the country without spending a fortune on transport.

    Since you won’t spend too much time getting around, you can choose a base of exploration and take day trips or shorter trips to whichever destination you want. Beirut combines varied and affordable accommodation with numerous bus routes, so it is one of the best places to ‘settle down’ for a while.

    Buses are plentiful and cheap, but you can also travel by taxi if you don’t find the bus link you need. Taxis operate similarly to buses, with set routes and up to 6 passengers carried long distance, and since you’ll share the fare with others the taxi ride ends up being quite affordable.

    What to see and what to do

    Byblos, photo by Keith Yahl

    There aren’t many countries on the planet where you can go skiing in the morning and then head down to the beach after a couple of hours, but Lebanon is one of them.The natural scenery of Lebanon is incredible, and adventure travelers will find it hard to stay in one place for even an hour.

    Hiking, skiing and caving are popular activities in Lebanon, as is wine-tasting or simply enjoying the busy city life. Despite having gone through political turmoil, Beirut’s nightlife never stopped to take a breather, with many locales open 24 hours a day.

    Historical attractions abound in Lebanon, from Roman temples in Baalbek to the amazing Unesco World Heritage site of Al Bass archaeological site where you can see the best preserved Roman ruins in the world, complete with a huge Necropolis and a hippodrome.

    Jeita Grotto almost became one of the new seven wonders of the world – naturally sculpted caverns surrounded by dramatic scenery. A short taxi ride from Beirut will take you to Jbeil, or Byblos, an ancient Phoenician city next to a flourishing and lively town. Backpackers staying a hostels can ask at the reception for arranged tours to major attractions.

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