Though just a small slice of the Middle East, Lebanon is a country with a history and influence that belie its modest size.
Home to lively cities, beautiful coastal towns, remarkable natural beauty and some of the oldest ruins on the planet, Lebanon has a surprisingly diverse range of things to see and do.
Beirut is a charming blend of the old and the new and a more liberal alternative to other Middle Eastern capitals, while cities such as Saida, Tyre and Byblos fuse the beauty of the Mediterranean coast with ancient ruins, old souks and Ottoman-era influences.
Moving inland will take visitors across verdant hillsides, soaring mountains, cedar forests and Christian monasteries, the presence of which reflect the welcoming and accepting nature of much of the country as a whole.
Easily accessible and small enough to explore in a week or so, Lebanon easily captures the imagination and has enough character to keep you entertained when you visit. Below, we’ve rounded up the best things to do.
Visit the capital
A vibrant capital that’s as hectic as it is characterful, Beirut is somewhere to explore where East meets West, Christianity meets Islam, old meets new and the present carries constant reminders of the past.
The city’s main landmark is the imposing Mohammed Al Amin Mosque, a honey-hued and blue-domed structure with four soaring minarets and space for 3,700 male worshippers. Anyone looking to learn about the country’s history should visit the National Museum of Beirut, which houses the country’s most widespread collection of artefacts dating back to ancient times, though the more artistically minded will prefer the Sursock Museum, which showcases a range of contemporary art and sculptures.
But Beirut is a city that is best experienced by wandering through its streets rather than ducking in and out of museums and galleries. Mar Mikael and Gemmayze are the most atmospheric districts – full of nightlife options and international cafes and restaurants – while the Beirut Souks area is a network of modernised streets and shops more akin to a western shopping centre than the market stalls common in other Middle Eastern countries. Down by the water, the city’s Corniche promenade and Zaitunay Bay are two polished areas of skyscrapers and yachts that offer a…