May be Lebanon is the most beautiful country in Near East. Its landscape is idyllic and diverse, here are tallest mountains of this region, skiing resorts, large forests, green fields and beautiful seaside. Both man made and natural heritage here is very rich.
Most interesting landmarks in Lebanon are:
- Medieval towns and structures. Such medieval towns of Lebanon as Sidon (Saida), Batroun and Deir el Qamar are picturesque and rich with heritage buildings. Sometimes these towns are many millenia old.
- Roman heritage. In Lebanon was rich Roman province and it shows in the magnificent buildings in the ancient Roman towns. Unique is the giant complex of public structures in the centre of ancient Baalbeck, in Tyre is located one of largest hippodromes. Well preserved are many ancient Roman shrines.
- World's largest megaliths, including the largest one, which is 1,650 tons heavy.
- Forests. In this part of the world there are few forests left, but the ones which still exist, are magnificent, such as Cedars of God or Ehden Forest.
Caves, sinkholes, waterfalls
- Afqa Cave and Falls - Mount Lebanon. Source of River Adonis - enormous cave with powerful spring which leaves the cave with impressive waterfalls. Cave is located at the foot of 180 m tall cliff. At the cave was located ancient temple - this site is considered to be Apollon's birthplace and site of death. Cave is 5,260 m long.
- Bala'a sinkhole and waterfall (Baatar) - North. Approximately 255 m deep, nearly vertical cave with waterfall in it. Entrance in the cave is some 70 m deep sinkhole. Here waterfall has percolated one side of sinkhole, creating three natural bridges one above the other. Waterfall disappears underground.
- Faouar ed Dara cave (Fouar ed Dara) - Mount Lebanon. 622 m deep cave, tallest pit is 120 m tall.
- Jeita Grotto (Jiita Cave, Magharet Jeita) - Mount Lebanon. Beautiful, 10,050 m long cave with the world's largest stalactite - 8.2 metres long. Includes 800 m long cave lake.
- Jezzine Falls - South. Approximately 90 m tall waterfall. Water falls with a single plunge, at low water it is divided in two smaller streams. Over this precipice falls at least one more large waterfall.
Other natural landmarks
- Ain ez Zarqa spring - Beqaa. Largest spring in Lebanon, with an discharge of 11 m³/s. Origin of Orontes River.
- Chekka Bay springs - North. Some of most powerful submarine springs in the Mediterranean. Total discharge of freshwater by one of these springs - S2 spring at the depth of 23 m is some 2 m³/s but in January it reaches several tens of m³/s.
- Jisr al-Hajar (Kfardebian Natural Bridge) - Mount Lebanon. Magnificent natural arch with a span of 38 m, crossing the river at one level with the surrounding plateau. River under it forms picturesque waterfalls.
- Pigeons' Rock (Rock of Raouché) - Beirut. Two rocks in the sea near the centre of Beirut. One rock is tall stack, other - natural arch.
- Bechealeh "Sister" olives - North. Group of 16 enormous, very old olive trees which grow at 1,300 m height. Locals consider that these trees are 6,000 years old. Trees still produce olives.
- Cedars of God (Bcharre Cedars, Arz el-Rab) - North. Prominent remnant of cedar forests (7 ha) which once covered large area in region. Consists of especially large and beautiful cedars of Lebanon (Cedrus libani A.Rich.) up to 35 metres tall and 14 metres (19.2 metres?) in circumference. Since 1876 surrounded by a wall.
- Ehden Forest (Horsh Ehden) - North. Pristine forest in beautiful mountain setting. Here is located a stand of cedars of Lebanon, unique grove of Lebanese wild apple (Malus trilobata), Cilician fir (Abies cilicica) and 10 plant species which are found only here. In total here have been found 1,030 species of local plants including 39 species of trees. One endemic species of mammal (Crocidura suaveolens).
Finds of fossils
- Hakel fossils and Hajul fossils - Mount Lebanon. Rich find of Upper Cretaceous fossils known since the times of Herodotus. In Hakel have been found more than 50 species of fossil fish, in Hajul - 35 species.
- Sahel Alma fossils - Beirut. Rich find of Upper Cretaceous fossils - approximately 60 species of fish exclusively found only here.
Man made landmarks
- Amioun crypts - North. In the centr of Amioun trown is located cliff with 28 man made chambers, which are 15 - 24 thousand years old.
- Ksar Akil - Moount Lebanon. Rock shelter with very well preserved remnants of Paleolithic settlement. Deposits are 23.6 m thick. Here has been found a skeleton of eight years olf human boy and deept - also remnants of Neanderthals. Early humans lived here already 45,000 years ago.
- Byblos - Mount Lebanon. Possibly the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world. Settlement started to develop here sometimes around 6230 BC, town with buildings of similar size developed during the 3rd millenium BC. Today it contains remnants of Phoenician temples and medieval architecture.
- Sarepta - South. The only abandoned ruins of ancient Phoenician city in the heartland of this culture - other cities are still inhabited and ancient cultural layer has been changed. First mentioned in the 14th century BC. Here several millenia earlier was located also Neolithic settlement. In the site remain ancient port structures as well as Phoenician columns, marble slabs and other artefacts. Some traces of an important cult site were found.
- Ancient Sidon - South. Remnants of Phoenician city, now partly under the waters of Mediterranean. Sidon is one of oldest cities, a permanent settlement since the Neolithic age or earlier.
Roman towns and cities
- Baalbek - Beqaa. Very old settlement, inhabited for some 9000 years. Especially impressive are the ruins of Roman times, when this was an important regional city. For the construction of Roman temples here were used some of the largest stone blocks ever moved around - up to 1,650 t heavy. Great Court Complex in Baalbek is one of the greatest architectural ensembles in the ancient world.
- Tyre (Old Tyre) - South. Very old city, founded by Phoenicians in 2,750 BC, an ancient trade centre which, reportedly was protected by 46 m tall fortification walls. Old city contains numerous remnants of ancient structures - Roman baths, hippodrome, Roman colonnaded road, remnants of Christian cathedral and castle. Hippodrome (the 2nd century AD) was one of largest in Roman world.
Umayyad and medieval towns and cities
- Anjar (Gerrha) - Beqaa. Ruins of Umayyad city which was built at the beginning of the 8th century as a palace city. The city has a regular planning and was enclosed in impressive fortification walls. The large Umayyad palace has been preserved up to the third floor level. City was inhabited only for some decades.
- Batroun Old City - North. Smaller seaside town with well preserved medieval centre. Notable monuments are the numerous churches and citadel of Crusaders. At the sea is standing a Phoenician built wall, protecting from floods.
- Deir el Qamar - Mount Lebanon. Picturesque mountain village which consists of ornate historic buildings. In the 16th - 18th century served as a residence for the governors of Lebanon. Historical centre of culture.
- Old Sidon (Saida) - South. Well preserved medieval city with narrow streets and old buildings. Here are several mosques from Umayyad era.
- Fortress of Niha (Cave of Tyron) - Mount Lebanon. Fortification which has been cut directly into a vertical cliff face. Cave passages extend more than 100 m deep in the cliff and there are chambers and rooms for soldiers. First mentioned in written sources in 975 AD. Used by local Muslims atlhough for a while it was controlled by Crusaders.
- Mseilha Fort - North, Batroun. Medieval castle perched on the top of separately standing rock. Current fort was built in the 17th century. First fortifications were built here in Roman times.
- Sidon Sea Castle - South. Ruins of Crusader's castle from the 13th century, built on a small island near the centre of Sidon. In antiquity there was a Phoenician temple on the island.
- Stone of the Pregnant Woman (Hadjar el Hibla) - Beqaa, Baalbek. Giant stone monolith, 1,000 tons heavy, 20.76 m long.
- Trilithon of Baalbek - Beqaa. Here a later Roman temple is built over some of the largest prehistoric man made stone blocks weighing over 750 tons each. Nearby lies some 1200 tons heavy stone block.
- Unnamed stone block in Baalbek – Beqaa, Baalbek. The second largest known monolith of single stone intended to move. Weight – 1,242 tons, 19.5-20.5 m long, 4.3-5.6 m wide, 4.5 m high. Not moved.
- Unnamed stone block in Baalbek (II) – Beqaa, Baalbek. The world's largest known monolith of single stone intended to move. Weight – 1,650 tons, 19.6 m long, 6 m wide, at least 5.5 m high. Not moved.
- Temple of Eshmun - South. Remnants of Phoenician temple, devoted to Eshmun - god of healing. Temple was active in the 7th century BC - 8th century AD and includes structures and artwork of different styles and cultural background. Oldest structure here is a ziggurat, built in Babylonian times (the 6th century BC).
- Temple of Obelisks - Mount Lebanon, Byblos. Remnants of temple which was built sometimes around 1900 - 1600 BC. There is standing a group of obelisks - betyls.
- Temple of Bacchus - Beqaa, Baalbek. One of the greatest Roman temples, one of the best preserved ones. This temple is larger than the famous Parthenon. Built around 150 AD, the structure is 31 m tall, 66 m long and 35 m wide. 19 Corinthian columns are still standing, each of them 19 m tall. Impressive are the intricate stone carvings.
- Temple of Jupiter - Beqaa, Baalbek. Once greatest temple in Baalbek, built sometimes around 60 AD. This giant structure initially had 54 columns with 60 tons heavy (each) architrave and friezes and 100 tons heavy corner clock on top of these columns, raised 19 m above the ground.
- Temples in Niha (Nihata Temples) - Beqaa. Four Roman temples built at Niha village in the 1st - 3rd century AD. Lower Great Temple in Niha is almost 20 m tall, built in the 2nd or 3rd century AD for a mysterious cult and contains valuable stone carvings with symbolic meaning.
- Sidon Synagogue - South. One of the oldest synagogues in the world, built in 833, possibly in the site of an older synagogue. According to Bible here or nearby preached Jesus.
- Deir Mar Maroun - Beqaa. Rock-cut cavern near the source of Orontes River. Rock-cut chambers are made in three levels, there are staicases, smaller cells, altars. It is believed that here in the 4th century lived Saint Maron and Maronite church originated here.
- Qannubin Monastery - North. Very old Maronite monastery, founded either in 375 AD or in the middle of the 5th century. Most of this monastery is cut in the cliff including the accomodation for visitors. There are many other Maronite and other early Christian monasteries nearby in Kadisha Valley.
- Iaat Column - Beqaa. Solitary column standing in the middle of plain. Column is 18 m tall and placed on a base. Time of construction and purpose is unknown.
- Kamouh el Hermel (Hermel Pyramid) - Beqaa. Ancient structure - obelisk, which seems to be made in the 2nd-1st century BC. Structure is 19.6 m high and onclides two massive limestone blocks, 40 and 50 tons heavy. In the sides of obelisk are bas-reliefs of animals in hunting scenes - deer, boar, bear, wolves, bull.
- Nahr el-Kalb stelae - Mount Lebanon. Group of more than 20 inscriptions in the cliffs near the mouth of Nahr el-Kalb river. Oldest stelae were created in the times of Ramesses II with hieroglyphs, there are cuneiform inscriptions left by Assyrians and Babylonians, Roman and Greek stelae, Arabic inscription, French stelae from 1860 and finally - dedication to the independence of Lebanon in 1943.
Other man made landmarks
- Beiteddine Palace - Mount Lebanon. Ornate palace, built in 1788-1818. According to a story, emir Bashir Shihab II ordered to cut the hands of architect after the work in order to prevent construction of similar buildings.
- Hiram's Tomb (Qabr Hiram) - South. Massive stone tomb believed to be a tomb of Hiram I, Phoenician king in 969 - 936 BC. This is also an important site for Freemasons who consider that Hiram sent materials and his master craftsman Hiram Abiff to build the Solomon's Temple.
- Leontes Bridge - South. Well preserved, large Roman built bridge over Litani River. Bridge was constructed in the 3rd of 4th century AD.
- Surosck Museum - Beirut. Wonderful, ornate building, built in Ecclectic style in 1912. After the death of its owner this building was turned into an art museum.
List of described attractions by governorates
Lebanon is divided into 6 governorates. Here below they are listed in alphabetical order:
|Bala'a sinkhole (Baatara sinkhole) and waterfall||Sinkholes, Caves, Waterfalls, Natural arches|
Map of Lebanon
Bala'a (Baatara) sinkhole is unique. Imagine: a stream of melted snow finds an enormous hole in the ground and as a free falling waterfall leaps into 255 m deep undeground void. Waterfall is falling along three natural bridges stacked one above other. Sounds improbable - but it exists!
This new edition of Bradt's Lebanon remains the most comprehensive and detailed English-language guide available. In addition to its more in-depth coverage of essential background information such as history, culture and religion the guide has expanded treatment for the business traveller and prospective property buyer. Subjects such as the environment and responsible travel are given increased emphasis, and there is plenty of additional information for those interested in volunteering opportunities.
Go for an early morning walk along the Corniche – Beirut’s seaside promenade – and watch as the Mediterranean Sea laps against the rocks while the summits of Mount Lebanon dominate the horizon to the east. Enjoy a strong black coffee here before hitting Hamra to experience Beirut’s bustling commercial side or the old Central District to admire the elegantly restored Ottoman and French-colonial buildings – a demonstration of Beirut’s determination to become the ‘Paris of the East’ once again.