The small country of Lebanon offers ancient Phoenician, Greek, Roman, early Christian and Crusader monuments, the natural beauty of soaring, snow-dusted mountains contrasted against dark-green cedar forests and sparkling green valleys, mouthwatering food and excellent wines, and friendly, forward-looking people. It is a cultural gem waiting to be uncovered. Shaped by rich Phoenician history and later transformations under ancient Roman and then Ottoman rule, Lebanon is an ethnically diverse country with hundreds of historical monuments: from ancient settlements, Crusader castles, Catholic monasteries, historic mosques and palaces to sophisticated modern design and glitz of the cosmopolitan Beirut. It not only has gorgeous beaches, snow covered mountains and sparkling green valleys, but also beautiful waterfalls, legendary cedar forests and fantastical limestone caves. All that is topped with amazing wines and flavorful cuisine with origins tracing back thousands of years. Although damaged by decades of invasions, interventions of nations, and a civil war, Lebanon remains magnificent with its majestic ancient ruins, mountain vistas, and hospitable people.
The Essential Lebanon tour is both a journey back in time and a dazzling glimpse of the future through the eyes of a modern Middle eastern country. As we travel through the artsy neighborhoods and poignant history of Beirut, enjoying its gorgeous Mediterranean coast, impressive modern architecture and sophisticated restaurants, we'll discover why Lebanon's capital is known as the "Paris of the Middle East". We'll visit the inspiring Roman ruins in Baalbek and the Umayyad town of Anjar in the Beqaa Valley, venture into the historically and visually imposing Kadisha Valley with its quaint Christian monasteries, Khalil Gibran museum, and the Cedars of God, travel down to the seaside castles and souks of the southern port cities Sidon and Tyre, we'll admire the Phoenician town of Byblos, kick back with visits to several photogenic wineries, then live it up in the cosmopolitan Beirut. We'll relax at the beautiful beaches, cruise on a private catamaran along the coast, explore complex karst caves, tour Christian monasteries set in the famous Lebanon cedar forest, and indulge in fine food and excellent local wines. Our journey through Lebanon will reward us with a feast for the senses and food for thought.
We'll visit sites that exemplify the blend of cultural and religious traditions making Lebanon so unique, such as Our Lady of Lebanon, one of the country's most famous Catholic monuments, the Crusader castle in the port city of Sidon, and the Maronite village of Deir al-Qamar, the "Monastery of the Moon." We'll also experience some of Lebanon's most impressive natural wonders: the Baatara waterfall, the Cedars of God forest that inspired the cedar as the national emblem of Lebanon, and the Jeita Grotto, celebrated for their natural beauty. Our adventure will take a decidedly more flavorful turn, as we sample some of the country's best offerings in the wineries of the Beqaa Valley.