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Baalbek Temple, Lebanon

2 Days Driving Tour to North Lebanon: Byblos & Baalbek

HomeLebanon Tours
Code: LB102
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Driving is a good way to travel in Lebanon. This 2-day route will give you some ideas for an in-depth road trip. You can drive north from the capital Beirut to explore the World Heritage city of Byblos, return to Harissa and spend the night in Jounieh before heading east the next day to Baalbek to visit Lebanon's largest and best-preserved ancient Roman temple ruins. Finally, visit the ancient city of Anjar on your way back to Beirut.

► Route: Beirut Jeita Grotto Byblos Harissa Jounieh Baalbek Anjar Beirut
► Driving Distance: 280 km (174 mi)

Tips on Car Rental and Driving in Lebanon:
You can contact the local car rental companies online in advance. Your passport, driver's license, and credit card need to be provided. Europcar, Green Motion, Alamo and SIXT are popular and reliable car rental companies.

In Lebanon, traffic keeps to the right. The speed limit in cities is 50 KPH (31 MPH), while on major rural roads it is 100 KPH (62 MPH). The local people drive very fast and often run red lights, so pay special attention to slow down and watch carefully at intersections.

Day 1: Beirut – Jeita – Byblos – Harissa – Jounieh

► Total Driving Distance of Day 1: 90 km (56 mi)

► Driving Time: 2 hours

Get up early in the morning, pick up the car from the rental shop, and leave Beirut at around 8.30 am.
  • Bybols Ancient Town
    Bybols Ancient Town
  • Jounieh
8:30 – 9:00 Drive from Beirut to Jeita Grotto

Open Google Maps on your phone, set the destination to Jeita Grotto, get the best route, and off you go. The journey is 22 km (13.7 mi) and takes about 25 minutes. You'll follow the Route 51M north along the Mediterranean coast and the scenery will be particularly beautiful. You'll arrive around 9:00. Park your car and start the tour.

9:00 – 10:30 Visit Jeita Grotto – the Pearl of Nature in Lebanon
Jeita Grotto is a must-see in Lebanon. This magical cave has two levels: the upper, which you can visit on foot, and the lower, which you can explore by boat. All the rocks were formed more than 6 million years ago! The admission includes the upper grotto, lower grotto, cable car, sightseeing train, a mini zoo, and a garden. Note that flash photography is not allowed inside the caves.
► Opening Hours: 9:00 – 17:00; closed on Mondays
► Telephone Number: +9619220841
► Recommended Time for a Visit: 1 to 2 hours
► Ticket Price: LBP 18,315

10:30 – 11:10 Drive from Jeita Grotto to Byblos
After visiting the Jeita Grotto, get in your car and head north to Byblos, also known as Jubayl or Jebeil. Set the destination as Byblos Castle in the map app on your phone, choose the fastest route according to the current traffic conditions, and then start navigation. You'll continue north along the Coastal Highway Route 51M, driving 29 km (18 mi) in about 35 minutes.

After 11:00, you will arrive at Byblos, a World Heritage site. Park your car near the Byblos Castle and start walking around the small old city.

11:10-12:00 Visit Byblos Castle (Byblos Citadel)
Byblos Castle, which stands on the beach, is one of the highlight attractions in Byblos. The well-maintained castle was built by Crusaders in the 12th century from the local limestone and the remains of Roman building. You can visit every level of the castle and climb to the top for spectacular Mediterranean views.
► Opening Hours: 8:00 – 18:00
► Telephone Number: +9619540001
► Recommended Time for a Visit: 1 hour
► Ticket Price: LBP 8,000

12:00-13:30 Lunch Break in Byblos

After visiting the castle, it’s time for lunch. There are plenty of restaurant options within a five-minute walk, among which Feniqia featuring Lebanese and Middle Eastern specialties and Malena featuring Lebanese and Mediterranean seafood are highly recommended.

13:30-14:00 Visit an Interesting Museum - Memoire Du Temps (Memory of Time)
Byblos offers more than just historical sites. This special museum is a minute or two's walk between the above two recommended restaurants. It is small, and specializes in fossils. The owner, Pierre, is very nice, providing tools and instructions and taking visitors through the excavation and extraction of fossils for themselves, which is an experience difficult to obtain anywhere else in the world. You can buy the fossils you dig up as souvenirs or gifts at reasonable prices.
► Opening Hours: 8:30 – 19:00
► Telephone Number: +9619540555
► Recommended Time for a Visit: 30 minutes
► Ticket Price: Free

14:00-14:30 Check out the Old Souk of Byblos
A 3 minute walk to the northeast will take you to the Byblos Jbail Old Souks. It is interesting to walk through the market, which is full of souvenir shops, snack bars, restaurants and lounges. The shop owners are very nice and you can buy handicrafts carved in wood or metal.
► Opening Hours: 24 hours
► Recommended Time for a Visit: 30 minutes
► Ticket Price: Free

14:30-15:00 Farewell to Byblos at the Port
Walk a few minutes to the Byblos Dock and Fishing Port, one of the oldest ports in the world. You can have a look at the sea and, if you have more time, take a boat ride for a little while.
► Opening Hours: 24 hours
► Recommended Time for a Visit: 15 minutes
► Ticket Price: Free

15:00 – 15:30 Drive from Byblos to Harissa

Here’s the end of your Byblos tour. Walk back to the car park and leave around 15:00 in the afternoon to drive to Harissa. Open the map app on your phone and set your destination to Our Lady of Lebanon. The 26 km (16 mi) road takes about 30 minutes.

15:30 – 16:00 Visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Lebanon
After arriving in Harissa, take the cable car or drive to the top of the mountain to visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Lebanon. With beautiful scenery and solemn atmosphere, it is a place of pilgrimage for Christians and Muslims. You'll feel soothing and comfortable here. The view from the top of the hill is breathtaking. You can see the entire Jounieh Bay under your feet.
► Opening Hours: The site opens 24 hours, while the cable car runs from 9:00 to 19:00.
► Telephone Number: +9619263660
► Recommended Time for a Visit: 30 minutes
► Ticket Price: No entrance fee. The cable car costs LBP 70,000 for a single trip, and LBP 110,000 for a round trip.

16:00 – 16:30 Drive Down to the Coast and Check in at a Local Hotel in Jounieh

Drive about 10 minutes down the hill to the beach and arrive at your pre-booked hotel. There are many hotels of all grades to choose from along the Jounieh Bay. You can book in advance and choose a room with an ocean view.

16:30 – 18:00 Try Paragliding or Scuba Diving

There are a number of scuba diving, paragliding or yacht clubs around the Jounieh coastline that offer recreational activities for thrillseekers. A paragliding experience usually costs $50 and includes pictures and a video. Or you can end the day with a quiet sunset at the Al Raml Al Zahabi Beach.

Day 2: Jounieh – Baalbek – Anjar – Beirut

► Total Driving Distance of Day 2: 190 km (118 mi)

► Driving Time: 4 hours

8:30 – 11:00 Drive from Jounieh to Baalbek
After enjoying breakfast and the morning views of the Jounieh Bay, drive to Baalbek, a World Heritage site. Please set Stone of the Pregnant Woman in Baalbek as the destination on your mobile map, and then get ready to go. The journey is 87 km (54 mi) and takes about 2 hours. On the way you'll pass mountains and a national forest called Cedar Tree of Matteo Saad Chahoud. You can get off at any place you like and take a rest. You will arrive at Baalbek before 11:00.

Baalbek is a town in the Bekaa Valley of eastern Lebanon, by the Litani River. It has the largest and best preserved Roman ruins in Lebanon and is a classic example of the Roman Empire’s architecture at its height. Before going to the Baalbek Temple, you can visit two small sites as mezes: the Stone of the Pregnant Woman and the Sayyida Khawla Shrine.

11:00 – 11:40 Stone of the Pregnant Woman & Sayyida Khawla Shrine
Before arriving at the city center of Baalbek, you’ll drive past two small attractions as a prelude to the Baalbek tour. Park near the Stone of the Pregnant Woman and start the visit.

The Stone of the Pregnant Woman, also known as Hajjar al-Hibla or Roman Quarry, claims to be one of the largest Roman monoliths ever mined. There is an interesting legend about this huge stone, which says that if you touch it, you will become fertile. There's a platform where you can look at the stone from a higher angle, or you can go down and walk around the stone and take some pictures.
► Opening Hours: 24 hours
► Recommended Time for a Visit: 15 minutes
► Ticket Price: Free

The Sayyida Khawla Shrine is just a 5-minute walk northeast and you don't have to drive. Some call it the Great Mosque, but it is not actually a mosque, but a Shiite shrine, built over the tomb of Sayyida Khawla, the young daughter of Hussein, the third imam of Shiite Islam. The artistic decorations here are worth a look. Male and female visitors should enter through separate gates. Female visitors are required to cover their arms and wear hijabs to cover their hair.
► Opening Hours: 8:00 – 23:30
► Recommended Time for a Visit: 20 minutes
► Ticket Price: Free

11:40 – 13:00 Lunch Break in Baalbek
Walk to your car, set the Temple Visitors Parking as the destination on your mobile map, and drive northeast to get there in two minutes. Park there for lunch, and then visit the Baalbek Roman Ruins and Temples Complex in the afternoon.

This is the central area of Baalbek, with many restaurants of different styles, mainly Lebanese, Turkish, Middle Eastern, and some fast food. You can eat at a restaurant of your choice, and then take a short break.

13:00 – 15:00 Highlights of the Day – Baalbek Temple and Baalbek Roman Ruins
The archaeological sites and temples are close enough for you to visit on foot. If you were asked where the largest and grandest surviving ruins of an ancient Roman temple are, you wouldn't expect to find them in Lebanon! The Baalbek Temple was built by the Phoenicians to worship the sun god and is the most complete Roman temple complex in the world. Walking into the site and looking up, you will be instantly amazed by the 20 meters (66 feet) high columns. It is hard to imagine that such a large and magnificent colonnade could have been constructed by human hands at that time.
► Opening Hours: 8:00 – 18:00
► Recommended Time for a Visit: 1.5 to 2 hours
► Ticket Price: LBP 15,000 for a combo ticket of the Baalbek roman ruins & temples complex.

There are three temples at the site that you can visit.

The first is the Temple of Jupiter, built in the 1st century AD. The temple, which took 300 years to build, still stands with six pillars nearly 20 meters high. How the 60 to 100 tons’ roof was hoisted up remains a mystery. The designer is unknown, but it does not affect the appeal of his building.
► Recommended Time for a Visit: 30 minutes
► Telephone Number: +9619215440

The second is the amazing Temple of Bacchus. This temple, dedicated to the God of Wine, is the best preserved Roman temple structure in the world. Its construction time is uncertain, but its elaborate decorations date back to the 2nd century AD. Its walls and stone columns were not badly damaged. The top of the columns are carved with lions, while the walls are carved with lifelike grapes and ancient totems.
► Recommended Time for a Visit: 40 minutes
► Telephone Number: +9617852369

The third is the Temple of Venus, built in the 3rd century AD. It is built on a horseshoe-shaped platform and has five niches carved with doves and shells, which are considered evidence of a shrine dedicated to Venus.
► Recommended Time for a Visit: 30 minutes

It is recommended that you travel with a group or at least hire a local guide at Baalbek. A knowledgeable guide will make the stones get stories and make your trip more interesting and educational. After the visit, you must feel that Baalbek is a totally underrated site, and a must-see on any tour of Lebanon.
  • Temple of Baalbek
    Baalbek Temple
15:00 – 16:00 Drive from Baalbek to Anjar

After touring Baalbek, walk back to the car park and drive to Anjar, another World Heritage site. Set your destination to the Umayyad City Ruins in your map app and go. The journey is 45 km (28 mi) and takes about 50 minutes.

16:00 – 16:50 Visit Umayyad City Ruins of Aanjar
Your trip to Anjar is to see the Umayyad City Ruins. The Umayyad Dynasty was the first hereditary dynasty of the Arab Empire. The ancient city of Umayyad was founded in the early 8th century AD. At the time, the city was a hub connecting Damascus to Mediterranean ports, with more than 600 shops. It didn't take long, however, before the city was abandoned after the fall of the Umayyad Dynasty. Now, when you go there, you can still see the well-preserved palace ruins. You will be impressed by the extensive use of thin arches, which are rare elsewhere.
► Opening Hours: 8:00 – 18:00
► Telephone Number: +96171808417
► Recommended Time for a Visit: 40 minutes
► Ticket Price: LBP 6,000

16:50 – 18:00 Drive Back to Beirut

It's time to start the return journey. The 58 km (36 mi) drive from Anjar to Beirut takes about 70 minutes without stopping. Please drive safely. Upon arrival, return the car at the location agreed with the rental agency.

► A fulfilling 2-day road trip to northern Lebanon ends. If you've got an extra day, you can keep driving to southern Lebanon according to another of our recommended routes for independent travelers:
One Day Road Trip to South Lebanon: Beirut to Tyre

► Anyway, if you're inexperienced at driving or self-guided travelling, join our guided tour to save yourself the hassle of arranging your own itinerary:
8 Days Beirut - Byblos - Kadisha Valley - Anjar - Baalbek - Deir Al-Qamar - Tyre - Sidon - Beirut

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