Places of Interest in Lebanon: North of Beirut
Places of Interest in Lebanon: North of Beirut Last updated on Thursday 22nd April 2010
The ancient city of Byblos, 37km from Beirut, gave its name to the Bible and over the centuries has been home to the Phoenicians, Egyptians, Assyrians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Crusaders and Ottomans.
Excavations show that Byblos was inhabited more than 7000 years ago making it one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. It became an important trading port during the 3rd century BC when it exported cedar wood and oil to Egypt in exchange for gold, alabaster, papyrus and linen.
It was a major Phoenician centre where the phonetic alphabetic script, on which our modern alphabet is based, was developed. The Greeks called it Byblos, after the Greek word for papyrus, bublos, because Egyptian papyrus was shipped to Greece through the Phoenician port.
Archaeological highlights at Byblos include the remains of the 12th-century Crusader castle which dominates the city's medieval ramparts, the Phoenician temple with its miniature obelisks, the tomb chambers of the Phoenician kings with the oldest alphabetic inscription ever discovered, and a Greco-Roman amphitheatre overlooking the sea.
The northern sector of Lebanon begins at the Phoenician-founded town of Batroun, 50km from Beirut. In Greco-Roman times it made a name for itself as a pirate lair. A walk through the old town's twisting lanes and a visit to its architecturally eclectic cathedral are recommended for anyone who enjoys exploring picturesque corners of old Lebanon. Six kilometres from Batroun is Museilha castle, a 16th century fortress perched on top of a rocky spur.
Tripoli, 85km north of Beirut, is Lebanon's second largest city and the port for northern Lebanon. It was founded by the Phoenicians in 800 BC, although there are no remains of the city's Phoenician past. Most of Tripoli's historical sites date from its crusader and Islamic periods.
There are two main parts to Tripoli, Al Mina -- the port area -- and the city proper which contains the modern centre as well as the old quarter. Of most interest are the Great Mosque and the Lion Tower, a beautiful example of Mamluk military architecture.
Bsharre and the Cedars
The journey to Bsharre and the Cedars passes through some of Lebanon's most spectacular scenery. The mountain road winds through the countryside where red-tile roofed houses cling precariously to the cliffs, and a patchwork of vineyards and olive groves stretch out into the lush valleys.
The mountain town of Bsharre (pictured) is the birth and resting place of Lebanon's famous artist/author Gibran Khalil Gibran. From Bsharre the road climbs some 400 metres until it reaches the last remaining forest of cedars in Lebanon. The grove of 400 trees, some of which are more than 1,500 years old, are on the slopes of Mt. Makmal.
The Cedars is a prime ski resort for both downhill and cross country skiing. There are ski hire shops and accommodation in the village below the forest. One of the country's most unforgettable vistas is of the Qadisha valley which plunges down toward the coast from the Cedars. From the Cedars it is a 4-hour hike to Lebanon's highest peak, Qornet Es Sauda.