Ciaran Whelan, trade sales and business development manager at Explore on what your clients can experience now the country has re-opened its doors to visitors

Lebanon is a small country on the shores of the Mediterranean with a rich history and strong cultural identity of religious and ethnic diversity. It is bordered by Syria to the north and east and Israel to the south and its location at the crossroads of the Mediterranean Basin and Arabian hinterland has shaped its important role in the Arab world despite its splintered recent history. It is recognized as the smallest sovereign state on the continent of Asia.

In the 1960’s Lebanon’s prosperity, driven by tourism, agriculture and commerce led to it being labelled the ‘Switzerland of the East’ and its capital city Beirut being known as the ‘Paris of the Middle East’. Due to its geography Lebanon was a renowned tourist destination where you could ski during the morning and then swim in the warm Mediterranean waters in the afternoon!

My own memories of Lebanon as a child in the 1970’s were of staying on the Hamra Street in the heart of Beirut, often referred to as Beirut’s ‘Champs Elysees’, of collecting fresh baguettes from the local bakery every morning, drinking coffee at the Saint Georges Hotel on Zaitunay Bay, driving through the lush Bekaa Valley and of course visiting the ancient ruins at Baalbek.

Using local, knowledgeable guides, Explore is putting Lebanon back on the tourist map with a new eight day ‘Highlights of Lebanon’ trip. Lebanon has only recently re-opened its doors to visitors; on this trip travellers will learn about Lebanese life and discover aromatic souks, walk through fragrant cedar forests and savour the many flavourful foods.

The trip starts in the capital city of Beirut before heading south to the coastal city, Tyre. Get a taste of local life and enjoy a traditional breakfast at the old souk. Dating back to around 2750 BC, Tyre’s archaeological sites have UNESCO World Heritage Site status.

Stay overnight in the grounds of St Anthony’s Monastery in the beautiful Qadisha Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Wake to the sound of bells calling the monks to mass and experience rural Lebanese life and homemade food.

Visit the Bekaa Valley and tour the labyrinth of roman cellars at Ksara, Lebanon’s oldest and biggest winery. Learn about the wine-making process and taste the red wine which makes the region famous. The trip ends in Beirut with a guided tour of the city by a local followed by a traditional mezze meal consisting of tabbouleh and fattoush, baba ghanoush, falafel, skewered meats or grilled fish and pita bread, finished with a desert of baklava.

‘Highlights of Lebanon’

The 8-day trip costs from £1,350pp and includes return flights, internal transfers, 7-nights’ accommodation, 7 breakfasts and 3 dinners, and an Explore Leader.

2019 departures – 21 September, 12 October and 9 November
2020 departures – 21 March, 11 April, 23 May, 13 June, 1 August, 26 September and 17 October.