For a country with just four million inhabitants Lebanon’s allure is great, so great that it has drawn half that number in visitors over the past year or so. Tourists from other states in the Middle East and Europeans are taking cheap flights to Lebanon in greater and greater numbers as the troubles that have punctuated life there over the past few years recede.
Lebanon, perched on the edge of the Mediterranean Sea, with Syria to the north and east and Israel to the south, has a long and fascinating history. Numerous civilisations (the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Crusaders, Mamlukes and Ottomans) have shaped it and the land is studded with historical monuments and archaeological sites. Within short distances – you can drive from north to south in less than three hours – you can see temples built by the Romans, mosques built by the Mameluks and hammams (or Turkish baths) built by the Ottomans.
It has natural wonders too. Lebanon is one of the few countries where you can bask on the beach in the morning and go skiing in the afternoon (ski resorts include Fa’ara and Faraya). Its first, long-distance hiking route opened in 2007. It extends along the Mount Lebanon range, from Qbaiyat to Marjaayoun, and follows in the footsteps of traders and shepherds through national parks, nature reserves and small villages.
Beirut is capital, a rebuilt city now with mosques and churches, busy markets, happening nightclubs (serving some of the world’s best wines – Chateau Musar, Chateau Ksara, Chateau Kifraya, and Masaya) and the timeless Corniche. The local population are world-class party people. A night out starts with dinner at 10pm and often finishes with breakfast the next day.
Lebanon has a Mediterranean climate. The summers are hot and dry (humid along the coast, but moderated by the west wind) and the winters are mild and rainy. The mountainous areas of Lebanon are, naturally, colder than the coast. There’s plenty of snowfall in the winter months – ski season – and some peaks are snowcapped year round. The khamsin, a hot wind from the Sahara, blows during spring and occasionally the autumn months.
There’s not really a bad time to take cheap flights to Lebanon. The summer (June to August) is high season as this is when families in the region take their holidays. During the winter months temperatures along the coast are still mild although the mountainous regions are snowy. This is peak season for skiers. During the summer months hikers and quad-bikers take to the mountains.
April to October is high season in the beach resorts and December to April is ski season. Other peak season times are Eid el Fitr (the Muslim holiday that marks the end of Ramadan. Ramadan occurs during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, usually August/September), Eid al Adha (The Festival of Sacrifice, November), Christmas, New Year and Easter (March/April).
In general, the weeks following New Year and between Eid al Adha (November) and Christmas are low season times in Lebanon.
(prices quoted are from London)