South of Beirut encompasses the towns of Sidon (Saida), Tyre (Sour), as well as the Chouf Mountains. Formerly a popular venue for invasions by the Persians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Crusaders and Mamluks, these days it is more popular for day trips from Beirut, especially for its sweets and soap.
Set amid thick citrus and banana groves, this port town 45km south of Beirut was once a rich and flourishing Phoenician city, with tight trade links to ancient Egypt and a globally renowned glass-making industry. These days it's best known for its fresh fruit and its sweets (the local speciality is a crumbly cookie called senioura).
A pretty fishing port with an ancient harbour, medieval town centre, Crusader-era castle and atmospheric archaeological site, Byblos is a wonderful choice for those wanting a night or two out of Beirut, but is also an easy and enjoyable day trip. The town's tourist office is located in the souq near the entrance to the archaeological site. Banks are found on Rue Jbail.
A cheerful and bustling town with some nice riverside restaurants and a holiday feel in the summer months, Zahlé makes a great lunchtime or evening stop on the way between Beirut and Baalbek, or even an alternative base for exploring the Bekaa Valley if you find its happy atmosphere and cool climate (at 945m) particularly enticing.
Bcharré & the Qadisha Valley
The trip up to the mountain village of Bcharré takes you through some of the most beautiful scenery in Lebanon. The road winds along mountainous slopes, continuously gaining in altitude and offering spectacular views of the Qadisha Valley, a Unesco World Heritage–listed site that is home to isolated rock-cut monasteries, wildflowers and plenty of wildlife.
It may lack sprawling medieval souqs and handsome ancient ruins, but this small town between Byblos and Tripoli has a semi-somnolent and highly atmospheric old neighbourhood near the water that rewards leisurely exploration. Founded by the Phoenician king Ithobaal 1, Batroun was a busy port in ancient times but was levelled by an earthquake and mudslides in 551 AD.
Situated at the Galilee’s northernmost tip, this picturesque, hilltop village – surrounded on three sides by Lebanon – was founded in 1896 with help from the French branch of the Rothschild family. In 1920 its location played a crucial role in the decision to include the Galilee Panhandle in the British mandate of Palestine rather than the French mandate of Lebanon.