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.
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.
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 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.
Once a sleepy fishing village, this satellite suburb 21km north of Beirut is now a pleasure playground hemmed in by the sea on one side and the mountains on the other. Famous as the home of the venerable Casino du Liban, noisy bars, crowded restaurants and lurid ‘super’ nightclubs filled with bored exotic dancers, it certainly won't be to everyone's taste.
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.