baalbek-3_1Home to the largest roman ruins in the world, Baalbeck is a relatively far drive from Beirut. To get the most of the ride, make arriving there part of the fun by doing a tour of some of Lebanon’s wineries in the Bekaa Valley like Kefraya, Ksara, Massaya, and Clos St. Thomas. Most offer packages for wine tasting and lunch, but it is best to call ahead and reserve. Given that one of Baalbeck’s most famous temples is devoted to the god of wine, a wine tour could be justified as a prerequisite for fully appreciating the site’s archeological wonders.

If having a look at a modern manmade feat of engineering before seeing an ancient one sounds appealing, then another stop is Lake Qaraoun.
For nature lovers, a little known treasure on the way to the lake is the A’ana Nature Reserve, where more than 150 deer live in a 1,000,000 square meter evergreen forest that is also home to rabbits, ducks, and other woodland creatures. To see more animals, a visit to the Taanayel Farms in Chtoura is not only a good place to sample fresh cheese and labneh, but also to see farm animals that will surely delight children.

Visiting the World Heritage site of Baalbeck itself before the festivities begin is a thrilling step back in time that is not to be missed. Visit the Baalbeck Museum first, and the ruins will come alive in a whole new way. For another dose of sacred history, Anjar is a short drive away, featuring a World Heritage site of well-preserved Umayyad ruins in a village with a sizable religious Armenian community.

For a quick bite on the road, many fresh dairy shops line the main road descending into the valley after Dahr El Baydar, perfect for a labneh sandwich.
For fine dining, Le Relais Dionysos at Chateau Kefraya serves French and Lebanese fare. For a more traditional Lebanese experience, Shams in Anjar offers tasty mezze and succulent seafood like gambas and fresh trout in a modest but friendly setting. To sleep amidst the sounds of the valley, the West Bekaa Country Club in Kherbet Anafar, the Chtaura Park Hotel in Chtoura, and the Grand Hotel Kadri in Zahle all offer reasonable rates and attractive grounds for enjoying a relaxing weekend escape.

Off the beaten path

CULTURE
Visit the Niha ruins in the village of Niha in the Bekaa. For contemporary history, visit the Palmyra Hotel and step into the past; the colonial-era relic remains unchanged since the 1960’s and still has its star-studded guest book on display with names like General Charles de Gaulle.

NATURE & ADVENTURE
Contact WADA for organized cultural and hiking tours in the area, and discover sites like the Yammouneh Nature Reserve, the Temple of Astarte (Aphrodite), and the churches of Our Miraculous Lady of Bechouat, where locals claim to have witnessed recent miraculous healings.

SHOP
Painter Najwa Rifai Sinno and architect Hareth Haidar created an original fashion line inspired by Lebanese and Bedouin abayas, reviving both traditional embroidery techniques and rich local textiles. Their creations are on display in their shop, Assyla, which is located in front of the Palmyra Hotel. The workshop of Hayat el Rifaii on the old main street of Baalbeck features lovely artisanal wares for the home.

STAY
In Baalbeck, the new annex of the Palmyra Hotel is much more comfortable than its historical counterpart, with a phenomenal view over the ruins. Pension Shouman is clean with all of the basics, and has 5 small rooms that also overlook the ruins. Wada B&B in Deir El Ahmar and the Al Rachid in Jdeydet El Fekha are warm and friendly guesthouses. Taanayel Ecolodge is a unique and fun experience from Arc en Ciel, which restored amd transformed traditional houses of the Bekaa into rustic and colorful chalets that reflect the culture of the valley. The ecolodge organizes cultural and sport activities for guests.

WINE AND DINE
In Baalbeck, enjoy Lebanese cuisine at the restaurant of the Palmyra Hotel, Casino Ras Al Ain, or Sheherezade, which is located on the rooftop of the Yaghi shopping center, ideal for lunch with daytime views on the ruins. In Zahle, many cozy restaurants lining the Berdawani riverwalk are bustling with families and street vendors selling candy, nuts, and other local treats. The West Bekaa Country Club offers frequent evening packages including dinner, live Arabic music, and bellydancing.

*Information summarized extracted from Lebanon Traveler Magazine- Issue 0; For full Article please click here