Rank #13: LEBANON

A dynamic country capitalising on its cultural clout

Momentum is starting to gather in fascinating Lebanon, and its crumbling crusader castles and intricate mosaic-paved streets, which have become tourist-free in recent years, are ushering in culture-curious travellers once more.

Earlier in 2019, the British Foreign Office changed its travel advice regarding Lebanon – which previously warned against visiting areas including the Bekka Valley – deeming it safe for travellers to return. As such, adventurous tour operators are introducing exciting itineraries for 2020, opening up Lebanon’s world-class restaurants, shortbread-sand beaches and ancient ruins for exploration.

At Baalbek lies one of the largest and best-preserved Roman sites in the Middle East, with its monumental 2,000-year-old temple to Jupiter and six towering, free-standing columns. As the home of the Phoenicians, the early traders who controlled most of the ports in the Mediterranean, the country is full of similarly intoxicating ancient sites, including the enormous hippodrome and Roman ruins of Tyre, which can also be admired underwater while snorkelling (you may have to jostle for space with the resident sea turtles, though).

A melting pot of religions, traditions and cultures, Lebanon’s appeal is perhaps most apparent in Beirut, where a burgeoning arts scene draws in young creatives and alternative business owners. At Tawlet, a different woman from a local community cooks the food of her village every day on rotation, and the same non-profit runs the spice-scented farmers’ market at Souk el Tayeb. Less than an hour away, you’ll find Ixsir, which stakes a claim to the title of ‘the highest altitude vineyard in the world’. Indeed, the country’s wine industry looks set to make (fresh on the nose, stone-fruit-scented) waves in 2020. In the 1980s, there were just seven wineries in the Bekka Valley, now there are more than 40, some of them producing world-renowned bottles such as Chateau Musar.

Add to that fine-sand beaches, a sprawling network of mountains and expansive, lung-cleansing cedar forests, and it’s not hard to see why Lebanon’s on the up.

Original Article: Condé Nast Traveller

Mzaar Ski Resort

A few steps from Planet Suites

The resort has 42 slopes and 80 kilometers of ski tracks. The skiing season in Lebanon is similar in length to that of the Alps stretching over a period of 4 months. Skiers, snowboarders, snowmobile addicts, cross-country lovers and paragliders come to the resort from all parts of the country. Starting at 1850m, you may reach the 2465m top of Mzaar and enjoy the breathtaking view over the colorful Bekaa valley, Mount Hermon of the Anti-Lebanon and other peaks like Laqlouq and the Cedars. Coastal towns and even Beirut the capital might be seen on a clear day.

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Faqra Ruins

At 6 Km from Planet Suites

Qalaat Faqra is an archaeological site in Kfardebian, Lebanon, with Roman and Byzantine ruins. Located on the slopes of Mount Sannine at an altitude of 1500 m, it is one of the most important sites of the UNESCO-listed Nahr al-Kalb valley.

Ruins include a temple to Zeus Beelgalasos, a sanctuary of Atargatis dedicated to Agrippa II and his sister Berenice, two altars, and a tower with a 16-metre square base built in 44 A.D.

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Chabrouh Dam

At 7 Km from Planet Suites

The Faraya-Chabrouh Dam is a dam above the village of Faraya Lebanon, 40 kilometers northeast of Beirut that was inaugurated in 2007. The dam has a height of 63 metres. The reservoir has a capacity of some 8 million cubic meters and is some 1300 metres in length.

The dam is located in rural Lebanon and is surrounded by farmland. Agricultural lands stretch far below the Faraya-Chabrouh Dam and the water is used from the reservoir to irrigate the lands, providing an essential resource to thousands of people in the villages below.

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Jeita Grotto – The Pearl of Nature in Lebanon

At 30 Km from Planet Suites

Jeïta Grotto is the jewel of tourism in Lebanon offering to its visitors qualified modern services and accommodation in harmony with a fascinating nature. It creates a magical trip which enables them to spend a day of wonder-filled adventure by being carried away from a tangible world to a wonderland where are found 2 limestone crystallized grottoes characterized by extraordinary concretions of stalactites and stalagmites sculpted naturally in different forms, sizes and colors. It is a source of attraction for whole the families wishing to discover a mysterious world in the heart of the earth.

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