Note: Keep in mind that Jeitta Grotto and Our Lady of Lebanon teleferic are not open on Monday, so make your plans accordingly.
Price: Around 12 USD depending on the exchange rate
To get to the Grotto can take one of the buses going north, get off at Nasr El Kalb and take an Uber or taxi from there, as no public transport goes up the Grotto. It was too much hassle, so we ordered Uber, which delivered us there from Beirut for 16 USD. From the Grotto to Jounieh teleferic Uber was 8 USD.
During the drive, we understood for the first time, what it means, when they honk the car once – the Uber driver was doing it each time he was following a girl with the eyes. It was very weird and uncomfortable for us. Since then, we knew that one honk means they “fancy” the girl, two or more means they are offering you a taxi ride.
Jeitta Grotto is really one of the natural wonders of the world, as Lebanese like to call it. It is an amazing huge cave with stalactites and stalagmites. The drive there from Beirut is scenic, going up into the hills.
The upper grotto is a short cable car ride away from the entrance. It looks like a huge cathedral. When you enter first through the narrow tunnel, it feels breathtaking. It was a pity that we were not allowed to take pictures, although, unfortunately, some people still broke the rules and sneaked their phones in. We don’t have any photos from it though.
After you are done marveling at the upper grotto, you can take a small train car down to the Lower grotto or just walk down for several minutes. It’s very cold inside the lower grotto (even more so than the upper grotto) and you feel the dampness, as soon as you enter. They put you on a small boat. The boats are cute and slow and the ride is wonderful. If you will want to put your hands in water, it is very cold and fresh. Cover your head with something, as the water is sometimes dripping from the stalactites.
Jounieh – Our Lady of Lebanon
Entrance for free, cable car roundtrip costs approximately 35 US$.
After Jeitta, head to Jounieh. If you are coming here from Jeitta Grotto, it’s best to directly take Uber, as the distance is short.
To go up Harissa, take a teleferique up to Our Lady of Lebanon (round trip price: appr. 35 USD). I believe you could also walk up but it would be a long and tedious walk. The teleferique is certainly very expensive, but I recommend not missing this experience. The teleferique ride is a long and beautiful journey. Sit facing the seaside and enjoy the absolutely stunning views. It was a lot of adrenaline for us, even though we have taken a number of cable cars in different places. You can even see all the way to Beirut from here.
Our Lady of Lebanon – statue of St. Mary is a 15 ton statue built by French at the beginning of the 20th century. Interestingly not only Christians of all denominations, but Muslim pilgrims also visit this place.
The church next to the statue of Our Lady is interesting and huge, the style is modern. A very strange construction indeed, so worth checking out to see if you like it. I personally was not much of a fan.
Finally, once you get to the main road from the teleferique, catch any bus (rather a minibus) heading north and hop off near Byblos. This UNESCO World Heritage site is an adorable city, definitely my favourate among all the old Phoenician cities.
Byblos archeological site (price: appr. 10 USD) is spread over a huge area. You will see the ruins of the old Phoenician city with 8000 years of history, which started to rise in the 3rd millennium BC. The city had contacts with the Egyptians and was involved in trade. Then it was under the rule of Persians, Greeks, Romans, Crusaders, Ottomans and French.
At the Archeological site you will find ancient temples, necropolis, old well and houses, etc. Temple of Baalat – the Goddess of Byblos was destroyed several times, subsequently it was dedicated to Aphrodite. The Roman theatre which you will find here is a reconstruction third in size of the original.
You will also see the old wall and a castle remains from 3rd millenium BC, the Temple of Obelisks, etc.
Besides, a sarcophagus of the Byblos king Ahiram from appr. 2nd millenium was unearthed here and is now housed at the National Museum of Beirut. It’s important because it contains oldest known Phoenician inscriptions.
Also visit Byblos citadel, a 12th century crusaders castle, which has great views over the seaside and the Othman al Housami House.
This city, as most of the coastal Lebanese cities, has a number of churches. While here, do visit the St. john’s Church built by crusaders in the 12th century.
After that, get lost in the souqs, with colorful shops and beautiful flowers all around. I am usually not one to be a fan of the souqs, as they are usually massy and smelly. But this one was cute, as everything in this city. It was clean and lovely. We were not being harassed and could calmly explore.
Btw. walking around the souqs, we came by a book festival. A lot of sellers were located in a big yard selling used books.
And this guy, Doctor Flowers as he called himself, was the most colorful and vivid person in the city.
Do avoid buying anything around this area, as, for instance, the ice cream is double or triple the usual price. If you want something or are hungry, head to the outskirts of the souqs and find a shop or a café with relatively reasonable prices.
In the evening, go to the Marina in the evening and watch the sunset. The city is beautiful bathed in the evening rays of sun. we enjoyed sitting and listening to waves, while the sun was going down.