Tour of Jeitta Grotto, Byblos and Harrisa from Beirut, Lebanon
My friends and I took a long weekend trip to Beirut, Lebanon during the end of November. Autumn was a nice time to go as the leaves were changing color. Besides enjoying their well-known dining and night-life we also took a day-trip out to see the Jeitta Grotto, Byblos and Harrisa. These main places of interest are definitely a must-see to any visit to Beirut, Lebanon. Keep on reading below for all the details to our day-trip.
The day-tour we booked for our group included an 8 hour English guided tour with A/C private transportation. We were able to explore Jeitta Grotto, Harissa and Byblos all in one day. The cost we negotiated was $150 USD total for our whole group (a total of 5), excluding tips, meals and entrance fees. It began at 8am and we ended at the restaurant of our choice by 5pm. We were able to book through a company called Beirut Transfer and coordinate the pick up time via email.
Here is the day itinerary:
First, we made a stop at the Commemorative Stelae of Nahr el-Kalb where you can see inscriptions carved into limestone rocks. This site is an integral part in Lebanan’s history as they have found inscriptions dating back to Egyptian, Babylonian, Greco-Roman, Islamic and Colonial times. As they say – it sums up the entire history of Lebanon. A quick 10 minute stop is recommended here as it is just along the highway.
We made another stop as we were driving towards Jeitta Grotto while we were on the mountains. You will notice that Beirut has many mountains and valleys and many people reside on the tops of the hill for the best views. We took a quick photo-op stop here.
Finally, we arrived at Jeitta Grotto – the Grotto is split into an upper grotto and a lower grotto. The cost of admissions is $12 and we were told to leave our cameras and phones in their secure lockers. They ask guests not to photograph the grottos inside as they had issues in the past with people climbing and ruining the environment. Inside the upper grotto is very large with high ceilings. It felt a bit humid but cold and dark. There is a main fenced path which guides the way, but there is very little information given on the grotto and history. After touring the upper grotto, we walked down the path (there is a shuttle available) to go inside the lower grotto. This part was definitely a must-see as we were guided into small boats to tour the grotto. The ride was approximately 15 minutes long and it reminded me of being in one of the attractions at Disney World (cue small small world song). During the ride, a few of my friends had brought their phones with them and the boat driver had let them snap a few photos during part of the tour (secretly). After the lower grotto, there is a very mini zoo (only a couple animals) and a small park to walk through to take a few outdoor photos. We spent approximately two hours here.
Next, we arrived in Byblos Castle. The cost of the entrance with guided English tour was $5. I was amazed at the history of the castle and how they have discovered sections of the underground city. Definitely a must-visit to this 7000+ year old city. You can still see the beautiful architecture and of course amazing views from here. The outdoor theatre was one of my favorites. We spent approximately an hour here.
Byblos Souk – Across the street from the castle, we walked down a long alley of street vendors. Here you can find authentic Lebanese hand made products, perfect place for souvenir shopping. My friend had purchased a fossil of a fish from here which was quite unique. As with any other souk, remember to haggle.
Byblos Marina – We stopped briefly at the Marina here to take photos of the beautiful waters. Here we saw so many people fishing. If we had more time we definitely stop for a beverage at the waterfront restaurants. PEPE is one of their most popular restaurants, especially among the celebrities.
At last, we visited Harrisa where we climbed up to see the statue of Lady of Lebanon also known as Virgin Mary. We arrived at the bottom of the hill and purchased our tickets to ride the tram up the mountain, cost was $6. These little carts could only fit 4 people at a time, they were slow but it was a beautiful sight to watch the city from the air. At our first stop there was a café, and a kids play area but we were guided to another tram which took up further up to the main attraction. Once we had gotten there, we saw Lady of Lebanon in her full glory and a small church at the base. There were a few stories of stairs to get all the way up, but the view was definitely worth it to be high enough to see where the waters and city join at a distance.
There you have it, a full day tour from Beirut, Lebanon. Soon, I will be sharing my favorite restaurants in Beirut.