#TuckedAwayPlaces: Byblos, Lebanon

Where do I start, this tiny fishing village on the Lebanese coast is full of history, local stories and some of the best fresh fish you’ll ever consume.  We entered the ancient village by taxi, the car barely inching through the narrow cobblestone streets winding up from the harbor to a Crusader castle built in the 12th century. The streets surrounding the castle are filled with local products and anything that might meet your swimming or sunbathing needs.

Wandering down from the ancient village out to the picturesque port is the perfect way to ease into the slow sea life of Byblos. Along the secluded cobblestone streets we peeked into lovely limestone homes, gardens filled with the reddest tomatoes you have ever seen, and even a sweet Italian pizzeria—for a moment we felt like we were in Monterossa, Italy. 

The picturesque port is surrounded by seafood restaurants with terraces overlooking the village’s fishing boat fleet.  Watching the fisherman pull their boats out and wedge them back in is quite the sight.

Lunch in Byblos was one of the most memorable highlights on my first trip to Lebanon.  I wish we could have ordered everything.  We decided on a fresh fattoush salad (mint, arugula, tomatoes, dried pita, cucumbers, pomegranate glaze and sumac, lots of sumac), fresh calamari fritti with parsley based aioli, and grilled snapper with a tahini sauce on the side.  Of course to beat the heat we ordered some Almaza beer, served in the coldest mugs I have ever seen.  The best part about ordering was selecting our fresh fish from the ice display.  While we went with the snapper and calamari, all of the fish looked wonderful—so vibrant and crisp.

After lunch we debated going to the beach right outside the city walls or hiring a boat to take us out on the sea.  We decided we needed to see Byblos from the water and hired a local guy to take us out on his speedboat, while I am sure the boat had seen better days, it did the trick.  After becoming surrounded by the deep turquoise water we knew we made the right choice.  Bouncing along the swells and sea salt in our hair was the perfect introduction to coastal Lebanon.  And what a sight Byblos is from the water! As we powered north, our eyes followed the village to the retaining wall and off to the pristine beach neighboring the village and up around to a beautiful secluded cove. 

Sadly, dinner plans back in Beirut forced us to keep our visit to Byblos short, but was it ever so sweet.  Of course I am already plotting the next trip back. 

How to get to Byblos: Byblos is short trip from Beirut, for either the day or an overnight (we’ve heard great things about the village at night!). You can easily hire a taxi from Beirut to drop you off in Byblos for about $25, expect higher prices if you want the taxi to wait and take you back to Beirut.  We used Allo taxi, but there are several you can pre-book from Beirut.

Where to Eat: You can’t go wrong with seafood in Byblos and really any of the restaurant’s lining the port will not disappoint.  We chose Bab El-Mina, but another great option would be the restaurant connected to the Byblos Sur Mer hotel, whici has a stone platform that extends out into the sea.  You’ll feel like you are on an island!

Image via  Bab El-Mina

Image via Bab El-Mina

Where to Stay: While we didn’t stay overnight, we wandered around the premises of Byblos Sur Mer, explored their private mini-port surrounded by a pool and a restaurant.  We’ve heard great things from friends that have stayed and the facilities looked top-notch.  It’s where we’ll be staying when we go back!

Image via  Byblos Sur Mer

Image via Byblos Sur Mer

Image via  Byblos Sur Mer

Image via Byblos Sur Mer