A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Lebanon’s Baalbek ruins are some of the best-preserved Greco-Roman structures in all the Middle East. The site was once a thriving Phoenician city known as Heliopolis (“Sun City”), and today, the Temple of Bacchus, Temple of Venus, and Temple of Jupiter offer visions of past glories.
As with other Bekaa Valley attractions and many sights in the compact nation of Lebanon, Baalbek is most commonly visited on a day trip from Beirut. Many tours include other Bekaa Valley highlights, most often the early Islamic city of Anjar—another UNESCO World Heritage Site—and a winery, generally Ksara or Kefraya. Baalbek tickets can only be bought on-site and are priced in line with other UNESCO-listed sites around the world. Limited signage means that it’s well worth visiting with a guide or hiring one on-site.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Baalbek is a must for history buffs, photographers, and Instagrammers.
- Wear practical shoes: Baalbek’s unfinished paths and rough steps require a bit of scrambling.
- Safety in this part of Lebanon is an issue due to terrorism and armed conflict, according to the US Department of State. Travelers considering a visit should refer to their government’s travel advisories for the latest information.
- Baalbek is not wheelchair-accessible.
How to Get There
Baalbek is located in the Bekaa Valley, around 60 miles (90 kilometers) northwest of Beirut. Minibuses run to the town regularly from Beirut’s Cola bus station, and it’s possible to get to the site and back in a day on public transport. If you’d like to see more of the Bekaa, perhaps a winery or Anjar, your only options are a tour or driving, a high-adrenaline activity anywhere in Lebanon.
When to Get There
The Baalbek ruins are open from morning until shortly before sunset seven days a week. They are generally far from busy, but the Baalbek International Festival each July draws local and international tourists to the area. Photographers will want to visit in the late afternoon to enjoy the light.
Security in Baalbek
The town of Baalbek is located close to the Syrian border in the Bekaa Valley and serves as the headquarters of the Hezbollah Islamist militant group. The security situation in both the Bekaa Valley and Baalbek can change rapidly and at short notice, and it is not always safe to visit the ruins.