Byblos the ancient Phoenician city is today a picturesque Mediterranean Seaside town in Lebanon and is an exotic holiday destination near Beirut. Widely believed to be one of the oldest habitable cities, Byblos captivates both the archaeologist and the casual tourist. Some of the reasons why Byblos is a great holiday in Lebanon is that, it gives a glimpse of the Phoenician way of life, connection with the Romans and the Crusades, an ancient Port, its impeccable location on the beautiful Mediterranean coast with sandy beaches & grand mountains and accessibility from Beirut.
Byblos is known a Jbail these days and is 42 KMs north of Beirut. The most convenient way is to take a Taxi and the journey will take about an hour.
Byblos can be visited all the year round courtesy its Mediterranean climate. Jun-Sep tends to be the most popular as there is no rain.
Most people stay in Beirut and do a day trip to Byblos. If you want to stay overnight at Byblos then a good option is Hotel Canari de Byblos located on Voie 13, Highway Exit.
Byblos was rediscovered in 1860 during a French survey by Ernest Renan. Some of the famous archaeologists who helped in the excavations at Byblos are Pierre Montet and Maurice Dunand who incidentally spent 60 years on the site!
The Crusader Castle is the most impressive structure at Byblos. It was built by the Crusaders in the 12th century using limestone over the remains of a Roman Structure. The Castle was taken over by Saladin the legendary Sultan of Egypt & Syria in 1188 only to be recaptured by the Crusaders in 1197. There is a small but informative museum inside the castle about the archaeological history of Byblos. The terrace of the Castle provides picture postcard views of the Mediterranean Sea.
Built in 200 BC, a magnificent Roman Amphitheatre is a key attraction at Byblos. The Amphitheatre is made up of the semicircular shaped Orchestra, where the artists performed and the auditorium, where the spectators were seated. During it’s hey days, The Amphitheatre was 20 meters high with special seating for VIPs! Right in the center was a large mosaic of Bacchus the god of sexuality and wine! Today the mosaic is displayed at the National Museum in Beirut. Even today you can spot the altar on the orchestra where incense was burned to please the gods.
Byblos still has a Royal Necropolis which used to have the tombs of 2nd millennium BC. The Necropolis still houses sarcophagi and interestingly you can find it through a small expedition through a tunnel into the shaft!
Lo and behold, there lies the ancient sarcophagus of a Phonecian King! This particular Sarcophagus is built with stone.
To have a look at the famous sarcophagi of King Heram of 1200 BC, you will have to visit the National Museum in Beirut.
The temple of Obelisk is a fascinating place to discover the Egyptian connection with Byblos. The Temple is dedicated to Resheph the Egyptian god of war. In the 2nd century BC, a giant obelisk used to stand right at its center. Today you can still find remains of smaller obelisks around the temple. During the arecheologist's excavations, the Tempe of Obelisks yielded several treasures which are now possible to see at the National Museum in Beirut.
Byblos was full of beautiful red tiled houses during the 19th century. However all of these were demolished to help the excavation of the ground below. There is a single exception and this structure can still be seen with a beautiful backdrop of the Mediterranean. The Red tiled house captures the essence of the Lebanese architectural style during the Ottoman period.
The Roman Colonnade at Byblos is made up of Corinthian marble columns. It was meant as a ceremonial path to the Temple of Baalat-Gebal, the Lady of Byblos. Six Corinthian columns are still standing and you can also see a part of the original frieze connecting two of the columns.
Byblos Fishing Club is the place to eat while at Byblos. You will be following the footsteps of the likes of Frank Sinatra, Marlon Brando and Brigitte Bardot who used to arrive in million dollar Yatchs and eat at this Club. The Byblos Fishing Club provides a magnificent view of the breathtaking Byblos Harbor.
On your way out, it might be a good idea to have a look at the Wax Museum of Byblos. It captures the life and times of key personalities of the Lebanese history right from Phoenician times.
The Phoenician Alphabet developed in 15 century BC is regarded as the first alphabetic script to be widely-used. It is at Byblos where the earliest inscriptions in the Phoenician Alphabet were discovered. The Phoenician Alphabet is also credited with being the precursor to many writing systems like Greek, Etruscan, Latin, Arabic and Hebrew. So, Byblos had a role to play in changing the way Man communicates in modern times!
For my travelogues on other heritage sites across the world, visit great heritage holiday ideas.