Armenian Orthodox Christmas
Celebrate Christmas with the Armenian community (6 January) in east Beirut and sample delicious and traditional Armenian cuisine such as basterma, itch and sujuk (roast turkey also available).
Al Bustan International Festival of Music & the Performing Arts
This well-established annual festival in the Mount Lebanon region is the country’s premier winter event. For around five weeks this is a showcase for over thirty different events including classical music, dance, opera and theatrical performances and is organised around a different musical theme each year attracting an array of nationally and internationally renowned musicians and performers (mid-February until last week in March).
With the main tourist season still a few months away the mild temperatures and predominantly dry weather means that mid-March onwards is a good time to embark on an archaeological tour the length and breadth of the country to experience the rich architectural legacies left by Lebanon’s invaders and occupiers from the ancient Phoenicians to the Ottoman era – minus the tourist hordes.
Get off the beaten track
Hike (or bike) the 470km Lebanon Mountain Trail through some of Lebanon’s least-visited rural areas down the backbone of the country, sample local home cooking, stay in inexpensive and less mainstream lodgings such as B&Bs, campsites, monasteries and homestays whilst giving something back to local communities.
Get up close and personal with Lebanon’s national emblem
The mild spring temperatures make this an excellent time for hiking and trekking in the Chouf Cedar Reserve, Lebanon’s biggest nature reserve containing a quarter of the country’s remaining stands of Cedar tree (Cedrus libani) and the location for an abundance of other plant and animal life.
Karaz Hammana Food & Feast Festival
Go cherry-picking at the family-friendly annual cherry festival (‘Karaz’ in Arabic) in the village of Hammana and feast on the local cuisine prepared by local chefs. There are also photo exhibitions, a chance to try Lebanon’s traditional Dabke dance, organised local hikes and numerous activities to keep the children entertained.
Baalbeck International Festival
Lebanon and the Middle East’s most prestigious annual festival showcases an eclectic mix of music, dance and theatrical performances from both Lebanese and internationally renowned artists which take place within the ancient and atmospheric setting of Baalbek’s Roman temples (July–August).
Wet Wet Wet
From Tripoli in the north to Tyre in the south, Lebanon’s extensive coastline hosts an aquatic extravaganza of events as the annual Lebanon Water Festival organises activities such as scuba diving, sailing, kite-boarding, jet skiing and underwater photography competitions and there are also a range of water-based activity courses on offer (July–September).
Escape to the Orange House and help care for turtles
A great retreat for families with young children. From May–October is the nesting season for the endangered green and loggerhead turtles and guests staying at the eco-friendly The Orange House at Naqoura, near Tyre in southern Lebanon, can assist hosts Mona and Habiba with caring for the new hatchlings and helping to maintain the beach.
Not for the faint hearted, this important annual Shi’ite Muslim ceremony (which takes place 11 days earlier each year) commemorates the death of the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson, Imam Hussein, killed at the Battle of Karbala in southern Iraq in CE680. The ‘festival’ takes place mainly in the southern town of Nabatiye and is a passionate and remarkable show of faith as both adults and children alike venerate the martyrdom of Hussein, the Shi’ites’ third immam.
Pack your running shoes
One of the highlights of Lebanon’s sporting calendar is the ever-popular Beirut Marathon through the streets of the capital. This annual event draws runners of all levels of ability from a host of countries. In addition to the full 42km marathon there are a variety of other races – between 1–10km – catering to those with physical disabilities/Special Needs, those running for charity as well as parents and young children.
Hit the ski slopes in the only Middle Eastern country without a desert
The start of the country’s ski season offers a wealth of ski activities at its six mountain resorts catering to all levels of ability from beginners to seasoned skiers with family- and child-friendly slopes complemented by excellent après-ski facilities (around mid December to mid April).