The quaint city of Anjar is famous for its strong Armenian ties and its stunning Umayyad-era ruins that are unique among the ruins found in Lebanon. Set among mountains, Anjar is a perfect example of a charming, small mountain town with a rich history.
By car: Take the mountain road to Zahle and follow the signs south to Anjar.
By bus: First take the van from Jisr el Cola in Beirut to Zahle for 2,000 LBP. From Zahle, you can find a van or bus to Anjar for 2,000 or 3,000 LBP.
WHAT TO DO
Ummayad Ruins in Anjar
Before the discovery of the ruins in Anjar, Lebanon had archaeological evidence of almost every stage of Arab history except the Umayyads. The site was discovered accidentally in the 1940s by a team of archaeologists looking for the ancient city of Chalcis. What they found instead was the missing link in Lebanon’s long line of Arab rulers. Anjar is home to a complex of Umayyad ruins, including two palaces, a mosque and a public bath. Anjar is close to 1,300 year old and evidence from Greek, Roman and Byzantine architecture abound in the archaeological site, along with the arched Umayyad relics. A walk around takes around an hour but is well worth the detour.
Entrance Fee: 6,000 LBP
The Kfar Zabad Nature Reserve
Thanks to the presence of endangered birds in Anjar, the Kfar Zabad wetlands have been declared a nature reserve and for good reason. This sprawling natural site is home to magnificent sights and some of the best examples of Lebanon’s mountainous climate. In addition, there are plenty of outdoor activities to do in the area. The Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon (SPNL) is the main actor in the wetland and organizes several hikes with an emphasis on biodiversity and bird life. If you enjoy hiking and want a knowledgeable guide to expand upon what it is you’re seeing, the SPNL is perfect. They are friendly and happy to show you the best of the area’s biodiversity.
Contact: 01 343740/ 01 344814, spnl.org/anjar
WHERE TO EAT
Located in Anjar, Al Shams is the spot to go to try some of the best of Armenian food Lebanon has to offer. With a spacious dining area and generous portions, Al Shams does not disappoint. Their outdoor seating is perfect in the summertime, and the Al Shams mezze has an authentic Armenian touch. Make sure to try their famous balloon potatoes, mante and itch, the Armenian version of tabbouleh.
Contact: 08 620567, shamsrestaurant.com
Perched on the side of a lake, Al Jazire is a local favorite and, in recent years, has become a tourist attraction for Beirutis who come to escape the heat of the summer. Al Jazire’s Lebanese food is consistently tasty, fresh, and reasonably priced, and their garden seating makes for a great extended lunch. You can choose from traditional mezze items, along with fresh grilled fish and shisha pipes. Al Jazire is great for children who will enjoy feeding the ducks and trout in the lake.
Contact: 09 854040
WHERE TO STAY
Layali Al Shams
This hotel is the recent project of the Al Shams Hotel and a great modern and luxurious place to spend the night in Anjar. They have a large pool and outdoor space, clean rooms, and easy access to all of Anjar’s best sights.
Contact: 76 622600