Jounieh is the closest city to Beirut and the landscape and beautiful bay make it well worth a full day trip. Add in the Jeita Grotto and Teleferique, and Jounieh can be a great option for a weekend’s escape from Beirut.
Without traffic, Jounieh can be just a half hour’s drive from Beirut. However, the road to Jounieh is often congested, especially during peak hours, so plan an hour or so to get there.
By car: Follow the northern highway out of Beirut and follow the signs for Jounieh.
By bus: Head to Dora to find a van leading to Jounieh. They only cost 2,000 LBP and leave every 10 minutes, but be prepared to really squeeze in. Alternatively, you can find a taxi to Jounieh from Beirut for around 20,000 – 40,000 LBP.
WHAT TO DO
Teleferique and Our Lady of Lebanon
The Jounieh Teleferique is one of the country’s most well-run tourist attractions. The cable car takes you through the city and then sharply up the mountain for totally gorgeous panoramas of the Jounieh Bay and Mediterranean horizon.
After an enchanting nine-minute ride, the Teleferique pops you out on top of Harissa, where a surprisingly well-maintained park of trees and flowers line the walkway to the Our Lady of Lebanon statue.
You don’t have to be a religious tourist to appreciate the beauty of this statue, which stands arms-open above Jounieh. The views from the top are some of the best in the country so take your time and enjoy a coffee or snack from one of the nearby cafes.
Cost: 9,000 LBP (weekdays) 11,000 LBP (weekend) roundtrip
Hours: 10 am – 10 pm
Contact: 09 936075/ 09 914324, teleferiquelb.com
It goes without saying that the Jeita Grotto is an absolute must-visit while in Lebanon. Millions of years of subterranean movement have produced a cathedral-like underground cave that is absolutely breathtaking to behold. Standing under the stalagmites and stalactites, you are instantly reminded of the power of the Earth.
The Jeita Grotto is only accessible by car, so if you don’t have one, you can reach it by taxi for around 20,000 LBP from Jounieh. Once there, drive straight to the cave’s entrance (you will pass many vendors offering packages into the Grotto—ignore these; payment should only be made at the official entrance). Jeita can be explored by foot or by boat, both of which are great options. It’s not hard to imagine the first explorers stumbling in the pitch-blackness onto this massive underground cavern. Luckily, today the grotto is well lit with good walkways. The full tour will take around 1.5 to 2 hours, after which you can buy a souvenir or snack from one of the outside vendors.
Entrance Fee: 18,000 LBP
Hours: 9 am – 5 pm. Closed Mondays.
Contact: 09 220840, jeitagrotto.com
The Old Souk
The Jounieh old souk, with cobblestone streets and old-fashioned architecture, make for a great stroll in the otherwise modern city. There are plenty of restaurants and shops, selling both antiques and retail so you can take in the history and have a shopping trip in one. The old street is right by the water, so stop into any of the many ocean-side cafes to enjoy a water-front rest with great views.
Jounieh is known for its top-notch bars, lounges and club, and Beirutis looking for a change of scenery are known to flock to this nightlife hub come Friday and Saturday night. Along the Mina Street near the water are plenty of bars located side-by-side that make for a great bar-hopping. In summer months, most bars have decks for diners and revelers to enjoy the cool ocean breeze and salty air while they kick back a Mojito. Check out Hooligans (03 551449) for a raucous night, Habana (03 664285, 09 638166) for swinging Latino music, or Tonic (09 635939/ 71 099934) for laid-back vibe.
WHERE TO EAT
Punta Del Este
This popular Jounieh restaurant and hotel specializes in Argentinian food and its food, views, and cocktails do not disappoint. Punta Del Este’s menu offers items like empanadas, tuna tartar and a juicy burger that is worth the trip in itself. Great for a date night, or a night out with friends, this trendy restaurant will give you the best of Jounieh with a Latin-American touch.
Contact: 76 933466/ 09 830788
Dorado Sur Mer
If you are in Jounieh for a day-trip, this restaurant is perfectly located at the foot of the Teleferique. With tasty mezze and an outdoor seating area facing the sea, Dorado Sur Mer is a beautiful place to find fresh seafood and some traditional Lebanese grub after a trip up the mountain.
Contact: 09 914414/ 70 227025
WHERE TO SLEEP
BURJ on BAY
Though the BURJ on BAY Hotel is about 15-minutes north of Jounieh’s main hub, it is well worth the detour. BURJ on BAY is brand new and offers cooking classes with Le Cordon Bleu right in its hotel. To top things off, their restaurant, which offers stunning views of Jounieh Bay, has some of the best food in Lebanon and their cocktails are expertly and thoughtfully prepared. There is a gym, outdoor pool, and wedding venue on the premises, as well as all modern amenities, and a balcony in every room.
Contact: 09 855941, burjonbay.com