For historical landmarks, Jounieh can boast having one of the oldest historical landmarks in the country. The spectacular caves of the Jeita Grotto (www.jeitagrotto.com/index.php), have been formed over millions and millions of years creating the wonderful rock formations that can be visited today. These cathedrals of geology are truly a wonder to behold, in both their immense size and natural beauty. It’s worth mentioning that if you're planning to go, you should pack a jumper because even in the peak summer months the caverns can get very chilly. There are two caves at Jeita that you can visit. The first is explored by foot, and the second is witnessed from a very tranquil boat ride across the perfectly still waters. You’ll have to take a car to reach Jeita, and if you don’t have your own ride then a taxi will set you back around LL 15,000 each way. Entrance for the grotto, which includes the boat trip will cost LL 18,150.
After a trip to the subterranean depths, it will be time to head up. Keeping watch over Jounieh from on high is Harissa and Lebanon’s own Christ the Redeemer, in the form of Our Lady of Lebanon. A late-19th bronze statue of the Virgin Mary with arms outstretched, this is an important religious site for the Lebanon’s Maronite community, who take pilgrimages here. When visiting, you must be dressed conservatively, so make sure that you're wearing something that covers your knees and shoulders. It’s worth a visit even if you are not a follower of Saint Maroun, as the views from the top over the bay towards Beirut are unparalleled.
It’s possible to drive up, but it’s much more fun to take the téléphérique. This nine-minute journey takes passengers to an altitude of 650 metres in small bright coloured cable cars. Along with the incredible views of the city below and the bay area, you can also explore your voyeuristic side with the opportunity to peer into people's apartments as you pass uncomfortably close to the tower blocks.
From the top you can check out the majestic views and the impressive glass fronted cathedral, which had been designed to emulate waves. There are a number of cafes where you can grab a drink or a bite to eat, which is particularly gratifying when watching the sunset. If the ride up in the téléphérique completely destroyed your nerves then take a taxi back down, stopping at some of Kesrouan’s quaint small villages, which are dotted around the area.
Overlooking the Kesrouan area is the legendary Casino du Liban (www.cdl.com.lb/index.asp). Built in 1959, the casino is a playground for anyone looking to win their fortune. The suggested dress code is smart and glamorous, although that doesn’t mean that you need to turn up in your dinner jacket and ball gown, just avoid the jeans and t-shirt. Gambling is obviously one of the main attractions at the casino, but not the only attraction; you’ll also find five restaurants to choose from and a theatre that hosts international shows.
By: James Haines-Young