Five unique, occasionally weird things that you can do around Beirut and nowhere else.
GIVEN THAT the State Department currently advises against traveling to Lebanon, it isn't at the top of most people's must-visit list. Yet brave souls will still be tempted by the country's Mediterranean coast, snow-capped mountains and tahini-drizzled cuisine. Should you find yourself flying into Beirut, try these unexpected activities, all of which are within a two-hour drive of the city.
-Lucy Knight1. Cycle through ancient wine country :Thanks to their warm climate and fertile terrain, both the coastal area of Batroun and the inland Bekaa Valley are home to many of Lebanon's most famous vineyards. TourTwist offers a bespoke tour of up to eight wineries in either region. If you go to Batroun, make sure to check out Ixsir and Adyar wineries. The Bekaa region features a handful of superb vineyards and Domaine de Taanayel, where you'll find bike paths and rental bikes. Break up the day with a quick lunch-or a two-hour tasting meal where you sample up to 40 dishes.Tours from $50 per person.
2. Sit down at a Beirut couple's table for a home-cooked meal
Sylvia Khoury and Charles Ghorayeb welcome visitors into their Beirut apartment for an evening of Lebanese food, wine and conversation. The couple, who formerly offered tailor-made tours of Lebanon to tourists, now focus on their home-kitchen venture. They serve dishes such as malfouf (stuffed cabbage leaves), shankleesh (ripened cheese) and makanek (little sausages). The food relies on seasonal staples that are grown in the couple's garden in Damour, just outside the city. $20 per person, $30 with wine.
3. Study Middle Eastern politics in a Bond-style mountaintop lair :
Even if you are only dimly interested in contemporary Middle Eastern politics, you'll find the Mleeta Resistance Tourist Landmark fascinating. Set in southern Lebanon, on the site of a former Hezbollah stronghold, the structure that is commonly referred to as "The Hezbollah Museum" resembles the mountaintop lair of a classic James Bond villain (think: angular gray buildings, guns and greenery). The museum displays haunting combat artifacts, along with monuments involving tanks, styled like a modern art installation. Museum staffers welcome anyone wanting to learn about what they call the "Islamic resistance." Your guide might say, "Everyone's opinion does count, but you came here to know the truth." $2 per adult.
4. See the castle that heartbreak built :
Back in the '40s, a girl spurned a 14-year-old boy named Moussa Maamari because he didn't have enough money. Mr. Maamari went on to build a castle, determined to prove the girl wrong. The thoroughly impressive structure was modeled on the Crac des Chevaliers, a Crusader castle in Syria, and took 35 years to complete. Moussa Castle serves not only as a family home but as a museum of Lebanese culture, in which you'll find 18,000 pieces of weaponry, as well as a sculptural depiction of Mr. Maamari being beaten by a teacher in a classroom full of children. $10 per adult, $3 per child.
5. Snowshoe along secluded tracks flanked by majestic cedars :
A day of snowshoeing offers a taste of the Lebanese wilderness, without the hustle and bustle of the popular ski slopes in Laqlouq and Mzaar. Mountain guide Gilbert Moukheiber, managing director of adventure group 33 North, knows all about the secluded tracks of northern Lebanon. While he says that out-of-towners should spend a week in the region, a day trip is enough to behold the area's beauty and to enjoy the cheese-and-wine picnic that Mr. Moukheiber provides after the trek. $65 for a single-day trip.