Lebanon is home to some of the most fascinating and impressive ruins in the Middle East and the world.
From ancient Roman ruins that rival anything in Italy to incredible crusader castles, Lebanon is definitely a destination any history lover should have on their bucket list.
Of course, the ancient city of Byblos (one of the oldest continuously inhabited sites in the world), the grand temples of Baalbek, and the ancient Phoenician port city of Tyre get the most attention. But there are so many lesser-known historic sites scattered throughout the country.
Here is a closer look at 11 that you should definitely visit:
1. Temples of Niha, Bekaa
Situated between the cities of Zahleh and Baalbek in the Bekaa Valley, the village of Niha is home to four ancient Roman temples. These historic religious sites were constructed between the first and third centuries A.D.
Two of the temples, which are better preserved, sit just at the edge of the village while two others are located about 2 km up the mountain, past the town.
The lower temples were dedicated to the god Hadaranes (local name: Hadad) and goddess Atargatis (Astarte).
Less is known of the higher temples, which are not as well preserved, but it appears they were adapted as fortifications during the medieval period.
2. Mseilha Fort, Batroun
Built by the legendary Druze Emir Fakhreddine II in the 17th century, the fort was used to guard the route between Tripoli and Beirut.
Many scholars believe that, while the fort is only a few centuries old, the rock has been used as a defensive spot since antiquity.
Today, the bulwark still stands perched atop a cliff overlooking the highway between Lebanon's two principal cities.
3. Rashaya Citadel, Rashaya
Although the picturesque village and the beautiful nature is enough to draw anyone's attention, Rashaya is also home to some important Lebanese history.
It might not be ancient like the Roman temples and crusader forts, but the Rashaya Citadel is a key monument to the history of modern-day Lebanon.
This fort is where Bechara El Khoury and the other founders of the first independent Lebanese government were imprisoned, just prior to the fall of the French mandate.
According to the history books, these first leaders of the new republic framed the future of their nation in their cell underneath this building.
4. Downtown Beirut
Although most people visit Beirut's upscaled Downtown district for shopping and dining, the area is also home to many rich historic treasures.
You can see the ruins of ancient Beirut just below the city's iconic Martyr's Square statue. Nearby, next to Muhammad Al Amin Mosque and Saint Georges Maronite Cathedral, more excavations of the ancient city can be viewed by passersby.
Just a short walk away, below the prime minister's residence – the Grand Serail – the remains of ancient Roman baths stand as a testament to the city's historic luxury.
Historic mosques, churches, and a synagogue are also scattered throughout the city's downtown district.
5. Taynal Mosque, Tripoli
This 14th-century mosque was even visited and written about by the legendary Islamic explorer, Ibn Batutah.
The historic and beautiful structure reflects its unique history, containing elements of an ancient church built by the Carmelite Fathers during the Crusades.
6. Deir Al Qamar, Mount Lebanon
Deir Al Qamar was the historic seat for the Ottoman governors of Lebanon.
The former palaces of Fakhreddine, as well as a historic mosque and synagogue, stand as remnants of these long ago days.
7. Beaufort Castle, Arnoun
Although a previous fortification already existed on the site, construction on the crusader fort began shortly after the site was captured by the King of Jerusalem in 1139 A.D.
The fort went on to be captured and recaptured throughout the crusades. Legendary Islamic military commander Saladin took control of the castle in 1190. Then, some 60 years later Crusaders retook it.
Later, in the 17th century, Emir Fakhreddine held the castle as part of his network of fortifications.
More recently, the fort was occupied by different militias during the Lebanese civil war, with it eventually falling under Israeli control. The Israeli military finally withdrew from the site in 2000, as it removed its occupying troops from South Lebanon.
8. Anjar ruins, Bekaa
The ruins in Anjar date from the 8th century A.D., standing as a unique architectural example of the Umayyad period. Discovered by archaeologists relatively recently in the 1940s, excavations revealed a fortified city surrounded by walls and flanked by forty towers.
While the historic site offers archaeologists a better understanding of Umayyad city planning, the city was actually never fully completed.
The city's caliph was defeated in 744 A.D. Following the loss, the partially destroyed city was abandoned.
9. Sidon Sea Castle, Saida
The Sidon Sea Castle was originally built by Crusaders in the 13th century. However, the small island, where the fortress now sits, was formerly home to the temple of Melqart, the Phoenician version of Heracles.
The castle fell into Mamluk control during the Crusades and was partially destroyed. The Mamluks later rebuilt the fortress and added the causeway to the shore. It was later restored in the 17th century by Emir Fakhreddine II.
Considering it has experienced centuries of wars and battles, the castle remains remarkably intact today.
10. Citadel of Raymond de Saint-Gilles, Tripoli
This historic castle was first built by Raymond De Saint-Gilles, the governor of Tripoli, in 1103 A.D. However, it was partially destroyed in a battle with the Mamluks in 1289.
Over the centuries, the fortification went through numerous renovations and refurbishments. In the early 1800s, it was extensively redeveloped under Ottoman rule. Relatively little of the original Crusader fort remains to the present day.
11. Qalaat Faqra, Faqra
These ancient ruins were likely built in the first century A.D., according to inscriptions at the site. However, temples were constructed in the area many centuries before as well, meaning the site had long been used as a place for worshiping local deities.
The ruins remaining today, which are situated some 1,600 meters up in the mountain, include a tower, an altar, a small shrine, a large temple, the Atargatis (aka Astarte) temple, and tombs.