Great food, amazing parties, incredible hospitality and beautiful nature, these are some of the things that make Lebanon the perfect summer destination.
But off the beaten path, there are also a lot of unique and quirky things to see and do. If you think you've already seen and done everything in Lebanon, or if you're planning a trip and want to see a different side of the country, here are some bizarre landmarks you probably won't read about in a travel guide.
1. Airplane house, Miziara
The village of Miziara is home to some massive and unusual homes including one constructed to look like an old airplane. This northern village also boasts incredibly well-maintained and organized streets, something not always the norm throughout the country.
2. Le Château du Liban, Kousba
Le Château du Liban (Castle of Lebanon) is situated in Kousba, in the district of Koura, just off the road to the well-known village of Becharreh. The castle was built by Dr. Sarraf, a dentist who once operated clinics throughout Lebanon, some 40 years ago.
Including small museums of Sarraf's dentistry equipment, art, and various other collections, entrance to the castle complex costs 6,000 Lebanese lira ($4).
3. Dino City, Ajaltoun
Opened in 2006, the 10,000 square meter Dino City Prehistoric Park is home to King Kong and a slew of scary dinosaurs (but don't worry, they won't bite). With a children's play area as well as a museum and educational exhibits, this is definitely one of the most unique attractions Lebanon has to offer.
4. Hotel Amrieh, Bikfaya
Once a touristic hot spot, Hotel Amrieh is located in Ain Alaq, near Bikfaya in Mount Lebanon.
Perched on the mountainside with a breathtaking view of Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea displayed below, the hotel was once a grand resort with its own theater and cinema. Now, its gutted shell – rumored to be haunted – is great for exploring and for watching the sunset.
5. Hajjar al-Hibla, Baalbek
Although the impressive ancient temples of Baalbek stand alone as an incredible site to see, the mysterious mammoth stones just a few kilometers away are worth a look as well.
Considered to be the largest stones ever carved by human hands, three truly massive cut blocks stick out of the ground where they were likely abandoned some 2,000 years ago. The largest weighs in at an astonishing 1,650 tons (1.5 million kg), with the smaller two weighing in at 1,240 and 1,000 tons.
Archaeologists believe the stones were abandoned after they were too difficult to transport, but of course, many other more bizarre theories abound.
6. Rashid Karameh International Exhibition Center, Tripoli
Designed by iconic Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, the Rashid Karameh International Fairground now lays more or less abandoned and unfinished. Construction started on the large-scale exhibition facility in the early 1960s, but with the outbreak of the civil war in the 1970s it remained incomplete and fell into disuse.
Now, the complex sits as a futuristic testament to a fading past. Regular organized tours of the site can be taken, for those who like to explore the facility and learn more about its unique architectural style.
7. Moussa Castle, Deir el Qamar
Built by one man over a period of 60 years, this bizarre castle that was started in 1962 has become a regular tourist destination for both Lebanese and foreigners alike.
Ever since the age of 14, the man behind the attraction dreamed of building his own castle - and he did just that. On the castle's website, it states: "Moussa wishes that one day some filmmakers would turn his story into a movie. It would be a winning card. He wishes also to be considered by the Guinness book committee of world records as the establisher of the first touristic site to be built by one man's single hands."
8. Graffiti covered rock, Batroun
Perched along a northern coastal road, just past the seaside town of Batroun, this colorful rock stands as a memory of young love and crazy summer antics. If you want to go for a refreshing bike ride or an afternoon drive, it's the perfect pit stop to take in the view of the Mediterranean and immortalize yourself by adding your initials.
9. Southern Border Wall
Lebanon's southern border wall stands as a vivid reminder of the ongoing state of war that exists with Israel. From time to time, skirmishes flair up on the border, reminding the country that this wall is not just a decoration.
While it's generally quite safe to drive along the now colorfully painted barrier, non-Lebanese need a special permit (which can be obtained in Saida) before they are allowed to travel this far south. And yes, you will be stopped at a check-point, so don't try to avoid it.
BONUS: Meet the Escobar of Lebanon
Father Dario Escobar has become a bit of a novelty in Lebanon. Tourists trek out to the Qadisha Valley not only to take in the beauty of the mountains' steep slopes but also to meet – and maybe even receive a blessing from – this interesting old man.
Escobar comes from a well-off Colombian family, granting him a sizable inheritance. He was born in La Estrella, Colombia and he entered the novitiate of the Congregation of Jesus in Bogota in 1955. He went on to study theology, philosophy and pedagogy there; studying, living and working in several countries.
He's made his home as a hermit in Lebanon's serene Qadisha Valley since 2000 at the Hermitage of Our Lady of Hawqa.