If you want a simple, easy and meaningful day trip in Lebanon, then go to Harissa!
For the purpose of this article, Harissa will replace “Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lebanon”, because the official name is certainly a mouthful!
I visit Harissa on at least a quarterly basis, but this was the first time I go via cable car (Teleferique). Taking this mode of transport is a popular tourist activity in Jounieh, in case you were wondering. Were you?
You were probably wondering if we stopped for food, as we always do. Knefe was the plan. I like Knefe. But the place we went to were out of Knefe and it made me upset and I’m gonna stop talking about it because my keyboard is getting wet.
We had this.
It wasn’t great.
ON TO THE TELEFERIQUE!
The Teleferique is one of the oldest and most visited tourist attractions in Lebanon and has been operating since 1965!
We arrived at the Teleferique station right behind St Louis Hospital in Jounieh, purchased our round-trip tickets (11,000 LBP each on weekends / 9,000 LBP on weekdays), and went up the stairs to catch a vintage cable-car ride up the forested mountain. Every group can get their own cable car, keeping in mind that only 4-5 people can squeeze in!
Here’s some key information you should also know about the Teleferique:
- It doesn’t operate in windy weather conditions
- No injuries have been reported to date (since 1965), so it’s perfectly safe
- Time Schedule: Peak Season is from 10am-10pm / Off-Peak is from 10am-6pm
The trip from Jounieh Bay to the sanctuary is 1.5km long, only takes 9 minutes and gives you incredible panoramic views of the bay!
Once you get to the top, you have the option of taking the funicular to the sanctuary or walking up the stairs surrounded by greenery (it’s a 5 minute walk; 8 minutes if you stop to take pictures). Note that the funicular can get pretty crowded and you would have to wait in line longer.
Can you guess which path we chose?
A Visit to HARISSA
Many Lebanese make frequent pilgrimages to Harissa as it’s quite paramount in their religious culture, so it’s definitely worth visiting if you’re in Lebanon. It can certainly give you a good perspective on Lebanese heritage and culture.
The 20-tonne statue of Mother Mary built in the 19th century isn’t so subtle and prominently stands out atop Harissa mountain. It’s worth climbing up the stairs to reach the top of the statue; the views from the summit are beautiful and breathtaking.
I’ve visited Harissa several times before and know people who do the same, because of the wonderfully serene experience it provides. I think the photos speak for themselves.
We also saw people paragliding from the top of the mountain! I’d like to try that one day, but for the moment I’ll remain with my cowardly self, feet glued to the ground.
You can visit the small church underneath the statue and there is also a larger one near the souvenirs shop.
We stopped for ice cream before we proceeded back to the cable car.
Still hungry though..
LUNCH on the Terrace AT SUD RESTAURANT
There’s a food court as well as a café right next to the sanctuary, but we opted for lunch at the newly opened Gardens in Dbayeh on our way back to Beirut.
I’ve previously written about the wonderful experience I had in SUD Restaurant in Mar Mikhael and I was happy to learn that the restaurant recently opened in the Gardens Dbayeh complex along with a number of other posh restaurants.
T and I ordered a variety of appetizers and main courses to share and some fancy cocktails.
let’s not forget this layered bundle of joy:
We finished with delectable dessert along with a café blanc for me and green tea for him.
The Pain Perdu at SUD Restaurant is a MUST. There are no words for this epicurean masterpiece. Wait, there are, and I’ve elaborately proclaimed them here.
OUR DAY TRIP to Harissa MAP
Note: Map shows the trip from Teleferique to Harissa by car (you know you want to take the teleferique!)