I crave authentic experiences when I travel. I want culture not tourism. That’s why my time in Lebanon was so special; while living with a family I was able to experience the real Lebanon, with no tourist sugar coating. However, because I was participating in a GeoVisions cultural exchange program, I was not really exposed to the tourist side of Lebanon. So when people contact me to ask where to stay, I don’t really have any advice. Sure, I’m sure my host mom, Mira, would love to take everyone in, but I don’t think that’s practical.
Beirut is a modern, slick, wealthy city full of cool experiences and plenty of high end lodging and all inclusive resorts to choose from as a tourist. However I was exposed to one lodging options which was in line with my “experiences not tourism” motto. I was lucky enough to go visit a volunteering opportunity outside of Beirut and there I not only found really inspiring people, I also found a really unique guest house experience that will give you an idea of what living outside the big city is really like. Beirut is a modern, slick, wealthy city full of cool experiences. However, if you are looking for a more rustic, authentic experience during your stay in Lebanon, then be sure to check out the Taanayel Eco-Lodge.
Taanayel Eco-Lodge is part of Arcenciel, a non profit organization founded in 1985. You can learn more about Arcenciel in a post I wrote about the myriad of volunteering opportunities there. The Eco-Lodge profits actually go towards funding the NGO, so if you stay at the lodge, it actually benefits the community and helps Arcenciel continue to run their community programs.
The Eco-Lodge is located in the heart of the Bekaa valley approximately 45 km from Beirut. It’s a traditional village with atypical adobe houses of the region; you take a step back in time to what village life was like in Lebanon decades ago.
It starts with the architecture. From the outside, the hostel doesn’t look like much but an old encampment. That’s because they took great pains to build the hostel in the style of an old home as a walled compound with an open courtyard of sorts. You even enter the lodge in a traditional way…with an authentic knocker. The lodge has 3 large rooms for sleeping requiring people to share space (another authentic experience) and a couple of common areas for people to sit, play games and socialize.
The 3 rooms have no traditional beds, instead there are mattresses on the floor, just as they would have in an old Lebanese home. Each room also had a fireplace and a basic bathroom. Rugs were strewn out on the floor which gave it a big comfortable slumber party feel. All of the décor was authentic; rooms were filled with old pitchers and pottery from long ago.
Prices start at $20 per person per night. The rooms are organized as shared rooms so you do share the space with other people. Or you could rent that complete room out if you’d rather have privacy. There is also a great restaurant associated with the Eco-lodge which fills up with locals and workers from the community volunteer center next door. You can get authentic Lebanese dishes and smoke shisha in the evenings.
The hostel is actually located in a small town of Taanayel near Zhale, and the Anjar ruins close to the Syrian border. Besides seeing the ruins, there are a number of other things you could do around this area for a couple of days such as hiking or simply volunteering at the community center. It’s an easy 1 hr 15 min. bus ride into Beirut from the hostel so you can use it as a great stop over from Syria to Beirut if you are backpacking the area.