If you follow along with my travels on Instagram, you know that I fell head over heels for Lebanon this year — so hard, in fact, that hours before my flight from Beirut, my friend Jess Parker and I made a pact over a toast in a swim-up bar to the idea that we’d bring one of my Wander Women Retreats there, someday.
Someday came quickly. Four months later, here we are — the Wander Women Lebanon retreat planned, launched, and nearly sold out. Just two spots remain.
That first trip of mine was intoxicating. It’s obvious that I’ve been quite captivated lately by the Middle East lately, clocking trips to Bahrain, Kuwait, Turkey, Israel, and Egypt (African by continent, Middle Eastern by culture), and planning upcoming ones to Oman, Dubai, Qatar, Jordan, and more. But still, Lebanon’s spirit, landscape, design, and energy stood out. It’s a gem.
Jess is an incredible ambassador to her adopted home. Lebanon had been high on my list for ages but it wasn’t without its hurdles to visit. It is a surprisingly expensive destination and also is not an easy country to travel independently. While I felt effortlessly safe throughout my trip there, there simply isn’t the infrastructure for much tourism and so reaching the stunning sights outside Beirut requires a rental car (all I can say is yikes), a private tour guide (pricey, obviously) or the rare group day tour (there are very few tour companies in the country and most run on a fixed schedule — a certain tour on Monday, another on Tuesday, etc. so you have to luck out with that you want to see lining up with your itinerary.)
Jess and I had become friends over the travel conference circuit, where we bonded over our wanderlust, our work ethic, and poignantly, our overlapping personal heartbreaks. Jess and her German boyfriend — who she met in Zanzibar, naturally — live in Beirut, and when she invited me to visit her there, I leapt at the chance, no details necessary. I really went in blind, not even realizing yet how lucky I was — as an ace travel publicist by trade, Jess plans special trips for a living. And dang is she good at it.
And now you can experience it, too. Jess and I collaborated our hearts out on an itinerary that creates a unique opportunity to dive into a spectacular destination that’s not easy for even the most intrepid traveler to explore. The Lebanese truly know how to live the good life and we are going to take a page from their book for this once-in-a-lifetime trip.
We’re going to explore ruins that rival Petra (without the crowds!), sip local wine through a lush valley, paddleboard in a hip surf town, party at Beirut’s famous beach clubs, hike and bike through stunning landscapes, and practice yoga all along the way. We’ll spend the week in a curated mix of accommodation, from chic, urban hotels to a seaside guesthouse, and a rambling rural ranch.
Lebanon is known for its mosaic of religions, for its Instagrammable landscape, for its wild nightlife and general joie de vivre, for a national cuisine celebrated worldwide, and as a beacon of design and culture in the Middle East. Beirut is undeniably one of the most liberal and sophisticated cities in the region, and the secret is out — but almost everywhere further afield in the country remains a hidden gem.
As on all Wander Women Retreats, a photographer will be behind the lens every step of the way, ensuring everyone leaves with profile-picture worthy shots of themselves from the entire trip.
Also as with all Wander Women Retreats, our aim is to be gracious guests in our destination by partnering with small, locally-owned businesses and traveling as low-waste as possible. In Beirut, we’re excited to partner with Souk el Tayeb for a cooking class at Tawlet, an organization that provides vocational training and guidance to women and refugees. In Bekaa Valley, we’re touring an organic farm that fosters environmentally-friendly practices in agriculture — and making our own fig jam! — and in Batroun, we’re rolling up our sleeves for a beach clean up with a local NGO.
I’m also super excited about the fact that this year, we’re experimenting with the ability to build your own adventure by mixing and matching different back-to-back trips. Want to see more wonders of the Middle East? Join us for Wander Women: Egypt from August 8-15th, and travel seamlessly with me between the two trips — Cairo and Beirut are a short direct flight apart. Best part? Guests attending multiple retreats receive 10% off all of them.
The retreat will be held over seven days from August 15th to 22nd, 2020. The cost, including all of the below, is $2,600 for a double and $3,200 for a single — there’s currently one of each room type left!
• Three nights accommodation at chic urban hotels in Beirut, two nights at a seaside guesthouse, and two nights at a rambling rural ranch
• Two meals a day
• All outlined activities (see below!)
• Daily yoga
• Airport transfers and all transportation
• A custom welcome bag
• All gratuities for tour guides, included meals, airport pickups, and drivers (we generously tip on your behalf, removing the stress and anxiety of when and how much to tip!)
• Professional photos of the trip
• Donation to local charities
What’s Not Included
• Alcohol (wine tour pours are included, of course!)
• Additional meals or activities not specific in the itinerary
• Mandatory travel insurance
Subject to change, and expect surprises, but here’s the general idea.
Day 1: Cool off from your flight with a splash in our hotel’s rooftop pool, and get settled in Beirut before a yin yoga massage class to work out all the travel kinks. Enjoy a welcome dinner of Lebanese cuisine while getting to know your fellow Wander Women over a local Arabic calligraphy workshop.
Day 2: Start your day with aerial yoga at a chic local studio before stretching your legs on a walking tour of Beirut. In the afternoon, have lunch and relax at the urban pool club Madame Bleu or enjoy an afternoon on your own to explore local museums and boutiques. In the evening, reconvene for a local cooking class and dinner at Tawlet.
Day 3: Wave goodbye to Beirut (for now!) and head to the world-famous ruins of Baalbek and Anjar. In the afternoon, check into the eco-farm that we’ll call home for the next two days and relax by the pool or take a complimentary bike for a spin around an olive grove. Reconvene for a playful partner yoga class and dinner by the pool.
Day 4: Start your day with a zaatar and jam making session at our organic farm before breakfast enjoying your own creation. Kick off a fun day with sip n’ stretch mimosa yoga before taking off on a wine tour of Bekaa Valley (warning: Lebanese party — and pour — hard!).
Day 5: Pack up — we’re heading to the beach! But first, we’ll stop to hike through the Cedars Forest and visit the Baatara Waterfall. Lunch will be a true treat at the exquisite traditional Lebanese style home Beit Douma, in the garden surrounded by olive groves and apple orchards. When we reach the cute surf town of Batroun, we’ll check into our guesthouse, unwind with a yoga class on the rooftop and wander the waterfront before sunset overlooking the Phoenician Wall.
Day 6: Early risers can kick off the day with an optional surfing lesson before swapping boards and joining the rest of the group for a morning SUP yoga class and tour. We’ll have lunch beachside at Lebanon’s first microbrewery before a beach clean up and an afternoon of beach club hopping.
Day 7: We’ll kick off the day with yoga on the beach before heading up to Chekka’s Rocca Marina, a rocking example of Lebanon’s famous summer beach clubs. After a day of hookah along the infinity pool, we’ll stop at Byblos on the way back to Beirut, where we’ll watch the sun set from the iconic Rouche Rocks.
Day 8: After a rooftop farewell yoga session, we’ll head to the groundbreaking Souk el Tayeb farmer’s market for one final taste of Lebanon. Those who wish to enjoy their last day can decamp to the chilled-out Lazy B Beach Club, where those with later flights can spend the day pool and ocean-side before tearing themselves away to head to the nearby airport.
Lebanon is ripe for adventure and exploration, and we’re thrilled to have curated the best of it for a swoon-worthy week. Brace yourself for the following!
Tours of the classic Lebanese ruins at Baalbek, Anjar, and Byblos
Local workshops in Lebanese cooking, Arabic language and calligraphy, and organic spice and jam making
A walking tour of Beirut, a trip to a groundbreaking Farmer’s Market and a stop at Rouche Rocks
Hiking at Baatara Waterfall and bike riding at an agro farm
A wine tour of Bekaa Valley
A beach club experience in Chekka with additional opportunities in Beirut, Batroun, and Jiyeh
A beach clean up in Batroun
Around the country, we’ll take classes both with me and with local instructors, in both stunning local studios and in unexpected locations. We’ll experiment with classes in vinyasa and yin, as well as aerial yoga, SUP yoga, partner yoga, and a silly sip n’ stretch class with mimosa in hand! All classes are completely optional, but no experience is necessary — you don’t need to bring any experience to the mat to have a good time.
The Food + Accommodation
In Beirut, we’ll stay at — get this! — a superwoman-themed boutique hotel with a rooftop pool overlooking the city. In the Bekaa Valley countryside, we’ll stay at an agro-tourism ranch. In beachside Batroun, we’ll stay in private Arabic-style seaside apartments.
Some stops will feature two individual twin beds, while others will feature shared king beds. Of course you can room with a friend but if you’re traveling solo, fear not, so are most of our Wander Women guests! We’ll do our best to pair you with someone we think you’ll click with based on your intake forms — and we’ll all be besties by the end anyway. Rooms vary slightly by layout and view and will be assigned based on booking order.
Every day, two meals will be included — breakfast and either lunch or dinner. Lebanese cuisine is famous the world over, and we will feed you the best of the best, from Jess’s favorite local spots to some of the most revered restaurants in the country. For the non-included meal of the day, Jess or I will take everyone to a favorite spot where you can order at your own expense, or branch off and do your own thing.
Come to Lebanon!
For further information, including an extensive FAQ, information on getting to Beirut, more about Jess and a little more background on me if you don’t already know my story, check out the Wander Women Lebanon retreat sales page.
And remember — there are just two spots left!
Find our full lineup of 2020 trips here — and sign up for my retreats newsletter to be the first to know when enrollment opens on future retreats.
And don’t forget — if there’s somewhere you’re dying to go, something you’re itching to do on a Wander Women Retreat, or something you think we need to know about, let us know! We’re always listening, and eager to make Wander Women Retreats as wanderful as can be (sorry, couldn’t resist!)
So, who’s joining us? Jess and I can’t wait to explore Lebanon with you!