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December in Lebanon & Syria

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My girlfriend and I are planning a three week loop of Lebanon and western Syria in December. We're both 24 y/o and this will be our first trip to the Levant so we're keen to cover a lot of ground. On the other hand, we like to take it easy on vacation so we're trying to set a leisurely pace. In the course of researching this trip, we've identified a few specific questions that we'd like to put to the experts on this forum...

1. What is there to be said for spending a couple of nights in the Lebanese interior (in Zahle for example) and using that as a base from which to explore the surrounding area? More to the point, is this practical/advisable in December? Lonely Planet warns that Zahle is quiet and that many restaurants are even closed during the week in the winter months! This suggests that perhaps we'd be better off spending our nights in Beirut and filling our days with back and forth trips to Baalbek, Zahle, Beiteddine etc. What are your thoughts?

2. Expanding on this seasonal issue, can anyone shed some light on possible winter-related inconveniences? For example, while I'd imagine that big urban centres are lively year round, I'm a bit concerned that certain touristy or smaller towns may be in the midst of winter hibernation upon our arrival in December. I don't contest that these destinations are worthy of visiting no matter the season, but in terms of deciding where to spend our nights, we'd prefer to select places that have a good nightlife. (By this I mean a lively nighttime ambiance rather than necessarily a clubbing scene or bars.)

3. Lastly, we'll be spending Christmas somewhere TBD in Lebanon and New Years Eve in Beirut. Where should we spend Christmas? Beirut? Byblos? Sidon? We're not religious, but we enjoy a festive holiday ambiance as much as anyone. And what about New Years Eve in Beirut? Any suggestions there?

Thanks!
alex

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