Tyre (Arabic: Sour صُوْر) is the fourth-largest city in Lebanon. It is particularly noteworthy for its stunning and clean beaches (unlike those at Sidon) as well as some of the finest examples of Roman architecture in the world. Situated on a peninsula, it is the largest city in the south of the country after Sidon.
Tyre is the base of the WikiPedia:UNIFIL headquarters which operates in the south of the country, and monitors the border region between Lebanon, Israel and the WikiPedia:Occupied Territories and Syria. Don't be surprised to see UN troops out and about in this town, which is generally very safe for visitors.
The cheapest way of getting into Tyre is by private bus. Large, air-conditioned buses go from Cola Junction, Beirut, throughout the day for approximately $4 and take about 2.5hrs.
Privately run minibuses also go frequesntly throughout the day and late into the evening from Cola Junction, Beirut and from the bus station in Sidon. They take a variety of routes and will often stop and start throughout the journey to let passengers on and off.
Minibuses that go via the coastal roads are must slower (Beirut to Tyre can take 3-4hrs), but some minibuses will take the motorway route (2.5hrs from Beirut, about 1hr from Sidon). Prices are usually 2-3,000 Lebanese Lira (approximately $1.50-2) from Beirut.
Do check when you get on board how much the price is as tourists will often be charged more than locals. If you're not sure how much the fare should be, try speaking to someone on the bus - many people speak English and you will very likely find someone to help you out.
There are two ways to get to Tyre via taxi - the first is a simple private hire ($20-30 from Beirut), or the 'service' option where you can share with other people who are travelling in a similar direction ($10 would be reasonable from Beirut to Tyre). The journey will take approximately 2.5hrs from Beirut, depending on any stops that have to be made.
A number of military checkpoints operate on the roads between Beirut, Sidon and Tyre. There are also occasionally other checkpoints which are run by Hezbollah soldiers. If you bus or taxi is asked to stop, make sure you have your passport to hand, and take off any sunglasses or hats to ensure proper identification. Generally you will be waved through without any further problems. Do not be alarmed if you are asked why you are travelling.
Without a doubt the best way to get around Tyre is on foot. The beachfront and main roads are all within 5-10mins walk from eachother. The Al Bass Archaeological site is slightly further away and a taxi may be the easiest option to get there.
Taxis are pretty cheap and some are even comfortable to travel in. Some are the registered yellow taxis that operate throughout the country, but many are private cars, often in varying states of repaire (from virtually new to over 40 years old in some cases). A rough rule of thumb is that a short ride in a 'service' - or shared taxi - will cost approximately 2,000LL (around $1.50), with longer journeys costing up to 5,000LL (around $3.50). Always check the price before entering the taxi, and check whether it is a taxi (and therefore private and more expensive) or a service (which will stop to pick up other passengers on the way, and is much cheaper).
Traffic is typical Lebanese - if you want to go, you must go regardless of the 'western' way of thinking in the traffic. This means that drivers frequently won't give way unless they absolutely have to, and lanes and road signage are frequently ignored. Of course, do ask your driver to slow down if you don't feel safe.
Although frequently eclipsed by the grandeur of Beirut and the bustling souq of Sidon, Tyre is a beatiful and enjoyable city in its own right. Its small size and distinctive position in the deep south of the country mean that most tourists never get this far. Yet its beautiful beaches, astonishing Roman ruins and fantastic local cuisine make it a worthwhile place to visit.
Al Bass Archaeological Site is by far the most famous attraction, boasting the largest and best-preserved example of a Roman Hippodrome. The impressive site is huge and also encapsulates a large Necropolis (with several hundred well-preserved sarcophagi), an intact Roman road and aqueduct, and a monumental arch. Situated next to the Al Bass Palestinian Refugee Camp, it is a 10min car ride from the beach.
The Hot Spring Ruins situated in the Christian district, is another impressive feat of Roman architecture which escaped destruction during recent Israeli bombing campaigns.
The lighthouse, situated on the north-western tip of the peninsula is a beautiful and quiet spot, perfect for watching the sun go down.
The souq situated next to the Christian district, is a lively and atmospheric marketplace. Although it does not have the splendour of the large and tourist-driven souq in Sidon, some excellent deals can be had for everything from souvenirs to fresh fish caught that morning.
The beach is known throughout Lebanon as being the cleanest and most beautiful in Lebanon, with families from around the country flocking there in the summer. During the summer months (May-September) there are a large number of beach cafes which operate from the huts. Prices can be expensive, but it is a perfect spot for sunbathing and enjoying the impressive waves. During the summer, the sea is warm enough to swim in at night, making it a special place.
The Christian district at the Western tip of the peninsula is a higgledy-piggledy area with thin roads and lovely hidden shops. Its certainly worth spending some time walking around this nice little enclave, though do remember that these are peoples' homes and that you shouldn't enter any open doors unless invited.
Good places to have a meal:
Le Phenicien: Fish and Sea Food, excellent cuisine, beer, wine liquors
Skandars: Lebanese and international cuisine, beer, wine liquors
Al Nabeel's Cake Shop: famous Lebanese speciality cake shop, wonderful and kind staff and some of the most amazing cakes you will ever eat
The Resthouse: Lebanese and international cuisine, beer, wine liquors
Al Fanar: Lebanese and international cuisine, beer, wine liquors
Tyros: Fish,, Lebanese and international cuisine, beer, wine liquors
Baquettos: Fast food
See above, also Diver's Inn. Night life is not so active, as there are no night clubs. The UN people might have a night out at the Skandars or the Diver's Inn.
Perhaps the best-known place for visitors to stay is the Resthouse hotel on the beach. The beach and the pool is exclusively only to the hotel's guests although others can use them too by paying a small fee - this fee is mostly to keep 'unwanted people' off the premises. At the beach you can order drinks, narghile, rent a sun chair or perhaps attend a diving course.
Al fanar has been renovated recently and is also a good place to stay in.
The Artizan Hotel, on Rue Senegal, is a second floor bed and breakfast and is popular with locals and visitors alike. The reasonable rates and air conditioned rooms, combined with beautiful views onto the Mediterranean, make it one of the best value places to stay in the city.
The main pickup point for minibuses to Sidon and Beirut is the bustling Al Bass roundabout, just outside the Al Bass Palestinian Refugee Camp. A number of touts operate in this area and will try to get you on their minibus before you go on another. Be assertive with them - ask their destination and the price in advance. Keep a hold of your luggage - a common trick is for them to grab your luggage and stow it on the minibus before you get a chance to complain. However, don't worry too much - the negotiation is all part of the fun.