Lebanon has turned into an emerging tourism destination over the past years. While most people either stay in the capital city Beirut or take a day trip to other coastal towns like Byblos, Tripoli or Tyre, only a handful of tourists take the opportunity to get to know the country outside of the bustling city life.
Some of Lebanon’s most exceptional landscapes can be found towards the north-east, along the slopes of Mt Lebanon. The UNESCO awarded Qadisha Valley is among the most impressive places to see in Lebanon and can still be considered a real hidden gem when it comes to tourism in Lebanon. Located at an altitude of 900 – 1900 m, the region is well-known for both its breathtaking scenery and rich historical heritage.
In this post, I’ve listed 7 incredible ways to explore Qadisha Valley, and I am sure there will be at least one thing for everyone. Whenever you travel to Lebanon, make sure to check out this stunning part of the world – otherwise, you’ll truly miss out on some spectacular natural beauty, panoramic views, fascinating history, and incredible diversity.
Several attractions for people of all ages are located in or near Qadisha Valley.
Oyoun Orghosh is a high mountain area with many springs and ponds of water. A couple of scattered trees and rough mountain hills characterize the unique landscape here. You can have a relaxing day, take a walk and have lunch at one of the few restaurants. The place is located around 25 km from Qadisha Valley.
The Balaa Sinkhole is a very impressive, nearly vertical cave of Jurassic limestone. In spring, melted snow becomes a waterfall dropping 255 meters. Three naturally formed bridges offer great photo opportunities and an authentic experience. The surrounding landscape is gorgeous as well making this spot a perfect half-day trip from Qadisha Valley or the city of Batroum.
Located very close to the mountain village Bcharré, Gibran Museum houses an extensive collection of poet and artist Khalil Gibran’s paintings. Gibran became famous for his book The Prophet in 1923 and was later on interred in the chapel next to the monastery where you can find the exhibition.
Bcharré is a small town at an altitude of 1400m above sea level. The city is most famous for being the birthplace of the famous painter Khalil Gibran. Apart from that, it serves as the gateway to renowned tourism sites, such as the Cedars of God forest, several ski resorts, and the Holy Valley. Visiting Bcharré, you will find some very traditional architecture and a few lovely restaurants. The town is also home to numerous festivals and religious festivities taking place throughout the year.
3. Cedars Of God
Not far from Bcharré at an altitude of 2000m, you can find some of the remaining millennial Lebanon cedars. The Cedars of God forest (aka. Arz Forest) is located on the slopes of Mount Makmal. Lebanon’s cedars are some of the most majestic trees in the world and once covered the entire mountain range of Mount Lebanon. Due to the cedar’s majesty and resilience, it is said that God himself had planted the trees thousands of years ago. Stroll around the forest for a while and marvel at the sheer size of these ancient trees.
4. Nature Reserves
Around Qadisha Valley, you can find two beautiful nature reserves worth exploring – the Horsh Ehden Nature Reserve and the Tannourine Nature Reserve.
The Horsh Ehden Nature Reserve is located three kilometers northeast of Ehden mountain village, which is a popular summer destination for residents from the country’s urban areas. The reserve is home to incredible biodiversity, thus making it an essential part of Lebanon’s natural heritage. With over 1050 species of plants and more than 25 different species of mammals, the Horsh Ehden Nature Reserve is a beautiful place for both hike enthusiasts and nature lovers.
Situated south-west of Qadisha Valley, Tannourine Nature Reserve is another location where you can see Lebanon’s cedar trees. In fact, the reserve is home to 25% of Lebanon’s cedars and therefore one of its densest cedar forests. However, most cedars here are younger than the millennial cedars at Arz Forest. Nevertheless, the reserve is exceptional for trekking offering various trails in rocky terrain and with panoramic views of the valleys below.
5. Rock-Cut Monasteries
Lebanon’s famous isolated rock-cut monasteries found in the Holy Valley are a must-see attraction when traveling to Qadisha Valley. Ten significant cave churches and monasteries can be visited – some of them are reachable by car, while others are abandoned and only accessible on foot. Back in the Middle Ages, these monasteries were used as refuges for religious groups and ended up becoming the most important Maronite settlement.
Some of the monasteries you can quickly reach by car are Deir Qannoubin Monastery, Deir Mar Elisha Monastery as well as Deir Mar Antonius Qozhaya Monastery featuring a rock cut chapel, a courtyard, and even a small museum.
If you’re interested in checking out some of the isolated monasteries only reachable on foot, you’ll find all kinds of information on this website.
Hiking is probably one of the best ways to experience Qadisha Valley. While trekking through this unique area of Lebanon, you can discover both the beautiful nature and fascinating history.
If you are a nature lover, check out one of the gorgeous nature reserves and definitely take a walk through the millennial cedar forest. If you want to explore the ancient monasteries that cannot be reached by car, you’ll have to go on a multi-hour trek down into the valley, perhaps even spend the night there and return the next day. This is supposed to be not only super fascinating but also adventurous.
Also, Qadisha Valley lies on the Lebanon Mountain Trail. Following this trek, you’ll get both nature and history in just one hike.
If you’re looking for a proper workout, consider climbing Qornet es-Sawda (3088m), which is one of the highest peaks in the Middle East. Mind you, due to the snow, it is only possible to get to the summit from late April to early October. The hike itself offers panoramic views and vast landscapes.
Most of all, never underestimate the terrain in Qadisha Valley – bring appropriate hiking boots and several layers of clothes as it can get quite chilly, even in summer.
From November to April Qadisha Valley is a popular spot for skiing. The Cedars Ski Resort is ideal for both beginners and advanced skiers offering a variety of downhill runs accessed by wire lifts. If you’re adventurous, consider doing some cross-country skiing. The resort also offers lodging, safety services and, of course, apres-ski parties. Located only 1.5-2 hours from Beirut, skiing near Qadisha Valley is among the most popular activities for locals during winter time.