Only two and half hours from the glitzy beaches of Beirut, the cedar groves of Lebanon are the pride of the Lebanese mountains. Northern Lebanon has some of the tallest peaks in the Middle East, some rising to over 10,000 feet, many of which used to be covered in dense forests of precious cedar.
From as early as 3,000 BC the surrounding civilizations of Egypt, Mesopotamia, and later the British lusted for the hard wood found in the forests of Lebanon. Unable to provide wood of their own for shipbuilding and railroad ties, the cedar forests of Lebanon were rapidly depleted and nearly destroyed.
Despite the international demand, however, some of the most remote groves managed to remain, the most famous of which is located in the village of Bsharre just 15 minutes from Lebanon’s most popular ski resort. Believed to be the oldest cedar grove in Lebanon, four of the largest cedars reach heights of over 115 feet and are locally referred to as Arz el Rab, “Cedars of the Lord”.
One of Lebanon’s greatest natural treasures, the mountainous area offers terrain and panoramas unlike anywhere else in Lebanon. After ambling amongst the cedars in Bsharri or taking to the slopes, visitors can descend into nearby Qadisha Grotto, an entrancing cave complex filled with limestone stalactites and stalagmites and which gushes with springtime waterfalls.
Given the distance of the cedars from the capital city of Beirut there are many hotel options available nearby, and although the ski resort is only open from December through April there is never a bad season for exploring the recesses of the Lebanese mountains.