In the eternal clash between reality and expectation, often reality proved to be intolerable. Most of us have an idealized vision in our heads of how our lives are supposed to turn out. Unfortunately, our secret expectations aren’t always aligned with reality. Except when it comes to visiting Lebanon for the first time, the “reality check” for once is surreal.
According to Antoine de Saint-Exupery:”What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well”. Lebanon is that well in the middle of the neighboring Arabian desert. Contrary to the above false assumptions, it is blessed with an exceptionally beautiful Mediterranean climate which makes the “when to go” part a bit hard to answer because anytime is good to go. All would depend on your personal preferences when it comes to the climate. Personally, my favorite periods are from April to June and September to October because of the perfectly mild sunny days. If you prefer hot summers, beach activities, festivals and great nightlife June, July, August and September are the perfect months for you. December to March are mostly suitable for winter sports lovers. In fact, Lebanon is reputable for its beautiful mountains and ski resorts. After all, the name “Lebanon” originates from the Semitic root lbn (لبن), meaning “white,”which is a reference to the snow-capped peaks of Mount Lebanon.
In a previous article I have tackled some breathtaking Phoenician coastal cities Lebanon back on the travel map: the Rise of the Phoenix! As promised, I am dedicating a section on my blog to promote my beautiful country as I will be honored to be a part of this beautiful movement of the talented Lebanese youth all over the world working hand in hand to bring back Lebanon to the tourist map. My series of articles will be called: “Lebanon and the Beautiful” and will feature each week an itinerary for those wishing to discover our hidden gems which will include a list of worthwhile visits to historical Phoenician cities alongside other breathtaking typical Lebanese villages.
This week I will take you on a road trip around the North of Lebanon from Byblos to Laklouk, to Tannourine, Douma and finally to the old Phoenician city called Batroun.
I- North of Lebanon: Laklouk- Tannourine- Douma-Batroun
Important information if you decide to drive yourself: Lebanon is a small country with horrific traffic. In order to avoid it for this part of the journey I advice you stay in hotels in Byblos, Batroun, Douma, or Laklouk
Recommended hotels in Douma: Beit Douma
Recommended hotels in Laklouk: Shangri-la Hotel Laklouk
The start of the Road trip:
- From Byblos to Laklouk (31 kilometers/ 44 minutes): This route is very scenic but be careful while driving because the roads are a bit rough. So please do drive carefully!
Laklouk is a small mountainous village in the Jbeil District of Mount Lebanon Governorate, Lebanon. It is located 69 kilometers northeast of Beirut. Laqlouq has an average elevation of 1,780 meters above sea level and a total land area of 210 hectare. Considered a winter and summer resort, Laqlouq is encircled by jagged ridges and terraces bearing thousands of trees. Laqlouq is also one of the best resorts suited for cross-country skiing. Mostly visited by families, Laqlouq had its first ski lift installed in 1958, followed by major enhancements to the slopes and the creation of a qualified ski school. Unlike other resorts, the area surrounding the slopes is nearly free of buildings and construction. Known as well for its numerous “water reservoirs” or irrigation ponds, Laqlouq offers a panorama like no other.
- From Laklouk to Balou Balaa (7,1 km-14 minutes)
Tannourine: Balou Balaa: Baatara Georges waterfalls known for its deep natural sinkhole, the waterfall drops 255 metres (837 ft) into the Baatara Pothole, a cave of Jurassic limestone .The cave is also known as the Cave of the Three Bridges. Considered among the best caves in the World by Paul Courbon, it is one of those breathtaking wonders of Nature.
Activities: Hiking, Tyrolienne(An hour-two hours)
- From Balou Balaa to Tannourine El Fawqa (5.5 kilometers/ 13 minutes):
Tannourine El Fawqa is my beautiful hometown, so trying to write about it is very similar to writing about my husband , my parents, or my brothers and sister. I cannot really be objective when it comes to it, however that doesn’t mean that my beautiful village is not delightful and worth of your time.
75 km from the capital Beirut. Tannourine’s name comes from the town’s geography, which resemble the convex form of an oven called the tannoor. The “ine” is probably in proportion to the presence of 2 areas that make up this town, the Lower Tannourine and the Upper Tannourine areas. You should know that it is known to be the City of God, because of how majestic it’s summit is. The mountaintop is so elevated, that you get the feeling that you can reach God. In fact, who needs to build a Babel Tower, when you can go to Tannourine and want the make contact with Almighty.
The town posses beautiful churches and monasteries definitely worth visiting. You can stop as well for the best Manouchi (Lebanese Pizza) at the square.
- From Tannourine El Fawqa to Tannourine Cedar Reserve(10 kilometers/16 minutes)
The Cedars Forest: The largest cedar reserve in Lebanon. Made of 60,000 cedars trees and not exclusively, other companion trees like Cupressus, Pinus, Abies, Populus and others constitute a very rich ecosystem in planter species. The fauna in this type of unique ecosystem range from the various types of birds (eagles, owls, robins, etc…) to wild animals (hyenas, boars, squirrels, snakes and bats).
Activity: Hiking( 2- 3 hours). Click here for more info.
Upcoming events in Tannourine this summer:
- Cedar Nights Tannourine : Cedars Nights is an annual summer festival where sophisticated art meets the breathtaking natural landscapes of Tannourine natural reserve. The Festival, thanks to the great work and tremendous effort of the President of the committee Mrs Marlene Harb, has acquired the International rank by the Minister of Tourism after only one year. Program this year (19-20-21 August 2016): Moulouk el Tawaef: Folkloric Musical Theatre: Marwane el Rahbani (The Director- Composer) will bring back to life the vision of the great Mansour Rahbani who composed this theatrical masterpiece 13 years ago. The setting will echo the natural landscape of Tannourine Cedar Reserve, captivating theatrical lighting, costumes which mimic the era in question with an elegant choreography. For more details, click here
- Tannourine Summer Rush (5-6-7 August 2016): For all of the adrenaline junkies, camping lovers, foodies… for people seeking adventure overall, a very unique event is happening for the first time in not only Tannourine but in all of Lebanon
Souk El Akel, NoGarlicNoOnions goes to a 3 days Camp at 2200 meters above sea level. Offroads, Motocross, Paragliding, Zip Line and many other activities on the 5th,6th & 7th of August 2016. For reservations, click here
Upcoming recommended tours :
- Balaa/Tannourine/Douma with Tourleb on Wednesday Aug 24 2016 from 08:00 am until 07:00 pm. Click here for more information
- Full Adventure day in Tannourine with Gaith Adventure. For more informations, click here
- Climbing Tannourine: According to Katy Anderson, an international communications consultant and former BBC World Service broadcast journalist, “the Tannourine area certainly has the terrain and the potential to become an international climbing destination and can certainly rival any site in the Middle East”. Read more about it here
- From the Tannourine Cedars to Douma (20km, 35 minutes)
Douma: 80 km North of Beirut, this typical lebanese village is nominated by the Minister of the Tourism as one of the most beautiful villages in Lebanon. It’s a small City/Village in the mountains valley well known for its narrow souks and red tiled houses. Douma is a Grecco-Roman city and according to the legends, this beautiful gem is named after Julia Domna, the wife of the Roman Emperor Severus. It is so well built and conserved: 240 houses are considered a National Heritage including the beautiful house of my friend Georgia.
Things to do and to see:
1- The old souk: One of the other Douma charms! Those beautiful typical old shops and narrow streets are definitely a must do.
2-The old cinema: Douma’s inhabitants are strong supporters of cinema and an old movie theater was restored last summer with the support of the Ministry of Culture. A lot of movies were filmed in Douma, including the famous Safar Barlik with our famous legendary Fairuz, and “Where to we go now”(w halla’ la wen) which won the People’s Choice Award at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival.
3- Typical sweets from Douma: a must purchase and eat is the Lebanese biscuits with the handmade Rahat Al Halkum. I can no longer have them because of my gluten intolerance, so have them for me please!
4-Upcoming events: The Douma Festivals from 29 July 2016 to 27 August 2016. During the Festival, the National Heritage houses are opened for tourists to visit them. Last day of the Festival, there will be a typical Lebanese lunch in the old souk with the collaboration of Souk el Tayyeb & Live Love Beirut. Not to be missed!
- From Douma to Batroun (28km/35 minutes)
Batroun is a coastal city in northern Lebanon and one of the oldest cities in the world. The name Batroun derives from the Arabic al-Batroun, itself from the Greek, Botrys (also spelled Botrys), which was later Latinized to Botrus. Historians believe that the Greek name of the town originates from the Phoenician word “bater”which means to cut and it refers to the maritime wall that the Phoenicians built in the sea to protect them from tidal waves. Batroun is a major tourist destination. The town possesses a Phoenician wall, an old port, an old town, historic churches from Roman Catholicism and Greek Orthodox. The town is also a major beach resort destination with it’s famous clean pebble beaches, the wineries, brewery and nightlife.
Things to do and see:
2-The Old souk & Port: Stroll around the beautiful narrow streets of the Old Souk and the port. You can also check the Phoenician Wall, the Roman Theater, Saint Stephan & Saint Georges churches.
3-Sunset drinks: After that long trip to the mountains you deserve a relaxing sunset time. You can also dip in the crystal blue water and wash off the summer heat. I highly recommend you either go to Pierre and Friends or to Tonic beach Bar at White Beach.
5-Winery: Ixsir (My favorite Lebanese Wine). I haven’t been there yet, but it is on my to do list.
7–Batroun International Festival. It is now over for the season but they had a great one this year.
8-Upcoming recommended tours:
- Visiting the Roman Theater, IXSIR and Arnaoun. For more details, click here
- Batroun with Wine and Beer tasting, guided Tour with Lunch(17th September): Visit ancient Batroun, discover its wine & beer producing area and taste North Lebanon’s fermented juices and local drafts. For more details, click here.
9-Upcoming recommended Festival: Wickerpark music festival (10th September): The festival highlights the fine new and emerging bands. Since 2011, this festival has sustained being one of the most laid-back, affordable and rewarding live-music experience in the country. For more info, click here.
That’s all folks…for now at least. Next week, I will propose the following itinerary: Jeita-Faraya-Faqra. Stay tuned!