THE SHOUF

BEITEDDINE, DEIR EL QA­MAR

Lebanon Traveler - - MINI GUIDES -

BEITEDDINE & DEIR EL QA­MAR

The Shouf is one of the best pre­served and his­tor­i­cally rich ar­eas in the coun­try. With pic­turesque vil­lages, lush moun­tains and the largest cedar re­serve in Le­banon, you can im­merse your­self in the nat­u­ral beauty this in­cred­i­ble re­gion has to of­fer.

GET­TING THERE

De­pend­ing on which vil­lage you want to start your trip from, the Shouf is around an hour’s jour­ney from Beirut. A good start­ing point is the charm­ing vil­lage of Deir El Qa­mar.

By car: Fol­low the south­ern coastal high­way to­wards Saida. Just be­fore Damour, exit the high­way to­wards Beiteddine, and fol­low the signs.

By pub­lic trans­port: Take a van from Jisr el Cola to­wards the Shouf, and get off at the vil­lage of Kafr Him. From there, take a ser­vice or taxi to the main square in Deir El Qa­mar, but note find­ing taxis may prove dif­fi­cult. The van and ser­vice cost 2,000 LBP each. The taxi costs around 10,000 LBP.

WHAT TO DO Deir El Qa­mar

With red-tiled roofs, wind­ing streets, and tra­di­tional stone houses, the vil­lage of Deir El Qa­mar (a UNESCO World Her­itage Site) epit­o­mizes idyl­lic mountain charm. It also high­lights the re­li­gious di­ver­sity in Le­banon, with a mosque, a church and a syn­a­gogue all tak­ing res­i­dence in its main square. En­joy a stroll around the vil­lage, start­ing in the his­toric main square, where joust­ing tour­na­ments took place dur­ing the Cru­sades.

Beiteddine Palace

Just 20 min­utes from Deir El Qa­mar, sits Beiteddine Palace, one of Le­banon’s Ot­toman trea­sures. The palace of­fers a stun­ning and well-pre­served ex­am­ple of 19th cen­tury ar­chi­tec­ture.

Walk­ing through the palace com­plex, vis­i­tors will im­me­di­ately no­tice the wealth and de­tail of its con­struc­tion. Each room fea­tures mo­saic stonework, cedar wood en­grav­ing and spa­cious ar­eas. The mu­seum is open from 9 am to 4 pm, but is closed on Mon­days. 05 500077

Shouf Cedar Re­serve

The Shouf Cedar Re­serve holds over 20% of the coun­try’s cedar trees, some of which date back 2,000 years.

Hike in for­est or rent a mountain bike from the Shouf Bio­sphere Re­serve (05 241171) at the en­trance and cy­cle along the trail. 05 350250, shoufcedar.org

WHERE TO EAT Al-mi­dane Restau­rant

Lo­cated in a sunny court­yard fac­ing Deir El Qa­mar’s main square, the Al-mi­dane Restau­rant (03 763768) spe­cial­izes in Le­banese mezze and lo­cal food. Dec­o­rated in a tra­di­tional style, the restau­rant lends it­self per­fectly to an ex­tended lunch.

Mir Amin Palace

For up­scale din­ing in a beau­ti­ful palace, head to Mir Amin Palace (05 501315, mi­ram­in­palace.com). This com­plex, which looks out over the Beiteddine Palace and sur­round­ing moun­tains, was the res­i­dence of the youngest son of Emir Bashir II Che­hab. To­day, the palace is a gor­geous ho­tel and restau­rant.

WHERE TO SLEEP

Beit El Qa­mar

Sur­rounded by veg­etable gar­dens and col­or­ful ter­races, Beit El Qa­mar is an adorable lit­tle ho­tel that will make you feel right at home in the Shouf. Their lo­cally sourced break­fast over­look­ing the Shouf moun­tains is worth a visit alone. 05 511722/03 661411, soukeltayeb.com/ beit-el-qa­mar

Bouy­outi

Five min­utes from Beiteddine sits Bouy­outi, an el­e­gant guest­house per­fect for a lux­u­ri­ous overnight stay in the Shouf. Bouy­outi is a clus­ter of up­scale houses, com­bin­ing am­ple space with a warm and el­e­gant at­mo­sphere. 03 310200, bouy­outi.com

Deir Al Ou­mara

With a beau­ti­ful cen­tral court­yard for its restau­rants, and 11 spa­cious rooms, Deir Al Ou­mara is a stun­ning ex­am­ple of Ot­toman ar­chi­tec­ture and the per­fect bou­tique ho­tel for an overnight stay. 05 511557, deiraloumara.com

Beiteddine Palace

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