Epic camp­ing spots

Founder of NEOS Tourism Con­sul­tancy and author of “Eco Le­banon: Na­ture and Ru­ral Tourism” Nour Far­raHad­dad gives her tips on camp­sites around Le­banon that are per­fect for an in­ex­pen­sive and fun get­away.

Lebanon Traveler - - CONTENTS -

Four fab­u­lous get­aways


Tafla (71 749448) is lo­cated in the town of Smar Jbeil, which is well known for its fortress and a dozen or so churches. Smar Jbeil is rec­og­nized as one of the old­est Le­banese vil­lages, where one can find rem­nants dat­ing back to the Canaan­ites and Phoeni­cians such as cat­a­combs, sar­cophagi, mills and wells. The vil­lage is built on a rocky cliff over­look­ing the Mediter­ranean Sea and the coast of By­b­los and Ba­troun.

Vis­i­tors to Tafla can ei­ther take their own tent or rent one lo­cally. For some­thing more com­fort­able, rooms are avail­able in the camp­site’s charm­ing villa.

Where to eat

While food is avail­able at Tafla, you may wish to head to the main square of Smar Jbeil for a sand­wich or a manouche. There’s also a good se­lec­tion of typical seafood restau­rants on the coast, in­clud­ing White Beach (06 742505), Club House – Le­banese Yacht Club (03 608219) or Le Cap (09 623397).

What to do

The ru­ral area of Ba­troun is very in­ter­est­ing. On the way up to Smar Jbeil, pass by Rachana and visit the open-air mu­seum of sculp­tures. You will prob­a­bly spot an artist from the Bas­bous fam­ily at work.

In Smar Jbeil, take time to ex­plore the reli­gious sites: the church of Our Lady, St. Nohra and St. Takla. The cru­sader fortress is also worth vis­it­ing. Con­tinue to­wards the east where you will find the monastery of St. Joseph in Jrabta (the sanc­tu­ary of St. Rafqa) and the monastery of the saints Cyprian and Justine (the sanc­tu­ary of St. Har­dini and Blessed Estephan Nehme) in Kfi­fane.


Ain Zhalta is a pic­turesque vil­lage in the Shouf district. In BmahrayAin Zhalta, one of the en­trances of the Shouf Bio­sphere Reserve, one can find the Cedars Ground Camp­site (03 938187), open al­most all year long to na­ture lovers. Vis­i­tors to the camp­site can en­joy many day­time and night­time ac­tiv­i­ties such as fruit pick­ing, stargaz­ing and moon­light hikes.

Where to eat

En­joy a meal by the camp­fire or an au­then­tic Le­banese mezze at one the fa­mous lo­cal restau­rants in Nabee El Safa such as Yam­mine (05 230033) or Chal­lalat Nabeh El Safa (05 230030).

What to do

En­joy a spec­tac­u­lar hike in the Shouf Bio­sphere Reserve, where you will find some of the old­est cedar trees in Le­banon. Visit the pretty vil­lage of Ain Zhalta and con­tinue on to Wardiyeh, a few kilo­me­ters away, to see in­cred­i­ble sculp­tures at the Assaf Mu­seum and ate­lier (03 737528/71 211915, ate­lieras­saf.org). End your jour­ney in Bat­loun to dis­cover the unique re­mains of the vil­lage de­mol­ished by an earthquake in 1956.


Khen­chara is a vil­lage in the Metn district, lo­cated between the towns of Bteghrine and Shoueir. Known for its tra­di­tional red-roofed houses and skilled stone­ma­sons, it is home to Hillhout Vil­lage (70 757711), a charm­ing 25,000-square me­ter re­treat in the heart of the for­est. It is pop­u­lar with fam­i­lies and groups due to its mag­i­cal lo­ca­tion, of­fer­ing guests a place to camp, a picnic area and an ar­ray of eco­tourism ac­tiv­i­ties.

Where to eat

Pre­pare some tasty treats or buy ready-made sand­wiches and take ad­van­tage of the picnic area at Hillhout Vil­lage. Al­ter­na­tively, en­joy cheese and wine at the win­ery of the St. John Monastery (03 203098/70 165277/04 270577, cavest­jean.com). Other restau­rants in the area serve typical Le­banese cui­sine, while O Bois (70 345752) has an ex­ten­sive in­ter­na­tional menu.

What to do

On the way to Khen­chara, stop in Bik­faya to visit the churches of St. Eli­jah (Mar Elias), St. Michael (Mar Mikhael) and Our Lady of De­liv­er­ance. Khen­chara is home to the Melkite Catholic Monastery of Mar Youhanna, which lies on a rocky hill and looks like a fortress built over a cliff. Do not miss vis­it­ing the monastery mu­seum dis­play­ing tra­di­tional print­ing ma­te­rial and one of the old­est print­ing ma­chines in the Mid­dle East.

Af­ter Khen­chara, con­tinue to­wards Bask­inta at the foot of Mount San­nine, the na­tive vil­lage of Mikhail Naimeh (1889-1988), one of Le­banon’s great­est writ­ers and thinkers. The Le­banon Moun­tain Trail As­so­ci­a­tion (lebanon­trail.org) de­vel­oped the Bask­inta Lit­er­ary Trail to cel­e­brate the work of sev­eral ac­claimed po­ets and nov­el­ists from the re­gion, in­clud­ing Mikhail Naimy, Amin Maalouf, Ab­dal­lah Ghanem, Suleiman Ket­taneh, Rachid Ay­oub, and Ge­orges Ghanem.

The beau­ti­ful vil­lage is also known for its wealth of reli­gious sites, no­tably the churches of St. Eli­jah (Mar Elias) and St. Michael (Mar Mikhael).


Si­t­u­ated in Mount Le­banon, at an el­e­va­tion of 1,550m, Fakra is cel­e­brated for its re­mark­able kars­tique rocks and Ro­man mon­u­ments: tem­ples, col­umns, al­tars and tombs cut from rock. One tem­ple rises spec­tac­u­larly, nes­tled in thick rock. In Fakra, a bridge called Jisr al-ha­jar (Stone Bridge) fea­tures a mag­nif­i­cent arch mea­sur­ing 38m in height.

El Nawawis camp­site (03 256709), close to the fa­mous Ro­man tem­ples, oc­cu­pies a mas­sive 20,000-square me­ters. It boasts a camp­ing area, a picnic area and a num­ber of bun­ga­lows. An­other picnic and camp­ing area, Abou Maroun (09 300218), is also avail­able in Fakra.

Where to eat

Grab some es­sen­tials and have a picnic at El Nawawis. If you pre­fer eat­ing at a restau­rant, head to Anater (09 300818), Qalaat Fawaz (03 928061) or Chez Chaker (09 341800) where you will be served a Le­banese feast.

What to do

Once you have seen the nat­u­ral bridge and the Ro­man ru­ins of Fakra, you can con­tinue to Chabrouh to have a nice walk near the dam and visit the monastery of the res­ur­rec­tion. From there, take the road to­ward the largest statue of St. Char­bel in Le­banon, perched on the moun­tain top.

Photo: Ji­had As­mar

Abou Maroun

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