A quaint and welcoming town in the heart of the Qadisha Valley, Bcharre is a great place to stop en-route to the Cedars or stay for a few days and explore the sites. What it lacks in size, it more than makes up for in art, history and culture. For all information concerning Bcharre, contact the municipality on +961 6 672888
1. Gibran Museum
In keeping with his wishes, Khalil Gibran (1883-1931), who immigrated to The United States and published his most famous work, The Prophet in 1923, was buried in a 19th century monastery built into the rocky slopes overlooking Bcharre. The monastery, which has been converted into a museum, houses a large collection of Gibran’s paintings, drawings, gouaches and some of his manuscripts. His coffin is in the monastery’s former chapel, which is cut straight into the rock. The views of the valley from the museum’s terrace are quite amazing.
Admission 5,000 LP
Opening Hours Nov – Mar 10am – 5pm,
Mar – Nov 10am – 6pm, closed Mondays
+961 6 671137
2. Notre Dame De Lourdes Grotto
Part way up a small path near the museum is a small cave with a spring. The site is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Legend has it that she took pity on a Carmelite monk who had to carry water up to the monastery each day to water his vegetable patch. Small candles and statuettes sit on an altar that has been built around the spring.
3. Qadisha Grotto
This small grotto extends about 500m into the mountain and has great limestone formations. The grotto is a 4km walk from Bcharre. Follow the signs to the L’Aiglon Hotel and then take the footpath opposite to it. Then enjoy a picturesque 1.5km walk to the grotto.
Admission 4,000 LP
Opening Hours June until first snow 8am – 5pm
4. The Cedars
With its chalet style hotels and string of wooden hut souvenir shops lining the main road, Lebanon’s oldest ski resort has quite a bit of charm. The village is named after the historic grove of Cedar trees that stand at an altitude of more than 2000m, on the slopes of Jebel Makmel, about 4km from Bcharre. Known locally as Arz ar-Rab (Cedars of the Lord), they are under the protection of the Patriarch of Lebanon, who built a chapel in the cedar grove in 1848.
5. Qornet Es Sawda
At 3088m, this is the highest peak in Lebanon. The view from the summit stretches west to the sea and east to the Bekaa Valley and Anti-Lebanon Mountains. A road suitable for walking (two hours) or for four-wheel drive vehicles starts from Dahr el Qadib on the highest point of the road between the Cedars and Yammouneh.
6. The Qadisha Valley
The best way to hike into the valley is to take one of the steep goat trails that lead out of Bcharre and down to the valley below. If that’s too strenuous, you can drive a car to Deir Mar Elisha and park it there while you walk along the valley floor. A hike from Bcharre to Deir as-Salib takes about six hours, there and back. A steep return hike from Bcharre to Deir Mar Antonios Qozhaya, (around 12km) will take the whole day, with stops for picture taking, exploring and a picnic.
7. The Monasteries
The Lebanese Maronite Order, the first order to be officially recognized by the Roman Catholic Church, was founded here in 1695. The monastery of Mar Elisha (St. Eliseus) goes back much further. By the 14th century it was already the seat of a Maronite bishopric. It was restored in 1991 and turned into a museum. To get there take the main road from Bcharre heading east, turn off at the small blue sign for the Qadisha Valley and follow the narrow road to the monastery.
Legend has it that at the end of the 14th century, the Mamluk Sultan Barquq, escaped from imprisonment in Karak Castle and sought refuge in Qadisha. Due to the hospitality shown to him, he paid for the restoration of Deir Qannoubin. The church is half-built into the rock face and is decorated with frescoes dating from the 18th century. To get there, take the path leading from the village of Blawza. The walk takes about an hour each way.
Just past the turn-off for B’qaa Kafra, as you head east there is a small path leading to Deir Mar Semaan, a hermitage founded in 1112 by Takla, the daughter of a local priest called Basil. Concrete paths lead down to the four-room hermitage carved into the rocks, where Mar Samaan (St. Simon) evidently lived. The walk takes about 15 minutes.
Deir Mar Elisha +961 6671559
8. Deir Mar Antonios Qozhaya
This hermitage is the largest in the valley and has been in use since it was founded in the 11th century. It is famous for establishing the first known printing press in the Middle East in the 16th century. The museum houses a collection of religious and ethnographic objects as well as an old printing press that was used to publish the Psalms in Syriac, a language still used by the Maronite clergy during their services. Near the entrance to the monastery is the Grotto of St. Anthony, known locally as the ‘Cave of the Mad’, where you can see the chains used to constrain the insane or possessed, who were left at the monastery in the hopes that the saint would cure them. To get there, take the road from Aarbet Qozhaya but ask a local for directions, as it is tricky to locate.
+961 6 99504
9. B’qaa Kafra
Just off the road between Bcharre and Hasroun is B’qaa Kafra, the highest village in Lebanon (elevation 1750m) and the birthplace of St. Charbel. The saint’s house has been turned into a museum, which commemorates the saint’s life through paintings. It is open daily, except Mondays, with a shop and cafe at the entrance. The village now has a new convent named after St. Charbel and there is a church, Notre Dame, across the way from the museum..
St. Charbel +961 6 591086
B’qaa Kafra municipality
In Diman, on the south side of the valley, is the summer residence of the Maronite Patriarchy, which moved there from Deir Qannoubin in the 19th century. It is a large modern building on the side of the road nearest to the valley. The site is well worth a visit for its panoramic paintings of the Qadisha Valley and religious scenes by the Lebanese painter Saliba Doueihy that date back to the 1930s or ’40s when the spire of the church was built. The grounds behind the building lead to the edge of the gorge and have views across the valley.
Diman Patriarchate +961 6 591188
La Cabane +961 6 678067
L’aiglon +961 6 671529
Chbat +961 6 672672
Palace Bchareh +961 6 671460
Where to eat
Le Pichet Des Cedres +961 6 678075
Mon Refuge Auberge +961 6 678050
River Roc +961 6 671169
Wadina +961 3 3341345