Pure forests, towering cliffs and lush valleys make Ehmej a perfect destination for nature hiking adventures in the company of a resourceful local guide as Sabina Llewellyn-Davies.
The hills surrounding the village of Ehmej in the north of Lebanon feature some of the country’s most stunning hiking trails. Located at an altitude of 1,140 meters the climate here is really superb and spring is one of the best times to hike here when the hills are in full bloom with wild flora.
According to excavations, the village of Ehmej dates back to the Roman age. Ancient inscriptions carved into rock depict the region’s historic initiatives to preserve nature. A decree imposed by the Roman Emperor Hadrian (117 to 138) forbid its citizens to cut down juniper, oak, cedar and pine trees.
Last year, twelve trail maps were developed as part of the EMLED program (Empowering Municipalities Through Local Economic Development) to increase ecotourism to this area. The program was funded by the USAID (United States Agency for International Development) and implemented by RI (Relief International) in collaboration with IRG (International Resources Group).
The Ehmej trail maps give directions and point out natural and historic attractions along route. They are evaluated as moderate to difficult and range between 6 and 14 km in length so there is something for everyone really.
Places of natural interest
• Hafroune for its historic legends
• Quornet El Raheb (The Monk’s Peak) known for it’s many
• Wadi Naznazi (The Valley of the Dripping Water)
Local food specialties
Cider and wine making
Boutros Abi Khalil
+961 3 504292
Specialty of the region
Matmoura, a Lebanese potato dish
Rachid Abi Semaan
+961 71 705968
Where to stay
Contact the Ehmej information center for accommodation. Here you can also pick up the trail maps or download them from ehmej-eco.org
+961 9 504250 / 70 227730
How to get to Ehmej
Take the north highway leading to Byblos. Once there exit the highway and take the internal road that climbs toward Ehmej going through the villages of Hboub, Braij, Raas Osta, Annaya and Kfarbaal to arrive at Ehmej.
Length 14 km
Uphill 600m cumulative
Rony Ghobry, born and bred in Ehmej, has been leading hiking tours for around ten years now. He is also a snowboard, climbing and rappelling instructor, as well as a caving guide. Interested in nature since he was a child, he has developed a wide knowledge of flora and fauna over the years and has built up an archive of old photos and documents on his hometown.
“Ehmej means the hidden place in the Arabic language, derived from the verb ahmaj which means to hide something. This place is so diverse: flora, herb, trees, archeological sites, hidden sinkholes, water springs and there are many historical legends related to special places,” says Rony.
The Ehmej hiking trails lead to nearby villages such as Jaj, Douma, Aquoura, Tannourine, and Jabal Moussa (the Adonis Valley). All of the trails have their own special splendor, admits Rony, but, his personal favorite is trail 2, the Jabal Hafroun trail which passes through the Valley of Beauty “where most hikers dream of living,” says Rony.
At the moment there is no signage for the trails but there are plans to mark them with wooden signs and to link two of them to the Lebanon Mountain Trail at Tannourine and Aquoura. Trail maps are available from the Ehmej information center or visitors can benefit from the services of a resourceful local guide, such as Rony.
In spring, expect a stunning display of wild flowers such as Anthemis palaestina, Orinthogalum umbellatum, Orinthogalum montanum, Cyclamen persicum, Ranunculus asiaticus, Euphorbia helioscopia, Helichrysum sanguineum, Iris sofarana and the like, and if you are wondering what on earth these are, then just ask a guide to point them out for you along the trail.
Ehmej faces environmental challenges, such as recent road development, which has eased car access, but vilified natural resources. In order to protect the environment the municipality is planting more trees in the vicinity. Construction has also driven away wild animals and unfortunately, few can be seen these days. But, Rony has sighted hyena, wild boars, fox, porcupine, hedgehogs and squirrels on hikes.
It is clear that Rony is passionate about his region and invites visitors to discover Ehmej for themselves. “To hike with me in Ehmej is an unforgettable memory. Unspoiled forests, cliffs, and valleys, Ehmej is the perfect destination for your adventure travel all year round,” he says. “Stunning views and friendly villagers make Ehmej an ideal destination for escaping the city, being only one hour from Beirut and 25 minutes from Byblos.” A warm welcome from the local community, fantastic far stretching views, and the amazing whiff of wild oregano and thyme growing on the surrounding hills are guaranteed.
To arrange for a visit
+961 3 365027