UMBRELLA PINE FORESTS

Lebanon’s cedars are a source of national pride, tied up with the

country’s identity. But beyond our most well-known forests, there are

many more to discover. From umbrella pines in the Metn area, to the firs

of the far north, the author of “Native Trees of Lebanon and

Neighboring Countries,” Elsa Sattout, takes us on a tour of some of

Lebanon’s lesser-visited forests

 

UMBRELLA PINE FORESTS, South Metn

Altitude: 450-800m

Distance from Beirut: 32km

The

charming umbrella pine forests in South Metn, covering a large area of

approximately 10km2, feature Judas tree (zamzarik), strawberry tree

(katlab), St John’s Wort (dmou’ lebsaynat) and rockroses in early

spring. They are spread in the stunning valleys below the mountaintops

of the villages of Zandouqa, Qsaibeh and Kneisse. Highlights within the

region include Saint Veronica Giuliani church in Qsaibeh, the ruins of a silkworm factory and an Ottoman bridge

in Kneisse. Stay at a campsite after hiking the area’s trails (Ray’s

adventure, 76 383333). Hikes in the region can lead to the village of

Salima and Ras El Metn where you can visit the Serail of El Lam’iyine, a Druze hermitage site perched on a cliff, and Ottoman monuments along the river.

JAJ CEDAR FOREST, Byblos District

Altitude: 1,230–1,700m

Distance from Beirut: 75km

The

village of Jaj in north Lebanon features a cedar grove and old isolated

cedars that grow on rocky hills. Maple (kaykab), bear plum (khawkh el

deb) and wild service-tree (ghbayra) are sporadically spread across the

area. Historical records speak about the Phoenicians who transported

cedar logs through rivers to the port of Byblos for shipbuilding and

export. A 30-minute hiking trail offers a good overview of the area –

passing from the forest parking lot to the cedar grove and old church.

For more adventurous hiking and advanced mountaineering, explore the

surrounding hills which have 360 degrees of panoramic views and take a

break at the restaurant Sama Jaj (70 540223) for a quick bite or

meal. In the village itself, pass by the 200-year-old oak tree near the

church and the private museum of the sculptor and artist Boutros Farhat (03 254283).

CALABRIAN PINE FORESTS, Zgharta District

Altitude: 885–1,100m

Distance from Beirut: 123km

Dense Calabrian pine forests extend on the hills surrounding the villages of Mazraet El Touffah, Ejbeh, Aitou and Sebeel. They cover more than approximately 3km2 and include gall oak (afess), kermes oak, cypress (sharbeen), storax (loubn), juniper (ar’ar), hawthorn (za’rour), hyssop (zoufa), orchids, sage (kas’ine), Syrian oregano (zouba’) and endemic Lebanese oregano (mardakoush lubnani), along with St John’s Wort. The forested area is accessible from the surrounding villages and Meziarat. The landscape features abandoned terraces that were once cultivated with wheat and semi-circular terraces for wheat thresh, old houses, old churches and a water mill. Enjoy outdoor activities in the area, including hiking to El Keif, Dalil, Sifon and Rechta’mout, biking and sightseeing tours, or simply take a picnic and enjoy the panoramic views. If you aim to cross the borders between villages, hikes to Wadi El Karakir, Mereh and Bnache’et are available with eco-tour operators.

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