If you appreciate the rugged terrain and nature walks within Lebanon’s majestic forests, you must visit Ain Dara in the district of Aley.
This charming village, which is 30km away from Beirut, is located on a southward facing slope overlooking the pine forests of the Safa Valley and is also close to the cedar forests of Mount Barouk. Known for its abundance of springs, Ain Dara has an altitude of 1,300m, which gives it relatively cool summers and colder winters with heavy snowfall.
Take the Beirut-Damascus Highway towards Bekaa. Once in Bhamdoun, continue to Hammana, then onto Ain Dara.
What to Do
Places of Worship
A predominantly Christian village, Ain Dara also includes a Druze community. Today, it has five churches and a Druze sanctuary for Sheikh Badereddine El-Enderi, one of the first spiritual leaders of the community. If you appreciate ancient holy sites then make sure you see the beautiful Saint George Maronite Church, which was built in 1890. You can also go to the nearby Saint George Orthodox Church, another architectural gem.
A number of historical sites can be visited on foot from El Okeilli Square to Qoubat Al Sitt. There’s an underground tunnel reaching the center of the village, just next to the summer residence of Emir Bachir III, where a stone facade still stands. You can continue your walk to the nearby village of Tayroush, where you’ll find Aramaic rock inscriptions in addition to remains of an ancient temple, several pillars, a basin and other relics.
Take a walk through the bountiful majestic pine forests of Ain Dara. There are plenty of apple and cherry orchards nestled along the mountainsides and in the valleys. So, while in season you can go fruit picking and buy directly from the village farmers. Walking in this area, you will also come across quite a few springs: Ain Barakeh, Ain Al Tarcha, Ain Majed, Ain Al-Kakbi, Ain Al-Tamam, Hafr Al Tannour, Bahsasa, Ain Al Bustan, Ain Al Hammam and Ain Al Wosta.
You can always hike section 17 of the Lebanon Mountain Trail (LMT), which extends over 18km from Falougha to Ain Zhalta. Look out for the white and purple way-marks of the LMT and follow them to find your way.
Where to Eat
Where to Stay
The charming Vibes Guest House (+961 3 237391) provides wooden bungalows over three floors with sweeping views of the Cedars Biosphere Forests. If you prefer to rough it in nature, stay at Raven (+961 3 021403), a nicely arranged campsite nestled between pine trees and a river. The place even has its own vegetable garden and is equipped with a kitchen.