For many, the northern village of Aito is significant place that brings deep attachment. Throughout history, the whispers of trees echoing in hikers’ ears have seemed somehow engraved in the mosaic patches of landscapes that reflect the past uses of land resources and social dynamics in this village.
From Beirut take the highway towards Tripoli, passing Chekka, Koura, Kosba, Torza, Ser’el, Ishaya, Ijbe’e and down to Aito. If you choose to pass through Tripoli, pass Abou Samra, St Gilles Castle, Nahr Abou Ali, Mejdlaya, Zghorta, Sebe’l and Aito. The village is located 113 km from Beirut; 27 km from Tripoli.
What to Do
Lying on four mountains located at 900 and 1,300m altitude, nature lovers and hikers will be enchanted by the panoramic view from Aito which overlooks the hills of El Qarn, El Alama, Dnit, and Kanissa. Here it’s easy to reflect on the connection we have to nature and our attachment to places. Though the meaning of the village’s name in Syriac is “Summer Resort,” the dense silent pine and oak forests are a big pull during all seasons.
The sleepy village of no more than 200 houses is a site of pilgrimage (St Rafqa) and has more than four ancient churches dating back to the early 18th Century. Even with the sounds of cracking rocks while overcoming frosty winters on the hills and pinecones opening in the warm days of early spring, silence is the loudest language in Aito.
During a silent walk, oak trees whisper that cedar trees once thrived among them giving a famous reputation to the community in ancient times, as revealed by the hieroglyphic inscription that can be found in the Beirut National Museum. It was during the 2nd Century BC that Pharaoh Pepi II requested “trees from the woods of the God Aito,” from one of the kings of Byblos. The resin was extracted and used by Egyptians for embalmment.
In Aito, a highland trek takes you on a tour through pine forests, or traversing agricultural terraces and orchards, or on the road leading to old convents dating back to the early 18th Century that reveal that the Phoenician worshiped this space in time. At dusk, the intense Milky Way will replace a shiny blue sky.
Where to Stay
Spend a tranquil night in the Convent of St Simeon Al Amoudi
Where to Eat
Located nearby, Ehden is a perfect lunch stop after a hike around Aito, known for its kibbeh. Al Ferdos Restaurant has a great reputation for food and the mountain views to match.