The Qadisha Valley is a long, deep gorge cut into the Lebanon range, located southwest of Tripoli, Lebanon, and about a 2 hour drive from Beirut. The valley’s steep, rocky sides have made it a natural fortress for persecuted religious minorities, primarly Maronite Christians, since the 5th century.
Small monasteries and churches, some of which are still used, are cut into the sides of cliffs. Others have long been abandoned but are visible across the valley floor. The natural beauty of the place and the unique history of the valley have resulted in it being recognized as a World Heritage site by UNESCO.
Most of our hike was a descent as we began from atop one of the ridges ringing the valley floor. Steep stone steps with occasional handrails mark a clear route for hikers. Within an hour we took a path leading to an active monastery, inhabited by one monk. Two small candlelit chapels, both cut into the natural cliff walls, made the whole day worth the time and effort. They were simple yet elegant, intimate, spiritual and a worthy testament to the importance mankind places on religion. We visited two other active monasteries, one of which contained frescoes reportedly dating back to the Byzantine era.
Most of the hike was relatively easy, but there were several steep inclines and a few narrow twists with sharp drops to the side. But we stuck together pretty well, and after three hours on the trail we sat down at an outdoor restaurant where we enjoyed a great mezza meal.
Hikers love the place, but small vehicles are also able to navigate the rough road leading to the restaurant, bringing locals from nearby villages to enjoy a meal in this tranquil setting.
Enough narrative. I’ll let the pictures do the talking. Enjoy.