Hiking the Qadisha Valley

 

Part of the Qadisha Valley (click on image to enlarge)

 

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.

 

Chris and Sharon on the trail (click on to enlarge)

 

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.

 

At the entrance to the first monastery we visited (click on to enlarge)

 

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.

 

Inside one of the chapels (click on to enlarge)

 

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.

 

There is a rail to keep hikers from an unfortunate fall.

 

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.

 

More of the trail

 

 

The cliffs are covered with caves. Manmade?

 

 

Looking back at the restaurant. The path doubles as an aquaduct.

 

 

The entrance to the first monastery can be seen to the right of my head.

 

 

Leaving the valley. Notice the mountains in the distance.

 

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3 Responses to Hiking the Qadisha Valley

  1. Barbara says:

    awesome pictures!

  2. Anahid says:

    Stunning! We are headed there next week–do you have any idea how weather conditions are at this time of year? Don’t fancy tricky narrow, steep trails in the snow . . . Where did you start?

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