Chouf Cedars – 3000 Years in the Making
Our latest road trip takes us to the Cedars Reserve in the Chouf District, mainly the reserves of Maaser El Chouf and Barouk. Resting high in the Chouf mountain at an altitude exceeding 1500m, awaits you some of the oldest, mightiest and most colossal Cedar trees your eyes will ever lay on in Lebanon.
As always, it is best to rely on your maps application since it provides you with the easiest navigation to your destination. In any case, there are many routes to reach the reserves. You can take the Damascus highway all the way towards Saoufar (check our mini trip to Saoufar here) then instead of continuing towards Dahr l Baydar, you should take a right turn before Al Sayad gas station, towards Mejdel Baana and keep going towards Nabaa El Safa. Another route, which we chose, requires you to take the airport highway, and keep going south until you reach Mechref exit. Then it’s a drive up the mountain towards Beit El Dine, then Barouk. All in all, it’s around an hour and a half trip.
Before sharing our experience in the Cedar reserves, I feel compelled to briefly mention the beauty of the nature in the whole of Chouf district which is further amplified by the perfectly maintained roads. Cruising in your car on these roads is on its own a pleasurable experience. Now back to the spotlight of our trip: The Cedars. We first visited Maaser El Chouf reserve, then we drove towards Barouk reserve which we visited next. It is worth mentioning that a single ticket (which costs 7000 L.L) grants you access to all 4 Cedars reserves in Chouf (Barouk, Maaser el Chouf, Niha, Ain Zhalta). Note that access is only granted until 5:30 pm.
At Maaser El Chouf reserve, we were greeted by a guide who shared with us some history about the reserve and described the pathway we should follow. A walking trail is also clearly defined inside the reserve so no worries of getting lost. Moreover, some benches are there for you to relax on and enjoy the serenity of the location. During our walk, we witnessed two of the oldest and most interesting Cedar trees in Lebanon. The first one being more than THREE THOUSAND years old and having a circumference of approximately 16 meters. The second, called “La Martine”, is the Cedar that you see on our Lebanese flag. Both are a rare and sensational exhibition of nature’s beauty. This reserve is definitely not the biggest, but it is where you will encounter the most exquisite Cedars in the world!
Once we completed our visit to Maaser El Chouf, Barouk was next on our list. A 25 minutes drive will get you there and asking the friendly locals will help you reach it more easily. Arriving at Barouk reserve, we were greeted by the guards, who stamped our tickets and we were ready to go. We started our drive at the lowest point of the reserve where the Cedar trees are mostly young (see 50 years old), and kept driving upwards towards the older, more majestic Cedars. Midway through our ride we stumbled upon a surprising sight that gave us goosebumps. A hill dedicated to the Lebanese army martyrs with the names of the fallen heroes carved on the wood plates. A truly thoughtful gesture. To resume the journey there are 2 spots where you can park your car and walk deeper into the reserve, and we suggest that you do so; Such a beautiful sight to see, such a wonderful nature to cherish.
A nice add-on to this trip would be a visit to Deir Al Amar square which we passed by on our way towards Maaser El Chouf.
It is recommended to take a sweater or a jacket with you since it gets pretty cold inside the Barouk reserve.
Beware of the fog, mainly in Barouk.
Visiting the reserves would be a great family trip! They are organized in a way that kids and adults can wander carelessly.
Lunch at Mir Amin palace hotel is recommended once you are in the area.