The number of sites and reserves across the world that promote Eco Tourism has been growing consistently over the past decade. Defined as responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people by The International Ecotourism Society (TIES), the concept has also been embraced by private and state actors. Besides private initiatives such as the Jabal Moussa Biosphere Reserve there are also official nature reserves such as the Al-Chouf Cedar or Tannourine Cedar Forest Nature Reserve, set up under the auspices of the Ministry of Environment.
WE Magazine compiled a selection of Eco Tourism destinations in Lebanon:
Jabal Moussa Biosphere Reserve
This natural reserve is a true mosaic of nature, culture and impressive landscapes. Its dramatic scenic views include the Adonis Valley, and a uniquely rich biodiversity that remains mainly unspoiled. Given its cultural and historical sites, it attracts tourists from Lebanon and all over the world. This unique site unveils the incredible richness of the Jabal to as many people as possible without having any negative impact on its natural wealth.
Al-Shouf Cedar Nature Reserve
This nature reserve, the largest in Lebanon, stretches from Dahr Al-Baidar in the north to Niha Mountain in the south. Blanketed with oak forests on its northeastern slopes and juniper and oak forests on its southeastern slopes, the reserve’s most famous attractions are its three magnificent cedar forests of Maasser Al-Shouf, Barouk and Ain Zhalta – Bmohary in addition to the spectacular Fakhreddine fortress, carved into a rock face and in Niha. From the summit of the rugged mountains, visitors will enjoy spectacular panoramic views of nearby Jezzine, the countryside, eastward to the Bekaa Valley, Ammiq wetland and Qaraoun Lake, and westward toward the Mediterranean.
The Tannourine Cedars Forest Nature Reserve
This Nature Reserve protects one of the largest and densest cedar forests in Lebanon. Eighty percent of the trees in the forest are cedars. The unique geography and topography of the forest has sheltered the area from excessive tourist activity. A trip to Tannourine is well worth it. The hiking trails, in the rocky terrain of the mountains are amazing and the stunning mountainous landscape, with cedars seemingly defying gravity and growing on extremely vertical slopes, is impressive. Visitors also enjoy the opportunity to discover rock-cut or naturally occurring grottos on their hikes, as well as rare flowers particular to this high altitude terrain.
Kherbet Kanafar Promenades
The West Bekaa is breathtaking. This land, blessed by the Gods, has an enormous eco-tourism potential with its beautiful landscapes, biodiversity, hospitable people as well as its rich trail networks suitable for hiking. The majestic mountains of Mount Lebanon overlooking the plain are the ideal place for medium level hikes: the view from the mountains peaks on the rich agricultural plain, Lake Qaraoun and the biblical Mount Hermon is astounding.
For easier hikes the valley plain, rich in renowned vineyards and endless orchards, is beautiful especially in spring when the almonds, peaches and apples orchards are in bloom, and spectacular in autumn with the rainbow of colors that the season brings.
Organized by, “Kherbet Kanafar Promenades” the walks – which are mostly moderate in level, start at 8.30am and last two to three hours at most. On the way back, hikers are served a Lebanese breakfast made of fresh products, homemade jams, fruits, vegetables and fresh eggs. Dining is either on the terrace or in the garden room around the wood stove depending on the weather. Although the hikes start and end in Kherbet Kanafar, they are not limited to the Kherbet Kanafar area. These “strolls” or “promenades” are not strenuous hikes but rather beautiful walks that will allow nature lovers and photographers to discover the region at a pleasant pace. The number of hikers is limited to 10 or 15 people at the most in order to create cohesive walks. The main idea behind this project is to promote and preserve the nature and the beauty of the West Bekaa.
For those interested, there are also customized strolls-breakfasts by appointment during week days and week-ends. Bookings can be made through the Facebook page “Kherbet Kanafar Promenades”.
Lying in the heart of the West Bekaa, Ammiq is a quiet Lebanese village famous for its fertile lands and jaw dropping fauna and flora, particularly its wetlands. Home to a number of rare species of birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles, the vast wetland has been declared a national reserve.
Hima Ebel el-Saqi
Declared as Hima (protected area) by the municipality, which also banned hunting, and restricted grazing. A management plan was put in place between the Site Support Group and the SPNL (Society for the protection of Nature in Lebanon). This plan includes and was initiated for conservation and awareness issues.
Located in southern Lebanon between Marjayoun and Hasbaya, west of the Hasbani River. The village lies on the Rift Valley flyway.
Habitat: Scrubland, Olive groves, Conifer plantation, Agriculture/cultivation and river corridor.
Hima Kfar Zabad
The Hima of Kfarzabad was declared in 2004 to protect the site from all kinds of abuse, especially continuous hunting. The Hima area covers the whole Important Bird Area that constitutes the wetlands and agricultural lands. This area is highly rich in its unique flora and fauna with more than 138 bird species, and a number of globally threatened plants. The area is characterized by the breeding of Syrian Serin (a globally threatened bird), the otter and the wild cat. Kfar Zabad wetlands are the last publicly owned wetlands in the Bekaa valley, where a lot of migratory waterfowls pass. It depends on two main springs: Ma’asaya & Shamsein, which combine later as the Ghzayil River that constitutes one of the tributaries of the Litani River. It provides drinking water to over 30 surrounding villages.
The Qadisha Valley or the Holy Valley
and the Forest of the Cedars of God (Horsh Arz el-Rab)
The Qadisha Valley is one of the most important settlement sites of the first Christian monasteries in the world. Many of these of great age, are set in an extraordinarily rugged landscape. Nearby are the vestiges of the cedar forest of Lebanon, highly prized in ancient times for the construction of religious buildings.
The Qadisha Valley site and the Forest of the Cedars of God (Horsh Arz el-Rab) are located in northern Lebanon. The Qadisha Valley is located North of the Mount Lebanon chain, at the foot of Mount al-Makmel and west of the Forest of the Cedars of God. The Holy River Qadisha, celebrated in the Scriptures, runs through the Valley. The Forest of the Cedars of God is located on Mount Makmel, between 1900 and 2050 meters altitude and to the east of the village of Bcharré.
The rocky cliffs of the Qadisha Valley have served over centuries as a place for meditation and refuge. The Valley comprises the largest number of monasteries and hermitages dating back to the very first spread of Christianity. This Valley bears unique witness to the very centre of Maronite eremitism. Its natural caves, carved into the hillsides – almost inaccessible – and decorated with frescoes, testifying to an architecture specifically conceived for the spiritual and vital needs of an austere life. There exist numerous terraces for growing grain by the monks, hermits and peasants who lived in the region; several of these terraces are still under cultivation today.
Linked to the Qadisha Valley through historic reference and contiguity, the Forest of the Cedars of God is the last vestige of antique forests and one of the rare sites where the Cedrus Lebani still grows, one of the most valued construction materials in the antique world and cited 103 times in the Bible.
Since the beginnings of Christianity, the Qadisha Valley has given shelter to monastic communities. The trees of the cedar forest are the survivors of a sacred forest and one of the most prized building materials in ancient times.
Lebanon Mountain Trail
The Lebanon Mountain Trail (LMT) is the first long-distance hiking trail in Lebanon. It extends from Andqet Akkar in the north of Lebanon to Marjaayoun in the south, a 470-km (293 miles) path that transects more than 75 towns and villages at altitude ranging from 600 meters to 2,000 meters (about 1,800-6,000 feet) above sea level.
The LMT showcases the natural beauty and cultural wealth of Lebanon’s mountains and demonstrates the determination of the people of Lebanon to conserve this unique heritage. The trail brings communities closer together and expands economic opportunities in rural areas through environmentally- and socially-responsible tourism.
Source : WE Magazine issue #15