After more than a decade of dreams, this trip became real, at last. I had the option to visit the largest and the oldest cedar tree forest and chose the latter. Having learnt it is located about 2000 meters above the sea level and considering it was late November, I decided to buy a warm long cardigan and a woolen shawl, and I did well.
I was intrigued with the forest name; my guide (the owner of the company himself, a very experienced guide as well as a very interesting person, we had inspiring conversations for hours during the drive there and back) told me it was given by the monks who found it, and then took care of it, who could not discover the origin of this oldest cedar tree forest in Lebanon.
Cedars are special trees. When they are adult, they are very resistant, strong, living for thousands of years; however, the young trees are very vulnerable and less than 10% make it to the adulthood.
I set on my journey at 11 am, travelled along the coast for almost 2 hours (with a stop for the delicious Lebanese coffee), and then our car climbed the mountains for another hour or so. The seaside temperature was about +23°C, but it dropped to +10°C in the mountains. This was in places with the sunshine. In the shades of the forest, the temperature went even lower and in less than 20 minutes, my hands started freezing up to the point my camera failed to respond to the touch. I tried to warm my hands wrapped in the shawl and was somehow successful.
The oldest cedar tree is located outside the reserve, on the top of the village; this is the tree model for the Lebanese flag (before, I used to think it was just an artistic image, only while preparing for my trip I found out there was a real tree behind, which is about 3,000 years old).
The entrance to the park is free of charge, voluntary donations are welcome to support the project of re-introducing the cedars to all the Mediterranean-facing slopes of the Lebanese mountains (the cedars need the see humidity, they cannot live on the desert-facing slopes). After going some steps down, you will find yourself on a path leading you through the reserve. There are very old as well as younger trees, which raises hopes for this forest. Be ready to go uphill; in this altitude it is more difficult as one would expect. It was quiet, calm, soothing one’s mind. You will pass the church to get to the “main square” dedicated to the French poet de Lamartine who wrote many of his poems in this very forest. When the cedar on the top of the hill was killed by a lightning, a local sculptor created the poet’s image and few more sculptures in the tree remains. The cedar Trinity (pictured with a 2-storey building to show its size) is the highest part of the journey.
As a surprise, the park closed at 4 pm the day I visited it, while it is supposed to be at 5 pm. I recommend checking at the entrance to avoid running to the exit.
I arrived back to the hotel short before 7 pm, happy, tired, and totally satisfied.
Wish you a great trip!