Let's face it, despite being unbelievably amazing, Beirut can also get pretty overwhelming; this concrete jungle of chaos just gets to you. This is where the Shouf comes in. Located a mere 45 minute drive away from the capital, it is a quiet, tranquil mountainous area host to some of the freshest air in the country and breathtaking views. Yoga retreats ain't got nothing on a weekend in the Shouf.

----------------------------------------------Getting There--------------------------------------------------


By car: On a good day, you can get to the Shouf mountains from Beirut in less than an hour, however, if travelling on a Friday afternoon or Saturday morning, expect a lot of traffic, so plan to leave early. From Beirut, you'll want to head south on the highway from Cola. Turn right off the highway at the Shouf exit (it will be clearly marked), and up ahead you'll see a military checkpoint. Keep driving until you reach Deir el Qamar and follow the signs to Beiteddine.

By bus: If you don’t have access to a car, there is a bus that leaves Beirut and makes stops in several different areas in the Shouf. You can access a Pullman bus from Cola with either the Shouf or Niha written on it. Getting around within the Shouf will prove to be a challenge without a car as taxis are very uncommon.


---------------------------------------------Where to Stay--------------------------------------------------


1. Mir Amin Palace


The Mir Amin is one of the most beautiful and rustic hotels in Lebanon. Built in 1838 by Emir Bachir Chehab I, the palace was pillaged during the civil war before being restored in the 1960s and completely remodeled into a 5 star hotel in the 1980s. With breathtaking panoramic views and stunning 19th century décor, coupled with exceptional service, the Mir Amin is a must-see in itself.

Mir Amin Palace Hotel
Beit Eddine, Off of Main Highway
Beit Eddine
Tel.: +9615501318
Tel.: +9615501315

2. Beit El Hana Guesthouse

(Photo via lebhotels.com)

So, if staying in a royal palace is not exactly in your budget, Beit El Hana is a great alternative for your stay. Equally calm and beautiful, Beit el Hana lies right at the edge of the region's great Nature Reserve. Once you’ve enjoyed a traditional Lebanese breakfast on one of their terraces overlooking the stunning valley, ask for a bike and make your way through the Nature Reserve – you’ll be sure to run into a fox or two.

Beit El Hana Guesthouse
Maaser el Shouf
Shouf
Tel.: +9615955302


-----------------------------------------Food and Drinks--------------------------------------------------


1. Mir Amin Palace


The Mir Amin palace offers an exceptional open-buffet on Sundays, hosted on its infamous terrace with incredible views overlooking the Shouf. Expect everything from sambousek and wara2 enab to shwarma and a hearty rice dish.

Mir Amin Palace Hotel
Beit Eddine, Off of Main Highway
Beit Eddine
Tel.: +9615501318
Tel.: +9615501315

2. Shallalat al-Barouk Restaurant

(Photo via Facebook)

You can eat your hummos and mashewe and smoke your argileh to the gentle sound and cool breeze of a beautiful waterfall – enough said.

Shallalat al-Barouk
Barouk Main Street
Barouk
Tel.: +9615240466
Tel.: +9615240466


----------------------------------------------What To See--------------------------------------------------


1. Moussa Castle

(Photo via Wikipedia)

This castle was built by one man: Moussa Abdel Karim Al-Maamari. Each one of the castle’s constituent stones was hand carved to depict a different scene of everyday village life. The inside of the castle has been converted into a museum with artifacts ranging from ancient weapons to several Emirs’ personal items. There are also always two or three camels outside waiting to take you for a fun (or scary, if you ask me) ride. If you’re lucky, Moussa himself will be there to guide you around.

Moussa Castle
Beit-Eddine, Shouf
Beit Eddine
Tel.: +9615500106
Mob.: +9613273750

2. Beiteddine Palace

(Photo via Wikipedia)

Another 19th Century Palace, Beiteddine is probably the most famous of the many attractions in the Shouf. It was built by Emir Bashir Shihab II between 1788 and 1818, and was his official residence until 1840. It was later occupied by Ottoman authorities as the government residence, and was used after the first World War under the French Mandate for administrative purposes. Nowadays, it is home to an extensive museum and hosts the annual Beiteddine Festival in the summer.

Beiteddine Palace
Shouf Mountains, Beiteddine
Shouf
Tel.: +9615500077


----------------------------------------------What To Do-----------------------------------------------------


Hike in Shouf Cedar Nature Reserve

(Photo via spnl)

Go for a hike in the breathtaking Shouf Nature Reserve. Breathe in the fresh air and let your eyes feast on the awe-inspiring views, all while getting in some exercise. If you’re not one for hiking, off-roading, ATV’s, and biking are also viable options.

Al Shouf Cedar Nature Reserve
Dahr Al-Baidar
Barouk
Tel.: +9615350250

Bonus Picks

1. Matte

(Photo via Wikipedia)

You can’t go to the Shouf and not have their special local drink, Matte! It is served at most cafes and has infinite health benefits (also, almost zero calories for the calorie conscious).

2. Bread

(Photo via MissAnthropistsKitchen)

Fresh bread is a specialty in the Shouf. You will never taste anything like it in your life. The best of the best is made at the local ‘foron’ in Moukhtara (I suggest you also try a man'oushe, you won't be disappointed).

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Weekend Getaway in Lebanon:... Guides on May 2, 2014
 

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