Distinguished for its colossal grotto, Afqa is a rectangular-prism-shaped breach within a 200-meter-high cliffside. From a distance, the cave appears like a mouth opening in the face of a giant moss-covered boulder. The cave’s mouth bursts forth with a gushing waterfall that feeds into Nahr Ibrahim (Adonis River) and coalesces into Lake Yammoune.
In Greek mythology, the site marks where Adonis, the legendary demi-god of beauty and desire, is believed to have died at the foot of the falls. Afqa is also a venerated site honoring the goddess Venus, mother and paramour of the young demi-god. Facing the grotto, you will have to look hard to find the ancient ruined walls of a temple once dedicated to Venus, or Aphrodite, her Greek counterpart. Each spring, the melting snow floods the river, infusing its waters with reddish mud that is said to symbolize the blood of Adonis, renewed each year at the time of his death. Spring is the best time of year to go on hiking tours of the Afqa grotto. Busses will drop you off at the foot of the valley where you’ll begin making your way up toward the cave. There will be some trails, but you will have to skip large stones and damp boulders as you near the cave. Once inside, you’ll get to dip your hands in the ice-cold water and taste its sweet freshness.
Two cafes are also built on the terrace of an ancient Roman bridge at the site, which while propped up by modern engineering, retains its original stonework and actually holds up the modern-day road. Have a pot of delicious Arabic coffee and listen to the rushing waterfall in the serene, plunge pool the cafes overlook.