Only 20 minutes outside Beirut, the Chouf is a region that carries with it echoes of Lebanese history among age-old river valleys and forested mountains. It once was the seat and homeland of Lebanon’s emirates centuries ago. Its unspoiled wilderness is scattered with quaint little villages where life is a beat slower, idyllic and resplendent. The Chouf is famous for its arak distilleries and mulberry orchards, from which artisanal wines are made. Be sure to visit the well-known Chouf Biosphere Reserve, the largest natural cedar reserve in the country, with over 250 kilometers (155 miles) of hiking trails. If you’re planning on spending a few hours in the Chouf, be sure to check out the impressively steep caves of the Niha Fortress, which is also part of the Reserve.
Take the highway out of Beirut headed south toward Saida (Sidon). About 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) from Beirut, take the Damour exit on the right. You’ll find yourself driving alongside the Damour river bed on winding roads that take you higher and closer to the heart of the Chouf.