The Chouf Biosphere Reserve
In July 2005, UNESCO declared the Chouf Cedar Nature Reserve a "Biosphere Reserve" with an area of approximately 50,000 hectares, or 5% of the total area of Lebanon.
The Chouf Biosphere Reserve boasts some of the highest mountains in the Middle East, blanketed with oak forests on its northeastern slopes and juniper and oak forests on its southeastern slopes, the largest stands of Lebanese Cedars (620 hectares), rich flora and a plethora of medicinal plants, and fascinating wildlife. It’s home to 520 species of plants, 25 internationally and nationally threatened species, and 48 plants endemic to Lebanon, in addition to over 250 bird species recorded in the Biosphere Reserve, many of which in the Ammiq wetland.
The Chouf Biosphere Reserve is a hugely popular destination for hiking and trekking, with trails matching all levels of fitness. Bird watching, mountain biking, donkey riding, and snow shoeing are also popular. From the summit of the rugged mountains, visitors will have a panoramic view of the countryside, eastward to the Bekaa Valley and Qaraoun Lake, and westward toward the Mediterranean.
When there, you can also enjoy cultural tours, visiting landmarks, local festivals, lodging at traditional guest houses, and getting a taste the traditional life in Mount Lebanon villages.
The biosphere includes:
1: Chouf Cedar Reserve:
The Al-Chouf Cedar Nature Reserve is core zone of Chouf Biosphere Reserve. It is the largest nature reserve, mainly distinguished for its three magnificent cedar forests in Maaser al-Chouf, Al-Barouk, and Ain Zhalta-Bmohray. Their combined surface areas constitute about a quarter of the total surface area of the remaining cedar forests in Lebanon. Some of the cedars in the reserve are over 2,000 years old.
2 - Ammiq Wetland, east of the Chouf in the Beqaa Valley:
A Ramsar site, the Ammiq Wetland, at 100 hectares, is the last significant wetland in Lebanon, a remnant of extensive marshes and lakes that once covered parts of the Bekaa Valley. This natural spot remains an important staging and wintering area for migratory water birds en route between Europe and Africa.
The site has been designated as an Important Bird Area (IBA). Notable species include the globally threatened Black-winged Pratincole, Ferruginous Duck, White Pelican and Great Snipe.
3 - Cultural Heritage:
There are 24 villages surrounding the biosphere from the eastern and western sides of the Barouk and Niha mountains. The setting of the Chouf is a nexus of many cultures, religions, and historical events, all of which have left an imprint which makes the area's cultural heritage as rich as its ecosystems. Major landmarks include the Niha Fortress, El Nabi Ayoub Shrine (Prophet Job Shrine), Qab Elias Castle, Mazar El Sit Cha'wane.
For directions please visit the reserve’s website:
T: +961 (0)5 350250/150