‘Where in Lebanon is this? Can you take me there?’ This is Instagram message I sent Explore Lebanon Tours when I saw the photos of what I later learned was Chouwen!
I knew in my 6 nights and 5 days in Beirut I wanted to do some day trips from Beirut so I could see more of Lebanon and the best places in Lebanon. I went to Byblos on my own via Uber (which is a great day trip from Beirut!) but I also wanted to go somewhere with a guide, I wanted to go hiking in Lebanon, and go somewhere that not as many people visit so I could see more and understand more of this Country. As it turns out my day trip from Beirut with Explore Lebanon Tours to Chouwen was the perfect choice!
Explore Lebanon Tours
Nicola runs Explore Lebanon Tours, she’s an Aussie who visited Lebanon many years ago, fell in love with the Country, left, came back, left and then moved here! She set up Explore Lebanon Tours because whilst she was in Lebanon as a tourist she didn’t think the quality of tours on offer were good enough, especially compared to the prices she paid.
She wanted to show tourists around, show them the many places to visit in Lebanon, the many things to do in Lebanon and continue to explore Lebanon herself, so Explore Lebanon Tours was born and from my experience this has to be the best tour company in Lebanon!
Nicola picked me up in her car from The Grand Meshmosh Hotel which is where I spent my 6 nights in Beirut and off we went into the crazy Beirut traffic! A lot of people think she’s crazy for driving here because the roads are intense and manic but that’s part of her job and she manages the roads well, she doesn’t get stressed and beep like all of the other drivers and she’s gained eyes all around her head in order to watch out for everyone else on the roads!
As Nicola is Aussie we hit it off straight away, we talked about Lebanon and Beirut, her tours, how she started, my travels and life and everything in between. It felt like getting into a car with a friend which was so nice and definitely added to how much I enjoyed the day.
Conscious that we may have just got on well because we had so much in common I asked if she had ever had any awkward or bad experiences with guests on tours, she said she didn’t, which I think really shows how well she is to get on with and the awesome people who are interested in her Lebanon Tours.
We left the manic highway and headed into the Mountains of Chouwen, the road seemed to get narrower and narrower but Nicola had been up here a fair few times before so I felt totally safe and the scenery was getting better and better with more Mountains in view. This is the side I wanted to see of Lebanon without really realising it!
After an hour or so we reached a car park, it doesn’t seem that Chouwen is a popular place to visit in Lebanon so it was quite quiet, but a lovely lady came out from the cafe to tell us about the food they serve for once we’d finished our walk. We checked in, went to the bathroom and were ready to hike!
Hiking in Lebanon
You know most hikes start with the hard section first to get the view and then end easier by going down? Well this was the total opposite. The view was in fact at the bottom of the Valley and mid way down, so we were about the start off with the easy section, see the view and then end with the walk back up!
The hike down took us about 40 minutes, it was slippy in some parts and took some concentration but it was fine and by taking our time and being careful we managed it with no problems. Half way down we came upon the platform where I had first seen Nicola’s photo on Explore Lebanon Tours Instagram page, the view is epic!!
We took a few photos and carried on.
Before I knew it we were at the bottom of the Valley right by the Nahr Ibrahim River in Chouwen and I was surprised how quick the hike down was!
The River is just as stunning from ground level as it is from up high and the rushing sound of the water along with the sound of the leaves in the wind and no other sound, and no the people made it so so peaceful. The kind of peace that is needed after being in the busy City of Beirut for a few days.
We took some photos here, sat by the water eating an apple and rehydrating before starting the climb back up!
For more of my Lebanon posts see:
We timed ourselves and it took 40 minutes to get back up and it actually wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. My calves were burning for sure and I got a sweat on but despite it being 30c, the trees gave us some well needed shade and there was a cool breeze, it made me understand when Nicola told me that a lot of people have a home in the City and in the Mountains in Lebanon, it was a lot cooler here than by the Coast!
It also made me understand why Hiking in Lebanon and Outdoor Activities in Lebanon are becoming more popular. Chouwen is not even known by a lot of Lebanese people so the fact that I got to do a hike in Lebanon in such a quiet, fairly untouched place was so special and was a complete highlight of my time in Lebanon.
Imagine how many other spots must be fairly undiscovered in Lebanon!
By the time we got back to the car it was well and truly lunchtime so we went back to the lady who introduced herself when we arrived and what a good life decision that was!
Nicola ordered and I fully trusted her to know what Lebanese Foods to get for us, she chose well and we enjoyed our extremely fresh lunch with views over the Mountains, a friendly host and 4 gorgeous ginger kittens! The lunch alone was such an authentic, unique experience that I feel so lucky to have had.
What I love about Nicola and her approach to her tours is that she always wants to show her guests something a bit different and tailor make day tours in Lebanon to suit them.
There are lots of places to visit in Lebanon and lots of tours from Beirut. Some of the popular day tours from Beirut are to Byblos, Jeita Grotto and to the Cedars but she also includes some extra places like Monasteries, and Beach Clubs in the Summer for those boiling hot afternoons!
Steph from Big World Small Pockets did a Day tour to the Cedars with Explore Lebanon Tours, check out her experience in this post:
Visiting Harissa in Lebanon
In my case I hadn’t yet been to Harissa, I knew Harissa was a popular place to visit in Lebanon as it’s not too far from Beirut and because we had finished our hike just after lunch and Harissa is on the way back to Beirut we hit the road again, down the narrow Mountain paths and back onto the Highway.
The Shrine of Our Lady which sits 650 meters above sea level in the Village of Harissa is the place that most go to see. To get there you purchase a ticket for 9000LP (which isn’t included in the tour price) and that enables you to take a cable car and funicular all the way to the top!
Once you get to the top of Harissa you can walk right up the stairs to the statue and marvel at the incredible view from the top, there’s also a cafe and restaurant there if you need a drink or snack like we did.
After this we made our way back to Beirut, Nicola dropped me off at The Meshmosh Hotel at about 5:00pm and I was totally in love with Lebanon after the day out with her, and not only had a I seen so much, I learned so much too as she is a wealth of information on Lebanon!
I can’t recommend Explore Lebanon Tours enough, I’m so pleased I came across their website and Instagram page. If you fancy going hiking in Lebanon, have a look into the tour I did and the range of day tours from Beirut that she offers here, including some tours that are specific for Summer too!
If you have any questions, let me know in the comments below or by tweeting me @wandering_quinn!
For more of my Lebanon posts see:
To SEE my trip to Chouwen with Explore Lebanon Tours, have a look at my YouTube video:
I received a discount on the full day trip price in exchange for writing this post about my day with Explore Lebanon Tours but all thoughts and opinions are my own.