Snow-capped Lebanese valleys woo tourists in winter
If you like adventure tourism and outdoor activities during the winter season, then Lebanon’s Exit to Nature is just what you may be looking for.
“We offer tourists a combination of nature, cultural and adventure travel,” explained Aoun Abi Aoun, one of the company’s founders.
During winter, Aoun and his two partners organise a range of activities for tourists from snow shoeing to skiing to cross country skiing to snowboarding to igloo-making. Twenty per cent of their clients come from the Arab world, around 30 to 40 per cent are Europeans and the rest are from Lebanon. “We provide quality service and safety measurements, during each outing and we have certain standards and procedures we abide with,” said Aoun. “We tailor-make programmes to suit the needs of the client, who decides whether he wants to spend his night at a luxury five-star hotel or in a camp.”
The months of December through April are when the slopes are full to capacity with skiers, snowboarders and people simply enjoying the snow and Exit to Nature is one of many companies that thrive on promoting and organising winter activities. If you’ve never skied before then the Lebanese slopes are the best place for you to learn. There are many resorts to choose from ranging from the Cedars (Al Arz), Faraya Mzaar, a private Faqra club, and Laqlouq in the mountain range above Byblos.
The Cedars is the most picturesque resort of all and is a two and a half hours drive from central Beirut. It can make a great weekend escape. The brushed up terrain is suitable for beginners, but the Cedars are renowned for their challenging slopes. If you’re not into long drives, then try Faraya Mzaar, a posh skiing locale, which is less-than-an-hour’s drive from Beirut. Then there’s Faqra, a private club, situated a few minutes away from Faraya Mzaar at a lower elevation, while Laqlouq is a low key reasonably priced resort, which is popular with families and cross-country skiers.
For the less adventurous, a hike along the valley, past old monasteries, caves and hermitages are recommended. If nothing else, the scenery is to die for. It is not surprising that Lebanon is called the Switzerland of the Middle East.
By Raghda Mugharbil