Nestled in the stunning Shouf Mountains of Lebanon lies the magnificent Beiteddine Palace, a jewel of Ottoman architecture that’s well worth a visit. But before reaching the palace, we made a few stops along the way. The first stop is at Deir El Qamar, a charming village home to several historical sites and museums.
Deir El Qamar
In Deir El Qamar was the Marie Baz Museum, which is inside the Fakher El Dine li Le Palace, a grand fortress that was once the residence of the Lebanese ruler Fakher El Dine II. The museum showcases 80 life-size wax figures of politicians who influenced Lebanese political landscape over the last century.
- Hours: Daily from 10:00 am to 17:00
- Admission: 5,000 Lebanese pounds (around USD 3.30)
Next, we visited the Deir el Qamar Synagogue, which dates back to the 17th century and is one of the few remaining synagogues in Lebanon, but is no longer holding any religious services.
- Hours: Daily from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm; free admission
We then headed to the Saydet Al Talle Church, a beautiful 18th-century church with stunning frescoes and intricate woodwork. It is a Maronite church built by Monk Nicolas Simisaati that sits over the ruins of an old Phoenician temple dedicated to the goddess Astarte.
- Hours: Daily from 8:00 am to 17:00
Next on our itinerary was the Moussa Castle, a unique and quirky castle built by a Lebanese artist, Moussa Al Maamari, over the course of 60 years. The castle is home to a vast collection of handmade sculptures, gun collections, daggers, swords, and Bedouin Jewelry and offers stunning views of the surrounding countryside.
- Hours: Daily from 9:00 am to 18:00
- Admission: 10,000 Lebanese pounds (around USD 6.60)
The highlight of the day is the Beiteddine Palace. This magnificent palace was built in the 19th century by Emir Bashir II and is a stunning example of Ottoman architecture. The palace features ornate courtyards, lush gardens, and stunning mosaics and frescoes.
As you enter the palace, you walk through Al Midan, the gates that lead into a vast courtyard. On one side of the courtyard is walled by the Madafa, a long building where guests were housed.
A stunning double staircase leads into the inner court, Dar Al Wousta, which consists of different wings around a patio adorned with a flowing fountain.
The Emir’s private apartments and reception halls are the most elaborate building, which lies beyond the richly carved doorway leading to Dar Al Hareem.
Stroll through the Byzantine Mosaic Museum from the 4th and 5th centuries & Ethnographic Museum (Phoenician pottery, Roman Glass, traditional costumes, and jewelry).
- Hours: Daily 9:00 am to 17:00
- Admission: 15,000 Lebanese pounds (around USD 10)
Shouf Biosphere Reserve Barouk Cedar Forest
Our final stop of the day was the Shouf Biosphere Reserve Barouk Cedar Forest, a beautiful forest that’s home to Lebanon’s famous cedar trees. It is the largest of Lebanon’s nature reserves, stretching from Dahr Al-Baidar in the north to Niha Mountain in the south. The cedar forest accounts for a quarter of the remaining cedar forest in Lebanon, and some trees are estimated to be 2,000 years old.
We took a scenic drive through the forest, stopping at various viewpoints to enjoy the stunning scenery. It is also a popular destination for hiking and trekking, with trails matching all fitness levels.
- Hours: Daily from sunrise to sunset, and admission is free.
Overall, our day trip to Beiteddine Palace was a fantastic way to explore the stunning Shouf Mountains and learn more about Lebanon’s rich history and culture. With so much to see and do in the area, it’s definitely worth spending a full day exploring Deir El Qamar, Moussa Castle, Beiteddine Palace, and the Barouk Cedar Forest.
Enjoy your travels! Please read my blogs about other exciting places around the world at Traveling Lens Photography.