You all know I’ve got a lot of love for Lebanon.
But maybe what you don’t know is that it’s not the beguiling charm of Beirut, the ridiculously untouched Roman ruins, the magnificent monasteries or the dazzling diversity of cultures that I loved most.
All I do love all those things.
Not, what I love the most about Lebanon is the sense of the undiscovered it possesses.
That sense of off the beaten track beauty that lies around just about every twisting turning corner.
And perhaps never was I more bowled over by this than when I went to visit the Aakkar region in the far north of the country.
Read on to learn why…
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My trip to the Aakkar region was kindly sponsored by my great guide, Mohammad El Draihi, but, as always, all views are my own.
This page contains affiliate links meaning Big World Small Pockets may receive a small commission on any purchases at no extra cost to you.
The Aakkar Region
Right in the north of the country, near to the border with Syria, is the Aakkar region of Lebanon.
A hidden land of deep gorges, twisting valleys and magnificent forests, this is a remote part of the country, few locals, let alone tourists get to visit.
In fact, I was amazed just how many Lebanese people seemed to be jealous and surprised of my time there – given the response to my Instagram Stories at least – showing how wildly undiscovered and undeveloped part of the country is.
In fact, many local people didn’t even seem to know where the Aakkar region was!
And that’s why I’m calling it Lebanon’s lost land.
A land hidden away, largely forgotten about and completely unexplored.
This is exactly the sort of unchartered treat that utterly caps my love for Lebanon.
Taking a Guide
There’s no question in my mind that as much as we all love some intrepid travel, you’re going to have to take a guide when you visit the Aakkar region.
For 1 it’s completely unset up for tourists, for 2, unless you’re going with someone local you’re not going to know where you’re going and 3, with an almost complete lack of public transport, you’re not going to be able to get there either.
And that’s why I was lucky enough to explore the area with the wonderful Mohammad El-Draihi.
Based in Tripoli – the closest city of any size to the Aakkar region – Mohammad is an expert guide utterly passionate about his the untrodden parts of his country and showing that to other people.
A qualified engineer by trade, Mohammad decided the corporate life wasn’t for him and quickly changed his career to something he cared much more deeply about – the environment and the outdoors.
And this passion instantly shines through, from the time he’s spent discovering hidden trails to his knowledge of the plants, animals and people of his country, I learnt so much from and with Mohammad it was quite extraordinary.
He’s also just a lovely guy, gentle, assuming, honest and trustworthy, there’s no question I’d recommend a trip to Aakkar with Mohammad, or to one of the many other destinations he takes tourists and locals on his regular hiking and exploratory day trips.
Check out Mohammad’s Instagram account HERE.
You can message him through this platform or feel free to send him an email to [email protected] or shout him on Whatsapp +961 70 360 030.
5 PACKING ESSENTIALS FOR LEBANON
#1 Lebanon Bradt Travel Guide – A great guidebook for the maps and background info on this layered and complex country, Bradt make a great job of covering this off the beaten track destination.
#2 Camera – I highly recommend the Sony A6000 mirrorless camera, which is small, compact and ideal for adventurous travellers.
#3 Walking Shoes – There’s going to be a lot of sightseeing in Lebanon, so good day shoes are a must. I love my New Balance trainers, which are city friendly and super comfy.
#4 Bikini – When you see that glistening Mediterranean Sea, there’s no question you’ll want to dive straight into it. Don’t hold back and come prepared to Lebanon with a beautiful Rip Curl Bikini.
#5 Small Day Backpack – With hiking and historical day trips a plenty in Lebanon, having a backpack to house your camera, sunscreen, water, snacks and guidebook is a must here and the Bobby Anti Theft Backpack is ideal for the job – I can guarantee it!
Morning in the Aakkar
So my time with Mohammad begun by me getting the bus to Tripoli from Beirut, Lebanon’s capital.
This is easy to do if you stand by the tall “Touch Telecom” building in the Gemmayzeh area, on the highway north out of the city, with regular minivans and buses ply this route regularly.
NB. If you want a slow comfortable ride take the Connexion bus, if you have nerves of steel or are running late (as I was!) take one of those crazy minivan that drive, well, let’s just say, efficiently!
Once in Tripoli, I met Mohammad in the centre of the city, where the bus dropped me off, and had soon hopped in his car and met my other partners for the day – 3 lovely Lebanese people from this city.
Then we were off, speeding north to the Aakkar Region which lies a considerable distance away from Tripoli.
First stop was the amazing and very traditional village of Qemmamine, buried deep in a valley, it is only accessible via one road that leads both in and out.
Seeing the dramatic landscape around the village, as well as local people, their houses and way of life here was incredible and a far cry from the bubble urban elite so often encountered in Beirut.
But it was the walk to the river, and afterwards, to the lookout point, that was real prize, giving, as it did some incredible photo opportunities that just may have been the best I encountered in the whole of Lebanon.
And that’s saying something!
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Afternoon in Aakkar
After these incredible sights, we set off to discover more of the region, including the small town of Mechmech and the nearby mountains, where we were able to drink from a local spring tumbling straight off the mountains.
And then it was into our final destination the Qammouaa forest – an Iron Oak forest, situated at high altitude, judging from the temperature at least!
Bumping down a dirt track, it became even more clear that we were going off the beaten track than ever before.
Finally, we parked up – seemingly in the middle of nowhere – and began our walk down to the forest, running into a nomadic shepherd with her flock as we went.
Hiking down through craggy rocks and across fields, we descended down and down the mountains, until we were out of the sun and starting to get among the trees.
And what trees!
Visiting in November was the perfect time to explore this hidden forest because the colours of the leaves were incredible and the photos we grabbed along the way were amazing.
Hardly seeing another soul, the peace and quiet of the forest was a delightful reprieve from what can sometimes be a chaotic and crowded country.
Yes, hiking for a few hours here really was the perfect antidote to the bustling busyness of Beirut.
The silence and the scenery reminded me just how much of this country lays undiscovered and how rich and rewarding being given the opportunity to explore it really is.
PIN IT TO PINTEREST!
So if you want my advice, then definitely make sure you get to the Aakkar region on your trip to Lebanon.
Giving you an entirely different perspective on the country, there’s no question it’s a must-see and a must-see with Mohammad too!