Surrounded by picturesque woodlands, orchards and olive groves, Sir el Dennieh is a small town in northern Lebanon. It sits 950 metres above sea level just east of Tripoli and is just a stone’s throw from the highest point in the Levant, Qurnat as Sawda’. Aside from being renowned for its spectacular landscapes, it also boasts the largest underground water reservoirs in the Middle East, with more than 200 springs found throughout the region.
Venture underground to explore the Zahlan Grotto, a late-Jurassic cave that’s one of the largest in the Sir el Dennieh region. It’s beautifully decorated with stalactites and stalagmites that were formed over the last 1,000 years, with the discovery of human skeletons and Stone Age tools suggesting the cave was once inhabited.
A short drive north-east of Sir el Dennieh lies the remains of the Sfireh Temple, which was once one of the largest of its kind in Lebanon. Constructed in the 2nd century AD during the reign of Roman Emperor Septimius Severus, it is perched atop a hill blanketed in oak and pine trees. The temple features a beautifully carved entranceway and Ionic columns and remains largely intact, except for its collapsed roof.
If you’re a fan of Gaudi’s Park Guell in Barcelona, don’t miss Qasr el Ahlam (“Palace of Dreams”) in the nearby village of Bakhoun. Created by Mohamed al Hawchar, this surreally designed palace was constructed over a period of 25 years using colourful stones collected from all corners of the globe.
Sir el Dennieh is a 45-minute drive from Tripoli, which has regular ferries to the port town of Taşucu in Turkey. Beirut-Rafic Hariri International Airport is just under two hours away, with regular buses connecting to the Lebanese capital.