Jeita Grotto is unquestionably one of Lebanon's most captivating natural treasures. An elaborate cave complex, Jeita Grotto was featured as a finalist in the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2011. Though it is believed that it was inhabited in prehistoric times, the caves were only rediscovered in 1863 by Reverend William Thomson, a missionary from America.
Later, during the Lebanese Civil War, the grottos were closed to the public and were instead used as munitions storage. They were reopened to the public in 1995.
At nine kilometres in length, the grotto contains the longest cave in the Middle East. It is located 18 kilometres north of Lebanon's capital city of Beirut and split into two caves: the Upper Grotto and the Lower Grotto.
The upper grotto boasts a large concentration of crystallised limestone formations. After taking a cable car ride to the upper grotto, 117 metres into the mountains, a nicely arranged walkway takes you through the cavern and reveals the distinctive and stunning nature of the place.
The White Chamber, the first of the Upper Grotto's three chambers, is home to the biggest stalactite in the world, hanging 2.8 metres from the ceiling. The stalactites and the stalagmites on the floor of the chambers teem with unspoilt natural phenomena.
A small train takes you from the Upper Grotto to the Lower Grotto where you conclude your tour with a boat ride through the cavern, traversing the Nahr Al-Kalb river which runs through the grotto and is considered the main source of drinking water for much of Beirut.
The beauty of the grotto will certainly leave you spell-bound. As you venture further into the cave, you will be met with profound silence which instils a sense of unreality that renders the short cruise the most mesmerising and memorable part of the visit.
The Lower Grotto can be closed in the winter months due to the high water levels but the temperature inside remains constant at around 16 degrees Celsius throughout the year, making it perfect to visit on a hot summer's day.