If you haven’t visited Khenchara yet, you have, in my opinion, missed out on one of Lebanon’s most charming villages. Nestled in the Metn mountains at an altitude of around 1,100m, the Lebanese village promises pine trees, fresh air, beautiful nature walks, history and culture, but also deeply-rooted traditions of arak and wine making. The village holds a special place in my heart because yes, it’s my hometown (you got me) – but I’m highly betting on my genuine arguments to convince you to add it on the rural destinations worth visiting in Lebanon.
A Unique Traditional Charm
It’s not the typical red-tile-roof Lebanese charm I am referring to, or anything specific you should be looking at. While you take a stroll in the neat and well preserved streets of the village, an overall sense of quiet and peace fills you. Your walk is made pleasant by a cute little souk, many water springs (Ain), the frequent sight of stairs (some renovated and some not, that used to link the different levels of the village before any street existed), an impressive cathedral and small old churches, gorgeous pine tree scenery, beautiful traditional houses, not to forget the smell of Arak emanating from a road-side distillery or the one of freshly baked “Qerben” that you will never be able to resist (which brings us to the next point).
The Best “Qerben”
“Qerben” is the specialty sweet bread of Khenchara. The village is known to produce the best Qerban in Lebanon – no exaggeration – which makes it the main distributor of the bread in Lebanon. The Qerban is used at Eucharist in the Church where it is considered as “holy bread”, and is also consumed daily as the Lebanese version of French brioche. If you ever visit Khenchara, you should not miss buying your own fresh Qerban, plain or with dates and coconut fillings. You won’t regret it! (Read L’Orient Le Jour‘s article about it here)
Droub el Khenchara
Khenchara’s beautiful nature and rich history made it one of USAID’s destinations for outdoor trails. Droub el Khenchara is an eco-tourism project funded by USAID in the village, consisting of four trails that introduce outdoor enthusiasts to the nature and rich heritage of the village. Read more about it in my article here.
St. John Monastery
Home to the first printing press in the Middle East founded by Abdallah Zakher in 1733, the Melkite monastery of Saint John or “Deir Mar Youhanna” is a delightful addition to your visit to Khenchara. The monastery hosts a precious collection of manuscripts as well as a museum preserving the original printer and ancient printing tools, in addition to 12th-century underground churches. The monastery has also its own vineyard from which the “Cave du monastère St. Jean” wines are made. A visit to the wine cellar facing the monastery will reserve a pleasant encounter with Père Charbel, the producer of the wines.
The Cheese & Wine nights at “Caves du Monastère St. Jean”
Père Charbel Hajjar has become a reason for many to visit the monastery and taste its wines. A passionate winemaker, he has been producing the monastery’s wines for years and sharing his passion with visitors. After renovating what once was a barn into a wine cellar, he now hosts cheese & wine nights there every Saturday accompanied by music, where you are guaranteed a memorable time. For bookings, you can contact Père Charbel on 03-203098.
Voted Among “Les Plus Beaux Villages du Liban”
And to top it all, Khenchara was recently voted among the most beautiful villages in Lebanon by “Ajmal Baldet Lebnen”, a non-profit NGO that aims at promoting tourism in the villages and preserving their heritage through several initiatives, including but not limited to the labeling of these villages “Plus Beaux Villages du Liban”.
Do you still need reasons to visit?
PS: If you need more info about the village or even a personal guide to show you around and hike the USAID “Droub el Khenchara” trails with you, just leave me a message and I’ll be more than happy to help!