‘Tis the season to pick apples!

Fall is a special season of the year, not only for the magical nature’s hues and panoramas it reveals, but also for the delicious crop of fruits and vegetables it offers. A walk in Lebanon’s mountains during this month is a treat to the senses and a beautiful way to witness nature’s falling leaves, ripe fruits, and fascinating transformation.

Apple picking is one of the famous and fun activities the season offers, extending from early September to end of October in Lebanon. And what better place than the village of Akoura, known to have the best Lebanese apples, to enjoy such activity with friends.

This year, I’ve decided to welcome autumn with a hike from the village of Afqa in the mountains of Jbeil to the beautiful village of Akoura, topped with apple harvesting in of the village’s privately owned apple fields. The hike trail, part of the Lebanese Mountain Trail (LMT), is a 15km dirt road in the “Jroud” of this region, offering unique views overlooking Laqlouq, Akoura, Kartaba and the Nahr Ibrahim (Janne) Valley.

If you’re coming from Beirut, it’s more logical to take the Jeita road towards Faraya and head North from Mayrouba towards Afqa, passing by Ouata el Joz, Qahmez and Lassa. In my case, coming from Batroun, we took the Jbeil road passing by Laqlouq to reach Akoura/Afqa. The dirt road starts a little above the “La reserve” of Afqa (it’s not an actual reserve, rather the name of a former restaurant/activities camping site); you’ll know you’ve reached there when you see the army checkpoint facing the “Reserve”.

The hiking trail is of easy to medium level, offering some moderate steepness in the beginning but mostly a more or less flat road amidst a dry mountainous nature.  If you’re not doing the hike as part of an organized event by one of Lebanon’s adventure clubs, it’s important to carry a compass as the road forks sometimes and it can be confusing as to which bifurcation to take.

Whether alone, with a group of friends, or part of an organized event, make sure to look around while walking and enjoy the scenery such parts of the mountains offer: beautiful views over the caza of Jbeil, the jroud of Akoura and its southern extension towards the jourd of Sannine as well as its northern extension towards the jourd of Tannourine and the Cedars,  ponds of water everywhere, flocks of disciplined sheep tended by their shepherd… Most importantly, make sure to enjoy the silence and the serenity, to clear your mind only to recharge it with a sort of peace only nature can give you, to fill your lungs with pure fresh air, and to remind yourself how much you love and miss this beautiful part of Lebanon…

View over Kartaba
View from the trail

12083725_10153644448266303_2001015236_n

A shepherd, his donkey, dog, and sheep...
A shepherd, his donkey, dog, and sheep…
Sheep gathering around the waterpond
Sheep gathering around the waterpond

When you reach the end of the trail, you’re tired, probably exhausted, but incredibly happy. The effort drains you but gives you a sense of fulfillment. You’re even happier when you know your next stop is in one of Akoura’s most beautiful houses turned recently into a guesthouse, awaiting to receive you with some delicious food and a heaven-like garden you’ll never want to leave.

The Germanos family welcomes you with a radiant smile, opening the doors of their beautiful typical Lebanese house to whoever wants to enjoy the relaxed setting of a charmingly decorated garden.

Welcome to Germanos family's guesthouse!
Welcome to Germanos family’s guesthouse!
The lovely garden
The lovely garden

12048534_10153644448286303_80622835_n

12042275_10153644448281303_772977930_n

The delicious manakish getting ready...
The delicious manakish getting ready…

Besides the warmest welcome, great food, and fresh local produce, we also had access to the family’s apple field to pick our own share of delicious Akourian apples!

Hello apples!
Hello apples!
yum yum
yum yum

And when you sleep like a baby at night and muscle soreness wakes you up the next morning, all you’ll remember is the lovely day you had while you start planning for your next outdoor autumn escape.

Happy fall!

Whether you’d like to end your hike with apple picking in Akoura or enjoy a pleasant retreat in the heart of this beautiful village with friends or family, the Germanos family’s guesthouse is absolutely where you should stay.  Here’s a number for you to call: 03-943420.