his April, the Lebanon Mountain Trail Association (LMTA) is calling on all nature lovers to hike across Lebanon in order to discover the incredible biodiversity of the country’s mountain trails as well as to encourage responsible tourism.
Starting April 1, a core team of five hikers will spend 29 days on the Thru-Walk trekking across Lebanon, while other trekkers will have the opportunity to join them along individual sections of the trail on the way.
The Lebanon Mountain Trail (LMT) is a 440-kilometer hiking trail extending from the village of Al-Qobaiyat in the North to Marjayoun in the South. It passes through high mountain ranges and deep valleys as well as 75 towns and villages, nature reserves, a World Heritage site, ancient castles, abandoned mills and Roman ruins.
In spring, Lebanon’s hills and fields are in full bloom against a backdrop of snowcapped mountain peaks, offering hikers stunning nature and incredible sites. But it’s not just exploration that the LMTA hopes to encourage. Overnight stays and meals with local families or at small lodgings along the trail provide income to the mountain community, consequently promoting responsible eco-tourism.
"This year we have around 250 people joining us on the trail for 29 days,” said Christian Akrass, LMTA’s field coordinator. “Every night, we stay [at] a different lodging. We also employ local guides, eat in the villages and purchase food locally which benefits the rural community.”
Water conservation is a pressing issue facing Lebanon these days, and the LMTA hopes to raise awareness on this issue during the walk. “We are working on a management plan for the protection of all the springs along the trail,” Akrass told NOW Extra.
Zeina Haddad, who represents Lebanon’s Ministry of Tourism in matters concerning sustainable tourism, said that the LMT is a pioneering project. “It aims to conserve our natural and cultural heritage, and gives economic benefit to the rural people as it passes [through] 75 villages.”
Haddad aims to support the fragility of the trail and to protect it from quarrying, construction and other environmental challenges and hopes that there will be law in the future to protect it. “The Ministry of Tourism is 100 percent behind the trail’s objectives.”
In order to dispel any negative rumors regarding safety issues, a unit from the Lebanese Army Mountain Regiment will be accompanying the hikers. "We will accompany the hikers for the Thru-Walk to show our support for the Lebanon Mountain Trail and for ecotourism initiatives. We also want to show hikers that it is safe to come to the region and that they should not worry for their safety,” said Lieutenant Attieh Abou Haider while hiking toward Hasbaya during the first days of the trail hike.
Also, trekkers will be joined on the trail section from Jezzine to Niha by a Korean delegation to celebrate the Korean-Lebanon Friendship Trail, the twinning of an LMT section with a trail in South Korea. LMTA President Karim al-Jisr voiced hope that the twinning of the LMT with trails in other countries will encourage exchange between hikers.
Tricia Hurd, a graduate with a Masters degree in Bioscience, came all the way from New York to join the core team of five hikers. “I am really looking forward to discovering the mountains of Lebanon,” she said while taking her first steps along the trail following a breakfast reception hosted by the municipality of Maryajoun. At 23, she will be the youngest person ever to do the LMTA Thru-Walk.
To learn more about the Lebanese Mountain Trail and how to join, support or volunteer, please visit their website here.