The Jeita Grotto is one of the largest cave systems in the Levant and home to the largest known stalactite in the world. Inhabited in ancient times, the Jeita caves were forgotten by the world for millennia before being rediscovered in the 19th century. It is now one of the most popular tourist destinations in Lebanon.
There is evidence of human habitation in and around the Jeita cave possibly dating to the Bronze Age. William Thomson, an American missionary, rediscovered the cave in 1836. The caves were more thoroughly explored in the 1870s, then later again in the mid-20th century. Part of the cave system was opened to the public in 1958. The Jeita Grotto was closed from 1978 to 1995 during the Lebanese Civil War. The site is currently being further explored, studied for archaeology, and developed for expanded tourism.
The Jeita Grotto is not a huge cave system, with only six or so miles of passages and chambers having been explored. It is divided into the upper cave, where the world’s largest stalactite can be found, and the lower cave, which is home to a fast flowing underground river and lake. Due to the lake, which is used as a fresh water reservoir, accessibility to much of the cave to the general public is limited.
The Jeita Grotto is one of the most impressive natural sites in Lebanon. However, ongoing troubles in the region have kept tourism to the site lower than would be expected. Despite this the grotto receives over a quarter of a million visitors annually. Web: www.jeitagrotto.com (official website).