On my visit to Lebanon last June, I walked the mountain trails of the Tannourine Cedar reserve and afterwards stopped to take a look at the Baatara pothole – you can view my video about the pothole below.
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The pothole is located near the village of Tannourine el Fawqa, a short drive from the Tannourine Cedar Reserve and close to the Lebanon Mountain Trail, a long distance walking trail that runs from north to south of the country. We stopped at what appeared to be a random location at the roadside, marked by a large sign that gave information about the pothole, and then walked down some steep paths into an area surrounded on all sides by steep cliffs.
There were able to walk right into the open cave system with a stream falling from the roof and stand on the limestone bridges over the deep pothole below. I felt rather nervous walking so close to the edge of the precipice although others were rather more brave (or foolhardy) including our guide who scrambled around the edge of the borehole and along a narrow ledge to point out a cave on the far side.
The pothole was first explored in 1952 and was fully mapped in the 1980s by the Spelio Club. Water has carved the pothole and rock formations out of the surrounding Jurassic limestone as water from a nearby stream infiltrated and dissolved the rock to form the stone bridges and cave over the pothole. There is a whole underground system of passages, which continue to evolve as the rock freezes and thaws in winter, and in order to protect the pothole from unwanted development and contamination, the whole site is now protected.
On a beautiful sunny day with the spring flowers still in bloom, I felt lucky to be able to see these natural rock formations without having to share it with crowds of tourists. Although there were quite a few of us in the group on our day trip from Beirut, I believe that if you went there on your own by car you’d be likely to have the whole place to yourself.