The Jeita Grotto caves

limestone cave

About the jeita grotto caves

The Jeita Grotto is a compound of two separate but interconnected karstic limestone caves spanning an overall length of nearly 9 kilometers (5.6 mi). The caves are situated in the Nahr al-Kalb valley within the locality of Jeita, 18 kilometres (11 mi) north of the Lebanese capital Beirut. Though inhabited in prehistoric times, the lower cave was not rediscovered until 1836 by Reverend William Thomson; it can only be visited by boat since it channels an underground river that provides fresh drinking water to more than a million Lebanese.

When it was discovered

In 1958, Lebanese speleologists discovered the upper galleries 60 metres (200 ft) above the lower cave which have been accommodated with an access tunnel and a series of walkways to enable tourists safe access without disturbing the natural landscape. The upper galleries house one of the world’s largest stalactites at 8.2m in height 26.9 ft. The galleries are composed of a series of chambers, the largest of which peaks at a height of 120 meters 390 ft

Who discovered it

Ancient vestiges of a foundry were found in a smaller cave near the Nahr al-Kalb river, suggesting that the cave was used in antiquity to produce swords.

The modern discovery of the underground river of Jeita in 1836 is credited to Reverend William Thomson an American missionary who ventured some 50 metres 160 ft into the cave. Reaching the underground river, he fired a shot from his gun and the resulting echoes convinced him that he had found a cavern of major importance

when it was opened to the public

In 1958 the lower caverns were opened to the public, meanwhile exploration was still underway mainly by the Lebanese Caving Club. This exploration led to the discovery of the elevated dry branch of the grotto later referred to as the upper galleries. The caverns closed to the public due to the Lebanese civil war in 1978 both tunnels leading to the lower and upper galleries were used to store munitions, the outside buildings for military purposes. The caves reopened in 1995 and remain one of the country’s key natural attractions.

what you can do there

the Jeita grotto is one of the worlds most famous limestone caves. if you take tour there you can go on a boat ride round the caves and through the lovely clear water