Jeita Grotto (مغارة جعيتا‎)

Jeita Grotto (مغارة جعيتا‎)

Location: 18 km (11 mi) North of Beirut Map

Length: 9 km (6 mi)

Official site


Jeita Cave (Arabic: مغارة جعيتا‎) is a group of interconnected karst caves located in Jeita, Lebanon, 18 kilometers north of Beirut, in the Nahr el-Kelb Valley. The complex consists of two caves.

The lower cave can be visited by boat (small electric-powered boats carrying around ten people on a relatively short journey).

The upper part of the cave was discovered in 1958 by Lebanese cavers. Located 60 meters above the lower cave, it has been tunnelled and equipped with a series of walkways to allow tourists to make safe visits without disturbing the natural landscape. The upper cavern, which houses the largest stalactite, is made up of a series of chambers. The largest chamber has a maximum height of 120 meters.

Jeita Cave was chosen as one of 28 finalists to be part of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World - it is the only grotto/cavern to be selected among the candidates. Jeita Cave was one of 14 finalists in the Seven New Wonders of Nature competition.



The Jeita Caves have been inhabited since prehistoric times. Ancient remains of a foundry were found in a small cave near the Nahr el-Kelb river which suggests that this cave was used to produce weapons during prehistory.

The modern discovery of the underground Jeïta River in 1836 is attributed to the Reverend William Thomson (an American missionary) who ventured nearly 50 meters into the cave. Reaching the underground river, he fired a pistol and the echo showed him that he had found a cavern of major importance.

In 1873, W.J. Maxwell and H.G. Huxley, engineers of the Beirut and Mount Lebanon Water Establishment, and their friend Reverend Daniel Bliss, president of the Syrian Protestant College (next to the American University of Beirut A.U.B.) studied these caves. During two expeditions carried out in 1873 and 1874, explorers penetrated up to 1,060 meters into the cave which is the main source of the Nahr el-Kelb, which supplies drinking water to Beirut. They were blocked by “Hell’s Rapids,” torrents that crash over the rocks in razor-sharp detail. Dr. Bliss, Maxwell and the other engineers recorded their names and the year in which the exploration took place on "Maxwell's Column", a large limestone pillar located some 625 meters from the entrance. About 200 meters away, in what is called the "Pantheon", they wrote their names and the details of the expedition, on paper, sealed in a bottle which they placed atop a stalagmite. The lime water then deposited a thin white film on the bottle, so as to attach it to the stone.

Between 1892 and 1940 other expeditions were carried out by English, American and French explorers. They brought them to a development of 1,750 meters.

Since the 1940s, Lebanese explorers, notably members of the Caving Club of Lebanon, founded in 1951 by the first Lebanese speleologist Lionel Ghorra, have pushed even deeper into Jeita Cave. Their expeditions revealed a large underground system that is now known to have a total length of almost 9 km.

In 1956 the lower caverns were opened to public tours, as for exploration it was still ongoing mainly by the Lebanese Caving Club which led to the discovery of the dry upper branch of the cave, hereinafter referred to as “the upper galleries”.

In 1962, the Caving Club contributed to a study of the upper galleries which aimed to build a tunnel dug for tourist development; this tunnel was started in 1968.

In 1969, an electronic music concert by French composer François Bayle took place in the cave to celebrate the opening of the upper gallery. This event was organized by Lebanese sculptor and artist Ghassan Klink. Other cultural events took place in this unusual environment, including a concert given by the German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen in November 1969.

The caverns were closed to the public due to the Lebanese Civil War in 1978, the two tunnels leading to the lower and upper galleries were used to store munitions, the exterior of the buildings was used for military purposes. The caves were reopened in 1995.



Jeita Cave is located in the center of the western flank of Mount Lebanon, and its natural access is approximately 100 meters above sea level. It is located 5 km east of the Mediterranean coast and 18 kilometers north of Beirut. These are karst caves formed over millions of years by the dissolution of limestone. Limestone is dissolved by carbonic acid present in rainwater and groundwater; When limestone is cracked by tectonic forces, water overflows into the rock and begins to widen cracks and solute caves in the layers. Jeïta is the longest complex cave in the Middle East, it is located 73 meters above sea level and has an elevation gain of 140 meters for 9,050 meters of development. Geologically, the caves provide a drainage tunnel for the underground river, which is the main source of the Nahr el-Kalb River.

Jeita Cave is the longest explored cave in Lebanon. After many years of exploration, cavers have penetrated 6,910 meters from the entry point of the lower cave to the end of the underground river and 2,130 meters from the upper part of the galleries.


The Upper Cave

The upper part of Jeita Cave has a total length of 2,130 meters, of which only 750 meters are accessible to visitors via a specially designed walkway. Access to the rest of the cave has been limited to avoid ecological damage from the large number of tourists. The upper cavern contains a large concentration of a variety of formations such as stalactites, stalagmites, sometimes shaped like columns or mushrooms, but also ponds, curtains and draperies. The upper gallery is famous for its formations highlighted by a very well designed lighting system. It is entered through a 117 meter long concrete tunnel, directly open to the outside, which means that the temperature is relatively high inside the cave. The part accessible to visitors is made up of three large rooms. The first is called White Room, the second Red Room, because of the color of the formations. The white stalactites are pure, unsullied calcite, the red color being given by iron oxide (rust) present in small quantities. In Lebanon, iron oxide has a red-brown color instead of the beige color that is common in more northern countries. The reason is another chemical reaction caused by the high temperature that produces a different type of iron oxide. The White Room is medium in size, but the most impressive formations of the cave are found there. The Red Chamber is 106 meters high and 30 to 50 meters wide. The third chamber is the largest of the three and has a height of over 120 meters. The longest stalactite in the world is located in the White Chamber of Jeita Cave, it measures 8.2 meters long.


The Lower Cave

The lower gallery which has a total length of 6,200 meters is located 60 meters below the upper gallery. It is crossed by a river which forms a lake near the entrance (the "Black Lake"). The river is then crossed by several small cataracts and rapids. The lower part of the cave (Thompson's Cave) is a huge concretion hall. Other rooms in the lower gallery include the Pantheon, the Great Chaos and Shangri-la. Visitors are transported to the lower gallery by electric boats over a distance of 500 meters. In winter, the lower level is closed, because the water level is too high.



Sami Karkabi (°1931-†2017), co-founder of the Caving Club of Lebanon, explorer and protector of the Jeita caves.