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Bala’a sinkhole (Baatara sinkhole) and waterfall

Bala'a sinkhole, Lebanon
Bala’a sinkhole / Serge Melki, Flickr / CC BY 2.0

WorldBlue  In short

Bala’a (Baatara) sinkhole is unique. Imagine: a stream of melted snow finds an enormous hole in the ground and as a free falling waterfall leaps into 255 m deep undeground void. Waterfall is falling along three natural bridges stacked one above other. Sounds improbable – but it exists!

5.7 out of 10 stars 56.8%

GPS coordinates
34.1729 N 35.8706 E
Location, address
Asia, Lebanon, North Governorate, Batroun District, Tannourine, Baatara gorge
Alternate names
Ballouh sinkhole, Baatara sinkhole, "Three bridges", "Trois Ponts"
Depth (entrance part, main sinkhole)
˜ 70 m
Full depth of cave
˜ 255 m (known depth)
Height of falls (total)
˜ 255 m
Height of upper cascade
˜ 70 m
Height of tallest plunge
˜ 80 m (not visible from the top)

Map of the site

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WorldYellow In detail

Jaj plateau

This natural wonder is located high in the mountains of Lebanon, at the end of a dry valley. This area – Jaj plateau – is formed from a thick layer of Jurassic limestone – Kesrouane Formation. Foreign and Lebanese speleologists have found in this area more than 20 caves and sinkholes.


Path towards Bala'a sinkhole, Lebanon
Path towards Bala’a sinkhole / Serge Melki, Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Some local people, of course, knew about this unusual waterfall and sinkhole. Nevertheless, the wider public learned about it only in 1952, when it was visited by French entomologist and speleologist Henri Coiffait (1907 – 1989). More thorough mapping of Bala’a sinkhole was made in 1980 by the Spéléo club du Liban.

Nowadays it is popular tourist destination, especially in March-April, when the melting snow forms the waterfall.

There is no fencing and one should be very careful not to fall from slippery rocks. Proper protection though would change this location or leave no possibility to access the sinkhole.


Bala’a sinkhole starts with a large hole in the ground. This is some 70 m deep pitch, approximately 25 m wide.

Bala'a sinkhole and waterfall
Bala’a sinkhole and waterfall / Wikimedia Commons by user Elie plus, CC-BY-SA-3.0

This sinkhole though differs from others – one can look into it not only from the above but also from the northern side, where have formed three large "windows" and three natural bridges. The upper bridge is older than the others.

During the flood the limestone often is broken and large pieces fall down.

Total depth of this nearly vertical cave is 255 m. The entrance pitch is some 70 m tall but further below pits continue – the tallest one is 80 m tall. Thus the total height of the waterfall also is 255 m.

Further the cave disappears below the stream – it is nearly impossible to explore it any further.

Fluorescent dye test in 1988 showed that the stream emerges to the daylight in Dalleh Spring, Mgharet al-Ghaouaghir some 6 km northwest and 860 m below.

WorldYellow Linked articles

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Pigeons’ Rock or Rock of Raouché in Beirut / Maya-Anaïs Yataghène, Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Wonders of Lebanon

Maybe Lebanon is the most beautiful country in Near East. Its landscape is idyllic and diverse, here are the tallest mountains in this region, skiing resorts, large forests, green fields, and beautiful seaside. Both man-made and natural heritage here is very rich.

Great Blue Hole, Belize
Great Blue Hole / Eric Pheterson, Flickr / CC BY 2.0


This category includes outstanding sinkholes – large natural depressions or holes, which for most the part represent collapsed caves.

Virginia Falls, Canada
Virginia Falls / Paul Gierszewski, Wikimedia Commons / public domain


Some of the most fascinating and awe-inspiring natural monuments are waterfalls or locations where a river abruptly changes its elevation.

WorldYellow Recommended books

Lebanon (Bradt Travel Guide)

This new edition of Bradt’s Lebanon remains the most comprehensive and detailed English-language guide available. In addition to its more in-depth coverage of essential background information such as history, culture, and religion the guide has expanded treatment for the business traveler and prospective property buyer. Subjects such as the environment and responsible travel are given increased emphasis, and there is plenty of additional information for those interested in volunteering opportunities.

Karst Hydrology and Physical Speleology

The present publication on karst hydrology and physical speleology combines two subjects that have up to now been treated separately. The two fields of knowledge have gone their separate ways, less as a result of differences in subject matter than of varying approaches.

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