Qalaat al-Kahf (قلعة الكهف) is perhaps the most romantically situated of all castles in Syria, perched on a rocky mountain ridge between two gorges, steep cliffs offering a natural defense. The castle is surrounded by tall mountain peaks and almost completely hidden from view. Qalaat al-Kahf (قلعة الكهف) rivals Qalaat Salah al-Din (قلعة صلاحالدين) with regards to the beautiful setting, and most travelers who make the journey out to this castle don’t regret it. While it is not in a great state of preservation, unsurprising given the poor quality of masonry generally used by the Ismaelis, it is still a very impressive site.
Although the fortifications have largely been destroyed or have crumbled away, the main gateway, the hammam, and a couple of towers survive. Beautiful Arabic calligraphy is carved into the stone in numerous locations leading up from the main entrance. While Masyaf (مصياف), which also served as an Ismaeli headquarters, is in a better state of preservation, Qalaat al-Kahf (قلعة الكهف) enjoyed an equally rich history for the short period of its prominence.
Getting There: Getting to Qalaat al-Kahf (قلعة الكهف) is a bit of a challenge. The first step is to catch a microbus from Tartus (طرطوس) to the village of al-Sheikh Badr (الشيخ بدر). These microbuses are frequent and take between 45 minutes and an hour. From al-Sheikh Badr (الشيخ بدر), microbuses travel as close as the village of al-Mareijeh (المريجة), which is about four kilometers south of the castle. These microbuses depart from the small microbus station in al-Sheikh Badr (الشيخ بدر) and the take about 15 minutes. Just as you approach the village of al-Marijeh (المريجة), a new, sign-posted road (Arabic only) climbs up the mountain to the north (left) then winds back down the other side, from which the castle is visible (an amazing view can be obtained from here). You’ll have to walk or hitchhike from here.
Alternatively, this microbus continues beyond al-Marijeh (المريجة) to other villages and, depending on the route, may take you near a secondary road to the east of the castle. This road also leaves about four kilometers to cover on foot, but it is mostly downhill. It is best to explain to the driver where you want to go. Private transportation can also be hired in al-Sheikh Badr (الشيخ بدر) in the form of private microbus or taxi.