Marmarita Carnival + Mediterranean Syria

Aug 11-17
7 Days

This is a very different itinerary from any other expedition we have led into Syria.

First of all, you’ll have the chance to assist the Carnival of Marmarita, today the biggest festival in the country, a proper carnival where Syrians dress up in all types of customs, dance, drink and party – originally to celebrate the Feast of Assumption – and you’ll have the chance to experience Syria like very few people have done before.

Second of all, this itinerary will also take us to the Syrian coast where, besides checking out Latakia and Tartous, we will hang out on a proper Mediterranean island (Arwad), while exploring its ancient Phoenician history.

Of course, this itinerary will also take us through Syria highlights like Aleppo, Maaloula, Krak de Chevaliers and the beautiful Damascus.

This is the most unique expedition we ever offered in Syria, come join us this upcoming August.


August 11th to 17th, 2024


7 days

Lead by Oriol López

travelers who joined us say


Note that we always keep the itinerary flexible, and it may be subject to change, depending on the political situation.

Day 1 – Beirut to Damascus

Day 2 – Maaloula, Homs and Aleppo

Day 3 – Full day in Aleppo

Day 4 – Krak de Chevaliers & Marmarita

Day 5 – Latakia & Citadel of Saladin

Day 6 – Tartús and Arwad

Day 7 – Damascus and departure

Day 1 – Beirut and Damascus

The tour will start at 8 am in Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, from where we will drive towards the Syrian border and Damascus.

The whole journey takes around 3-4 hours, with border crossing included.

Once in Damascus, we will check in at our hotel, followed by a traditional lunch and a stroll around the old city.

Nightlife in Damascus is particularly vibrant, especially in the Christian district during the weekend, an area filled with bars and restaurants, where we can all go for dinner and a few drinks.

Damascus Bazaar
Bazaar of Damascus

Day 2 – Maaloula, Homs, and Aleppo

On day 2, we will drive towards Aleppo, first stopping in Maaloula, one of the most important Christian towns in the Middle East, and one of the very few places in the world where people still speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus.


Once occupied by Al-Nusra, Maaloula was largely destroyed due to the recent war, but its most important churches and monasteries have been rebuilt, and we will visit two of them, where we might get the chance to meet nuns who were kidnapped and held as hostages for three months.

For lunch, we will stop in Homs.

Homs was, by far, the city most affected by the Syrian war, today mostly composed of destroyed buildings and rubble. Honestly, there’s not much left to see in Homs nowadays but we will do a quick visit.

We should arrive in Aleppo in the evening. Free time for dinner and drinks.

Overnight in Aleppo.

Homs city
In a certain part of Homs, it is all destruction

Day 3 – Full day in Aleppo

Once the most populated city in Syria, and one of the most prominent cities in the Middle East, Aleppo was one of the most affected cities by the Syrian war.

Life, however, is coming back to Aleppo, visible in the ongoing reconstruction and all the people who are slowly returning to their beautiful home city.

Aleppo City Tour
Aleppo from the Citadel

During our visit, we will visit the Citadel of Aleppo – the last Syrian Army stronghold – as well as the historical souk and vibrant Christian district, which remained pretty untouched by the war, and is today filled with absolutely delicious restaurants serving Lebanese wine.

Overnight in Aleppo.

Aleppo Zaatar
A local man selling zaatar in Aleppo

Day 4 – Krak de Chevaliers & Marmarita

We will continue our way to Krak des Chevaliers, once described by Lawrence of Arabia as the most wholly admirable castle in the world, absolutely gorgeous and surrounded by lush green hills.

To be honest, there are few castles in the world that are as impressive as Krak de Chevaliers.

Krak de Chevaliers, Syria
Krak de Chevaliers, Syria

After visiting the castle, we will have lunch in a restaurant with stunning castle views and then, we will head for Marmarita to celebrate and enjoy the Carnival with the locals and see the parade until late at night.

If you are tired, know that our hotel is just a few kilometers away and that our driver can take you there at any time!

Overnight in Al Mishtaya.

Marmarita Festival in Syria
Syrians with their customs in the Marmarita Festival in Syria

Day 5 – Latakia & Citadel of Saladin

In the morning, we will head towards the Syrian coast to the city of Latakia.

This is where President Bashar al-Assad is from, by the way. 

We will have a relaxed morning somewhere along the Syrian coast and then, after lunch, we will go to the Citadel of Saladin a citadel built by the Franks in the middle of the forest, on a rocky peak. 

Castle of Saladin
The Castle of Saladin

The history of this stronghold is long: the Phoenicians had already fortified the place, Alexander the Great seized it, as well as the Byzantines a few centuries later.

It is the Crusaders who, in the 12th century, gave the castle its current shape. At the time, it was called “Château de Saône” (named after a crusader). Its current name was only awarded in 1957, commemorating Saladin’s seizure of the place in 1188. 

In the evening, we will look for some delicious local seafood. 

Overnight in Latakia. 

Syrian coast

Day 6 – Tartous and Arwad Island

After breakfast, we will visit Amrit, a Phoenician port located near present-day Tartous in Syria.

Founded in the third millennium BC, Marat was the northernmost important city of ancient Phoenicia and a rival of Arwad. 

Then, we will take a boat to the island of Arwad, where we will have lunch, do a small visit, and just relax. 

At the end of the day, we will head back to Damascus.

Tartous, Syria
Tartous, Syria

Day 7 – Damascus and departure

With more than 5000 years of history, Damascus might easily be the oldest capital in the world, a city absolutely packed with historical sites, as well as lively souks and bazaars.

We will spend the entire day exploring the city’s most well-kept secrets, as well as landmarks such as the Umayyad Mosque (where Yahya is buried, John the Baptist for Christians) and Sayyidah Ruqayya Mosque, one of the most important shrines for Shia people.

As always, we will be visiting the city at our own pace, with plenty of time for photography and local interactions.

Departure to Beirut will be around 4-5 pm.

Damascus city tour
Ummayad Mosque, Damascus


Transfer to and from Beirut

6 nights of accommodation (twin shared) in hotels mentioned in FAQ

Security clearance (needed for the visa)

Private transportation and driver around Syria


English-speaking knowledgeable Syrian guide

International tour leader

Entrance fees to the places listed in the itinerary

Not Included

International flights to Beirut

Visa fees

Lunch & dinner

Alcoholic drinks or any extra drink

Single supplement. Having your own private room costs €345


August 11th to 17th, 2024


7 days

Lead by Oriol López


Why join Against the Compass in Syria?

Here’s our honest opinion on why you should travel to Syria with Against the Compass.

Which hotels do we stay in?

These are the hotels where we always stay but note that once in a while, they might be subject to availability.

How does the room distribution work?

The price of the tour includes accommodation in a twin room.

If you are a solo traveler, you will be sharing the room with another like-minded traveler from the group. We always try to group people of the same gender and age together but note that this won’t always be the case. Moreover, in the hypothetical case there weren’t perfect pairs, one of the rooms would be a triple room.

If you wanted to have your own single room, you will have to pay an additional €345.

How to get a visa?

In order to come to Syria, you must first obtain a security clearance (Letter of Invitation).

We will take care of that, so you don’t need to visit the embassy.

Where does the trip start from?

The trip starts and ends in Beirut, and transfer to and from Damascus is included in the price.

What’s the best way to reach Beirut?

Beirut International Airport (BEY) has plenty of connections with anywhere in the Middle East and Europe.

If coming from Europe, common stopovers include Istanbul (either Pegasus or Turkish), Frankfurt (Lufthansa), or Paris (Air France).

If coming from the American continent or Australia, Doha (Qatar Airways) or Dubai (Emirates) are also worth checking.

What’s the minimum amount of participants needed?

All our trips to Syria have a guaranteed departure.

How much does the visa cost?

These are the latest visa fees updated in 2024.

Price varies depending on nationality:

The visa fee is paid at the border, to the respective authorities.

Which nationalities can join this tour?

All nationalities, including US passport holders. 

However, note that for US citizens, the visa process takes up to 4-8 weeks, and that there’s a chance of being rejected.

If you are a US citizen and your visa was rejected, you’d be fully refunded.

As per the rest of nationalities, the visa is 100% guaranteed.

Is it safe?

As of today, the areas which are controlled by the Government (the ones we visit) are perfectly safe.

We’d never take a group of travelers to a risky area.

Moreover, know that our team in Syria is continually monitoring the area and has the latest security updates.

For more information: Is Syria safe?

How many people will attend this tour?

We limit our tours to a maximum of 12-13 people.

How does payment work?

In order to secure your spot on the tour, we require a deposit.

All details will be shared upon booking your spot.

Do you recommend a specific travel insurance?

Either you are joining one of our trips, or you are traveling by yourself, you might want to look for proper travel insurance.

Against the Compass has been a partner with IATI for several years already, recommending it to all readers, as well as covering all Joan Torres’ personal trips.

We like it because It covers all the countries where the FCDO advises against all travel, it offers budget plans and covers all sorts of adventure activities.

Against the Compass readers can benefit from a 5% discount.

Get a quote here to claim your discount

What about the cancellation policy?

Please refer to our Terms & Conditions.