The first time I ever went to Syria was actually during Christmas, in 2018.
The peculiarity of that Christmas was that it was the first time since the beginning of the war in 2011, that the festivity was celebrated in the streets of Damascus.
Home to a large Christian population, the souqs and the old city of Damascus were absolutely packed, and the Christian district was beautifully decorated with lights, while the Muslim community wanted to also be part of the event.
It was beautiful, something unseen in the Middle East, and that’s why I decided to schedule one tour to experience the magic of Damascus during Christmas.
Unlike other longer group expeditions, this is a 5-day tour that will be composed of maximum 6 people, and no tour leader will attend, only the local guide.
December 24th to 28th, 2023
Note that we always keep the itinerary flexible, and it may be subject to change, depending on the political situation.
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, to experience and enjoy Christmas eve in Damascus.
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.
Overnight in Damascus.
On day 3, we will drive to 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.
After Maaloula, we will head towards Aleppo, for an afternoon/evening visit.
Overnight in Aleppo.
In the morning, we will visit 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.
During our visit, we will visit the Citadel of Aleppo – the last Syrian Army stronghold – as well as the historical souk.
After lunch, we will head back to Damascus, stopping in Homs.
Homs was, by far, the most affected city 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.
Overnight in Damascus.
After breakfast, we will visit the remaining touristic places in Damascus, including the new part of town, as well as do any necessary shopping.
Transfer to Beirut and end of the tour.
December 24th to 28th, 2023
These are the hotels where we always stay but note that once in a while, they might be subject to availability.
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 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 €200.
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.
All our trips to Syria have a guaranteed departure.
However, in the hypothetical case we didn’t reach a minimum of 7-8 people, the Western tour leader would not join the tour, but you’d be traveling just with the local Syrian guides, all of them experienced guides with our groups.
Price varies depending on nationality:
The visa fee is paid at the border, to the respective authorities.
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.
The trip starts and ends in Beirut, and transfer to and from Damascus is included in the price.
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.
Our team always stay in either of the following hotels:
For Lebanon, a visa is not needed, but you just get a FREE stamp upon arrival, same when coming back from Syria by land.
Yes, you can, but you’ll have to take a private car.
We can easily arrange this for you, it costs 150 USD (one way) per car. Includes pick up in Amman, border crossing and drop off in Damascus, same for coming back.
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?
Maximum of 6-7 people.
In order to secure your spot on the tour, we require a deposit.
All details will be shared upon booking your spot.
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.
Please refer to our Terms & Conditions.