October is one of the best months to visit Syria, the weather is pleasant and local life is at its fullest!
In this October expedition, we will explore the narrow alleys of the old city of Damascus and Aleppo, as well as Medieval castles, remote monasteries, and Roman sites, but we also decided to include the Syrian Mediterranean coast, from Latakia to Tartous, enjoying the local seafood, while experiencing a different vibe from anywhere else in the country.
We always explore Syria’s most precious sites, but the trip will also focus heavily on Syria’s most human side.
This means that we will interact and get to know kind-hearted Syrians, while witnessing their struggle and desire to return to normality, making it a unique expedition into Syria.
October 20th to 27th, 2023
Lead by Leti Lagarda
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.
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.
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 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.
After Maaloula, we will also stop in Mar Musa, a mindblowing, skyscraper-shaped, 6th-century monastery raised in the middle of rocky mountains.
We should arrive in Aleppo in the evening. Free time for dinner and drinks.
Overnight 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.
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.
From Aleppo, 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.
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.
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 head for Krak de Chevaliers, but we will first have lunch in a restaurant with stunning castle views, followed by a visit to the castle, once described by Lawrence of Arabia as the most wholly admirable castle in the world, absolutely gorgeous and surrounded by lush green hills.
Overnight in Al Mishtaya.
Once one of the most important Roman cities, Palmyra is rich in both ancient and contemporary history, since the archaeological site was taken by ISIS on two separate occasions during the war. ISIS blew up the most important temple but the site is huge and most of its structures are still standing.
For visiting Palmyra, we do need to arrange a special permit.
After the visit, we will head back to Damascus.
On our last day, 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 will be around 4pm, and we should be back in Beirut by 7pm.
October 20 to 27th, 2023
Lead by Leti Lagarda
These are the hotels where we always stay but note that once in a while, they might be subject to availability.
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 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 €310.
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?
We limit our tours to a maximum of 12-13 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.
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