From exploring the narrow alleys of the old city of Damascus and Aleppo to discovering ancient Medieval castles, remote monasteries, and Roman sites, Syria is one of the richest countries in terms of history.
In this EXPEDITION, 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.
September 23rd to 30th
Lead by Joan Torres
Note that we always keep the itinerary flexible, and it may be subject to change, depending on the political situation.
Day 1 – Arrival in Damascus (from Beirut)
Day 2 – Damascus Old City
Day 3 – Maaloula & Mar Musa (overnight in Aleppo)
Day 4 – Full day in Aleppo
Day 5 – Hama & Krak de Chevaliers (overnight in al Mishtaya)
Day 6 – Palmyra & Homs (overnight in Damascus)
Day 7 – Day trip to Bosra
Day 8 – New Damascus and departure
The tour will start at 8am 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.
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.
Aleppo to Krak de Chevaliers is a 4-hour ride, so we will break the journey in Hama, a pretty photogenic town, famous for its water wheels, all over the city.
After a 1-hour visit, 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.
We will have lunch in a restaurant with stunning castle views. After lunch, we will visit the Medieval fortress and then we will head to Al Mishtaya, a lovely Christian town with a pretty nice evening atmosphere.
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 and we will be escorted by someone from the Syrian Army.
After having a picnic lunch inside the ruins, we will head back to Damascus and, on the way, 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.
Overnight in Damascus.
On our 7th day, we will visit the southern part of Syria on a day trip to Busra, an ancient city home to one of the most admirable Roman amphitheaters in the whole world, as well as other important monuments.
In Bosra, the local Syrians are culturally different, similar to Bedouins.
We will have lunch in a traditional Bedouin tent, with locals from Bosra.
After lunch back to Damascus. 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.
Transfer to and from Beirut
7 nights of accommodation (twin shared) in hotels mentioned in FAQ
Security clearance (needed for the visa)
Private transportation and driver around Syria
Breakfast and lunch
Special permit for Palmyra & Bosra
English-speaking knowledgeable Syrian guide
Entrance fees to the places listed in the itinerary
International flights to Beirut
Alcoholic drinks or any extra drink
Single supplement. Having your own private room costs 300€
September 23rd to 30th
Lead by Joan Torres
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 €300.
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 8 people, the Western tour leader would not join the tour, but you’d be traveling just with the local Syrian guides.
Price varies depending on nationality:
The visa fee is paid at the border, to the respective authorities.
All nationalities, and that includes US passport holders.
Syria started issuing visas for Americans in March 2023, so US citizens are welcome to join too.
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.
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 €500 deposit.
Then, the remaining amount should be sent no later than 45 days before the departure date.
Methods of payment 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.
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