Highlights of Syria

Be among the first travellers to return to Syria.We start this tour in neighbouring Lebanon, for ease of access, and from its vibrant capital Beirut head to the Syrian border, visiting the spectacular temple at Baalbek on the way. From here, we continue to the ancient city of Damascus, one of the most important centres of the Arab world throughout history.

After exploring its atmospheric souqs, mosques and palaces, we head to Bosra with its vast Roman theatre, then continue to Palmyra, still one of the Middle East’s most impressive archaeological sites despite the traumas of recent years.

In Aleppo we visit the old citadel and the bazaar, meeting local people who are starting to rebuild their lives following the recent conflict – Aleppo vying with Damascus for the title of the oldest city in Syria, and with evidence of its diverse history throughout. From here we continue to Hama with its iconic old waterwheels, then visit the imposing Crusader castle of Crac des Chevaliers, its imposing presence atop a hill giving it an unrivalled defensive position during the religious conflicts of the medieval era.

On our way back to Damascus, we delve into Syria’s Christian heritage, visiting the Monastery of Ste George and the charming village of Maalula, one of the last places where the language of the Bible is still spoken. The trips ends by crossing the border back into Lebanon, with a final night in Beirut.

The overwhelming perception of Syria in the west is coloured by images of war and destruction, but the country is now moving into a different era. It won’t be too long before others make their way back, but for now enjoy being one of the few visitors here.


  • Explore the ruins of the ancient city of Palmyra
  • See the spectacular medieval castle of Crac des Chevaliers
  • Sample local wine in Ksara
  • Discover the UNESCO World Heritage listed town of Aleppo

Day 1 - Beirut

Arrive into Beirut and transfer to the hotel. Overnight Four Points Sheraton Verdun or similar.

Surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea lies Beirut, a city home to over two million people. Beirut has transformed itself since the 15 -year civil war in Lebanon from 1975-1990, and now exudes much of the city’s pre-war cosmopolitan and epicurean charm. Restored Ottoman architecture, a pervasive and chic café culture and a variety of souks define downtown Beirut, while the southern suburbs provide a poignant reminder of the city’s roots – home to thousands of Palestinian and
Shi’ite Muslim refugees and immersed in the wider Middle Eastern politics, it provides a contrast to the modernity of the north.

Beirut’s reconstruction has been both physical and psychological, and the locals are friendly, tolerant and varied in comparison to much of the rest of the Middle East. Nightlife, cinemas, art galleries and theatre are commonplace here, reflecting the cosmopolitan quality of the city as a whole.

Day 2 - Baalbek - Ksara – Damascus

Passing through the vine growing region of the Bekaa Valley, we head to Lebanon’s greatest Roman treasure and one of the wonders of the ancient world, Baalbek. We also visit Chateau Ksara, the most famous winery in the region, dating back to the 19thcentury. We taste some of the local wines before crossing the border into Syria and continuing to Damascus for the night. Overnight Beit Zafran Hotel de Charme or similar. (B)

Day 3 - Damascus

Founded in the 3rdmillennium BC, Damascus is one of the oldest cities in the Middle East. We spend the day exploring the city including visits to the National Museum, Umayyad Mosque, the Azem Palace, and Souq al Hamidiyeh among others. Overnight Beit Zafran Hotel de Charme or similar. (B)


A city of fascinating contrasts,Damascus is Syria’s capital and largest metropolis.The old part of the city is home to timeless and crowded old bazaars,blind alleys and pushy hawkers,contrasted by the more modern administrative and commercial district,teeming with road traffic.Veiled ladies in traditional attire brush shoulders with country Bedouin women, old men in jalabiyyas and city folk in western dress. Damascus has been invaded many times, with some of the earliest conquerors including Nebuchadnezzar and Alexander the Great. The city was also integral to Roman armies fighting the Persians.  Most of the population had adopted Christianity by 4thcentury AD but this all changed with the coming of Islam, when Damascus became an important centre for the Umayyad caliphate from 661 to 750 and the Christian cathedral was turned into a mosque. Many conquests followed including those of the Crusaders and Ottoman Turks.

Today, the oldest and most interesting part of the city lies in the east around the banks of the Barada River, with the revered Umayyad Mosque sitting as its centre piece. Bisecting the old city is ‘Straight Street’,mentioned in the bible and supposedly the place where St Paul – originally Saul of Tarsus – converted to Christianity. The street is lined with all kinds of traditional shops selling everything from textiles and brass, to coffee and spices

Day 4 - Ezra’a – Bosra - Damascus

Travel south to the town of Ezra’a to visit the church of Saint George, constructed in 515 AD and one Syria’s oldest churches that is still in use. Continue to Bosra, one of Syria’s most fascinating historical sites, boasting a mix of Roman and Byzantine ruins, and early Islamic architecture. Return to Damascus for the night, where we have dinner with a local family in their home. Overnight Beit Zafran Hotel de Charme or similar. (B)

Day 5 - Palmyra – Aleppo

This morning we head to Palmyra, to see the ruins of a great city that was once one of the most important cultural centres of the ancient world Afterwards, we drive to Syria’s second largest city, Aleppo. With an impressive history dating back nearly eight thousand years, Aleppo is in competition with Damascus for the title of the oldest continually inhabited city in the world. Overnight Arman Hotel or similar. (B)


The ancient archaeological site of Palymra was founded during the stone age as a small settlement near a desert oasis. The area was ideal for farming and herding as it was fed by a series of springs originating at the al-Qubur wadi. Date palms flourished in the fertile soil here and it is believed that the name Palmyra is actually a latinised name for Tadmor, which was the original name of the site and related to the word for ‘date palm’. The city began as a Mesopotamian settlement controlled by Arameans, with successors including Arabs, Romans, Persians and Byzantines, and also notable as a trading post on the Silk Road when ruled by various Arab caliphates. As the site fell under control of multiple empires, its architecture combines elements of Greek, Aramean, Roman and Arab styles.

The site was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1980 but since suffered damage at the hands of the Islamic State. In 2017, the government took back Palmyra, and luckily the damage wasn’t quite as severe as was once believed. Restoration and repairs have taken place and despite the fact that some parts have been destroyed, the site is still well worth a visit.

Day 6 - Aleppo

Today we explore the Aleppo citadel, perched on a hill above the city and a fine example of Arab architecture. We also visit the archaeological museum and the bazaar, a network of covered markets dating back as far as the 14thcentury. The bazaar has always been an integral part of the old city but a third of it was destroyed in the recent conflict, which the locals are now working hard to rebuild. Overnight Arman Hotel or similar. (B)

As one of the world’s oldest continually inhabited cities, along with Damascus, Aleppo provided a defensive stronghold for centuries and was mentioned in Egyptian texts dating back to the 20th century BC. The city thrived as the capital of the kingdom of Yamkhad, falling to the Hittites and becoming a key trading post during the Hellenistic period for merchants travelling to and from the east via the Mediterranean. Aleppo was eventually taken by the Roman Empire, followed by the Byzantines, when it flourished as a hub for caravan traders.

Aleppo enjoyed a period of great prosperity in the 13thcentury under Ayyubid rule, coming to an abrupt end in 1260 when it was conquered by the Mongols and then attacked by Timur in 1400. The city became an important link in the trade between the Orient and Europe under the Ottoman Empire in 1516 which then declined in the 18thcentury. This trade link was also hindered by Britain and France’s involvement in marking modern Syria’s borders, cutting it off from southern Turkey and northern Iraq. The population today is made up mostly of Sunni Muslims, most of which are Arabs with some being Kurds and Turkomans. There is also a large Christian population in the city, many of which are Armenian, with others including Alawite and Shia communities.

Day 7 - Hama – Homs - Crac des Chevaliers

Visit the old city of Hama, known for its enormous waterwheels which have churned in the channels since Roman times. We then drive towards Homs, a stark reminder of recent conflict but with signs of local life and trade being restored, such as the historic souq which has reopened. We then visit the spectacular medieval castle of Crac des Chevaliers, known locally as ‘Qalaat al Hosn’, with its strategic location overlooking Wadi-al-Nasara. Overnight Al Wadi Hotel or similar. (B)

Day 8 - Maalula – Damascus

After breakfast we discover the Monastery of St George of al Humaira, one of the oldest monasteries in Syria. Next we drive to Maalula, home to a population that still speaks the dialect of Aramaic, the language of Christ, and two important Christian monasteries. We drive deep into the valley to explore some of the caves dating back to Roman times before travelling onwards to Sednaya, a renowned centre for Christian pilgrimage since the 6thcentury AD. Overnight Beit Zafran Hotel de Charme or similar. (B)

Day 9 - Damascus – Beirut

Free morning in Damascus before transferring to the border with Lebanon and onwards to Beirut. Overnight Four Points Sheraton Verdun or similar. (B)

Day 10 - Beirut

Transfer to the airport for your flight home.

What's included?

  • Airport transfers

    We include arrival and departure transfers regardless of whether you book flights yourself, or we book them for you. If you’re booking them yourself, then please let us know the details so that we can arrange the transfers. Please note though that if you arrive earlier than Day 1 of the tour, and leave after the final day, we may need to make an additional charge for an airport transfer

  • Accommodation

    Accommodation as listed in the dossier. The nature of the destinations that we operate may sometimes mean that we need to change hotels, but we’ll always endeavour to keep the same standards. Please be aware that as we operate in many countries where tourism is in its infancy, hotel standards may not be the same as you’re used to elsewhere.

  • Guides

    You will be accompanied by an English speaking guide.

  • Meals

    As listed within the itinerary / dossier (B-Breakfast, L-Lunch, D-Dinner). These will vary from trip to trip – in some areas it makes sense to include all meals while in others there is a good choice of restaurants and we feel people might like to ‘do their own thing’ now and again.

What's not included?

  • Visas

    We don’t arrange visas for our travellers, but if an invitation letter is necessary then we will arrange this for you. If you need any advice with visas then just give us a call, or alternatively a visa agency such as Travcour (www.travcour.com) can assist.

  • International flights

    Many of our travellers arrive from different destinations and so we don’t include international flights in the cost of our tours. If however you would like us to book flights for you, then just give us a call and we’ll be happy to discuss your options.

  • Travel Insurance

    If you need any assistance with this, then let us know – although we can’t arrange it ourselves we can point you in the direction of a reputable provider that can assist.


For Lebanon all travellers, including British citizens, can obtain visas upon arrival at Beirut International airport.

All travellers will require a visa and security clearance before entry to Syria. You should ensure that your passport has at least six months’ validity after the end date of your trip. We also strongly recommend that your passport has a minimum of two blank pages next to each other – on rare occasion it may lead to problems with visas and immigration authorities if it does not.

We obtain the visa approval on your behalf, and for this we need a scanned copy of your passport. Once approval has been granted you then obtain your visa at the border. For most nationalities the approval takes approximately 5 working days to obtain and costs $140, payable at the border. However for US citizens the process can take a lot longer, up to around 45 working days, and the cost is $160, again payable at the border.

If you have a visa or entry stamp for Israel, the Palestinian self-administered territories, or Sharm el Sheikh in Egypt, in your passport it is highly likely that you will be refused entry into Syria, regardless of your nationality.

Visa regulations and requirements can change however and so we recommend that you contact your nearest embassy for the most up to date information.

Health and vaccinations

We are not medically qualified and so we recommend that you speak to your doctor or nearest health professional for advice concerning recommended vaccinations. For more advice on vaccinations you can also visit www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk.


It is a condition of joining our tours that you have suitable travel insurance in place, and we cannot accept travellers without insurance. All policies differ in terms of what they will cover, but as a minimum you need medical and health cover which will cover you for the whole time that you are away. Most policies will also include cancellation cover, which will cover you if an unforeseen circumstance obliges you to cancel your trip. We recommend that you obtain your insurance as soon as you book your trip.

Please note that government travel warnings often affect the validity of your travel insurance, and you should check this with your insurance company.


The local currency in Syria is the Syrian Pound. If you want to bring money to exchange while here, US dollars in smaller notes would be best. ATMs do not operate in Syria so you should bring a sufficient amount of cash for your trip.

The local currency in Lebanon is the Lebanese Pound. If you want to bring money to exchange while here, US dollars in smaller notes would be best, although the banks will also exchange major foreign currencies such as sterling and euros. ATM’s will be available and relatively widespread, dispensing USD or Lebanese Pound.

Local conditions

When travelling to some of the destinations we offer you need to bear in mind that things won’t always work here as we’re used to them working at home. Travelling in underdeveloped and untouristed destinations
requires both patience and a sense of humour. There may be problems with infrastructure, attitudes may be different, and maintenance may not be as high a standard as we would always like, but this is very much part and parcel of travelling in such a place. We aim to resolve any issues as quickly as possible, and thank you for your patience.

Travel advice

We keep a very close eye on the travel advice issued by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office so that we can keep you up to date with any warnings. At the time of writing the FCO advises against travel to all parts of Syria.

We work very closely with our local team and are fully confident that we can operate tours safely in this region. Should you have any concerns over safety please do not hesitate to contact us and we can address your concerns.

This relates to advice from the British government – other nationalities need to check the stance of their own governments.

Updated July 2023

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25 April 2024
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