Join us for our very special journey through Syria. After years of being ravaged by civil war, Syria is starting to return to a level of normality not seen in years.
Join us for our very special journey through Syria – described as a summary of the of the world history. After years of being ravaged by civil war, Syria is starting to return to a level of normality not seen in years. Embrace the privilege of being one of the first travellers to explore this ancient land. Bursting with ancient and modern history, Syria is a hidden gem waiting to be explored. Travel through a multitude of empires from the Hittites, Assyrians, Akkadians, Greeks, Romans, Umayyads, Ayyubids, Mameluks and Ottomans as you discover Damascus, Homs, Aleppo and the magnificent Krak des Chevalliers before venturing off beat to some of the countries more traditional and lesser known communities. Covering a huge amount of ground with our expert local guide explaining all as you go, you will gain an incredible insight into one of the most fascinating and beautiful countries on our planet.
Welcome to Damascus! On arrival, you will be met at the airport and transferred to your hotel. After a short rest, it is time to explore Old Damascus. Ramble your way through the old cities thirteenth century walls; home to a citadel, a tangled souq and impressive mosques. Oozing with medieval atmosphere, every street bustles with the streets lined with Ottoman-era houses, many of which are well preserved, whilst others are damaged from recent conflicts.
Visit the National Museum where you will have a short explanation on Syrian history. Spend time strolling in the oldest Damascene Market: Al Hamediyah souk, where you will explore the buzzing bazaar, traditional shopping areas and the street dedicated to local bars and restaurants. Enjoy a pause at the oldest ice cream market called “Bakddash” where you will try the Arabian rich ice cream. Continue on to Umayyad mosque, a place of worship since the first millennium B.C. The Umayyad Mosque is a monumental remnant from when the city was the greatest in the world and may be the world’s most stunning Islamic building. It contains the mausoleum of Saladin, great adversary of the Crusaders.
You will visit Azem Palace and see a perfect example of traditional Damascene houses before visiting the spices and herbs market, known as Al Bzourieh souk . A few steps from the souk, stroll down the old holy street mentioned in the Bible, – on both sides of the street, you will see churches. Stop for lunch before you continue your visit to one of the oldest houses in Christianity – Saint Ananias House. Your tour will end next to Saint’s Paul window or Bab Kisan before returning to your hotel.
Overnight Emar Hotel or similar
An early start today, commencing with a visit to the town of Sednayah. This town has grown up around an important and old convent which dates back to 547 AD. Dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, the convent holds one of the four paintings of the Virgin attributed to St Luke the Evangelist. The sacred icon is preserved in a small, low-ceiling chapel, lit by candles. The walls are covered with offerings, old icons, gold and silver crosses or motifs. Maaloula (Aramaic for “entrance”), the language spoken by Christ, can still be heard here. The houses in the village are built on sharp rocks. Here, you can see the first altar from Christianity and hear the prayer “Our Father” in Aramaic. Also located here, is the monastery of St. Tekla – the first Christian saint. According to local legend, Tekla’s father was an influential pagan and his soldiers hunted her down to punish her. When she reached the rock, chased by the soldiers, God cut the mountain in two and makes a path for the martyr through which she manages to escape. Later, Saint Tekla returned to the location where the miracle happened and settled in a cave. Today, you will pass through the narrow path between the rocks, in the footsteps of the saint.
Continuing on to Al Marah City, or Rosa Damascena City, you will see locals in their fields collecting damascene roses to make rose water or rose syrup which is used in traditional drinks and many Syrian sweets. In 2019, practices and craftsmanship associated with the Damascene roses in the village, were included in UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage list.
Continue to Nebek for a unique experience at Mar Moussa Monastery. The ancient Syrian monastery of St. Moses the Abyssinian (Deir Mar Musa el-Habashi) overlooks a harsh valley in the mountains east of the small town of Nebek. Here you will see a double monastic community (men and women together, which is quite rare). Here you will experience the monks daily life in addition to the presence of Muslims symbols inside the monastery as well as Muslim people alongside the Christians too. (B,D)
Overnight Mar Moussa Monastery or similar
This morning it is an early start as you continue to Palmyra, an oasis in the Syrian desert, which contains the monumental ruins of a great city that was one of the most important cultural centres of the ancient world. From the 1st to the 2nd century, the art and architecture of Palmyra, standing at the crossroads of several civilizations, married Graeco-Roman techniques with local traditions and Persian influences. Enjoy a full day here to visit the ruined city.
The grand monumental colonnaded street, open in the centre with covered side passages, and subsidiary cross streets of similar design, together with the major public buildings, form an outstanding illustration of architecture and urban layout at the peak of Rome’s expansion in an engagement with the East. The great temple of Ba’al is considered one of the most important religious buildings of the 1st century AD in the East and of unique design. The carved sculptural treatment of the monumental archway through which the city is approached from the great temple, is an outstanding example of Palmyrene art. The large scale funerary monuments outside the city walls in the area known as the Valley of the Tombs, display distinctive decoration and construction methods. Spend time exploring and take in further sites, such as the Arch of Triumph, the Great Colonnade, the Theatre, the Agora and the Tombs. Drive onwards to the town of Hama. (B)
Overnight Villa Rosa Hotel or similar
Krak Des Chevaliers is your first stop this morning. Fondly quoted as “The most wholly admirable castle in the world,” according to Lawrence of Arabia. A crusader castle which is one of the most important preserved medieval castles in the world. The site was first inhabited in the 11th century by Kurdish troops garrisoned there by the Mirdasids.
With its strategic location in the valley between Homs and Tripoli and combining the best of medieval fortification, the castle has never been besieged or attacked. In 2006, the castle was included in the UNESCO World Cultural and Natural Heritage List.
Continuing on, you will head to Safita. This region was initially controlled by the Crusaders in 1110 and was mentioned for the first time in an Arab chronicle in 1112. The Knights Templar built a dungeon followed by a tower by 1152. Chastel Blanc or Burj Safita or Safita Tower, the structure base dates back to the Phoenician era. A large bell is located on the western wall, and its sound can be heard up to five kilometres (3.1 mi) from Safita. The castle was restored in 1170 and 1202 following damage from earthquakes. The keep in its current shape, is said to date back to the reconstruction after 1202.
Your last stop for the day is Marqab Margat, also known as Marqab, which is a castle near Baniyas, which was a Crusader fortress and one of the major strongholds of the Knights Hospitaller. Drive to Kassab where you will overnight. (B)
Overnight Al Nabain Hotel or similar
This morning you will depart for Deir Mama which has two main springs. The southern and northern regions, and the central village spreads between them with one main road. Deir Mama’s history goes back to the Roman era; it was the only village in the Misyaf region that was not under feudal rule, unlike the neighbouring villages. Deir Mama’s residents, the Alawites and Christians, share a shrine that each group worships. Alawites refer to it as Sheikh Sobeh whilst the Christians call it Saint Mama. Deir Mama is famous for making the traditional Arak liquor and natural silk handicrafts. Spend time with the locals as they spin silk from the silkworms’ cocoons.
Your next stop is the beautiful town of Hama. Located on the Orontes River, the city is dotted with huge water wheels and associated aqueducts from the city’s ancient water supply system. The creak of the wheels with the sound of rushing water is simply relaxing. Continue to Aleppo for the night. (B)
2 nights Aleppo Palace or similar
Aleppo was arguably one of the worst affected cities during the Syrian war. Here you’ll get the chance to see some of the terrible destruction, as well as the opportunity to witness the early stages of the massive rebuilding projects that Syrians are now undertaking.
Aleppo is among the oldest continuously inhabited settlements in the world. Archaeological findings show that it was inhabited as early as the 6th millennium BC. Ruled successively by the Hittites, Assyrians, Akkadians, Greeks, Romans, Umayyads, Ayyubids, Mameluks and Ottomans who left their stamp on the city. The Citadel, the 12th-century Great Mosque and various 16th and 17th-centuries madrasas, residences, khans and public baths, all form part of the city’s cohesive, unique urban fabric.
The biggest landmark of the city is the ancient castle, known by its European name Citadel, which rises on a hill in its historic centre. Not far from the Citadel is the famous Halebski Souk (the covered central market of the city), considered the largest in the world with a length of its galleries of approx 13 kilometres. This market was completely destroyed during the war. It is currently in the process of restoration and nearly 1 km of it is already functional. You will also explore the Old Town and the Armenian Quarter. (B)
After breakfast, you will depart for Aphamea which was an ancient Greek and Roman city. It was the capital of Apamene under the Macedonians, before it became the capital and Metropolitan Archbishopric of late Roman province Syria Secunda, again in the crusader period. In 2006, the castle was included in the UNESCO World Cultural and Natural Heritage List.
Continue on to Homs where you will visit the Khaled Ibn Al Walid mosque and the Um Al Zinnar church. For approximately 2,000 years, Homs has served as a key agricultural market, production site and trade centre for the villages of northern Syria. It has also provided security services to the hinterland of Syria, protecting it from invading forces. Excavations at Homs indicate that the earliest settlement at the site dates back to around 2300 BCE. Continue to Damascus. (B)
Overnight Emar Hotel or similar
This morning is yours at leisure until it is time to transfer to the airport for your onward departure. (B)
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**Please note that this tour can be organised on request for private departures.
* Pricing is subject to change at anytime until full payment has been received.
* A minimum of 2 adults is required to guarantee this departure.
A non-refundable deposit of $1000 AUD per person is required to secure your place. Final payment is due no later than 60 days prior to departure. Travel insurance is mandatory for travelling with Crooked Compass. For full terms and conditions, please click here.
This category of tours involves light trekking, walking, cycling, rafting or kayaking for a few hours each day with a small amount of inclines and declines. You will require a reasonable level of fitness and good health to participate. It is important to note that due to the nature of some of our trips, they may take place in remote areas (with basic facilities) and can involve long travelling days on various modes of transport.
Suggested preparation : At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake aerobic exercise (this may include jogging, cycling or fast walking) for 30 minutes, three times a week. It is also advised to walk on variable terrain and in variable weather conditions. For a cycling adventure, road cycling twice a week is recommended and for adventures which involve paddling and kayaking, it is important to gain confidence and rhythm rather than speed prior to departure.
This category of tours involve trekking, kayaking and cycling for period of 6 to 8 hours a day at a fairly consistent pace. Ideal for people looking to slightly increase the heart rate. For our moderately rated tours, you must have a good level of fitness and also be in good health. It is also important to be prepared for variable weather conditions. Altitude may also come into play. This category of tours may involve visiting remote areas where facilities can be quite basic. Accommodation may also involve camping, homestays or basic accommodation where facilities may not be considered of western standards. To enjoy this style of travel, it is suggested for travellers to have a reasonable level of fitness and health, a positive attitude, as well as a fairly active lifestyle. An open mind is also required.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake 45mins – 1 hour of aerobic exercise, three to four times a week. Some potential exercises that could be beneficial include hill walking with a backpack on over variable terrain and weather conditions, as well as running and cycling dependent on the activity you plan on undertaking.
This category of tours involves trekking, kayaking, cycling or other adventure activities in remote areas for up to 8 to 10 hours a day. It is important to note that with the remoteness of some regions comes a variety of other challenges such as variable weather conditions, accommodation as well as facilities. You must have an excellent level of fitness and good health to be able to partake in this category of tour. You must have confidence in your own ability and be in good physical condition. Includes extended periods of endurance.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 to 4 months of strenuous exercise, four times a week. When preparing for treks it would be beneficial to participate in hill walks with a weighted day pack (approximately 5-8 kg) once a week for aerobic fitness and strengthening of leg muscles. It is also important to do this on variable terrain to prepare for challenging adventures. When preparing for cycling adventures, regular bike riding (at least 4 to 5 times a week for 1-4 hours is essential). It is also important to cycle on uneven surfaces or even participate in other aerobic exercises such as running or swimming to build up strength and stamina. Altitude may also be a factor in these tours.
This category of tour often involves extreme trekking, cycling or other extreme adventure activities. It is important to expect remote and poorly defined tracks and to be prepared for variable weather conditions for 10 to 12 hours per day (may sometimes be more depending on weather and altitude). These adventures are suitable for travellers who have prior experience in strenuous travel and activities, are extremely fit and have excellent health. It is also important to note that some of the terrain on these adventures will involve trekking in snow, at high attitude levels and may require technical equipment.
Suggested preparation: It is important to note that physical fitness should be an ongoing activity, commencing around 5-6 months prior to departure, or even before if you have no prior fitness. Exercise should focus on building maximum endurance and stamina. Four to five hard sessions of 40-60 mins per week should be completed and can include exercises such as going to the gym, running, swimming or cycling to focus on building aerobic stamina. It could also be beneficial to prepare by hiking on rough terrain, in extreme weather conditions or partake in altitude training.