Reasons to Visit
Damascus claims to be the longest continually inhabited place on earth, and this sense of history pervades the city. Aleppo is almost as ancient, dominated by her brooding Mamluke citadel, whilst further down the Euphrates Valley, Mari is one of only a handful of extant Mesopotamian cities.
At times, it seems impossible to walk 500 yards in Syria without tripping over the remnants of one of the many ancient civilisations to have held sway in Syria. The country probably has one of the highest concentrations of historic monuments in the world and this is one of the major draws for most people.
As you'd expect of a country on so many major trade and pilgrimage routes, the years of conquest and counter-conquest have left a rich tapestry of fortifications across the country. Crusader architecture in particular reached its zenith here and there are some superb examples to explore.
The walled heart of all major towns and cities, the medina normally houses a number of attractions, from museums, mosques and monuments, to the souqs and traditional townhouses converted to boutique hotels and restaurants.
The National Museums in Aleppo and Damascus should definitely feature in your plans. Not only are they home to many fantastic artefacts from across the country, but they also help put the whole of your visit to Syria into its historical context.
Syria's souqs are probably the most rewarding in the region, selling goods almost exclusively for the locals, manufactured in Syria, rather than cheap foreign imports. The atmosphere is always exotic and unthreatening, making shopping a real pleasure.
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North Africa & the Middle East
Our country specialists have travelled the length and breadth of Syria - here are a few of their favourite things to do
Culturally and historically Syria is probably the richest country in the Middle East and is a must-see destination for anyone with an interest in the past and present of this fascinating region.
Continuously inhabited since the Neolithic period, all the great Mediterranean cultures have held sway here. Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Arab caliphates and crusaders have all left their mark in extensive remains and archaeological sites.
Palmyra is one of the greatest archaeological highlights of the region, fully justifying a visit to Syria in its own right.
Great cities like Damascus and Aleppo trace their origins back into darkest antiquity and today are intoxicating blends of ancient citadels, Roman streets and exotic souqs overlaid by a bustling modernity.
Traders peddle their wares against a backdrop that would be instantly recognisable to their ancestors from past centuries. Visitors returning from Syria always talk about the people, invariably friendly, always ready with a smile and unwaveringly hospitable.
Whilst it is slowly developing as a destination, there are still precious few visitors to Syria and for the most part they are on group coach tours. Travelling more independently gives you every chance of having important sites like Palmyra and Crac des Chevaliers practically to yourself.
Aleppo's historic position as a trading crossroads has given the it a cosmopolitan air, from the ancient churches of the Christian quarter to the imposing edifice of the Arab citadel that dominates the city.
South of Damascus near the border with Jordan, Bosra is a fascinating place. It is most famous for its fabulously preserved Roman theatre, complete with banked seating facing a towering backdrop of columns and arches.
The Umayyad Mosque is at the heart of the labyrinthine streets and alleys of Old Damascus, where traders display their wares against a backdrop of Corinthian columns and delicate Mamluke stone-work.
Palmyra is a desert oasis north-east of Damascus which prospered thanks to trade links between the Mediterranean and the Euphrates Valley. What is left today is so extensive and wonderfully well preserved that it gives a remarkable idea of what Palmyra was like in its heyday.
5 hours (Damascus)
The best time to travel.
A good time to travel, but there may be some factors to be aware of.
Travel is possible, but this is not the best time of year.
Travel is not recommended.
Snow or ski season.
Read first-hand tips and advice from our travel specialists.
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Further reading:Tours in SyriaWhen to GoItinerary IdeasPlaces to GoThings to DoAccommodationAbout SyriaCountry Guides
Other countries in North Africa & the Middle East:EgyptIranJordanLebanonLibyaMoroccoOmanTunisia
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