Against the Compass EXPEDITIONS, exploring off the beaten track destinations across Central Asia, the Middle East and the Caucasus region.
Against the Compass EXPEDITION 2022 to Syria
In May, there will be 2 EXPEDITIONS:
- May 6th to 13th
- May 14th to 21st
Why visiting Syria with Against the Compass
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 will explore Syria’s most precious sites, but the trip will also be heavily focused 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 for going back to normality.
EXPEDITION 1 – May 6th to 13th
EXPEDITION 2 – May 14th to 21st
Note that both EXPEDITIONS are identical in terms of places to visit.
Who is going to be the tour leader?
Both EXPEDITIONS will be led by Leti Lagarda, a friend from Spain and fellow backpacker with a large experience traveling solo in the Middle East, including in places like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Kurdistan, and Iran, making her one of the best solo female travelers I have ever met.
I strongly believe that, with Leti, you will be in the right hands because I really trust her experience and expertise, which perfectly fits into Against the Compass philosophy.
Of course, apart from Leti, a local Syrian guide will be with you at all times.
We will limit the group to a maximum of 10-13 people
And, who can join?
Anyone, from 18 to 99+ years old, who wishes to travel with a group of open-minded travelers.
We don’t discriminate by age or nationality but we are just looking for people who are willing to have fun.
8-day Tour Itinerary
Note that we always keep the itinerary flexible, and it may be subject to change, depending on the political and COVID-19 situation.
Day 1 – Beirut and Damascus
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 our hotel, followed by a traditional lunch and a stroll around the old city.
In the evening, we will can all have a few beers and dinner.
Overnight in Damascus.
Day 2 – Full day in Damascus
With more than 5000 years of history, Damascus might easily be the oldest capital in the world, a city absolutely packed with historic 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 Umayyad Mosque (where Yahya is buried, John the Baptist for Christians) and the National Museum, containing the finest treasures from Syria’s countless layers of history.
As always, we will be visiting the city at our own pace, with plenty of time for photography and local interactions.
Overnight in Damascus.
Day 3 – Maaloula and Aleppo
On day 3, we will drive towards Aleppo, not without first stopping in Maaloula, one of the most important Christian towns in the Middle East, once occupied by ISIS and, today, largely destroyed due to the recent war.
We will wander around the city, checking its most important buildings and landmarks, and then, we will visit Saint Sergius and Bakhous Monastery, where we might get the chance to meet nuns who were kidnapped and held as hostages by ISIS.
If we have time, we may also stop in Mar Musa on our way to Aleppo, 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.
Day 4 – Full day 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 that Aleppo citizens 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 from the war, and is today filled with absolutely delicious restaurants serving Lebanese wine.
Overnight in Aleppo.
Day 5 – Hama, Krak des Chevaliers and Homs
On our way from Aleppo to Homs, we will stop in Hama and Krak des Chevaliers.
Hama is one of the most photogenic cities in Syria, famous for its water wheels, abounding all over the city.
After the visit, we will continue our way to Krak des Chevaliers, once quoted by Lawrence of Arabia as the most wholly admirable castle in the world.
The castle is absolutely gorgeous and surrounded by beautiful nature. We will take our time there, visiting the castle, admiring the views and having a picnic lunch.
After lunch, we will head towards Homs.
Evening and overnight in Homs.
Day 6 – Homs and Palmyra
Homs was, by far, the most affected city 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 visit it, followed by a drive to Palmyra, home to some of the most important Roman ruins outside of Rome, located in an oasis in the middle of the Syrian desert.
For visiting Palmyra, we do need to arrange a special permit but, unfortunately, staying there overnight is not allowed, so we will head back to Damascus shortly after our visit, a 250-kilometer drive.
Overnight in Damascus.
Day 7 – Busra
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.
To make our visit even more exciting, we will have lunch in a traditional house with a local family, who will certainly prepare a delicious Syrian meal.
After lunch back to Damascus. Overnight in Damascus.
Day 8 – Damascus and Beirut transfer
After breakfast, we will visit the remaining touristic places in Damascus, as well as do any necessary shopping.
Transfer to Beirut and end of the tour.
The total tour cost is 1590€ per person, with a minimum of 10 people.
What’s included in the price?
- Transfer to and from Beirut
- Accommodation (twin shared, or triple if we aren’t perfect pairs)
- Security clearance (needed for the visa)
- Private transportation and driver around Syria
- Breakfast and lunch
- English-speaking knowleadgable guide
- Departure fee at the border
- Special permit for Palmyra
- Entrance fees
Hotels we stay:
- Damascus: Beit al Wali (5-star boutique hotel in the old city)
- Aleppo: Aleppo Palace (a classic hotel in Aleppo and the best option in the city)
- Al Mishtaya: Rosa Vila Hotel (comfortable hotel and the best option in the area)
What’s NOT included?
- International flights
- Single supplement (250€)
- Travel Insurance
- Visa fee (72USD for UE passport; 140USD for American & British passport, 90USD for Canadian passport)
- PCR tests
In order to secure your spot on the tour, we require a 500€ deposit.
How to send a payment:
- Via a standard bank transfer to EU bank in €
If you can’t easily make transfers to EU banks, we also offer:
- Credit card payment via a secure form powered by Stripe. However, we do charge an additional 3% to cover Stripe fees
- Paypal. However, we do charge an additional 5% to cover Paypal fees
The remaining amount shall be sent no later than 30 days before the beginning of the trip.
Is the 500€ deposit refundable?
Well, it depends. If for whatever reason, you need to cancel your trip, we will try to find a replacement.
If we can’t get a replacement, you won’t get your deposit back.
If we find a replacement, we will give you 2 options:
- No refund, but your 500€ can be used as credit for an upcoming EXPEDITION. Basically, if you joined a future trip, you would not lose any money
- If you don’t want to use your deposit as credit for future trips, we would refund you with the full deposit minus 150€, to compensate our time spent looking for another person.
What about the remaining balance?
- 31 days or more prior to departure: full refund
- 15-29 days prior to departure: 50% refund
- Less than 15 days: no refund
Need to know about Coronavirus
The situation might be different in May 2022 but as of March 1st:
- 1- Entering Lebanon – Vaccination certificate or negative PCR + register in this platform
- 2 – For entering Syria. Vaccination certificate or negative PCR
- 3- For leaving Syria to Lebanon. Vaccination certificate or negative PCR ($110 in Syria)
- 4- For leaving Lebanon. This depends on your destination country.
Important information for non-vaccinated travelers:
As of today, being vaccinated is not a requirement for entering both Lebanon and Syria, as long as you have a negative PCR.
However, in the hypothetical case this changes, meaning that the vaccine becomes a must-requirement (hence you can’t join the trip after you paid the deposit or remaining balance) regular cancellation policy will apply, no special treatment, since being non-vaccinated is your own choice and responsibility.
COVID-19 Cancellation policy
In the hypothetical case Syria shuts down its borders due to COVID-19, or the trip can’t take place because of COVID-19, the trip will be postponed.
If for whatever reason, you can’t join in the new tour dates, we will give you a full refund (including the deposit) minus 100€, as we need to cover basic costs related to vendor payments we already made.
Do you have any further questions about the tour?