Grand Syria

Damascus – Baalbek – Maalula - Mar musa – Crac des Chevaliers – Palmyra – Aleppo – Lattakia

12 Days – 11 Nights

Day 1: Arrival Beirut Int’l Airport – Beirut

Arrival to Beirut Int’l Airport, meet Nawafir representative at arrival hall, then drive to hotel for overnight.

Day 2: Beirut – Baalbek – Ksara – Damascus

Breakfast. Drive to the Bekaa-Valley which invites you to the heart of the most beautiful vine growing areas in the world. Cold and snowy winters, dry and hot summers, cool nights and misty mornings, are all ideal conditions for getting vintages that produce exceptional wines. Grapes varieties include Syrah, Merlot, Cabarnet-Sauvignon, Mourvedre, Carignan, and many others. Upon arrival in the Bekaa, visit Baalbek, This Phoenician city, where a triad of deities was worshipped, was known as Heliopolis during the Hellenistic period. It retained its religious function during Roman times, when the sanctuary of the Heliopolitan Jupiter attracted thousands of pilgrims. Baalbek, with its colossal structures, is one of the finest examples of Imperial Roman architecture at its apogee. Afterwards, continue to visit Ksara, located in the heart of the Beqaa, where several vineries produce exquisite wine and arak. Afterwards drive to Damascus for overnight.

Day 3: Damascus

Breakfast. Damascus, founded in the 3rd millennium B.C., is one of the oldest cities in the Middle East. In the Middle Ages, it was the centre of a flourishing craft industry, specializing in swords and lace. Damascus boasts some 125 monuments from different periods of its history; the National Museum which houses the finest collection of archaeological artifacts from around the country. Among its treasures are a fragment of the oldest known alphabet in the world, unearthed at Ugarit, and an 1800-year-old synagogue transported piece by piece from Dura Europos on the Euphrates River; the Umayyad Mosque, which is named for Islam’s first ruling dynasty, and is one of the great monuments to the ingenuity of early Islam. It occupies the site of sacred temples going back to the second millennium B.C. – first a temple to the Semitic god Hudod, the Greek god Zeus, and the Roman god Jupiter, then a Christian Church dedicated to John the Baptist, and finally a mosque; the Azem Palace, the luxurious home of the Ottoman governor; Souq Al Hamidiyeh, the bustling covered bazaar that fills the senses with colours and life; the Mausoleum of Saladin, the great leader who liberated Jerusalem from the Crusaders; the legendary Street Called Straight mentioned in the Bible, which spans the old city’s length from East to West; the Chapel of St. Ananias and St. Paul’s Window, from which Paul the evangelist was lowered to escape the Romans; and Bab Touma, the Christian quarter with its charming alleyways and handicraft shops. Overnight in Damascus.

Day 4: Damascus – Maalula – Crac des Chevaliers

Breakfast. Drive to Maalulal, which attracts visitors both for its charm, and for its importance in the history of Syrian Christianity. Homes in Maalula are gaily painted in violet and blue pastels, and perched abreast an imposing gorge between two mountains. Follow a twisting, narrow pathway deep into the mountain crevasse, the famous Al Faj, to the top of the mountain to explore caves dating back to Roman times. Maalula is also home to a population that still speaks a dialect of Aramaic, the language of Jesus Christ, and to two historic Christian monasteries: one Greek Orthodox dedicated to St. Thekla, the other Greek Catholic dedicated to Saint Sergius. Then continue to Wadi al-Nasara “Valley of Christians” to visit Crac des Chevaliers which is the most spectacular but least known medieval castle in the world. 65 km (40 miles) West of Homs at 650 m (1985 ft) above sea level. Krac has unbelievable architecture and occupies a strategic location overlooking Wadi al-Nasara, and is truly one of the unrivalled wonders of the world. This Crusader’s Castle of the knights – or Qalaat al Hosn as it is known in Arabic – is an unforgettable sight of grandeur. Overnight near Crac des Chevaliers.

Day 5: Crac des Chevaliers – Palmyra – Homs

Breakfast. Drive to Palmyra (UNESCO Site), an oasis in the Syrian desert, north-east of Damascus, Palmyra 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. then continue to Homs for overnight.

Day 6: Homs – Aleppo

Breakfast. Drive to Syria’s second largest city, Aleppo which looks back on an impressive history of nearly 8000 years, competing with Damascus for the claim to fame of the oldest continually inhabited city in the world. Due to its key location connecting the Eastern and Western worlds, Aleppo has a reputation as a city of savvy traders and merchants. Overnight in Aleppo

Day 7: Aleppo

Breakfast. Morning visit the Aleppo citadel, an impregnable fortress and the finest example of Arab architecture in the Middle East, stands high above the city on a hill, which conceals layers of civilization dating as far back as the Hittites, afternoon free in Aleppo. Overnight in Aleppo.

Day 8: Aleppo – Hama – Lattakia

Breakfast. Drive to the city of Hama which is laying on both sides of the Orontes’s banks, adorned by its enormous wooden ‘Norias’ or waterwheels, which have creaked and churned in the Orontes channels since Roman times. Visit the twisting alleyways of Hama’s charming old city, the Azem Palace; afterwards continue to Lattakia for overnight.

Day 9: Lattakia – Ugarit – Saladin Castle – Tartous

Breakfast. Drive to Ugarit, where archaeologists unearthed In 1928 one of the most spectacular finds in Syria: the complete Kingdom of Ugarit, ’probably the first great international port in history,’ and a tablet bearing the oldest phonetic alphabet in the world. Ugarit rose to prominence between the 10th  and 13th centuries B.C., and is one of the few Bronze Age sites in the Middle East. Afterwards drive to visit Saladin Castle, which stands on a rocky spur surrounded by two natural trenches that makes it completely isolated if the drawbridge is drawn. The castle dates back to the prosperous days of the Phoenicians (1000 B.C.) and also contains remains from the Byzantine period. It was the subject of conflict between the Byzantines and the Hamadanis until the Crusaders captured it. Then continue to Tartous for overnight.

Day 10: Tartous – Marqab – Amrit – Tratous

Breakfast. Then drive to visit Marqab Citadel, which was built with black basalt stone and was designed to accommodate one thousand people besides the garrison and the provisions necessary to last them five years. Al-Marqab was the last Crusader fortress to be captured by the troops of Sultan Qalaun in 1285 A.D; afterwards drive to Amrit, which was an ancient religious center built as a complement to the Phoenician port settlement on the nearby island of Arwad. It is the only remaining site in Syria that contains a mixture of both Phoenician and Persian architectural influences. Overnight in Tartous.

Day 11: Tartous – Damascus

Breakfast. Free day on the beach in Tartous, with an option to have a boat ride to Arwad Island, a small island 3 km off the coast. It was a Canaanite kingdom. It has a wall, a Frankish fort and an Ayyubid Tower, afterwards drive to Sednaya, in Arabic Our Lady, which is renowned for its picturesque views and Christian heritage. After Jerusalem, Sednaya has been the most famous center for Christian pilgrimage in the east since the 6th A.D. Overnight in Damascus.

Day 12: Departure Beirut Int’l Airport

Breakfast. Transfer at Beirut Int’l Airport directly for departure.

This is a sample itinerary and a tailor-made program can be offered upon request. For individual or group travelers, tour services may include the following:

• Meet and greet, assistance with visa formalities.
• Accommodation as per your chosen hotels category (3, 4 & 5 stars).
• Transportation in a modern A/C vehicles with English speaking drivers.
• Meal Plan, Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner, at hotels or in local restaurants.
• Entrance fees to all archeological sites.
• Multi-lingual guides.