Syrian Caravan - Overland Trip
1 ½ weeks: to (IMT-IASC)
IntroWith imposing castles, ancient cities and wonderful scenery, Syria beckons with its many treasures. From the mystique of Damascus, the world\'s oldest capital city, to the bustling markets of Aleppo, the world\'s foremost Crusader castle and a desert outpost of the Roman Empire, this country showcases of the remnants of many great civilisations.
IncludedAn experienced English-speaking local leader, local guides at some sites, all transportation, accommodation, meals and sightseeing as indicated.
ItinerariesDay 1 - Damascus
Your trip starts today in Damascus. No activities are planned so you may arrive at any time. Rooms are generally available after 1 pm. If you have not pre-booked an arrival transfer you will find taxis available on arrival at Damascus Airport. Make sure you agree the price before you set off into town! Prices are in Syrian Pounds and range from US$4 to US$10, depending on your bargaining skills! Your tour leader may make contact tonight, otherwise you will see him tomorrow morning at the tour briefing, which usually takes place after breakfast.Day 2 - Aleppo
We travel to Aleppo, an exciting town in the north of Syria. The claim of Damascus being the oldest inhabited city in the world is hotly disputed by the people of this northern city. But whether or not the claim is substantiated there's no arguing that Aleppo's history is just as rich and varied as that of Damascus. Although a bustling city, Aleppo is the kind of place that makes you feel instantly at ease with its relaxed pavement cafés, hole in the wall style bakeries and locals who simply want to chat. Aleppo is also a bargainers dream! Once drawn into its amazingly exotic and exiting undercover bazaar we could quite easily lose a day (or perhaps even several generations!) as we witness traders plying their wares in the same way as their fathers and grandfathers. Here it is easy to feel that we have been given a privileged insight into Syrian life. As we exchange greetings with stallholders, dodge trailers piled high with watermelons and shiny cherries, negotiate aromas, sounds and get hopelessly lost in the labyrinth of narrow alleys you can be sure that Aleppo's souqs are a real feast your senses won't forget. (Approx 4 hrs driving)Day 3 - Aleppo
Today is a free day in Aleppo - a chance to further explore the exotic atmosphere of the covered bazaars or visit the town’s imposing citadel. There is also the chance to visit a traditional ‘hamam’ to try a Turkish bath. An optional guided tour with a local guide through the city will cost about US$22.Day 4 - Hama - Krak des Chevaliers
A short drive takes us to Hama (1½ hours), a lovely old town famous for its water wheels ('norias'). This quiet town lies on the edge of the Orontes River and is perhaps the most provincial and traditional of all the Syrian cities. The huge wooden water wheels still turn slowly on the edge of the river and the gentle groan of its old mechanisms can be heard throughout much of the city. Past the water wheel, there are lovely paths along the edge of the river which come alive on warm evenings when families out strolling and couples enjoying each other’s company. Right next to the water wheels and overlooking the river are well-located restaurants, which serve up delicious traditional Syrian food. We then visit the nearby magnificent Krak des Chevaliers Crusader fortress. Often the very reason why people travel to Syria, this fortress is located in a dramatic setting and is in an incredible state of repair. It is so well preserved in fact that it can't have looked much different when it was in use 800 years ago, making your experience in and around the castle a true journey back in time. As we walk around the most impressive sections - the great hall and the chapel built into the ramparts with arches hallowed out of the rock, we won't be able to stop our imagination from conjuring up soldiers, servants and the buzz of Krak's distant age. Don't leave the chapel without checking out the ceiling and be sure to climb up to the ramparts for breathtaking views.Day 5-6 - Palmyra
A drive through the desert takes us to the breathtaking ancient city of Palmyra. Sometimes famous sites of the world prove a little disappointing in reality, but Palmyra is not one of these places. This desert city really does lie kilometres from nowhere in the middle of the Syrian Desert, appearing like an abandoned set from a multi-million dollar movie. Palmyra or the 'City of Palms' is actually an oasis known to have supported settlements from as far back as the 19th century BC; however the city really came into its own during Roman times when taxes levied on a plentiful supply of caravans travelling the Silk Road paid for the beautiful civic buildings. There's plenty of time here to explore and we can enjoy a breathtaking sunset at the hilltop fortress of Zenobia, take an early morning wander with our guide and a free afternoon where your time is your own to stroll down the colonnaded street, sit in the shade of archways, pillars and temples and perhaps chat with a Bedouin or take a camel ride. Although Palmyra is no longer a secret to the outside world, you could still quite easily wander its length, lost in your own thoughts, without seeing another tourist. During our time here we also get to enjoy a guided tour through the site. (Approx 4 hrs driving)Day 7-8 - Damascus
We drive to Damascus and enjoy a day and a half free time to discover the city. The locals claim that Damascus is the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world and as we explore the place we will feel like we are stepping through the different layers of time. Strolling along the thoroughly modern main roads we will hear car horns blasting and catchy Arabic music blaring out of shops, cafes and car stereos, but step into the side streets and we find ourselves in another world of hidden courtyards, narrow alleyways, the occasional ambling donkey and small stalls selling a myriad of different objects. Wander into the souqs (bazaars) and watch the locals haggle ferociously over glitzy gold jewellery, bubbling water pipes, mounds of olives, gaudy clothing, sultry perfumes and just about anything else you can think of. Join them if you dare and try to drive a bargain with a shopkeeper in the traditional way – over a cup of hot, sweet tea. An optional walking tour with a local guide can be arranged for US$18. (Approx 3 hrs driving)Day 9 - Damascus
Our trip ends after breakfast in the morning of Day 9. If you wish to stick around for few more nights in this grand old city, please pre-book additional post-tour accommodation at the time of booking your tour.