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The 9 Most Beautiful Places In Syria That You Must Visit

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2 months ago

Countless civilizations over the millennia have called modern-day Syria home. The country is ethnically and religiously diverse which means Syria’s sights often have a mixed history. The most beautiful places in Syria are therefore a blend of so many peoples and cultures, and that is precisely what makes Syria a must-visit place.

You should know that a bloody, 12-year war and a terrifying earthquake at the start of 2023 (which hit Türkiye, too) have each left their scars on Syria that you need to be prepared for. You can safely visit Syria, but it’s important to be up to speed with everything you should know before you visit Syria’s most beautiful places.

Martyrs' Square in Damascus with pigeons, a bridge and a mosque
Martyrs’ Square in Damascus is one of the most beautiful places in Syria

9. The forgotten village of Samra

Famous among Syrians for being the film site of a comedy series named The Lost Village, this pocket of natural beauty is stunning, serene and very much off the beaten path. On your way through the town, you’ll pass stunning stone houses that are still inhabited by the mostly Armenian-Syrian population that lives in the villages in these mountains.

Stone house in Samra in Syria with trees in the foreground and mountains in the distance beautiful places in Syria
The stone house of Samra, famous among Syrians for being the house of a couple in a Syrian comedy named Daya’ Daya’

The small village of Samra is itself beautiful to drive through, but if that wasn’t enough, you’re rewarded with the most hidden stretch of beach on the Mediterranean. This is one for the folks who love a secret beach – it’s barely touched.

You can actually swim in the beach. You’ll just have to traverse a slightly steep mountain – but the reward is probably worth the risk.

Beach near Samra village in Syria on the border of Türkiye with mountains in the background
The beach on the Mediterranean coast just near Samra

Samra is quite difficult to reach but is well worth the journey if you have the time and energy to invest. It is also immediately in front of the Syrian-Turkish border, so make sure you don’t get too close to the border unless you’re looking for trouble.

8. The Shrine of St Takla in Maaloula

The Convent of Saint Thecla is a major place of Christian pilgrimage in Syria. The shrine is built into a rock-grotto and dates back to the earliest Christian centuries. The shrine is also host to the sacred spring which is said to be able to cure paralysis, rheumatism and infertility. But beyond that, the shrine itself feels uniquely hallowed and calm.

Shrine of St Takla in the rock-grotto in Maaloula Syria one of the most beautiful places in Syria
The rock-grotto shrine

Local tip: No need to be shy – you can ask to take some of the water from the shrine. The water is thicker and catches light in a more pronounced way. It’ll make a beautiful souvenir.

Very unfortunately, ISIS destroyed virtually all of Maaloula during the early part of the war in Syria. ISIS fighters also stole or burned all of the artefacts and artworks. You’ll very quickly notice the destruction, even down to the destroyed icons of saints.

View of Maaloula in Syria with destroyed hotel on the top of the stone mountain
View of Maaloula from the Church

And if it wasn’t destroyed, everything old and of value was stolen. Even the ceiling reliefs in the church are new despite the fact that they may appear older.

Residents still refer to St Takla as Brikhta, which is the Aramaic word for blessed. Her body can still be found buried in the grotto-shrine.

View of churches on a rooftop in Maaloula
Maaloula is covered in churches

7. The Shaghoura chapel in the Convent of Our Lady of Sednaya

Also known as Our Lady of Sednaya Patriarchal Monastery, this is one of the most ancient monasteries in the world which is still today run by an order of nuns. There is no doubt that the church itself is beautiful, but it is the old chapel hidden deep within its walls that is truly a thing of beauty. Every part of the room is intricately detailed, and the treasures within are over a thousand years old.

Many in the Christian tradition consider Sednaya to be second only to Jerusalem in religious importance. This is partly because the icon of the Virgin Mary is considered to be one of the four extant icons painted by St. Luke the Evangelist himself.

Shaghoura Chapel in the Convent of Our Lady of Sednaya
The Shaghoura chapel in the Convent of Our Lady of Sednaya

Local tip: The Shaghoura chapel is hidden away, so you’ll need to ask the nuns nicely to take you to it. It’s worth the extra effort.

The Shaghoura chapel is treated to a slither of natural light which fosters the perfect atmosphere to complement the spirituality of the room. The ancient icons covered in silver and blackened by the smoke of the candles, the gold and silver-plated lamps suspended from the ceiling, the smell of ancient ritual, the ancient gifts of bracelets and necklaces – it all feels very sacred.

And right in the middle behind the grill is the famous miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary.

Sednaya remains virtually unscathed as fighting did not take place here during the war. And beyond that, the influence of Aramaic is noticeable in the Arabic dialect used by the people in Sednaya, Maaloula and a handful of other villages immediately around them.

6. The ancient altar in Hanania Church

Located in the heart of the old city of Damascus, you’ll pass small Damascene houses on your way to this incredible church. The small stone staircase will lead you to a deep underground cave which is the Hanania Church itself. The place truly feels ancient.

paintings in Hanania Church in Damascus
Paintings in Hanania Church

There isn’t much to do in there aside from soak in the atmosphere and the fascinating paintings with depictions of Bible stories (like Saul’s loss of vision).

5. Al Azem Palace in Damascus

The Al Azem Palace in Damascus surely must be one of the most beautiful places in Syria. As you walk through the many rooms, you’ll experience the day to day life of a Damascene governor, his family and entourage. The palace rooms all have explanations in English, so I would recommend that you do this one on your own and enjoy the story.

Courtyard of the Al Azem Palace with trees in the foreground
Al Azem Palace

Al Azem Palace was built in 1749 as the private residence of As’ad Pasha al-Azm, a governor of Syria. It was also housed the French Institute during the time of the French Mandate for Syria and Lebanon.

Local tip: In King Faisal’s room, the writing on the table must be read in the mirror.

Courtyard in Damascus with plants overhanging
Courtyard in Damascus with the Damascene traditional stonework visible

It’s located just meters away from the famous Umayyad Mosque. The beauty of the palace is throughout, but especially the exterior with its detailed stonework in the Damascene traditional style. The alternating courses of white limestone and black basalt is characteristic of monumental masonry of Damascus and can be seen at its finest in the palace.

4. Ruins of the Ancient Phoenician temple at Amrit in Tartus

Only 15 minutes south of Tartus on Syria’s Mediterranean coast is a Phoenician Water Temple and Healing Center that is uniquely impressive in its character. Much of the area around the temple was destroyed thousands of years ago, but physical remains survive, particularly the temple.

Amrit Temple archaeological site outside of Tartus one of the most beautiful places in Syria
Amrit Temple with the sanctuary in the middle

The most striking piece is the cella (an elevated inner chamber) which was built in a deep pond dug in the rock. The cella has clear Egyptian and Mesopotamian influences in its architecture, and it’s the only Syrian site that reflects the melting-pot style of architecture that is characteristic of the ancient Phoenicians.

Archaeological site at Amrit Temple
The funeral towers at Amrit Temple

The archaeological site has been neglected during the years of the civil war so the area has fallen into disrepair. Despite this, it’s one of the most beautiful places in Syria for its uniqueness and distinct cultural heritage.

3. Krak des Chevaliers in Wadi al-Nasara

Located in the Valley of the Christians in Homs province, Krak des Chevaliers is one of the best-preserved medieval castles in the world. Forget Europe’s castles, one of Syria’s most beautiful places is this incredible castle perched on top of the mountains surrounded by villages occupied by Syria’s Christians.

View of Krak des Chevaliers from neighboring mountain beautiful places in Syria
A view of Krak des Chevaliers from a neighboring mountain

You’ll be able to feel the layers of history throughout the whole castle, including the Gothic-style architecture on the ceilings. Make sure to check out the chapel and to go outside for an incredible view of the whole Wadi al-Nasara (which translates to Valley of the Christians).

The Hall of the Knights feels very inspiring to walk through, and you can’t help yourself from wanting to stop to try to make out the etchings on the walls left hundreds of years ago.

Hall of the Knights in Krak des Chevaliers with Gothic architecture
Hall of the Knights in Krak des Chevaliers

This is one of the few places in the world that you can still see remnants of Crusader art in the form of frescoes. There are also amazing design features that I’ll let your guide tell you about, but in particular make sure to look up to see the holes that the soldiers would drop hot oil from.

Gates in Krak des Chevaliers
The gates of Krak des Chevaliers

2. The Ancient City of Palmyra

Palmyra is an oasis in the Syrian desert that was once one of the most important cultural and economic centers in the ancient world. Just at the edge of Homs province, the archaeological site contains monumental ruins of a great city. The ancient city changed hands between different civilizations before becoming attached to modern Syria through the Roman province of Syria almost 2,000 years ago.

Ruins of Palmyra

Although many sites in Palmyra were destroyed by ISIS during the Syrian civil war, Palmyra still holds treasures from its Silk Road days and boasts some of the best-preserved ruins of antiquity. You’ll still be able to see remnants of the Temple of Bel and the Great Colonnade which are truly special sights.

The security situation in Syria remains volatile, and Palmyra’s location is quite close to where fighting continues to happen.

This means that whether you can visit Palmyra can only be decided on the day, and security risks remain. But Palmyra is still one of the most beautiful places in Syria and is well worth the time and effort.

View of the ancient city of Palmyra
The whole expanse of Palmyra

1. The Umayyad Mosque

The symbol of Damascus and Syria more broadly, the Umayyad Mosque is a sight to behold. It has changed hands many times over the years, beginning life as a temple for the Arameans, then becoming a center for the cult of Jupiter, the Roman god of thunder, and then a short life as a cathedral before the Muslim conquest of Damascus.

courtyard of the umayyad mosque damascus syria
The stunning Umayyad Mosque in Damascus

No trip to Syria would be complete without a visit to the Ummayad Mosque. The ornate detailing of the porticos in the courtyard coupled with the octagonal Dome of the Treasury is exquisite and is certainly one of the most beautiful places in Syria. The courtyard is still cordoned off today, apparently because a number of protests relating to the Syrian civil war occurred here.

Shrine of John the Baptist in the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus
The shrine of John the Baptist

Christians and Muslims alike consider the mosque as the burial place of John the Baptist’s head (known to Muslims as the Prophet Yahya). You can see the shrine to John the Baptist inside.

minaret of umayyad mosque with sunset

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lana

Thursday 28th of March 2024

I'm motivated to go.