Syria is in the grips of a protracted armed conflict and I cannot recommend a visit to the country at this stage. However, it does appear that the centre of Damascus is quite settled and so are the coastal areas. Thus, if one was able to obtain a tourist visa, some parts of these places could be safe, but more dangerous areas are likely to be nearby, and the situation can change rapidly. Flying into Damascus is likely to be the safest way into and out of the country.
Any visit to Aleppo and the northern region, and the eastern region that borders Iraq is extremely dangerous. Furthermore, crossing into Syria from Turkey or Iraq is highly inadvisable as these two parts of the country have seen the most conflict. Any casual tourist appearing in an area of armed conflict will not be seen as a tourist, but someone with a different purpose – whether that be a journalist, aid worker or ally of one of the fighting forces – and all of these will be viewed with suspicion in varying degrees. The war is so fractured with many different groups fighting each other that even if you managed to persuade one group you mean no harm, you will need to repeat this many times and eventually your persuasion skills are not going to work.
Prior to the civil war, Syria was a very safe country to travel through – relaxed, very friendly and peaceful. Of the 80+ countries and territories I have visited, Syria was only surpassed by India as my favourite destination in the world. The main purpose of publishing my pages on Syria is not to convince people to travel there during the present conflict, but to present a different side to the country as portrayed in the media – for it is a country with some of the most welcoming people you could imagine. If this conflict is ever resolved enough for people to return – I would be very keen to revisit one of my top five travel destinations.
If you wish to visit Syria, it is important to read the following information: