Syrian history tours, a hot desert offer and savings on Asian tours

Coming up Spend 10 days soaking up Syria, enjoy a massage at a luxury resort in the middle of the Liwa desert or embark on a South-east Asian adventure.

The view over Damascus from Qasiun mountain. Absolute Adventure is offering a comprehensive tour of Syria.
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Syria has such a multitude of impressive historical sites that it would be difficult to take them all in on a single visit, but Absolute Adventure has managed to prepare a packed itinerary for a 10-day trip starting later this month. Since this is the Dubai-based company's first activity in the country, it is offering a special low rate of US$1,892 (Dh6,950) per person that includes all accommodation, meals, transport and entrance fees.

The tour starts in Damascus on May 24, where the group will spend two days seeing the old city, including visits to the Ummayad Mosque with its tomb of John the Baptist, the nearby Hammadiyeh Souq and the National Museum, before setting off on a camel trek across the desert to see the ruins at Palmyra. The journey involves an overnight stay at a Bedouin camp, and after spending the next morning exploring the magnificent ruins with a guide, the group sets off by vehicle to see the Roman water wheels at Hama, stopping on the way to visit the grave of Khalid Bin Walid, the Sword of Allah, in Homs.

After Hama come three days of trekking, camping en route, to see several of Syria's famous Dead Cities, including Barra and Syrgilla, before being driven to Aleppo. There's a stop on the way to see the Ebla ruins, considered the most important archaeological site in Syria, while the rest of the day can be spent exploring Aleppo's famous Citadel and ancient souqs. The next day begins with a visit to the ruins of the Samaan Citadel, where St Simon spent 40 years sitting atop a pillar, before heading back south to see ancient Apamea and on to a hilltop hotel with views of Mediterranean to spend the night.

The final day of sightseeing takes in St George's Monastery and the impressive Crac de Chevalier - the best preserved of all crusader castles - a 90-minute walk away, before returning to Damascus. Visit or call 04 345 9900.

The Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara is offering a variety of deals from now until September. For those seeking to de-stress, the luxury resort in the Liwa desert is offering a complimentary 90-minute aromatherapy massage and a 30 per cent discount on all other spa treatments for guests staying two nights during May. Rates start from $354 (Dh1,300) per night for a deluxe room and $653 (Dh2,400) per night for a one-bedroom villa, excluding taxes. Bookings on rooms or one-bedroom suites between now and the end of September receive a 20 per discount if made 20 days in advance. With discount, deluxe rooms start from $283 (Dh1,040) per night and one-bedroom suites from $414 (Dh1,520) plus taxes, including breakfast.

Booking a villa 30 days in advance gets you a hefty 30 per cent discount on regular rates, with one-bedroom villas starting from $457 (Dh1,680) per night plus taxes, including breakfast, until September 30. Perhaps best value of all is the "stay for three nights pay for two" offer, open for bookings until September 9, which works out to just $236 (Dh867) per night for a deluxe room and $436 (Dh1,600) per night for a one-bedroom villa, excluding taxes, with breakfast included. See or call 02 886 2088.

Yearnings to see the Great Wall of China, Angkor Wat or the thousands of limestone islands of Halong Bay can all be satisfied at a discount on selected tours offered by Travel Indochina next month. The company is offering 20 per cent off the regular rate on its "Cambodia & Vietnam Explorer" tour starting on June 8, as well as on its "China Highlights" and "Cambodia Revealed" packages, both starting on June 20.

The two-week tour of Cambodia and Vietnam starts with sightseeing in Phnom Penh, before two days of exploring the magnificent temples at Angkor. In Vietnam, the tour continues in Saigon, then heads north to Hue, Hoi An, Hanoi and Halong City, from where the group takes a cruise of Halong Bay. Besides Phnom Penh and Angkor Wat, the 12-day Cambodia Revealed tour takes in southern coastal towns on the Gulf of Thailand, including Sihanoukville, the country's main beach resort, and Kampot, a picturesque colonial era town at the foot of the Elephant Mountains.

The Great Wall may be the most famous attraction but the 10-day China Highlights tour also includes a visit to the beautiful Forbidden City in Beijing and a trip to Xian to see the impressive ranks of the Terracotta Army. The tour ends in bustling Shanghai, China's financial capital of soaring skyscrapers and venue of the World Expo 2010, which opens today. The Cambodia and Vietnam tour costs $1,940 (Dh7,128) per person, while the Cambodia tour costs $1,292 (Dh4,747) and the China tour costs $1,508 (Dh5,540). The prices are per person based on two people sharing and include local transport, hotel stays with breakfast, entrance fees, English-speaking guides and airport transfers. For more details, visit or call 01 865 268 940.