Majestic Palmyra, Syria, in the early morning sun
Majestic Palmyra, Syria, in the early morning sun


LOCATION Palmyra is about 134 miles (215 km) northeast of Damascus, Syria


1st–3rd centuries AD


Jan: 45°F (7°C); Apr: 64°F (18°C); Jul: 86°F (30°C); Oct: 68°F (20°C)

Palmyra, also known by its Arabic name of Tadmor, is one of the oldest cities in the Middle East. It is thought to date back to Babylonian times, but most of the surviving buildings date from the 1st to 3rd centuries, when the city was incorporated into the Roman Empire.

Palmyra served as an important meeting point between the Persian Empire to the east and the Greco-Roman world to the west. Its fabled oasis, a symbol of fertility in a barren landscape, is thought to have inspired the nickname “the Bride of the Desert,” and made Palmyra a popular stop on the caravan route between Persia and the Mediterranean on the old trans-Asian Silk Road.

The city’s heyday lasted until 273, when Queen Zenobia, who claimed to be a descendant of Cleopatra and was famed for her beauty, learning, and courage, led a rebellion against the Romans. The city’s fortunes gradually declined following this rebellion until, by the 6th century, it was nothing more than a fortified outpost at the edge of the Roman Empire.

An extraordinary collection of uncannily well- preserved remains, most of which date from the city’s early Roman period and have turned pink with age, lie scattered across the desert here. The original city’s comprehensive outlines can still clearly be seen, from the main street to the agora (marketplace).

Highlights include the enormous, striking Temple of Ba’al (or Bel), the smaller Temple of Nebo, and a beautifully restored theater, with its nine rows of seating. Bisecting the ancient city is the magnificent Great Colonnade – the remains of what was once the city’s principal street – which is lined with dozens of columns standing in incongruous, antique splendor amid the endless barren desert.

Practical Information

Getting There Fly to Damascus, and then rent a car or jump on the bus from the airport to Palmyra.

When to Go Spring and fall are the best times to visit – this way you avoid the scorching extremes of summer and the chilly winter nights.

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