Palmyra: Notes For Bike Tourists
Palmyra is famous for the well-preserved and extensive ruins which dominate the town.
In the middle of the desert between Damascus and Deir-ez-Zor, it is Syria’s prime tourist attraction and in high season can be packed full with visitors. Tadmor is the Arabic name for Palmyra and means “date palm” – a reference to the oasis of trees around the town. Most of the hotels and restaurants are centred around al-Quwatli street, the first one you come to after entering the city by passing alongside the ruins.
ATTENTION: As of November 2007, there were still no ATMs in Palmyra or even a full-service bank – perhaps the only major town in Syria where this is the case. We heard this is about to change but at the moment only a kiosk by the museum can change foreign currency.
Sleeping: We enjoyed the New Afqa Hotel, on a side street just behind the tourist bureau (600 SP for a double room including breakfast, heating / air conditioning and satellite TV). The service was very friendly and staff spoke excellent English.
Another budget option is the Baal Shamen Hotel. We didn’t stay here but another cycling couple we met did. We went for a visit and found the rooms simple but clean. The owner greeted us with a smile.
The mid-range Ishtar Hotel on al-Quwatli was recommended to us by hotel owners in Damascus and Aleppo. Because we were on a budget, we went for something simpler. People we talked to enjoyed their stay here. It has a cave bar in the basement.
Eating out and self-catering: The Traditional Palymra Restaurant and New Palmyra Restaurant on al-Quwatli are both written up in guidebooks but relatively expensive as they cater exclusively to the tourist crowds.
On the same street are several stands selling roast chicken (half chicken for take away is 100 SP, hummous 25 SP, salad 25 SP).
If you venture on any of the main roads running north you will find felafel stands and other small restaurants selling the typical range of Syrian fast food bakeries selling sweet treats and plenty of convenience stores with drinks and snacks.
What to see: The ruins are, of course, the main attraction and can demand an entire day or even two days to really soak up the atmosphere. There is a museum as well but it gets mixed reviews.
Staying connected: On the main tourist drag, the Hani internet cafe inside the Traditional Palmyra Restaurant is conveniently located but charges a pricey 50 SP for a half hour. This may be negotiable in low season. Locals can direct you to an internet cafe slightly north of the centre which only charges 20 SP an hour but has irregular hours.