A French travel agency is offering cultural tours of Syria, insisting the country is safe despite "formal" warnings by the French foreign ministry to steer clear of the war-wracked region.
"Syria is opening to tourism and, at the request of our Syrian friends, we are once again proposing trips to this destination," said Clio, the only large-scale travel agency in Europe to offer such tours in a country ravaged by an eight-year civil war.
The tours were reopened as the last redoubt of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil), in the eastern Syrian village of Baghouz, faces imminent defeat by the Kurdish and coalition forces but the situation remains unstable in many areas. On its travel advisory page, France's foreign ministry states French people "run particularly high risks of terror attacks and kidnapping". It calls on all its citizens to "leave the country".
The ministry said in a statement that any citizen who enters Syria will be investigated on their return.
Clio is offering a 10-day tour by coach to the regime-held areas of southern Damascus and Latakia, as well as Unesco protected Krak des Chevaliers, one of the best preserved medieval castles in the world.
Jean-Pierre Respaut, Clio's deputy director, said the first tour of 20 people was full and five more were scheduled for the autumn at 3,000 euros ($4,752) per person.
The Daily Telegraph