Known as the Dead Cities, or Ancient Villages of Northern Syria, this incredible collection of 700 abandoned settlements lies in the Al-Bara region, among the hills between the Aleppo-Hama Highway and the Orontes River. Ranging from single monuments to almost-complete villages, these ghostly sites date back before the fifth century CE. They are situated in an area known as Belus Massif, and contain numerous remains of Christian Byzantine architecture.
Rich in authenticity, with a refreshing lack of commercial enterprise, the sights are well preserved. The ruins are believed to have been abandoned between the 8th and 10th century, and include churches, public houses, dwellings, and even wine presses. Restorative work is currently taking place on the sites, and the local inhabitants are welcoming to visitors.
The Dead Cities, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are believed to have flourished on the major trade routes of the Byzantine Empire, where they were established. But when the Arabs conquered, they lost the majority of their business, and many inhabitants moved to areas of increasing urbanisation. As a result, the Dead Cities have an “eerie” feel to them – as if the inhabitants simply vanished without trace.