He's walked the Nile and crossed the Himalaya by foot, Levison Wood is determined to prove it's possible to have a good time anywhere as he recently told Sadie Whitelocks of the Mail Online

Parts of Syria are being ravaged by a vicious civil war, but British explorer and TV personality Levison Wood says that he visited the country recently and discovered that there's a sunnier side that gets neglected.

It actually has a great nightlife to enjoy, he claimed.

Talking at an event in London attended by MailOnline Travel, the adventurer mused: 'With places like south Syria, people just assume it's on fire all the time but there are some great bars and nightclubs in Damascus.'


Wood spent four-and-a-half months circumnavigating the Arabian Peninsula, visiting some of earth's most dangerous spots, which also included Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen, which is a virtual no-go zone for Westerners.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office currently advises against travel in many areas throughout these countries.

But Wood went anyway, covering 5,000 miles with his trustworthy camera crew in tow.

One of his sketchiest moments occurred when he hit Yemen, one of the most dangerous places on the planet.

At present, the FCO warns against all travel to the country and bluntly states if you are there, 'you should leave immediately'.

Wood says there are some great bars and nightclubs in Damascus. Photo / Soltan Sygma, Getty Images)
Wood says there are some great bars and nightclubs in Damascus. Photo / Soltan Sygma, Getty Images)

It points out that visitors are at risk of terrorist attacks, kidnappings and unlawful detention by militia. It's so chaotic that the British government does not know which faction has control.

Resolute on getting into the country to complete his complex Arabian journey - Yemen is located at the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula - Wood said he paid a local to smuggle his team in as visas are pretty much redundant.

During their time in the volatile area, Wood and his colleagues had to keep a very low profile, blending in with the locals by wearing cloth headscarves and traditional dress.


Explaining why he decided to hit some of these red zone spots where the 'thud of artillery' was a constant theme, Wood said: 'I certainly wasn't doing it for fun.

'For me it's a privilege to get in there and tell the human story about places, places that haven't really had attention in a long time.

'For instance, 90 per cent of Syria is absolutely fine. It's important for us to keep things in perspective.'

But the Brit admits that the places that have been hit by war remain crippled and it's important to stay alert.

Indeed, one photo he posted on Twitter of the western Syrian city of Homs shows debris littering the streets and bomb-ravaged buildings standing empty with the doors and windows blown to smithereens.

Wood merely captioned the image: 'Hard to explain the levels of destruction here.'

While in Syria, he also visited the ancient city of Palmyra, which was an ISIS stronghold for a number of years and dozens of precious structures were destroyed by the group.

Despite the tragic destruction, Wood said that he 'witnessed an enormous amount of hope' while exploring the site.

He added, via Twitter: 'It's still an amazing place and with a bit of money and work it will be restored, perhaps not completely, but enough to remind people what humans are capable of both good and bad.'

Luckily Wood has returned from all of these high-risk expeditions unscathed.

However, he says he does get 'arrested all the time' and landing up in a foreign prison isn't the best experience.

Asked what his number one travel item is, the former British army officer replied: 'A white shirt.'

He continued with a smile: 'Sometimes on expeditions it's important to look good and you've got to be ready for any moment.

'In the Himalayas, I met the Dalai Lama, it was really last-minute but luckily I had my white shirt to hand.'

After spending weeks away living out of a rucksack, Wood is enjoying being back home in London.

His 2013 expedition, which saw him walk the length of the Nile from source to delta, changed his life forever, with Channel 4 picking it up and making it into a television series.

He said: 'I never dreamed of being on TV, I was a writer but it all helps tell a story.'

He will be recounting his latest journey in a book provisionally entitled An Arabian Journey, which is set to be published by Hodder & Stoughton in autumn 2018.

What is the FCO's advice about travelling to Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Lebanon?

Here is what the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is saying about some of the countries Levison Wood visited during his Arabian journey:


The FCO advises against all travel to Syria. British nationals in Syria should leave by any practical means. The situation remains extremely volatile and dangerous with widespread fighting throughout. Full scale military operations involving the use of small arms, tanks, artillery and aircraft are ongoing. Estimates suggest that over 470,000 people have been killed in the Syria conflict, including over 55,000 children. Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Syria and there is a very high threat of kidnapping.


The FCO advises against all travel to Yemen. This includes the mainland and all islands. If you're in Yemen, you should leave immediately. The country remains very tense and unstable and the security situation throughout the country is dangerous and in some areas it is unclear which faction has control. In addition to ongoing fighting, there's a threat of terrorist attacks, kidnap and unlawful detention against foreigners from terrorist groups, local militia, armed tribesmen and criminal groups that have the intent and capability to carry out such acts.


The FCO advises against all travel to Anbar province, Ninewah province, Salah-Al-Din province, Diyala province, Tam'mim (Kirkuk) province and parts of Erbil province. The government body advises against all but essential travel to the rest of Iraq, including the remainder of the Kurdistan region. The security situation throughout the country remains uncertain, and could deteriorate quickly. Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks and there's also a high kidnap threat. While attacks can take place at any time, there's a heightened threat during religious or public holidays.


The FCO advises against travel to many parts of Lebanon, and west of the country is considered safest. Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks and you should be vigilant at all times, avoid crowds and crowded places and follow the advice of the Lebanese authorities. The security situation in parts of Lebanon can deteriorate quickly. There is potential for further violence, which could restrict departure options. Roads can become blocked due to protests and there's a heightened risk of terrorism against aviation.