Located on a small sloping plain at the point where two mountain ranges meet, the oasis of Palmyra lies roughly halfway between the Mediterranean coast and the Euphrates valley.

Arid steppe

Palmyra is built on an arid steppe. Although rainfall can vary dramatically from year to year, it receives 150 mm on average, far too little for dry farming. The oasis is cold in winter, with regular snowfall. Summers are long and rainless, lasting from April to October, with temperatures often rising above 40 °C from June to August.

Water resources in the middle of the steppe

Enough water from rare winter rain and two springs was collected to irrigate crops away from the salt flats. The surrounding mountains provided grazing for herds of camels and sheep much of the year.

Palmyra was located at the fruit-bearing limit of the date palm, but many other fruit trees also grew there - pomegranate, olive, and fig - and an irrigation system provided water for vast gardens. These favourable conditions probably explain why people settled in the region from the Palaeolithic, and in even larger numbers in the Neolithic.

The site of Palmyra, at the confluence of two wadis, the largest of which crosses it from west to east, had access to water resources and the best arable soils.