Iraqi Kurdistan is a fascinating place of sheer beauty, warm and friendly people and a rich and challenging history. Although situated in the northern part of Iraq, it is in many ways a world apart. Largely unknown or traditionally avoided by Western tourists, we believe this region is an absolute gem in the making and that now is the time to visit before the crowds discover this hidden world.
This tour starts in the ancient city of Erbil, brimming with history and monuments that stand as testament to the numerous influences on the region. From here we head to Dohuk, with its fascinating bazaar before visiting the small town of Zakho with its stunning bridge, and in Suleimaniyah and Halabja we learn about the brutal legacy of Saddam Husseinâ€™s regime upon the Kurdish homelands. But Kurdistan is not simply about ticking off the sights; tourists are virtually unknown here so it is not uncommon to be asked to join people for tea or food, or to simply talk or pose for a photo.
The Kurds are a proud people and eager to show Kurdistan to the world, and your encounters with these resilient people will undoubtedly be your enduring memory of this trip.
Day 1 – Erbil
Arrive and transfer to the hotel. The rest of the day is free to relax or explore. Overnight Darin Plaza Hotel or similar.
Day 2 - Erbil
We begin our adventure by exploring on foot the capital city of Erbil, one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world and in our opinion, becoming one of the new hot spots of the Middle East. We visit the historic Citadel (Qalat Hawler), as well as the Kurdish Textile Museum, and time permitting explore the Qaysari Bazaar, a labyrinth of streets and alleys selling everything from fascinating antiques to sweet delights. Overnight Darin Plaza Hotel or similar. (BLD)
Day 3 - Gaugamela – Lalish - Dohuk
After breakfast, we depart for the third century St Matthew’s Monastery and take a tour guided by the local monks, then head to Gaugamela, the site of the famous battle between King Darius and Alexander the Great. Continuing we drive to Lalish, home to the followers of the Yazidi faith, before continuing to Dohuk where we visit a cave used for worship by Zoroastrians. Overnight Dohuk Motel or similar. (BLD)
Day 4 - Dohuk
Visit the churches and monasteries of Al Qush, including the third century Hurmiz monastery, once home to around six hundred monks. Then head to scenic Gara Mountain where we visit the remains of Saddam’s Palace. There were ten palaces built in the same region – all of which were opulent complexes where meals were prepared three times a day in anticipation that Saddam might visit at any moment. Although they are in ruins now, a visit here provides a fascinating insight into the difficult history of the region. Overnight Dohuk Motel or similar (BLD)
Day 5 – Amadiya – Barzan - Rawanduz
Head to the nearby mountain town of Amadiya where we visit the 400 year old mosque and see the minaret, with bullet holes from the Kurdish Civil War still visible. We continue south east to the town of Barzan, the ancestral home of the Barzani family who are central to Kurdish politics in this part of the region and then reach Rawanduz. Overnight Pank Hotel or similar. (BLD)
Day 6 – Dukan - Suleimaniyah
Leaving Rawanduz we pass through the mountains and down through Dukan, arriving into Suleimaniyah, the second largest city in Iraqi Kurdistan, and possibly the most relaxed and cosmopolitan. We witness first hand the terrible legacy of Saddam Hussein as we visit the Amna Suraka (Red Security) buildings including the many prison cells and torture chambers where thousands of people, mostly Kurds were imprisoned, tortured or killed. Overnight Hotel Dawa or similar. (BLD)
Day 7 – Halabja
We travel to the nearby village of Halabja, a place of almost unspeakable horror at the hands of Saddam Hussein’s military forces, and visit the Monument of Halabja Martyrs and the Halabja Cemetery before returning to Suleimaniyah. The afternoon is free to explore the city. Overnight Hotel Dawa or similar. (BLD)
Day 8 – Suleimaniyah - Erbil
Visit Suleimaniyah’s museum to see Kurdistan’s largest display of antiquities, dating back thousands of years. Afterwards drive back to Erbil via the ancient Qizqapan cave and the old Jewish city of Koisinjak. After lunch in Suleimaniyah, transfer to the airport for your onward flight. (BL)
This trip has no fixed departures but restrictions may apply - check operator website
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