A journey through Iraqi Kurdistan

A journey through Iraqi Kurdistan

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Short description

Our journey through Iraqi Kurdistan begins in the capital, Erbil. We will walk through the central square and visit the Jalil Hayat Mosque; we will enter the citadel of Erbil with its history of over 7000 years and will wander through the labyrinth of the central bazaar, one of the largest in the Middle East. We will do many other things in this almost unknown to us but very colourful city.

We continue inland, stopping first at the resort town of Shaqlawa, famous for its pastry shops and sweets. We will stop at the Bekhal Waterfalls next. Then we will gradually drive into Korek Mountain, where we will take an elevator up to a small vacation village with a pleasant restaurant and a magnificent view. At Pank Resort, we will ride on the canyon's roller coaster with spectacular views. Then we will walk through the small mountain village of Rawanduz and splash in the Gali Ali Bag waterfalls. At the end of this day, we will return to Erbil on the scenic "Hamilton" road, stopping along the way at Khanzad Fortress, which looks magical at sunset.

Next, we will head off to St. Matthew's Monastery, located on the former front line of areas controlled by the Islamic State. We will spend more time in the Yazidi village of Lalish with its unique temple. We will also stop at Khinnis, an Assyrian archaeological site notable for its rock reliefs, built by king Sennacherib around 690 BC. The most impressive sight of today will be the Rabban Hermizd Chaldean Monastery, after which we will end the day with an unforgettable sunset over the Tigris River.

We will continue to the city of Dohuk with its markets, the Dohuk Dam, Blackstone Cave and one of Saddam's summer palaces. We will also stop at Inishke Cave, which has been converted into a restaurant today. We will end the day in the ancient city of Amedi, where we will taste the local tahini for which the town is famous.

Before reaching Sulaymaniyah, we will stop at the town of Koya and the artificial Dukan Lake. In Sulaymaniyah, we will visit the "Red Prison" - an extensive memorial dedicated to victims of Saddam Hussein's rule and the Islamic State. In the evening, we shall drive up the Goizha Mountains to enjoy the magnificent panoramic views and the beautiful sunset over the city. We shall also see the Sulaymaniyah Museum, with the most extensive collection in Kurdistan and Iraq's second-largest antiquities collection. We will also visit the small Kurdish town of Halabja, known for the dictatorial regime's chemical attack on the town's residents, which killed more than 5000 residents. Finally, we will visit the small village of Byara on the Iran-Iraq border, where we will have time to buy souvenirs and have a late lunch in a unique pub. Return flight from Suleymaniye to Istanbul.

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Basic information

Dates: October 10-17, 2022;

Duration:7 nights/8 days;

Group: 7/8 people;

Price for the program in Iraqi Kurdistan without air tickets: 1,285 €/person (Group of 7/8 people); If the Group is smaller than seven people, the price increases slightly;

Included in the Price: A tour leader; local guide/driver; transportation in a minibus along the route; 7 nights in good hotels in rooms for two persons with breakfast; transfers from/to the airport;

Not included in the Price: lunches and dinners (the food is not expensive); entrance tickets (about $15 total); travel insurance (if you don’t have, we will arrange one); Visa ($70; available at Erbil airport); personal expenses.

(1) Flights with Turkish Airlines

Note: The group will travel from Sofia (Bulgaria) to Erbil via Istanbul (Turkey). We can arrange air tickets from your home country to Erbil via Istanbul so that we can meet at Istanbul airport, or we can offer another itinerary/air tickets. We can arrange a transfer to the hotel in Erbil if you are flying separately from the group. Please contact us for the available options.

Departure: Sofia 21.15 - Istanbul 22.45; Istanbul 00.20 - Erbil (Iraqi Kurdistan) 02.45;

Return flight: Suleymanliya 03.35 - Istanbul 06.25; Istanbul 07.30 - Sofia 08.40;

Price: 610 €/person. At the time of booking, the Price may be slightly different.

Requirements for entry into the country: A valid vaccination certificate is currently required. A PCR test is not required.

Visa: Visa is issued at Erbil airport and costs $70.

This program presents the main elements of the trip and is far from exhaustive. Please write to us so that we can offer concrete solutions for your case and circumstances. We can arrange flight tickets from anywhere in the world to the trip's starting point. We also can arrange hotel transfers, take care of particular documents or advise on Covid-related travel requirements. We will help at every stage of the organization. Please get in touch with us!

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The program

Day 1 Arrival in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan; a city tour

Early in the morning, we arrive at the airport in the administrative capital of Iraqi Kurdistan - the city of Erbil. Then transfer to the hotel and rest until about 10:00 am. After that, we will have breakfast and a city tour.

Historians claim that the city has been continuously inhabited since the 28th century BC, which makes it one of the oldest cities in the world (UNESCO). In the city, we will visit the central square, where locals gather to drink tea and socialize. This is where the essential part of the city's active social and cultural life takes place.

The Jalil Khayat Mosque, similar in style to the Muhammad Ali Mosque in Cairo and the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, was opened in Erbil on January 19, 2007, after being under construction for many years.

The citadel of Erbil (UNESCO) is more than 7,000 years old.

We will also visit the big Bazaar, have tea in a unique tea house and eat kebab in the most famous restaurant in town. We will also visit the abandoned Arab/Jewish quarter of the city. Overnight in Erbil.

Day 2 Shaqlawa; Bekhal Falls, Mount Korek; Pank Resort with the roller coaster and the canyon; Rawanduz Town, Hamilton Road with Gali Ali Bag Falls and Khanzad Castle

After breakfast at the hotel, we will continue to Shaqlawa, famous for its sweets and fruits. Then we will continue to Bekhal waterfalls, a popular place among Arab tourists. The next stop will be at the Korek Mountains, where we will take the elevator up to a vacation village with a beautiful café. The place is a ski resort with ski slopes and other ski facilities.

At Pank Resort, we will stop for the canyon's roller coaster with spectacular views. Then we will continue to the beautiful city of Rawanduz. The name comes from Raun, a famous poet of the area, and Douz, meaning citadel or tower. Mountains surround the site, and it is truly picturesque.

We continue our journey on the Hamilton road, passing a picturesque gorge. We will travel slowly to enjoy the stunning scenery and the sheer adventure of driving through this canyon. Construction of the road began in 1928 when the British took control of Iraq after the fall of the Ottoman Empire. Archibald Hamilton was the chief engineer of the road, which was named after him. The road is not only a vital transport connection but also a significant engineering achievement. Archibald Hamilton wrote a book about it entitled "The Road through Kurdistan".

We will stop briefly at the Gali Ali Bag waterfalls, considered the highest waterfalls in the Middle East.

Then we continue to Khanzad Castle, located on the road between Shaqlawa and Erbil. It was built during the Soran Emirate in the 16th century under the rule of Princess Khanzad and her brother Prince Suleiman Beg. The citadel is about 40 meters high, located on a small hill and is one of the well-preserved remnants in the area. It has its original shape and four round towers at each corner. In the evening, we return to the hotel in Erbil.

Day 3 St. Matthew's Monastery, the Yezidi village of Lalish, Hanis - the cradle of Kurdish civilization, Raban Hormiz Monastery, Dohuk.

Today we continue to the monastery "St. Matthew", which is considered one of the oldest Christian monasteries. It is known for its magnificent library and the substantial collection of Syriac Christian manuscripts. It was founded in 363 by St. Matthew.

We continue to the village of Lalish, founded thousands of years ago. There is a temple there, used by the ancient Sumerians and other early Mesopotamian civilizations. The cone-shaped shrine is believed to house the tomb of Sheikh Adi ibn Musafir, an important Yazidi saint. This place is sacred to the Yezidis, who make a pilgrimage here at least once in their lifetime. The village itself is uninhabited today. There are a large number of houses that remain unlocked and accessible to pilgrims.

We will also stop at Khinnis, an Assyrian archaeological site notable for its rock reliefs, built by king Sennacherib around 690 BC.

We will pass through Yazidi and Syriac (Christian) villages, where no other ethnic groups except Yazidis and Syrians (Christians) are allowed to settle.

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The next stop today will be the Rabban Hermizd Chaldean Monastery, a magnificent sanctuary founded around 640 AD. It has been carved into the mountains 2 km northeast of the town of Alkosh at an altitude of 815 meters. The place was inhabited by hermits who lived in caves and cells carved into the rocks. There are more than 40 cells, some of which are very difficult to access. Others have been gradually integrated into the monastery buildings. Like other monasteries in the Middle East, the system of interconnected caves was the primary means of protection from intruders and storage of valuables and food.

We will enjoy the sunset on the banks of the Tigris River - a magical experience. Overnight stay in the city of Dohuk.

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Dohuk is a Kurdish city with a population of about 250,000. We will visit the market with an ancient mosque nearby. Overnight stay in a hotel in the city.

Day 4 Dohuk reservoir; Blackstone cave; one of Saddam's summer palaces; Inishky cave;Amedi ancient city; Erbil

This morning we will drive to the Dohuk Reservoir, located north of the city. The reservoir was completed in 1988 to provide the area with water for irrigation.

Not far from the dam, we will visit the Zoroastrian Charsteen cave. The Zoroastrian religion was founded in the 6th century BC and was very popular in this area. In the cave, we will see signs carved into the walls that refer to Zoroastrianism. The cave's roof is still covered with hardened soot from the fires that burned in the caves for many years.

In the mountains near Dohuk, we will also visit Saddam's Summer Palace. During his 24 years in power, the Iraqi president built nearly 60 residences. There are two of them in the Dohuk area. We will visit the one located on the mountain, which is the most impressive.

Next, we see a cave where Neanderthals once lived. Then a field hospital was placed in it. Nowadays, it is a restaurant.

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We continue to the ancient city of Amedi, located on a high hill. It dates back to 2500 BC when it was part of ancient Assyria. From the city, there is a magnificent view of the entire surrounding area. There are natural water sources nearby, which make it an almost impregnable fortress. The place is among the most interesting in Iraqi Kurdistan and is famous for tahini. In the evening, we return to Erbil to our hotel for the night.

Day 5 Koya City, Dukan Lake, "Red Prison", and the Goizha Mountains with panoramic views of the city.

In Koya town, where we will stop for a while, there is an old caravanserai dating back to the 18th century.

Our next stop will be Lake Dukan, the largest artificial lake in Iraq, popular for fishing, boating and other summer activities.

We continue to the city of Sulaymaniyah, which was once the capital of the historic Kurdish principality of Baban. It is an important economic area of Iraqi Kurdistan and a cultural hub for Kurds who speak the Soran language. Since its foundation, Sulaymaniyah has been a place where great poets, writers, historians, politicians, scholars and singers have lived. It is one of the most remarkable cities in Kurdistan.

We will visit the "Red Prison", which is now a museum. This prison/museum symbolises Saddam Hussein's efforts to exterminate the Kurds in the region. The former prison houses a collection of photos and artefacts of the Peshmerga fighters who fought against the Islamic State.

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Of course, we will also visit the local market.

There is a fantastic panoramic view of Sueleymaniye from the Goizha Mountains. We will drive up at sunset when everything around us is bathed in the light of the setting sun. Overnight stay in the town of Sueleymaniye.

Day 6 Suleymaniye town - Suleymaniye Museum, Halabja, Byara village on Iran-Iraq border

Today, before lunch, we will visit Sulaymaniyah Museum, which has the most extensive museum collection in Kurdistan and Iraq's second-largest antiquities collection. It houses many Kurdish and ancient Persian artefacts dating from 1792 to 1750 BC.

The next stop will be Halabja, a city not far from the Iranian border. The place is famous for the chemical attack of the dictatorial regime on the city's inhabitants, which killed more than 5,000 residents. The horrible event happened on March 16, 1988. General Ali Hassan al-Majid, known as "Chemical Ali," the primary perpetrator of this crime, was hanged in 2010. We will explore the city and the memorial honouring the dead of the chemical attack.

Afterwards, we will continue to the Kurdish village of Byara, located right on the Iran-Iraq border. In this relatively remote village, there is a small market for souvenirs, mainly for the Arab tourists who visit the place. Foreigners do not come here often.

In the evening, we will return to Suleymaniye.

Day 7 Flight back to Istanbul or your home country

Return flight from Suleymaniye to Istanbul.

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A map of the tour

How to join us

Please email us if you would like information about this trip or to sign up. We will respond as soon as possible and keep you updated on the organization and all other details of the trip. If you are a ready-made group of at least 5 or 6 people (maximum 8), we can discuss dates that work for your group. You can also sign up for future organized and planned trips. To join the list, please send us your names. That's it!

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