Iran, Iraqi Kurdistan and Socotra Middle East Mega Combo
Join our first Iranian Revolutionary Tour of the year, head to Iraqi Kurdistan and then visit the Yemeni island of Socotra on our chartered boat from Oman for this Middle East mega combo.
In Iran this tour takes us to all of the major sites in Tehran as well as the ancient capitals of Shiraz and Esfahan. On top of the rich history of the region, this tour also offers lots of opportunities to interact with locals, and witness the visual reality of the Iranian Revolution.
Then we head to Kurdistan – a prospective new nation protected by the Peshmerga and at the forefront of the fight with ISIS. Despite its significance and proximity to probably the most important war currently raging, Kurdistan offers not only safety, but beautiful scenery, famed in Middle Eastern literature as a paradise on earth, with more than 3500 archaeological sites, and some of the most friendly and welcoming people on earth.
The trip takes us to the world’s only Yazidi shrine at Lalesh (40 KM from ISIS territory), before heading north to Duhok, the Saddam palace, Amadiya, and then looping around and heading south to Sulamaniyah, and back to UNESCO World Heritage Site, Erbil, checking out lots of cool sights in between.
We then fly via Dubai to Salalah in Oman, before chartering a whole ship to take us to Socotra and back!
Suffering civil war, coups, revolutions, not to mention bombings in recent years, the country of Yemen is generally off the radar for tourists. Unless that is, you know about the island of Socotra.
Located between the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula where the Arabian Sea meets the Indian Ocean, Socotra is an ecological wonder of the world. Alien landforms sit above beautiful beaches, and the archipelago is home to a diverse and often unique flora and fauna.
Places for Socotra will sell out fast, so get in touch quick to book your place on this Middle Eastern Adventure of a lifetime!
Free afternoon to walk around Tehran, get to know your group.
Visit National Jewellery museum – the contents of this place actually back up the Iranian currency, a truly amazing experience and certainly one of the highlights of the trip regardless of if you are a jewellery fiend or not!
Visit to the heart of Old Tehran to soak up the night time atmosphere, drink some local tea and people watch.
Overnight in Parastoo Hotel.
Tuesday 24th April – Tehran
Drive through Tehran past anti-US propaganda and the US embassy (possibility of actually seeing inside the embassy, something which was considered impossible only a couple of years ago!).
Visit Saad Abad & Niavaran palaces, the last Palaces of the last Shah of Iran. Lunch at Darband hills.
One hour free time or tea by the river.
Shopping in the Tajrish Bazaar of Tehran and visit a nearby mosque. One hour free time.
Traditional Iranian dinner of kebabs at famous restaurant Ayaran restaurant, near Ferdosi square.
Evening walk around the city, with us taking the opportunity to try some shisha, fresh juice bar, and mingle with locals.
Overnight in overnight in Parastoo hotel.
Wednesday 25th April – Tehran/ Shiraz
Check out of hotel for morning flight Shiraz.
Visit the citadel in the centre of the city and mingle with locals.
Visit Grand Bazaar for some shopping and photos. Chance to buy old anti-American stamps from a local shop owner and collector.
Lunch in Saray E Mehr restaurant in the middle of bazaar for traditional Di Zi dish.
Free walk around the bazaar or relax with tea and shisha at poets house/tea house. Great chance to mingle with local students.
Dinner at hotel or out to a fast food joint for burgers, falafel, and sambusas.
Overnight at Parsian hotel.
Thursday 26th April – Shiraz/Persepolis
Up bright and early to visit the colour stained mosque when the morning light shines through spectacularly.
Late morning drive to Persepolis.
Lunch at traditional restaurant called “Paradise” on the way to Necropolis tombs.
Visit the botanic gardens of Shiraz.
Stop for traditional Shiraz ice cream at a famous local shop.
Visit a famous Hafeizieh Iranian poet’s park and tomb. Great opportunity to mingle with locals and take photos.
Dinner at hotel.
Exploring the streets. Shopping for military hats and patches.
Overnight in Parsian hotel.
Friday 27th April– Shiraz/Esfahan
Drive to Esfahan with stop at Cirus’s tomb, an old fortress on the way. Tea time break.
Lunch in a restaurant in one of the smaller cities on the way.
Go to the famous old Khaju bridge.
Walk across bridge and mingle with locals. Short rest at hotel.
Walk for a dinner at local restaurants.
Visit one of the oldest carpet shops. Explanation on a variety of Persian carpets and opportunity for a purchase. The presentation involves a show how carpets are made and explanation of 30 different styles of carpets.
Evening visit to the 300 year old Abbasi Hotel for traditional Iranian tea.
Overnight at the centrally located Esfahan tourist Hotel.
Saturday 28th April – Esfahan
Visit the beautiful Safavid Chehelsetoon Palace.
Sheikh Lotfollah mosque and Ali-qapoo palace.
Lunch in a traditional restaurant at the square.
Visit to Shah Mosque.
Free time to see square and shop for gifts at surrounding bazaar.
Chance to change money for small crisp rial denominations. There is an official change place with good rates but they also have a stack of small denominations that they hold. (They remembered us from last time and changed some money for the group).
Optional visit to Iran/Iraq war museum.
Visit Zurkhane gym to watch an ancient Persian sport workout, a strength building exercises done with traditional drum and bell music.
Overnight at the Tourist Hotel.
Sunday 29th April
Morning flight to Tehran.
Stop by the famous Azadi archway
Visit Mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini.
Head to the international airport for the 1pm flight direct to Erbil, Iraq.
Transfer to the Erbil Grand Hotel located in the centre of the Christian District of Erbil (which also means alcohol is widely available).
Walk through the ancient citadel, the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world!
Overnight in Erbil.
Monday 30th April
Free morning and afternoon in Erbil while the rest of the Kurdistan group arrives.
In the evening, we head for the welcome dinner, orientation and drinks at our hotel, where we will review the itinerary.
Overnight in Erbil.
Tuesday 1st May
We begin the day nice and early for the two-hour drive to Lalesh. This is the most sacred town for the Yazidi people and is extremely interesting. We will get a chance here to have some photos holding AK’s with the soldiers of the Peshmerga.
We then head to the Khanis archaeological site, where it is also possible to have a swim in the fresh water.
Our next stop is at one of the world’s oldest churches built into the mountains in Algosh. Algosh is technically part of Mosul and Iraq “proper”. From the mountainside church, we will be able to see the Peshmerga front line against ISIS.
We head for lunch and a few beers in Algosh, as luckily it is a Christian town!
Following our slow, late lunch, we drive onwards to Duhok, which is a pleasant old town for our overnight stay.
Walking city tour, dinner, and overnight in Duhok.
Wednesday 2nd May
In the morning, we head to Amadiya, home to one of Saddam Hussein’s former mountaintop palaces and is truly an amazing site. We spend a few hours exploring and admiring the breathtaking views.
We head to a locally famous cave restaurant for a traditional lunch.
Following lunch, we embark on one of our longer journeys: the four-hour drive to Rawandas. Stopping along the way for pictures at the Shamarda cave as well as for refreshments.
Walking tour of Rawandas before we head for dinner and drinks.
Overnight in Rawandas.
Thursday 3rd May
Drive the famously scenic Hamilton road. The road was built by AM Hamilton in the early 1930’s for what he hoped would unify the peoples of the region. Well, in fact, the road has been fought over many times, especially during the war with Iran.
We continue our journey stopping at various waterfalls and mountains for pictures, before getting on the only mountain cable car in the region for breathtaking views of the surrounding scenery.
Lunch at a countryside restaurant.
We take another scenic drive of around 3.5 hours to the second major city of Iraqi Kurdistan, and the most important regarding tourism, Sulaymaniyah. We will be stopping along the way for refreshments and picture opportunities.
In the evening, we take a walk around this historical city before heading into the Christian quarter for dinner and drinks.
Overnight in Sulaymaniyah.
Friday 4th May
We take the one-hour drive to Halabja. Halabja was the scene of the mass chemical attack on the Kurdish people, perpetrated by the Baathist regime. Here, we will look at the various shrines to the scene of this atrocity, as well as visit a local museum.
We head to Tawela, the last village in Iraq next to the Iran border, and previously the front line in the Iran/Iraq war. There is also a beautiful waterfall here that we will visit for some relaxation.
Lunch by the border.
We head back to Sulaymaniyah for some leisurely time at Azadi park and bowling centre.
Overnight in Sulaymaniyah.
Saturday 5th May
Free morning to explore Sulaymaniyah.
We again hit the road, this time back to Erbil, but instead of taking the short cut, we head via recently liberated Kirkuk. We will not stop in the town proper, but will instead do a driving tour of the city.
Lunch in a village around Kirkuk.
We then complete the scenic two-hour drive back to Erbil, again, stopping for refreshments and photos along the way.
We head to the Citadel for sunset, which, although it has seen better days, is still worth a look. We then head into the bazaar where your local guide will help you find some last minute bargains.
We have a farewell dinner near the bazaar.
It is fair to say you do not know a country until you have done a bar crawl, so we finish our time in Iraqi Kurdistan in true YPT style by seeing it off with a few well-earned drinks.
Overnight in Erbil.
Sunday 6th May
End of the Iraqi Kurdistan adventure, and we take a morning flight to Salalah in Oman, changing in Dubai
Check in at our central hotel
Head out for our first look at this port city and then dinner of local Omani food, before heading to the Oasis Club for a few drinks.
Overnight in Salalah
Monday 7th May
After breakfast we head for the old town and check out the Haffa souq local market and the beach
Lunch at the Ba’albek café for Lebanese food
Free afternoon to explore the Sultanate’s second city and stock up on provisions for the boat ride
We board our very own YPT charter ship at 6pm for the overnight sailing to Socotra.
Dinner on board but pack your own drinks!
Tuesday 8th May
9am arrival at Socotra and transfer to Adeeb’s eco-lodge in Hadibo to check in, relax, recuperate and have lunch.
After lunch we head to Ayhaft Canyon National Park. Hike in the park and swim in the freshwater pools. The park is renowned for it’s vegetation and birdlife
Drive to Delisha beach. Go for another swim in either the sea or the freshwater lagoon
Climb the huge sand dune overlooking the beach and watch the sunset over Delisha
Dinner and overnight at the Adeeb’s Eco-lodge
Wednesday 9th May
After an early breakfast, drive to the northeast of Socotra and explore the Dihammri Marine Protected Area
Dihammri is famous for snorkelling and has the best coral reef in Socotra. We’ll spend the morning diving or for those less keen on the water checking out the beach (diving equipment available to hire)
Lunch on the beach
Drive to Terbak village
Hike up the hillside then explore Hoq Cave (4 hour hike). Hoq is over 3000 metres deep and is the site of many archaeological findings in Socotra that date back nearly 2000 years.
Drive to Ras Erisel, the eastern point of the island where the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean meet. Known as a ship graveyard to the locals many wrecks are sunk in the ocean here.
Climb the Arher sand dune for a panorama of the area and to watch the sunset
Dinner and overnight camp at Arher campsite
Thursday 10th May
Set off after breakfast for a drive through the canyons of Defarhu Valley to the southern coast of Socotra.
Stop off in traditional villages for a look at rural life in Socotra
Drive to Hayf and Zahek villages which stand in the shadow of enormous sand dunes, before heading to Omak beach on the Indian Ocean
Swim, sunbathe or relax on the beach, or hike up to Digub Cave and explore it’s stalactites and stalagmites
Drive up to Dixam plateau (700 metres) to the Shebahon viewpoint for a spectacular view and a look at the Dragon’s Blood Tree – the quintessential example of endemic local fauna on Socotra
Dinner and overnight camping will be at the Wadi Dirhur campsite
Friday 11th May
Up bright and early to explore the western part of the island. Our first stop will be Qalansiya, a small traditional fishing town. From there we will hop on a boat and head to Shuaab
The boat ride is fun in and of itself, but we’ll try and spot spinner dolphins that regularly follow the boats!
Arrive in Shuaab and swim at the beach before we explore the mangrove swamp just behind it
Lunch in Shuaab
Get the boat back to Qalansiya and check out the Detwah lagoon, another place famed for its landscape and wildlife
Dinner and overnight camp at Detwah Lagoon Protected area
Saturday 12th May – Departure
After breakfast we have a free morning to enjoy the beach before we transfer to Socotra seaport and grab lunch.
Check out the visitor centre in Hadibo and grab provisions for the boat
Early evening sailing on our YPT charter boat and overnight on the boat
Sunday 13th May
Arrival in Salalah and end of tour
For those continuing to Somaliland we spend the night in Salalah before flying to Dubai.
•Visa (invitation letter)
•7 nights accommodation in mentioned hotel on TWIN sharing basis B/B
•A/C comfortable coach with professional driver throughout trip
•Iranian and Western English Speaking Guides
•Entrance fees for all mentioned monuments
•Portage at hotels and airport
•Tehran/Shiraz domestic flights
•Flight from Tehran to Erbil
– Boat trip between Salalah and Socotra
– Entry fees in the protected areas
– Accommodation Fees: hotels, tourist resorts, eco-lodges, camping in protected areas
– Camping equipment, cooking equipment and cook.
– Transportation: 4×4 private cars Toyota Land cruiser
– Local tour