Join YPT, as we travel on one of our signature trips, to Iraqi 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.
Our trip begins in Erbil, before we head straight off to explore this unique region. 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.
Arrive by own means and make your own way to our hotel located in the centre of the Christian District of Erbil (which also means alcohol is widely available).
For those that arrive early we will take a trip to the bazaar to exchange money at the best rates.
In the evening, we head for the welcome dinner, orientation, and drinks at our hotel, where we will review the itinerary.
Overnight in Erbil.
Monday 15th October
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.
Tuesday 16th October
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.
Wednesday 17th October
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.
Thursday 18th October
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.
Friday 19th October
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 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.
Saturday 20th October
End of tour, with YPT either able to arrange additional accommodation or transport to the airport.