Join YPT as we journey once again on our Iraqi Kurdistan and Iran combo tour! Iran is a destination we know and love well; however, the lesser visited Kurdistan is 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 3,500 archaeological sites, and some of the most friendly and welcoming people on earth.
Our trip begins in Tehran for the Iran Revolutionary Tour. We hit the major Iranian highlights of Isfahan, Shiraz, and Persepolis, and hang out in bazaars, carpet factories and teahouses in the beautiful Iranian capital. We then head to Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan, taking us to the world’s only Yazidi shrine at Lalesh (40 KM from ISIS territory), before heading north to Duhok, the Saddam palace at Amadiya, and then looping around and heading south to Sulamaniyah, and back to UNESCO World Heritage Site, Erbil, checking out lots of amazing sights in between.
*Kurdistan is currently experiencing political uncertainty. Whilst this does not affect the overall safety of the tour, logistically things may change. Depending on the border and airport situation at the time, the journey from Erbil to Tehran may be overland via Turkey*
Whether you are a former Pioneer, or new to us, you can join this trip in a region that is living history.
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 nighttime atmosphere, drink some local tea and people watch.
Overnight in Parastoo Hotel.
Tuesday 9th October – 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 10th October – 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 11th October – Shiraz/Persepolis
Up bright and early to visit the colour-stained mosque when the morning light shines through spectacularly.
Late morning drive to Persepolis – a world-famous UNESCO Heritage site that dates all the way back to around 500 BC.
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 12th October – Shiraz/Esfahan
Drive to Esfahan with stop at Cirus’s tomb, an old fortress on the way. Teatime 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 13th October – 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 14th October – Esfahan/Tehran
Morning flight to Tehran.
Visit Mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini.
Visit the Revolutionary Martyrs Cemetery.
Stop at the Shah’s Monument AKA Revolution Monument for photos on the way from the airport.
Check into Asareh Hotel.
Farewell meal at the Armenian Club. Armenians are the main ethnic Christian minority in Iran.
Opportunity to have a drink of Armenian wine and vodka, the only legally allowed place to have alcohol in Iran.
Overnight in Parastoo hotel.
Monday 15th October – Tehran
End of tour and departure from international airport
Tuesday 16th October
Transport 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.
Wednesday 17th 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.
Thursday 18th 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.
Friday 19th 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.
Saturday 20th 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.
Sunday 21st 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.
•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