Join YPT, as we travel on a Middle Eastern combo to Iraqi Kurdistan and the island of Socotra in Yemen!
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 3500 archaeological sites, and some of the most friendly and welcoming people on earth.
Our trip begins with either flying in from our Iran Revolutionary Tour, or joining us on the Monday by your own means, 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.
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!
Guests arrive by own means and are met at the airport by your local guide and driver, before we are transported 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.
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.
– 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 guide: (English, Arabic and Socotri speaking) and YPT tour guide
– Full board meals
– Boat trip to Shuaab for watching dolphins