Join YPT, as we travel on one of our signature trips, to Iraqi Kurdistan — a prospective new nation protected by the Peshmerga which wete at the forefront of the fight with ISIS. Although it is only a few hundreds of kilometres away from Baghdad, Kurdistan couldn’t be more different than the south. 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 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 Lalish, 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.
Whether you are a former Pioneer, or new to us, you can join this trip in a region that is living history.
Guests arrive by own means and make their way to the hotel Dynasty Erbil located in the centre of the Christian District of Erbil.
For those that arrive early, we will take a trip to the bazaar to exchange money at the best rates.
We head to the Citadel of Erbil. While the building has seen better days, it offers some of the best views.
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 30th April
We begin the day nice and early for the two-hour drive to Lalish. 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, a well-preserved ancient Assyrian site , where our guide will explain to us the wonder that this road was.
Our next stop is at one of the world’s oldest churches built into the mountains in Alqosh. Monks used to hide in cave here. Alqosh is technically part of Mosul and Iraq “proper”. From the mountainside church, we will be able to see far away. Not so long ago, we could gaze into ISIS territory.
We head for lunch and a few beers in Alqosh, 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.
Overnight in Duhok
Wednesday 1st 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, where Neandertal skelettons were found , as well as for refreshments.
Walking tour of Rawandas before we head for dinner and drinks.
Overnight in a mountain resort. With our own cottage party !
Thursday 2nd May
We wake up to ride the high speed toboggan over the mountain (optional , extra cost )
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 3rd 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. From here, we’ll stand a few metres away from Iran . 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 4th May
We head out to visit the Red Prison . The Red Prison was an infamous building where Saddam’s goons imprisoned thousands of kurd civilians , exposing them to the worst tortures . It has been turned into a nice museum , complete with exhibits about the other strife of the kurdish people as well as an exhibit about the war on ISIS.
We head back to Erbil, but instead of taking the short cut, we head via the town of Koy, famous for its ancient winding roads and a caravan serail in ruin.
If time allows us , we stop for a dip at a lake on the way .
Lunch of fresh fish from the lake.
We then complete the scenic two-hour drive back to Erbil, again, stopping for refreshments and photos along the way.
We have a farewell dinner near the bazaar. There , the daring among us will be able to try some kurdish delicacies such as barbecued sheep tits and testicles .
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 5th May
End of tour, with YPT either able to arrange additional accommodation or transport to the airport.