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 with either flying in from our Southern Iraq 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.
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 Dynasty Erbil hotel 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.
In the evening, we head for the welcome dinner, orientation, and drinks at our hotel, where we will review the itinerary as well as welcome our group coming from Southern Iraq.
Overnight in Erbil.
Tuesday November 10th – Lalish, Alqosh, Duhok
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 sometimes encounter Peshmerga along the trip and may have the opportunity to engage in an interesting conversation about the recent war with ISIS.
We then head to the Khanis archaeological site – an ancient pre-arabic palace where we can see some cuneiform writing.
Our next stop is at one of the world’s oldest churches built into the mountains in Alqosh. Alqosh is technically part of Mosul and Iraq “proper”.
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 November 11th – Amadiya, Sarcinc, Rawandas
In the morning, we head to Amadiya, an ancient Jewish city and then to Sarcinc, 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 Rawanduz. Stopping along the way for pictures at the Neanderthal “Shanidar Cave” – one of the most important caves of its kind in the world. We will enjoy refreshments here as well.
Walking tour of Rawandas before we head for dinner and drinks.
Overnight in Rawandas in our own cottages for a little cottage party!
Thursday November 12th – Sulaymaniyah
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 November 13th – Halabja, Tawela, Sulaymaniyah
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 November 14th – Sulaymaniyah, lake Dukan, Erbil
Free morning to explore Sulaymaniyah with a visit to the infamous “Red House” where Saddam imprisoned and tortured thousands of Kurds.
We again hit the road, this time back to Erbil, but instead of taking the short cut, we head via Dukan lake, where, according on time and weather, we’ll have the possibility to go on a short boat ride and checkout the dam. For a long time, this dam was unoperational because the Iraqi army stole the chip monitoring it when they left.
Lunch in a village along the way.
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 November 15th
End of tour, with YPT either able to arrange additional accommodation or transport to the airport for those who aren’t following