Join YPT, as we travel on one of our signature trips, to Iraqi Kurdistan to celebrate the Newroz festival!
A prospective new nation protected by the Peshmerga which were at the forefront of the fight with ISIS. Despite its significance and proximity to probably the most tense area in the world, 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.
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.
We will also be lucky enough to be in the country to take in all the festivities surrounding the Newroz holiday, which celebrates the beginning of spring, represents new beginnings and is considered the most important Kurdish Festival on the calendar every year. The atmosphere in Iraqi Kurdistan during this holiday is fantastic with special local delicacies on sample, fireworks performances, live music, dance, and for good luck, the locals smash pottery
Iraqi Kurdistan is visa free for many nationalities. Whether you are a former Pioneer, or new to us, you can join this trip in a region that is living history.
Arrival at your own leisure into Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan.
Those arriving early have the opportunity to go and visit the Citadel. One of the world’s oldest settlement, 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.
Welcome dinner and drinks in Erbil
Overnight in Erbil, Quartz Hotel or similar.
Thursday 17th March – 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 as it is now maintained by only a few families, waiting for the Yazidi refugees spread out all over the world to come back
We then head to the Khanis archaeological site, here we can see cuneiform writings in the walls of what was a palace, pre-arabic times!
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”. From the mountainside church, we will be able to see what used to the Peshmerga front line against ISIS. Inside the caves, we will learn more about the life of the monks who lived here and their self-mutilation practices.
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
Friday 18th March – Rawandas
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 where we stay in our own cottages for a little cottage party!
Saturday 19th March – 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.
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, visiting its parks and bazaar.
Sulaymaniyah has a great street food scene so we go to the bazaar to try some of the local specialities for dinner.
Overnight in Sulaymaniyah.
Sunday 20th March – Halabja/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.
Lunch of some of the best kebabs in all Iraqi Kurdistan
We head back to Sulaymaniyah to visit the Red Prison. Here, Saddam’s regime imprisoned and tortured Kurds suspected of being anti-baath. We can visit the prisons and torture cells used at the time. There is also a new part of the museum dedicated to the very recent war against ISIS
Back in Sulyamaniyah we will head out for dinner and drinks.
Overnight in Sulaymaniyah.
Monday 21st March – Sulaymaniyah/Erbil – Newroz Festival
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 nonoperational because the Iraqi army stole the chip monitoring it when they left.
We then complete the scenic two-hour drive back to Erbil, again, stopping for refreshments and photos along the way.
Newroz is the most important holiday of the year for Kurds and we will be joining in celebrations where possible and appropriate
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 by seeing it off with a last night celebration
Overnight in Erbil.
Tuesday 22nd March – Erbil
End of tour, with YPT either able to arrange additional accommodation or transport to the airport
• Accommodation on twin share basis with breakfast
• Transport to complete the itinerary
• Breakfast and lunch
• English speaking local guide and YPT guide at all times
• Entrance fees unless otherwise specified