Following the fall of ISIS in 2017, YPT conducted our first ever research trip to Baghdad and beyond in April 2018 and followed up with our first regular tour. It proved to be not only very safe but incredibly informative & fascinating. The region has world-class heritage in abundance and is completely unspoilt by tourism, meaning we will feel like the only foreign travellers in town. This is now quickly turning into a YPT signature tour and certainly one of our most interesting ones.
There is a huge amount of ancient and modern history waiting to be explored in Iraq. We’ll start our tour in Najaf which is well connected with flights and a good starting point away from high security Baghdad.
We’ll visit the ancient site of Babylon, the Mesopotamian marshes, see the holy city of Karbala and the southern city of Basra. We cover a huge amount of ground with our expert local guide explaining all as we go. We’ll be walking on the street and meeting people who are extremely eager to meet foreigners after their country was off limit for years! Prepare for all your preconceived ideas to be challenged but also to have a lot of fun!
We recommend booking this trip with a visit to the northern part of Iraq, to the autonomous region of Kurdistan, on our Whole Iraq combo.
Due to visa-related, security and logistical reasons, this tour is capped at 14 people and bookings will end two months before the tour so that the letter of invitation for the visa can be processed, demand is high, so book now!
For a tour of this nature, security is the most important factor and the itinerary is subject to change depending on the situation on the ground and the information we receive from our local partners. The local guide and YPT guide’s decision on eventual itinerary changes is final and taken with your safety in mind.
This morning, we meet at New Istanbul Airport at 8am and catch our our late morning Iraqi Airlines flight to Najaf (or catch flight QR456 at Doha Airport to Najaf) (Cost of the flight not included in the price of the tour, exact details to be confirmed nearer the time)
Arrival in Najaf and meet up with our local guide who will give an introduction on travelling in Iraq and a breakdown of the itinerary for our stay as well as an update on the security situation
Najaf is the third holiest city in Shia Islam after Mecca and Medina
After checking into our hotel we will go for a walking tour of Najaf, including Imam Ali’s house (the very spot where imam Ali was killed) and the Kufa Mosque as well as the UNESCO heritage site of the Wadi-e-salam cemetery.
Dinner in a local restaurant around the Imam Ali Shrine where after dinner you visit the shrine itself, the most important site of Najaf, for the late night ceremony.
Overnight in Najaf
Saturday 15th May – Najaf/Babylon/Karbala/Najaf
TRIP HIGHLIGHT – After breakfast we drive to Babylon, once the largest and most important city in the world. We tour the ancient ruins with our local expert and see what’s left of the hanging gardens.
Saddam Hussain Palace – Perched right on top of Babylon, the dictator made sure he had the best view of the site. We spend some time exploring the looted remains of one of his many former palaces.
In the afternoon we head to Karbala, considered a holy city by Shi’ite Muslims
We take in the must-see Al Abbas mosque and Iman Husayn shrine, shrine to the grandson of the prophet Muhammad no less. Today is a great day to visit because it’s the Wednesday procession. You can expect a lot of followers marching around the sites!
Drive back to Najaf where we’ll go out to a local restaurant for dinner
Overnight in Najaf
Sunday 16th May – Najaf/Nasriyah/Basra
After breakfast in the hotel we drive south to visit the Moon Ziggurat of Ur, a neo-Sumerian construction first built over in the year 2000 BCE and which has gone through various restorations throughout history
TRIP HIGHLIGHT – We continue our drive to the Mesopotamian Marshes. We’ll take a boat trip through the maze of marshes stopping by local villages for tea. The marshes once engulfed a whole swathe of Southern Iraq with numerous floating villages. Today the receding waters have led most families to change their livelihood but we’ll still see the few that remain.
Visit the Adam and Eve tree, AKA the tree of knowledge, in the village of Qurna. Legend has it that Eve ate the apple from this very tree in the Garden of Eden.
Drive on to Iraq’s southernmost city of Basra, economic powerhouse in the region
Dinner at a local restaurant
Overnight in Basra
Monday 17th May – Basra/Baghdad
After an early breakfast we head out to visit the Ashar and Shanashil Al Basra area to catch a glimpse of the old Basra: traditional style merchant houses with balconies leaning over the narrow streets.
Take a cruise across the Shatt Al Arab river and see some shipwrecks from the Iran-Iraq War from the 80s.
Just like most places in Iraq, Saddam Hussain also built a grand palace in Basra. And of course we’ll visit it.
Iraq’s biggest football stadium is in Basra. Iraqi’s love their football and are even more proud of the 60,000 seater Basra sports city stadium!
After lunch in Basra we hit the road again for the long drive north to Baghdad, with plenty of rest stops along the way
Dinner and overnight in our high security Baghdad Hotel
Tuesday 18th May – Baghdad
It’s a Baghdad city tour day and we kick things off with a visit to the National Museum.
Visit the incredible and well renovated Al – Mustansariya School. This is commonly known as the oldest school in the world.
Walk through the adjoining copper market. A wonderful place for souvenirs and photography
Grab a quick lunch
We drive an hour outside of the city to the ancient city of Ctesiphone. These days all that’s left is the palace archway which is the largest single span vault of unreinforced brickwork in the world
We head back to Baghdad for dinner in a local restaurant
Overnight in our high security Baghdad Hotel
Wednesday 19th May – Baghdad/Samarra/Baghdad
This morning we head out straight after breakfast for the drive north to Samarra. We pass through multiple checkpoints along the route driving by many villages recently destroyed during fighting against ISIS.
TRIP HIGHLIGHT – Samarra is famous for its Minaret (also known as the Great Mosque of Samarra). We will climb the spiralling staircase all l the way to the top for the 360 degree view. Not for the faint hearted!
Drive back to Baghdad and head straight to Abu Ghraib. No not the prison which is long gone but it’s abandoned and ancient site of Agargouf Ziggurat.
See the Liberation Square monument, which commemorates the establishment of the Republic of Iraq.
Drive by the victory over America Palace and see the square where Saddam’s statue was toppled in 2003.
And of course, Baghdad can’t be complete with a visit to the Flying Carpet Monument, Alibi Baba and the 40 thieves’ monument and the Magic Lamp monument.
Overnight in the high security Baghdad Hotel
Thursday 20th May – Baghdad
This morning we will see a few places we haven’t managed to already
Visit the incredible Suffi shrine, a welcome escape from the city’s hustle and bustle
The Al Shaheed Monument is the martyr’s memorial spot for people who died during the Iran-Iraq War. These days it’s a highly controversial monument, as it was originally built during the Saddam era.
See the Liberation Square monument which commemorates the establishment of the Republic of Iraq and the square where Saddam’s statue was toppled in 2003
And last but not least, we can’t visit Baghdad without going to the Flying Carpet Monument, the Monument to Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves and the Magic Lamp Monument!
End of tour for those not carrying on to Erbil, in Iraqi Kurdistan! Flights to leave Iraq from Baghdad international airport can be booked for the late afternoon and onwards with airport dropoff organized for everyone
• Iraqi Visa LOA support
• Accommodation on twin share basis with breakfast
• Transport to complete the itinerary
• English speaking local guide and YPT guide at all times
• Entrance fees unless otherwise specified
• Iraqi Visa to be obtained at embassy after LOA secured
• Single Supplement (€300)
• International flights to Najaf and out of Baghdad
• Lunches and dinners and personal spending
• Tips for the local guide and drivers
We have expert guides ready to help answer any questions you may have.