For the first time ever, YPT offers a combo that will take you to both Iraq and Syria. During this combo tour, you will have the opportunity to truly witness what was the forefront of news a year ago by visiting the sites of Southern Iraq, Iraqi Kurdistan and Syria which were on everyone lips.
During this tour, you will see the impact of the war in both Iraq and Syria but also learn more about the Peshmerga, who were fighting IS on the frontlines.
Following the fall of ISIS in 2017, YPT conducted our first ever research tour 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 area is spoilt with world-class heritage and is completely unspoilt by tourism meaning we will feel like the only foreign travellers in town. Since then, we have been growing more and more ambitious, now offering this ultimate combo.
There is a huge amount of ancient and modern history waiting to be explored in Iraq. We’ll travel from Baghdad north along the former death highway to Samara and back again to Najaf, Karbala, the Mesopotamian marshlands and onto Basra before boarding the only train in the country back to Baghdad. We cover a huge amount of ground with our expert local guide explaining all as we go.
Our tour then continues in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, a prospective new nation protected by the Peshmerga which was at the forefront of the fight with ISIS until the end of the recent war. 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. The trip takes us to the world’s only Yazidi shrine at Lalish (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.
Back in Erbil, we then fly to Lebanon’s vibrant capital, Beirut and from there will make our way to Syria the next day. This tour is your opportunity to see Syria at a unique point in its history. Until the recent war, the only thing most people knew about Syria was Palmyra and maybe the Krak des Chevaliers, and now Syria’s famous but for all the wrong reasons. But guess what – there’s a lot more to it than you’d expect! Starting with the buzzing old town of Damascus, the streets of which are lined with cool bars and cafes, and young locals smoking shishas and drinking cocktails, we’ll make our way to the war-torn old town of Aleppo, stopping on the way at charming coffee stands and destroyed villages. Shrouded in a coat of destruction, we’ll then visit Palmyra, which now requires special permission to get into, but despite its tragic recent history, is still a breath-taking site. A couple of Assad souvenirs, an afternoon relaxing in a hammam, and no doubt some genuine Syrian hospitality later, we’ll return to Damascus, before ending the tour in Beirut.
For a full-on combo and a complete incursion in the recent war for the Middle-East, why not join our Southern Iraq tour which takes place just before our Iraqi Kurdistan Tour for additional discounts?
Book this combo and your flights between Baghdad and Erbil, Erbil and Beirut as well as your accommodation in Beirut are included! Those expenses are excluded for those who join only one of the three tours. The MEA Erbil-Beirut direct flight often books out well in advance so please make sure to book this tour at least two months before the starting date. If the flight is booked out, YPT reserves the right to change the price of the tour to reflect changes in airfare.
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.
Meet your tour leader at Istanbul Ataturk airport before we depart on the 11am Atlas Global flight direct to Baghdad.
Arrival and meet up with our local guide and fixer who will give an introduction on travelling in Iraq and a breakdown of the itinerary for our stay. We also meet our fellow pioneers coming from Iran!
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. All on the drive in from the airport.
Dinner at a local restaurant with an incredible spread of tasty food.
We will try to enter the famous theme park of Baghdad. A fabulous place to mingle with locals. We will head on the ferris wheel to get some of the best views of the whole of Baghdad. (other rides optional, cost extra)
Overnight in the high security“Baghdad Hotel”. Complete with swimming pool, gym and bar!
Wednesday October 16th – 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 photography and our only souvenir stop!
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
Back to Baghdad for more sightseeing. A visit to 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.
Feast and overnight in Baghdad
Thursday October 17th – Karbala
Up early for the drive north to Samarra. We pass through multiple checkpoints along the route driving by many villages recently destroyed during fighting against ISIS.
Samarra is famous for its Minaret (also known as the Great Mosque of Samarra). We will climb the spiralling staircase all 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 to the prison which is long gone but its abandoned and ancient site of Agargouf Ziggurat.
Continue on south to Iraq’s holiest city of Karbala
Dinner and overnight in Karbala
Friday October 18th – Najaf
Up early for some Karbala sightseeing taking in the must-see Al Abbas mosque and Iman Husayn shrine
TRIP HIGHLIGHT – We are there on time for the Friday procession, where we will see hundreds of believers march and chant together.
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.
We drive to Najaf, the third holiest city in Shia Islam. We’ll take in its most important site – the Imam Ali shrine – similar to this morning, we should see some extremely zealous followers chanting and dancing.
Dinner and overnight in Najaf
Saturday October 19th – Basra
We wake up early for a walking tour of Najaf, including Imam Ali’s house (the very spot where imam Ali was killed) and the Kufa Mosque.
Drive south to the Mesopotamian Marshes. We’ll take a bout 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 rheir 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 onto Iraq’s southernmost city of Basra
Dinner and overnight in Basra
Sunday October 20th – Basra
We’ll visit the Ashar and Shanashil Al Basra area to catch a glimpse of the old Basra: old style merchant houses with balconies leaning over the narrow streets.
We 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 which we will be able to see from our cruise. Today it has been turned into the headquarter of one of the local militias.
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!
If you’re a train fanatic then this one is for you; we’ll take the only active railroad in Iraq; the night train from Basra to Baghdad.
Overnight on the train (seater or sleeper, depending on availability)
Monday October 21st – Baghdad/Erbil
Early arrival into Baghdad train station. The station itself a real highlight so we’ll take some time to get some breakfast and take photos here.
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. If we’re lucky, we might get inside the museum under it!
Say goodbye to those joining us for only the Southern Iraq portion of the tour.
Evening flight to Erbil.
Welcome dinner and drinks in Erbil and meet up with those joining us in Erbil for the Kurdistan adventure.
Overnight in Erbil.
Tuesday October 22nd – 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, 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 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 October 23rd – 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 October 24th – 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 October 25th – 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 October 26th – Sulaymaniyah/Kirkuk/Erbil/Beirut
Free morning to explore Sulaymaniyah with a visit to the famous “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 through the scenic route, visiting villages and stopping by the ruins of a caravan-serail.
Lunch in a fishing village.
We then complete the scenic two-hour drive back to Erbil, again, stopping for refreshments and photos along the way.
We head to the airport to catch our flight to Lebanon at 5.00pm.
Late dinner and check-in in Beirut, with free time to then explore its nightlife
Overnight in Beirut
*For safety reasons, we chose not to make the Syrian part of the itinerary public. For the detailed itinerary, please send an email to email@example.com*
• Letter of Invitation (Iraq & Syria)
• Accommodation in twin share basis, breakfast included
• Transportation beginning and ending in Beirut
• Entrance fees to all sites except when mentioned otherwise
• YPT guide and local guides
• Visa fees
• Single Supplement (€855)
• Syrian departure tax (2,500 SYP paid at the border)
• Single Supplement
• Lunch and Dinner
• International Transport to Istanbul and from Beirut
• Extra activities
• Personal expenses and drinks
We have expert guides ready to help answer any questions you may have.