Highlights of Kurdistan

Highlights of Kurdistan

Style: PioneerGroundbreaking tours to unique destinations
Duration: 8 days
Type: GroupTravel with a small group of other travellers


Day 1: Arrival in Erbil
Arrive in Erbil, the capital of Kurdistan, and transfer to your hotel. The rest of the day is at leisure to relax or explore. Overnight Van Royal Hotel or similar. (D)

Day 2: Erbil
We begin our adventure by exploring on foot the 7,000-year-old Citadel of Erbil, one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world and in our opinion, becoming one of the new hot spots of the Middle East. We visit the historic Citadel (Qalat Hawler), as well as the superb Textile Museum which features ancient Kurdish fighting tools, traditional dresses, handmade rugs, jewellery and ancient photos from Kurdistan but also from Iran and Turkey. Continue to the food market and covered Qaysari Bazaar, a labyrinth of streets and alleys selling everything from fascinating antiques to sweet delights. After lunch in one of Erbil’s most famous local restaurants, we visit the remaining parts of the iconic Choli Minaret, dated back from the 12th Century. Overnight Van Royal Hotel or similar. (BLD)

Day 3: Erbil - Gaugamela – Jirwana - Lalish - Dohuk (Approx. driving time today: 4.5 hours)
After breakfast, we depart for the fourth century St Matthew’s Monastery and take a tour guided by the local monks, then head to Gaugamela, the site of the famous battle between King Darius and Alexander the Great. We then continue our journey to the sacred village of Lalish, home to the followers of the Yazidi faith, stopping en-route at Jirwana, the oldest aqueduct and bridge ruin in the world. In Lalish we learn about the ancient rituals of the Yezidis who are considered by many to be the remnant of the original religion of Kurdistan. We end our day in the picturesque town of Dohuk. Overnight Dilshad Palace Hotel or similar. (BLD)

Day 4: Dohuk - Zakho - Dohuk (Approx. driving time today: 1.5 hours)
This morning we visit the churches and monasteries of Al Qush, including the third century Hurmiz monastery, once home to around six hundred monks. Then head to the ancient Jewish town of Zakho to see the Delal Bridge, a stunning stone arch bridge over the Khabur river and take a walk through the town. Later in the afternoon, we return to Dohuk and time permitting can explore the bazaar. Overnight Dilshad Palace Hotel or similar. (BLD)

Day 5: Dohuk - Amadiya – Barzan - Rawanduz (Approx. driving time today: 5.5 hours)
Head to the nearby mountain town of Amadiya where we visit the 400-year-old mosque and see the minaret, with bullet holes from the Kurdish Civil War still visible. Then we pass by a third century Synagogue and visit an ancient Egyptian Madrasa, reportedly founded by the University of Cairo centuries ago. After lunch we continue south east to the town of Barzan, the ancestral home of the Barzani tribe. The current President and Prime Minister of Kurdistan are from this region. We stop at the Mullah Mustapha Memorial for a learning about the history of Kurdistan’s most famous leader while enjoying a cup of chai. Our journey continues along the spectacular Hamilton Road and time permitting, we visit Shanidar, a Neanderthal Cave discovered in the 1950’s. We reach Rawanduz in the late afternoon and take the cable car to the top of Korek Mountain where we stay for the night. Overnight Korek Mountain Resort or similar. (BLD)

Day 6: Rawanduz - Dokan - Suleimaniyah (Approx. driving time today: 3.5 hours)
Leaving Rawanduz we pass through the mountains and down through Dokan, arriving into Suleimaniyah, the second largest city in Iraqi Kurdistan, and possibly the most relaxed and cosmopolitan. On arrival we visit Suli’s bazaar and the locally renown Sha’ab teahouse. Time and weather permitting, we walk to the summit of Goizha Mountain to get a view over the city. Overnight Hotel Copthorne Baranan Hotel or similar. (BLD)

Day 7: Suleimaniyah - Halabja - Suleimaniyah (Approx. driving time today: 4 hours)
After breakfast, we travel to the nearby village of Halabja, a place of almost unspeakable horror at the hands of Saddam Hussein’s military forces, and visit the fascinating Monument of Halabja Martyrs and the Halabja Museum and Memorial Cemetery before returning to Suleimaniyah. On the way back, we stop at the Ahmed Awa waterfall for a relaxed picnic lunch. The rest of the afternoon is at leisure to explore the city. Overnight Hotel Copthorne Baranan Hotel or similar. (BLD)

Day 8: Suleimaniyah - Erbil (Approx. driving time today: 2.5 hours)
This morning we witness first-hand the terrible legacy of Saddam Hussein as we visit the infamous Amna Suraka (Red House) buildings including the many prison cells and torture chambers where thousands of people, mostly Kurds were imprisoned, tortured or killed. Afterwards drive back to Erbil and, depending on the flight departure time, stop en-route at the ancient Zarzi cave. After lunch, transfer to the airport for your onward flight. (BL)