Tailor-Made Holiday

Highlights of Iraqi Kurdistan

9 days

from £3,475pp

Largely unvisited by Western tourists, Iraqi Kurdistan is a fascinating destination offering beautiful landscapes, ancient sites, colourful bazaars and a challenging history that pays testament to the resilience of the incredibly warm and welcoming people of the region.

  • Be one of the first to discover the 'Other Iraq', a hidden gem of the Middle East
  • Explore the ancient capital city of Erbil one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world
  • People watch over a cup of tea in one of the many Chaikhanas (tea houses)
  • Visit the site of Lalish, believed to be the point where Noah’s Ark finally grounded
  • Join the locals on a Friday for a picnic in the hills when traditional dress is worn and the weekend begins

This Kurdistan journey begins in Erbil before travelling through the provinces of Dohuk and Sulaymaniya taking in ancient monasteries, Mosques and Citadels plus history from the more recent times during the regime of Saddam Hussein. As well as the wealth of impressive historical sites the beauty of the natural landscape may surprise many ranging from dramatic mountains to lush valleys and fertile woods of walnut, pomegranate and fig trees. 

For a more detailed itinerary with great ideas on what to do and where to stay, please get in touch with our experts.

  Click here to see what is included/excluded

what is included

  • All accommodation
  • Gratuities
  • Internal flights
  • International flights as detailed
  • Sightseeing with private guide as per the itinerary
  • Transfers as detailed

what is excluded

  • Travel Insurance
  • Visas

PLEASE NOTE THE COST SHOWN INCLUDES INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS DEPARTING FROM THE UK, BASED ON AN APPROXIMATE AIR FARE. PLEASE ASK YOUR TRAVEL EXPERT FOR AN ACCURATE INTERNATIONAL FLIGHT QUOTE. INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS DEPARTING FROM THE UK ARE ATOL PROTECTED.

Itinerary at a glance

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Day 1

Fly London to Vienna

Fly Vienna to Erbil


Sprawling outwards into the desert, with the ancient Citadel of Erbil at its heart, Erbil is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Still as relevant now as it was in ancient times, the city remains an important business hub in the region.

Originally known as 'Arba llu' - meaning 'the city of four gods' - Erbil was religious capital of the Assyrian Kingdom. It was during this period that the city developed into an integral part of the Assyrian Empire.


You will be staying at Darin Plaza Hotel, Bed & Breakfast

Day 2

Half Day Visit to the Museums and Citadel
Head to the city's Civilisation Museum, which contains a wide range of archaeological discoveries from the surrounding region. These include pieces from Paleolithic times, as well as the more recent Assyrian and Parthian eras.

Continue on to the Textile Museum, lying inside the ancient citadel. Founded by a non-profit organization, this museum showcases a variety of Kurdish artefacts, whilst also demonstrating traditional weaving methods.

Afterwards explore the citadel, which dates back to the fifth millennium BC. Highlights include the ancient walls, Ottoman hammam and labyrinth of narrow alleyways.


Spend Half a Day Visiting Dwin Castle and the Choli Minaret
Travel to the ruins of the 12th century Dwin Castle, an hour's drive away from Erbil. Dating back to the time of the Ayoubi Dynasty, Dwin is the birthplace of Saladin Ayoub. A Kurdish Muslim who became the first Sultan of Egypt and Syria, Saladin was famous for his victory of the Crusaders at the Battle of Hattin.

Nearby, lies an unidentified graveyard. Explore this site and examine the mysterious carvings of swords that decorate the headstones.

Afterwards, return to the city and view the 2nd century Choli Minaret. Built from baked bricks and decorated with geometric patterns, the unique lean of this tower makes it one of Erbil's most iconic sites.


You will be staying at Darin Plaza Hotel, Bed & Breakfast

Day 3

Drive from Erbil to Dohuk via Jirwana and Lalesh


Leave Erbil and travel to Chwar-Stoon Zoroastrian fire temple near Duhok. Continue on to the nearby hilltop site of the Battle of Gaugamela, where Alexander the Great defeated Darius III, signalling the fall of the Achaemenid Empire. Next to Khinis to see the Assyrian rock carvings. Afterwards, visit Jirwana to see the ruins of the world's oldest aqueduct built for Nineveh by Sennacherib, King of Assyria in the 7th century BC and where you can inspect the cuneiform inscription.

Proceed to Lalesh, a pilgrimage site for Yezidi Kurds, descendants of the Zoroastrians. Inside this shrine is the tomb of the founder of modern Yazdism. (Note: Footwear has to be removed to enter, so it is good to bring a pair of thick socks.)

Finally, drive on to Dohuk, which is around an hour away.


Originally an Assyrian town named 'Beth Nuhadra', Dohuk is surrounded by rocky hills and lies below a dammed valley. With few tourist sites, many of Dohuk's main attractions lie outside of the city.

These include the tomb of Nahum, the Rabban Hormizd Monastery and the beautiful Gara Mountain.


You will be staying at The Hakar Hotel, Bed & Breakfast

Day 4

Half Day Trip to Al Qush and Rabban Hormizd Monastery
Head to Al Qush, the birthplace of the prophet Nahum, who lived in the seventh century BC. Most famous for his prophetic writings about the forthcoming end of the Assyrian Empire, Nahum was buried here and his tomb is housed in the village's abandoned synagogue.

Continue to the nearby Rabban Hormizd Monastery, once home to 600 cave-dwelling monks. Built in the seventh century AD, the monastery was founded by the famous Saint Hormizd. The buildings cling to a rocky mountainside, whilst monastic caves are hewn deep into the solid stone.


Spend Half a Day at Gara Mountain
Travel to the scenic Gara Mountain and visit the ruins of one of Saddam Hussein's palaces. Destroyed following Kurdistan's arrival at de facto autonomy in 1991, the Kurdish people vented their anger at Saddam's genocidal regime on this great edifice.

A number of similar palaces were built in this region, all of which were opulent complexes that remained ready for Saddam's arrival at a moment's notice. Such was the level of preparedness that meals were prepared three times a day in anticipation that Saddam might arrive at any moment.


You will be staying at The Hakar Hotel, Bed & Breakfast

Day 5

Drive from Dohuk to Rawanduz via Sulav Waterfall, Amadiya and Mustapha Memorial


Leave Dohuk and travel to Amadiya, passing by the Sulav Waterfall and a ruined 16th century madrassa. The journey will take approximately one hour.

The birthplace of pseudo-messiah David Aloy, it was here that he led his failed rebellion in the 12th century. Originally an Assyrian hilltop citadel, Amadiya was once impregnable. See the surviving sixth century Bab Zebar Gate, the ruined third century synagogue and the town's impressive 16th century minaret.

Continue on to the Mullah Mustapha Memorial, which remembers the father of modern Kurdistan. This is an hour away and the route passes by the Shanidar Cave, in which nine 18,000 year-old Neanderthal skeletons were discovered.

Drive on through a spectacular canyon, to the town of Rawanduz, which is around 90 minutes away.


Derived from the Kurdish for 'castle of the Rawends', Rawanduz sits above the steep-sided Rwandz Gorge, said to be one of the finest in Asia. The town first rose to prominence during the time of the Neo Assyrian Empire, due to its position on an important trading route to Nineveh, the Assyrian Capital.

Since then the town has passed from ruler to ruler, enjoying a period of stability as the capital of the Soran Emirate for almost 500 years. Unfortunately, it is also known for the actions of its genocidal ruler in the 19th century and the bloody massacres of its Muslim population - by Russian forces - in the 20th century.


You will be staying at Pank Resort Hotel, Bed & Breakfast

Day 6

Drive from Rawanduz to Sulaymaniyah via Dukan


Depart Rawanduz and travel to the riverside town of Dukan via the British-built Hamilton road that carves its way through this beautiful but challenging landscape. The journey will take approximately five hours.

Located at the head of the Dukan Reservoir, the small town of Dukan is picturesquely located. Stop here for lunch before continuing to Sulaymaniyah, which is around two hours away.


Considered the cultural capital of Northern Iraq, Sulaymaniyah is famed for its Kurdish singers, poets, writers and academics. Founded by a Kurdish prince in the 18th century, the city is much younger than many of its contemporaries. However, it has quickly developed into an important economic hub and cultural centre for Sorani Kurds.

Beautifully situated in mountainous surroundings, Sulaymaniyah is dotted with green parks and bustling bazaars. Of the many foods on offer on the city's streets, Yaprax - meat and rice wrapped in a delicate vine leaf - is the most famous.


Half Day Tour of the Archaeological Museum
Visit Sulaymaniyah's Archaeological Museum, the finest museum in Iraqi Kurdistan and the second largest in Iraq.

Housing collections from various dynasties, the artefacts range from Paleolithic times up to the Baban Era. Highlights include Neo Assyrian ivory carvings, golden jewellery from the 21st century BC and Early Islamic ceramics.


You will be staying at Dawa Hotel, Bed & Breakfast

Day 7

Half Day Visit to the Bazaar and Prison Museum
Have time to explore the city's thriving bazaar. Peruse the numerous stalls that are littered with traditional Kurdish foods, clothes and crafts.

Afterwards, have the option to visit the Red Intelligence Museum, previously the site of a notorious prison and Ba'ath intelligence headquarters. It was here that many Kurds were tortured by Saddam Hussein's brutal secret police.

Nowadays, the museum draws attention to this savage treatment of the Kurds under Saddam's regime and allows visitors to explore areas such as the cells and interrogation rooms. There is also a collection of Soviet-era armoured vehicles.


Spend Half a Day at Halabja
Visit Halabja, the site of the largest chemical attack against a civilian population. A monument now stands to remember those who lost their lives in this deadly attack by Iraqi forces on Kurdish villagers.

Perpetrated by Saddam Hussein, the attack involved a deadly cocktail of chemical agents. It took place in 1998, at the height of the Al-Anfal Campaign - a genocidal campaign against the Kurdish people that came towards the end of the Iran-Iraq War.


You will be staying at Dawa Hotel, Bed & Breakfast

Day 8

Drive from Sulaymaniyah to Erbil via Qizqapan and Koisinjak


Drive back to Erbil stopping at a number of points of interest en route. Your first port of call will be Koya, a village, little visited by tourists, whose central citadel and historic market make for an interesting visit. Continue on to the caravanserai town of Koisinjak, en route take in views of the distant Lake Dukan, Iraqi Kurdistan's largest lake. In Koisinjak explore the wonderfully atmospheric bazaar before continuing to Erbil, approximately an hour's drive away.


You will be staying at Darin Plaza Hotel, Bed & Breakfast

Day 9

Morning Exploration
Have the morning at leisure to explore Erbil.

Fly Erbil to Vienna

Fly Vienna to London

Destination Experts

Our experts have unrivalled firsthand knowledge of Iraqi Kurdistan

Charles Knights, Travel Expert

"Charles was most attentive without becoming intrusive, he changed the schedule several times to meet our changing needs."

"Charles was extremely helpful, swift in replying to emails and when he was away another consultant carried on the good work."

"Charles Knights was superb. He gave us all the information we requested, was very patient with the number of queries we had running up to our trip and was extremely helpful throughout from the start thinking about our trip to taking off. Fantastic service."

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Paul Craven, Travel Expert

" I spoke to five different companies, but Paul was by far the most knowledgeable and empathetic."

"The service which I received from your Travel Expert Paul Craven was excellent, he was able to answer any queries I put to him."

"Paul must be congratulated on his expertise and great patience in dealing with all my programme changes. He must dread my phone calls!! A big thank-you from both of us to Paul and Carol."

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For a more detailed itinerary with great ideas on what to do and where to stay, please get in touch with our experts.

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