The North of Iraq is a fascinating region with an incredible blend of millenary cultures, religions and ethnicities. It offers unparalleled mountain sceneries and off-the-beaten path monuments with some of the best food in the Middle East! We’ll explore the strife of the Kurds through decades under Saddam’s oppression and how they most recently vanquished ISIS. The perfect all-round travel experience!
Day 1: Road to Duhok
- We begin the day nice and early for the two-hour drive to visit Saint Hormizd Monastery churches built into the mountains in Alqosh, where monks used to hide in caves. Alqosh is technically part of the Iraqi province of Mosul, but is de facto in the autonomous region of Kurdistan.
- We then head to Lalish, the most sacred town for the Yazidi people. Yazidis are very endogamous and unique, and while being ethnically Kurdish, they differentiate themselves greatly in terms of religion with the Sunni majority in Kurdistan. Yazidism is a separate monotheist religion that can only be found in these northern regions of Upper Mesopotamia. This minority has been persecuted and oppressed for centuries.
- Khanis, the craddle of civilization in Kurdistan. A settlement built by Assyrian King almost 3000 years ago.
- Overnight in Duhok.
Day 2: Road to Amedi
- We will visit Saddam’s ruined summer house and currently a peshmerga (local kurdish fighters) camp. A good chance to meet first hand a few of the heroes that overthrew the IS.
- From there, we’ll head to Amadiya to see its beautiful old mosque, the synagogue ruins and the ancient gate built in 2nd century BC.
- We’ll finish the day exploring Shanadar Cave, a prehistoric wonder where neanderthal bones and utensils have been found.
- Overnight in Soran.
Day 3: Exploring Hamilton Road
- Hamilton road widely regarded as one of the greatest engineering feats of the 20th Century, the road was engineered by New Zealand-born Archibald Hamilton between 1928 and 1932. The road snakes through incredible scenery, from gorges, canyons, rivers, and mountains. We will stop along the way at Gali Ali Bag Waterfall, old Hamilton road, Rawanduz canyon, Bekhal waterfall, korek mountain ( cable car) and pank resort.
- While exploring these northern Iraq mountains we’ll head to Akre Town and visit Khanzad castle.
- Overnight in Erbil.
Day 4: Road to Sulaymaniyah
- Visit the town of Koya to see the ruins of the old caravansary and ancient bazaar. From there, we’ll explore Qshla Castle Dokan Lake.
- To finish our day of exploration, we’ll head up to Goyja mountain at sunset to see amazing view of Sulayimanyah city and the spectacular scene of Kurdistan’s second largest city by night.
- Overnight in Sulaymaniyah.
Day 5: Tracing the Iranian border
- We take the one-hour drive to Halabja, scene of the mass chemical attack on the Kurdish people, perpetrated by the Baathist regime, and we’ll visit the monument of Halabja and the mass cemetery.
- We head to Zalm village, the last village in Iraqi Kurdistan before the Iran border, and previously, the front-line in the Iran-Iraq war. We’ll stand a few metres away from Iran visit a very beautiful nearby waterfall.
- In the afternoon, we’ll visit the Grand Mosque and enjoy some free time in the market in Sulayimanya.
- Overnight in Sulaymaniyah.
Day 6: Sulaymaniyah.
- After breakfast, we visit the Red Prison, the infamous building where Saddam’s regime imprisoned thousands of Kurdish civilians, exposing them to the worst tortures. It’s been turned into a museum full of exhibits about the strife of Kurdish people as well as the war with the IS.
- After that, we’ll explore the city and make our way back to Erbil.
- Overnight in Erbil.
Day 7: Erbil.
- We’ll wander the city of Erbil, capital of Kurdistan, from the stunning Jalil Khayat mosque to the ancient citadel of Erbil, one of the oldest settlements in the World, with some evidence of occupation dating back to the 5th millennium BC.
- In our itinerary, we will also cover Minaret Park, Shanadar Park, the mesmerising Old Bazaar and the bustling money exchange Street.
- Farewell dinner in the Old City and overnight in Erbil.
Day 8: Goodbye & Fly out
- After breakfast, the saddest moment of any Expedition: saying goodbye!
Donation to Afghan Refugees$50 donation to support our Afghan Guides seeking refuge
HotelsShared rooms in 4star hotels (when available).
GuidesExpert local guide and fixer.
TransportPrivate minibus and driver.
Entrance FeesAll entrance fees to sites on your itinerary.
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I was part of the second Wander expedition destined for Syria. Unfortunately, a couple of weeks before our trip, we encounter issues with Visas, so rather than calling it quits and canceling the whole thing, Alvaro got straight to work and planned a last-minute trip to Kurdistan. We basically booked everything seven days in advance, and it was a fantastic time.
One of the best experiences in my life, not only because of the destination and its amicable people, but the group Alvaro put together was top notch. I am in contact with every one of them and have a traveling family scattered across the globe.
For me, the best part is the group component and the perfect planning Alvaro does. I don’t have many travel companions interested in farfetched destinations like Syria, Afghanistan, or Kurdistan. So I would have to plan and go by my self which is not ideal. Wander Expeditions gives me the chance to go to these destinations and make long-lasting friends in the process.
I will be joining many more Wander Expeditions in the future!
Thank you Hermano!
This spontaneous Kurdistan trip was one of the best! The group was originally set to go to Syria, but when visa issues arose about 2 weeks prior to leaving, Alvaro had a Plan B set up all ready to go and we just had to say yes to a new adventure! He selected an incredible group of people for the trip, and we became a fast family just on the first night. I even met my new-found best friend, and we’ve traveled to 3 other countries together (one of which was another expedition)! I always traveled solo before going on this expedition since I didn’t have friends that liked to travel to off-the-beaten-path destinations, but now I have a group of friends for life. I learned so much history from this region of the world and the itinerary couldn’t have been more perfect; Kurdistan was an incredible time and I can’t recommend it enough!
Rachel Scott –
Kurdistan was a last-minute switch because we couldn’t go to Syria. It was amazing! I learned so much about the region and its history. Our local partner guides were great and Alvaro made sure we saw all the major cities of importance.
The people on the expedition are amazing and I met a life-long friend there and we have since traveled together on another expedition as well as on our own mini group trip.
Get out of your comfort zone and get on one of Alvaro’s expeditions. It will change your life!