Against the Compass EXPEDITIONS

to IRAQI KURDISTAN

Against the Compass EXPEDITIONS, exploring off the beaten track destinations across Central Asia, the Middle East and the Caucasus region.

EXPEDITION 2021 to Kurdistan region in Iraq

Why visiting Iraqi Kurdistan with Against the Compass

From the most mind-blowing landscapes in the Middle East to breathtaking Christian monasteries and some of the oldest cities in the world, Iraqi Kurdistan is an autonomous region within Iraq that will definitely break all stereotypes you may have about any Middle Eastern destination of this kind.

I have visited this region twice, and besides all the awesome places to discover, what I love about Kurdistan is that it managed to become a safe and highly pleasant destination to travel, despite belonging to a failed state which also belongs to the most turbulent region in the world.

Kurdistan, pink area of the map

Iraqi Kurdistan is the ultimate destination for adventure seekers, offbeat lovers and basically, for anyone wanting to step out of their comfort zones by exploring a truly unique destination not many people know about.

In this EXPEDITION, we will explore beautiful remote mountains, discover Saddam Hussein’s legacy, visit endless historical, cultural and religious sites and, of course, learn about the Kurdish culture. It’s a unique, exclusive itinerary only offered by Against the Compass. We will count with professional and knowledgeable local guides and of course, I will be leading and attending the tour.

Tour dates

From May 21st to May 28th (7 nights, 8 days)

Group size

In order to guarantee the quality of the tour, we will limit it to a maximum of 8-10 people.

And, who can join?

Anyone, from 18 to 99+ years old, who wishes to travel with a group of open-minded travelers.

8-day Tour Itinerary

A day-by-day summary of the places we will visit in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Day 1 – Erbil, the capital of Kurdistan

Our tour guide will meet you at the arrival terminal of Erbil International Airport. For that, you should share your flight itinerary with us in advance, in order to arrange pickup accordingly.

Before starting the tour, our local guide will give us an introductory explanation about this Middle Eastern region, as well as a bunch of safety rules to follow during our trip.

Erbil is a 7,000-year-old city, one of the oldest in the world, filled with historical sites and inhabited by some of the most hospitable people in the Middle East, the Kurds.

Kurdish people in Erbil

For sightseeing, this is my favorite capital in the Middle East. In our visit, we will visit the Old Citadel, Jalil Khayat mosque, the Christian district of Ankawa (where the coolest bars are), and the bazaar.

Lunch, dinner and overnight in Erbil.

Erbil main’s square

 

Day 2 – Lalish, Alqosh, and Duhok

Early in the morning, we will head for Lalish, home to the Yazidis, a religious group who mainly live across the Middle East, the Caucasus, Turkey, and Russia but Iraq has the largest population.

Yazidi people

Their religion is monotheist and it is a mix of Zoroastrianism, Islam, Christianism, and Judaism and, one of their holiest places is Lalish, a tiny village with an intriguing Yazidi temple.

We will visit the temple, meet the Yazidi community and then, we will go to Alqosh, a breathtaking Christian monastery carved out from the rock, as well as other archaeological sites and monasteries such as Khanis and Raban Hormizd.

We will finish our day in Dohuk, one of Kurdistan’s main cities.

Dinner and overnight in Dohuk.

Lalish
The main Yazidi temple

 

Day 3 – Sadam Hussein’s Palace and Amadiya

After visiting Dohuk, we will drive towards Amadiya, my favorite town in Iraqi Kurdistan, built on the top of a flat mountain, with incredible views of the valley.

al amadiya Iraq
Views from the Amadiya’s main gate, at sunset

It’s a 5,000-old historical village and believed to be the home of the Three Wise Man, who made a pilgrimage to Bethlehem to see Jesus Christ after his birth.

On the way, we will stop at one of the several (yet, the most impressive) abandoned palaces that Saddam Hussein had across Iraq.

*Sadam’s Hussein Palace has recently become a Peshmerga base, meaning that they closed it to visitors. Instead, we will visit one of Sadam’s Guest Houses in Amadiya.

In the evening, we will go back to Erbil and stay there overnight.

Amadiya from above

 

Day 4 – Akre and Dween Castle

Surrounded by beautiful nature and composed of a good-looking old city and houses, Aqrah (or Akre) is the most photogenic town in Iraqi Kurdistan.

We will spend the day exploring its windy alleys and drinking tea with the locals, not without stopping first in Dween Castle, a 4000-year old fortress located in a privileged, stunning location.

Night in Erbil.

Aqrah Kurdistan
Akre, Kurdistan

Day 5 – Rawandiz and the Hamilton Road

 

Jaw-dropping canyons, fairy meadows, deep gorges and traditional Kurdish villages.

Rawandiz is a small town surrounded by the finest and most beautiful landscapes in the region and we will spend the whole day exploring its natural wonders.

Rawandiz Canyon

We will also drive through the Hamilton Road, an internationally famous road built by the British in the 30s.

Dinner and overnight in Erbil.

The Hamilton Road

Day 6 – Dokan lake, Koya and Sulaimaniya

In the morning, we will drive towards Sulaymaniyah, the most Westernized and modern city in all Kurdistan. 

On the way, we will stop in Dokan lake, the summer getaway for local people, and a particularly cool place to chill-out for a while.

We will also visit the town of Koya, home to an ancient caravanserai and some peculiar old architecture.

Dokan Lake

If COVID-19 allows – as of today, it remains closed for healthy reasons – in Sulaimaniyah, we will visit the Red Security Museum, aka Saddam Hussein’s House of Horrors, located in what used to be the headquarters of Saddam’s regime.

Otherwise, we will just spend the afternoon and evening wandering around the bazaar and visiting its mosques.

Dinner and overnight in Sulaymaniyah.

Kurdistan tourism travel guide
The old tanks from Sadam Hussein’s regime, in the Red Security Museum

 

Day 7 – Halabja, Tawela, Ahmad Awa

We will wake up early in the morning to drive towards Halabja, a small town in which Saddam Hussein organized a massive attack with the use of chemical weapons, which killed thousands of people in a matter of seconds. We will visit a sobering memorial and museum, if COVID-19 allows.

After Halabja, we will visit Tawela, a traditional Kurdish-stepped village located right at the border with Iran.

Dinner and overnight in Erbil.

Halabja memorial
Halabja memorial

Day 8 – Back home and transfer

After enjoying our last Kurdish-style breakfast altogether, we will take care of your transfer to Erbil International Airport.

If your flight is later in the afternoon or evening, no problem, we can spend the day together hanging out in Erbil Old Town.

Tour cost

The total tour cost is 1,350€ per person, with a minimum of 8 people.

What’s included in the price?

  • Double/twin room accommodation in 3-star hotels, with breakfast included
  • Lunch
  • Private transportation around Kurdistan
  • Airport transfers
  • Entrance fees
  • English-speaking, knowledgeable guide
  • 24/7 in situ and remote assistance

What’s NOT included?

  • Dinner: In our experience, travelers always have different needs when it comes to eating dinner (budget, type of food, timings, quantity, etc) so we prefer giving you the chance to order whatever you like during your free time.
  • International flights
  • Drinks
  • Single supplement: You can have your own for the entire stay at an additional 170€ . Otherwise, we offer double/twin rooms, which you will be sharing with another like-minded traveler, if coming by yourself, of course.
  • Medical Insurance: However, we can take care of it (we won’t charge any extra fees) because most regular travel insurance companies don’t cover for travel in Iraq.
  • Visas (70USD)

Payments

Payments can be made by Standard Bank Transfer (Wire Transfer) or Credit Card or Paypal. Further details will be sent by email.

In order to secure a spot on the tour, we require a 20% deposit.

The deposit can be made by Standard Bank Transfer (€ or USD) or Paypal.

The rest will be paid upon your arrival in Kurdistan in cash, since bank transfers to Iraqi bank accounts are not possible these days.

Need to know about Coronavirus

As of today, passengers are advised to hold a negative Covid-19 PCR test certificate obtained within 48 hours prior to departure to the Kurdistan region in Iraq. This is very easy to obtain.

Upon your arrival at Erbil International Airport, you will have to take a second PCR test and pay the amount of 50USD.

Results will be notified on the next day and meanwhile, the authorities will keep your passport but no worries, you are free to hang out in Erbil and we will arrange your passport pick up on the next day.

A PCR test for leaving the country is also required. We will help you with that, no problem.

COVID-19 Cancellation policy

If the trip needs to be canceled due to COVID-19, we will refund you with 50% of the 20% deposit, as we need to cover basic costs related to vendor payments we already made.

The situation, however, is only getting better, so we believe this is a remote possibility.

Regular Cancellation policy

Our cancellation policy is as follows:

  • 60 days or more prior to departure – full refund.
  • 59-45 days before departure – 50% of your deposit.
  • 29-15 days before departure – You lose your deposit.

Do you have any further questions about the tour?
Just email me at joan@againstthecompass.com

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Iraqi Kurdistan EXPEDITION