ATC EXPEDITIONS

KURDISTAN IRAQ

march 2022

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

EXPEDITION 2022 to Iraqi Kurdistan

Why visiting 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 a, particularly safe, autonomous region within Iraq that will definitely break all stereotypes you may have about any Middle Eastern destination of this kind.

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 March 14th to March 21st (8 days, 7 nights). We will be there during Nowruz, Kurdish New Year.

Group size

In order to guarantee the quality of the tour, we will limit it to a maximum of 8-11 people.

And, who can join?

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

We don’t discriminate by age or nationality but we are just looking for people who are willing to have fun.

8-day Tour Itinerary

Note that this itinerary may be subjected to change, depending on the political and COVID-19 situation.

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, the bazaar, Jalil Khayat mosque and, in the evening, we can all go for drinks to the Christian district of Ankawa.

Lunch, dinner and overnight in Erbil.

Erbil main’s square

 

Day 2 – Sulaimaniyah

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

After lunch, we will visit the different bazaars and mosques of Sulimaniyah.

We will finish our day over a few beers at the top of Mount Goyzha, from where you have magnificent views of the entire city.

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

Day 3 – Halabja (memorial day) and Tawela

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.

By the way, we will visit Halabja on the most interesting day of the year, March 16th, Halabja Memorial Day.

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 4 – Mor Mattai, Lalish, Alqosh, and Duhok

Early in the morning, we will head for the historical Christian monastery of Mor Mattai, located only 20km from Mosul, and very close to the former front line against ISIS.

Then, we will go to Lalish, the holiest place for Yazidis, a religious group who mainly live across the Middle East, the Caucasus, Turkey, and Russia but Iraq has the largest population.

Yazidi people

We will visit their temple, meet the Yazidi community and then, we will go to Alqosh, a breathtaking Christian monastery carved out from the rock.

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

Dinner and overnight in Dohuk.

Lalish
The main Yazidi temple

 

Day 5 – Sadam Hussein’s Palace, Amedi and Gali Sherana

After visiting Dohuk, we will drive towards Amedi, 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 abandoned palaces that Saddam Hussein had across Iraq.

Sadam Hussein Palace
A Peshmerga base located in Sadam Hussein’s Palace

After lunch, we will visit one of the most beautiful natural places in the region, Gali Sherana, a set of natural pools where we can certainly have a swim, depending on the weather.

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

Gali Sherana

 

Day 6 – 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

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

Dinner and overnight in Soran.

The Hamilton Road

Day 7 – Akre for Nowruz

 

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, waiting for the them to celebrate the biggest event of the year in Kurdistan: Nowruz.

During Nowruz, thousands of Kurds gather in Akre for dancing, fireworks and plenty of more surprises

Overnight in Erbil.

Aqrah Kurdistan
Akre, Kurdistan

Day 8 – Back home and transfer

After enjoying 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 1,390€ per person, with a minimum of 8-10 people.

What’s included in the price?

  • Double/twin room accommodation in mid-range hotels, with breakfast included
  • Lunch
  • Private transportation and driver 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 help you with that, at no extra cost.
  • Visas (75USD)

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

The situation will most likely be very different in March 2022 but nowadays, travelers are required to have either a vaccination certificate or a negative PCR test result (48 hours).

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.

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.

COVID-19 Cancellation policy

In the hypothetical case Kurdistan shuts down its borders due to COVID-19, the trip will be postponed.

If, for whatever reason, you can’t join in the new tour dates, 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.

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

or

Iraqi Kurdistan EXPEDITION March 2022