Destination

Clear Destination

Activity

Clear Activity

Date

Iraqi Kurdistan Cultural Discovery

Ancient Citadels, Sweeping Landscapes & Deep Encounters

 

Iraqi Kurdistan is a historically and culturally rich region with a turbulent legacy, but opportunities for travel here do exist. Join MT Sobek on an exploratory adventure through this minimally touristed area, experiencing first-hand its past glories and present struggles. Behold ancient Erbil - the world's oldest continuously inhabited city, tour third-century monasteries, the world's oldest-known bridge and aqueduct ruin, a biblical prophet's tomb, a mysterious Yazidi Pilgrimage site, explore Neanderthal Shanidar Cave, and learn about the moving history of Halabja. With expert guides leading you every step of the way, this is a unique chance to explore a spellbinding region of Iraq.

  • Experience ancient citadels, sacred monasteries, and holy villages, including mysteries of the Yazidi village of Lalish where visitors must remove their shoes to tread on the sacred ground

  • Journey through untouristed regions and experience the mystery - and warmth - of the local people

  • Via hiking, kayaking, and caving, immerse yourself in Kurdistan's incredible landscapes and unspoiled beauty

Contact an Expert

Arrive:

Erbil, Iraq

Depart:

Erbil, Iraq

Price: from $5,195

Duration:

10 Days

Departures:

See Dates

Group Size:

2-14 Guests

Min Age:

16 yrs

Activity:

Level 2

You will be walking up to 3-4 hours each day touring cities and villages, exploring monasteries, archaeological sites, and visiting museums, caves and nature reserves. There is one hike of 6 miles and 2 hours of kayaking.
Learn more here.

Download Detailed Itinerary

Click here to download the Detailed Itinerary.

  • Arrive in Erbil, Iraq

    Day 1

    Upon arrival at Erbil International Airport, in the capital of Kurdistan, meet your guide outside of customs and transfer to the hotel. Have a drink in the lounge while receiving a briefing on your stay in Kurdistan, then enjoy a welcome dinner with the group.

    Accommodation: Erbil International Hotel-Erbil, Iraq

    The first hotel in Erbil, the Erbil International Hotel is deserving of its luxury status. From its elegant lobby to its contemporary rooms, details of design and practicality are paid close attention to. Its acclaimed level of personal attention is a place of pride, ensuring guests a most welcoming and comfortable experience. There are two pools, fitness center, and spa.

    Meals: Dinner

  • Explore the Cultural Treasures of Erbil

    Day 2

    After breakfast, tour the 7,000-year-old Erbil Citadel - the oldest continuously inhabited city on earth, currently under UNESCO-funded restoration. Once a Sumerian city, journeying Abraham allegedly passed through here, and Darius III fled here after facing defeat by Alexander the Great. Explore the citadel's famous Kurdish Textile Museum, then browse the food market and Qaysari Bazaar for jewelry, carpets, antiques, and delicacies. After a lunch of local cuisine, briefly visit 12th-century Choli Minaret, one of Erbil's most famous landmarks. Dinner is at the hotel's fine restaurant.

    Accommodation: Erbil International Hotel-Erbil, Iraq

    The first hotel in Erbil, the Erbil International Hotel is deserving of its luxury status. From its elegant lobby to its contemporary rooms, details of design and practicality are paid close attention to. Its acclaimed level of personal attention is a place of pride, ensuring guests a most welcoming and comfortable experience. There are two pools, fitness center, and spa.

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

  • Visit Lalish & Ancient Sites En Route to Duhok

    Day 3

    Depart Erbil for fourth-century Dayro d-Mor Matay Monastery (St. Matthew's Monastery) and a tour conducted by the monastery's monks, then continue to Gaugamela, site of the famous battle between King Darius III and Alexander the Great. Behold amazing Jirwana, the world's oldest-known bridge and aqueduct (from 690 BC). After lunch of traditional Kurdish fare, visit holy Lalish - pilgrimage site of the mysterious and fascinating Yazidi people - for a unique cultural experience amidst its famous shrines and welcoming residents. Arrive in Duhok in time for dinner.

    Accommodation: Rixos Hotel-Duhok, Iraq

    Consistently considered the best hotel in Duhok, the Rixos hosts everyone from business travelers to newlyweds. Guest rooms are very comfortable and spacious, and those on the upper floors offer lovely views. Free Wi-Fi, various restaurants (serving regional and international fare), pool, gym, spa, and other amenities make the Rixos a solid choice.

    Transportation: 2.5-hour private van transfer

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

  • Take a Day Trip to Alqosh

    Day 4

    Today visit Alqosh, the tomb of Old Testament prophet Nahum (7th-century BC), and ancient monasteries and churches carved into the mountains, including Rabban Hormizd Monastery, founded around 640. After lunch, in the beautiful region of Sarsinc near Gara Mountain, explore the ruins of Saddam Hussein's ten palaces, replete with man-made lakes and miles of sandstone steps alongside streams that led into the mountains where rocket emplacements guarded the valley. Return to hotel for dinner and an evening of local entertainment at one of Duhok's finest restaurants.

    Accommodation: Rixos Hotel-Duhok, Iraq

    Consistently considered the best hotel in Duhok, the Rixos hosts everyone from business travelers to newlyweds. Guest rooms are very comfortable and spacious, and those on the upper floors offer lovely views. Free Wi-Fi, various restaurants (serving regional and international fare), pool, gym, spa, and other amenities make the Rixos a solid choice.

    Transportation: 1-hour private van transfer

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

  • Head East to Rawanduz & Korek Mountain Via Amadiya

    Day 5

    Leave for the ancient fortress city of Amadiya and its 100-foot-high minaret, pass by a third-century synagogue, and visit an ancient Egyptian madrassa reportedly founded by the University of Cairo centuries ago. Continue to Barzan, stopping at the Mullah Mustapha Memorial to learn about Kurdistan's most famous leader. Pass - and, if you choose, climb to - the famous Shanidar Cave, where Neanderthal remains were discovered in the 1950s. Travel the incredibly engineered Hamilton Road to Rawanduz, where one of the world's longest cable-car lifts carries you to the famed Korek Mountain Resort.

    Accommodation: Korek Mountain Resort & Spa-Rawanduz, Iraq

    Perched atop Iraqi Kurdistan's revered Korek Mountain, the Korek Mountain Resort & Spa offers day visitors and overnight guests more than just rest and relaxation. In addition to usual amenities, such as Wi-Fi and a fitness center, there is a hammam and an activities park - with skiing, sky gliding and swinging, paint ball, and other fun for all ages.

    Transportation: 3-hour private van transfer

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

  • Hike in Rawanduz Gorge

    Day 6

    Today enjoy hiking in the stunning Rawanduz Gorge. Walk along a trail that borders the gorge, through a rocky valley crouched between the Korek and Bradost mountains. Enjoy a picnic lunch along the way. In the afternoon, return to Korek Mountain Resort to relax or explore the area. Enjoy dinner at the resort's restaurant, an incredible blend of culture and cuisine.

    Accommodation: Korek Mountain Resort & Spa-Rawanduz, Iraq

    Perched atop Iraqi Kurdistan's revered Korek Mountain, the Korek Mountain Resort & Spa offers day visitors and overnight guests more than just rest and relaxation. In addition to usual amenities, such as Wi-Fi and a fitness center, there is a hammam and an activities park - with skiing, sky gliding and swinging, paint ball, and other fun for all ages.

    Activity: 3 hours/3 miles hiking with negligible elevation gain and loss

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

  • Travel to Sulymaniya & the Amna Suraka

    Day 7

    Travel to Sulymaniya, stopping in the beautiful town of Dokan for lunch. Upon arriving in Sulymaniya, visit the infamous Sulaymaniyah's Amna Suraka, or Red House. The cavern-like entrance of this prison turned museum is covered with tiny mirrors representing the more than 185,000 Kurds who Saddam Hussein "disappeared" during his bloody reign of terror. Visit Sulymaniya's bazaar, famous Sha'ab teahouse, and, time permitting, Goizha Mountain to enjoy a spectacular view for hundreds of miles to the Iranian border.

    Accommodation: Grand Millennium-Sulymaniya, Iraq

    Enjoy luxurious comfort at the Grand Millennium, one of Sulymaniya's most elegant properties. The beautifully appointed rooms offer sweeping views of the city and surrounds, and the spacious bathrooms offer added comfort. Free Wi-Fi, various eateries - including a sky-high revolving restaurant - and its pool, spa, and gym help ensure an unforgettable stay.

    Transportation: 3.5-hour private van transfer

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

  • Visit Sulymaniya Museum & Halabja

    Day 8

    Visit the Sulymaniya Museum, Kurdistan's largest and Iraq's second-largest antiquities collection. Learn about the issues around preserving Kurdistan's antiquities. Depart for Halabja, one of the Kurdish villages attacked by Saddam's chemical weapons in 1988 that killed at least 5,000 people and injured an estimated 10,000. Today the city lives again - testimony to the Kurds' amazing resilience - and the Halabja Museum and Memorial Cemetery is both fascinating and moving. Gaze on the beautiful Ahmed Awa waterfall where we'll have a simple picnic lunch. Return to Sulaymaniya and freshen up in your hotel. A festive farewell dinner will be taken in one of Suly's fine dining establishments in the city.

    Accommodation: Grand Millennium-Sulymaniya, Iraq

    Enjoy luxurious comfort at the Grand Millennium, one of Sulymaniya's most elegant properties. The beautifully appointed rooms offer sweeping views of the city and surrounds, and the spacious bathrooms offer added comfort. Free Wi-Fi, various eateries - including a sky-high revolving restaurant - and its pool, spa, and gym help ensure an unforgettable stay.

    Transportation: 1.5-hour private van transfer

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

  • Kayak on Dokan Lake & Return to Erbil

    Day 9

    After breakfast at the hotel, depart for Dokan Lake for some pleasant kayaking. Enjoy lunch around the lake. On the way back to Erbil, visit Koi Senjaq, an ancient caravanserai (hostel on the ancient Silk Road), and old Jewish silver bazaar. Upon arriving in Erbil, check into the hotel and get ready for a wonderful farewell dinner.

    Accommodation: Erbil International Hotel-Erbil, Iraq

    The first hotel in Erbil, the Erbil International Hotel is deserving of its luxury status. From its elegant lobby to its contemporary rooms, details of design and practicality are paid close attention to. Its acclaimed level of personal attention is a place of pride, ensuring guests a most welcoming and comfortable experience. There are two pools, fitness center, and spa.

    Activity: 2 hours kayaking

    Transportation: 2-hour private van transfer

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

  • Depart from Iraq

    Day 10

    After breakfast at the hotel, have one final opportunity for a Q&A before departing for the airport and your flight home.

    Meals: Breakfast

Iraqi Kurdistan Cultural Discovery

Download Detailed Itinerary

Click here to download the Detailed Itinerary.

What to Expect

 

Why take this trip with us?

Reason #01

MT Sobek has been trailblazing edgy and unknown destinations for 50 years and creating exploratory adventures that few other companies run.

Reason #02

You will be in the company of expert guides who have over 25 years' experience leading groups in the Middle East and in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Reason #03

We have successfully operated trips throughout the Middle East, including to Iran, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Saudi Arabia.

Meet your guides

Douglas Layton

Douglas Layton

Dr. Douglas Layton lived in Kurdistan for over 30 years and worked in various capacities there, including as the U.S. State Department Country Director of Health Care Partnerships, the National Director for Kurdistan Development Corporation and founded the first American English language school. He has traveled to more than 100 countries and started several International relief and development NGOs along the way.

Shayan Barzani

Shayan Barzani

Shayan Kamal Barzani was born in Iran in 1995. In 1998, he moved to Iraqi Kurdistan to live with relatives. He has a degree in computer science from Cihan University. He is currently writing a book about "Shanidar Cave", the Neanderthals, and their brief history in Kurdistan. He is passionate about revealing the secrets of his nation to the people of the world, a gracious host and knowledgeable guide.

Activities

Cultural touring by private van and on foot, with easy walks to discover ancient towns and historical wonders.

Lodging

Elegant resorts with spacious rooms and modern amenities. Includes two nights at the stunning Korek Mountain Resort.

Climate

It's temperate and dry. Temperatures range from the low 50's to mid-70's F in March and from the mid-70's to low 100's F in September.

FAQ

Who will meet me on arrival?

Our MT Sobek representative at the Erbil International Airport.

Is it safe for Americans to travel to Iraq?

Yes. In 2019 we operated our first commercial group tour to this area. Prior to that, we sent our MT Sobek Middle East Program Director to scout, assess and familiarize for safety and quality.

Do I need a visa for Iraqi Kurdistan?

Americans can get a free, 30-day visa on arrival at the airport in Erbil.

Will we be entering a war zone traveling to Iraq?

No, as you will be traveling to the semi-independent Kurdistan region of Iraq (KRI), where there is a blossoming tourism industry and functioning economy.

Do I have to fly to Baghdad to get to Erbil, where the trip starts?

No! Numerous European and Middle Eastern airlines have direct flights to Erbil. No need to connect in Baghdad.

What additional safety precautions do you take?

We register each trip departure with the State Department and the US Consulate in Erbil for added safety.

2021

Scheduled Dates

  • Oct 22 - 31, 2021
    $5,195 price per person dbl occ
    +$715 single supplement
    Wait ListConfirmed

Price Includes

  • Expertise and services of our experienced adventure guides
  • All accommodations as noted in the itinerary
  • All breakfasts, almost all lunches and dinners as noted in the itinerary
  • Snacks and water between meals
  • Additional regional guides and experts on many trips
  • Comprehensive Trip Planner with detailed pre-trip information
  • Private guided tours at historic sites, museums, wineries and other select attractions as noted in the itinerary
  • Special events and other select attractions as mentioned in the itinerary
  • All gratuities at hotels and restaurants
  • Equipment and experienced guides for activities as described in the itinerary
  • Park and other entry fees (unless otherwise noted)
  • Fares for trains, ferries and other modes of travel as listed in the itinerary
  • Select transfers as mentioned in the itinerary
  • Baggage transfers and porterage

Price Does Not Include

  • International airfare, airport taxes, and excess baggage fees
  • Alcoholic beverages (MT Sobek provides wine at select events)
  • Gratuities for MT Sobek guides and guide-drivers
  • Travel Protection Program
  • Personal expenses

Contact An Expert

800-974-0300

Need help picking your next adventure? Call us to answer your questions.

2022

Scheduled Dates

  • Mar 11 - 20, 2022
    $5,195 price per person dbl occ
    +$715 single supplement
    Available
  • May 06 - 15, 2022
    $5,195 price per person dbl occ
    +$715 single supplement
    Available
  • Sep 02 - 11, 2022
    $5,195 price per person dbl occ
    +$715 single supplement
    Available

Price Includes

  • Expertise and services of our experienced adventure guides
  • All accommodations as noted in the itinerary
  • All breakfasts, almost all lunches and dinners as noted in the itinerary
  • Snacks and water between meals
  • Additional regional guides and experts on many trips
  • Comprehensive Trip Planner with detailed pre-trip information
  • Private guided tours at historic sites, museums, wineries and other select attractions as noted in the itinerary
  • Special events and other select attractions as mentioned in the itinerary
  • All gratuities at hotels and restaurants
  • Equipment and experienced guides for activities as described in the itinerary
  • Park and other entry fees (unless otherwise noted)
  • Fares for trains, ferries and other modes of travel as listed in the itinerary
  • Select transfers as mentioned in the itinerary
  • Baggage transfers and porterage

Price Does Not Include

  • International airfare, airport taxes, and excess baggage fees
  • Alcoholic beverages (MT Sobek provides wine at select events)
  • Gratuities for MT Sobek guides and guide-drivers
  • Travel Protection Program
  • Personal expenses

Contact An Expert

800-974-0300

Need help picking your next adventure? Call us to answer your questions.

Go Private

Go Private

Gather your favorite travel companions to share an MT Sobek adventure on an easy-to-book Private Trip.

Choose from the selection of dates below for your group or if your preferred date is not available, we'll create a departure just for you.

Call or email us to get the ball rolling.

Private Trip Pricing:

2021 Pricing

2 to 3 guests from $6,595 per person double occupancy

4 to 5 guests from $6,195 per person double occupancy

6 to 7 guests from $5,695 per person double occupancy

8 to 9 guests from $5,395 per person double occupancy

10 guests from $5,195 per person double occupancy

	

Take Over One of These Dates

Make Your Own Dates in These Months

Price Includes

  • Expertise and services of our experienced adventure guides
  • All accommodations as noted in the itinerary
  • All breakfasts, almost all lunches and dinners as noted in the itinerary
  • Snacks and water between meals
  • Additional regional guides and experts on many trips
  • Comprehensive Trip Planner with detailed pre-trip information
  • Private guided tours at historic sites, museums, wineries and other select attractions as noted in the itinerary
  • Special events and other select attractions as mentioned in the itinerary
  • All gratuities at hotels and restaurants
  • Equipment and experienced guides for activities as described in the itinerary
  • Park and other entry fees (unless otherwise noted)
  • Fares for trains, ferries and other modes of travel as listed in the itinerary
  • Select transfers as mentioned in the itinerary
  • Baggage transfers and porterage

Price Does Not Include

  • International airfare, airport taxes, and excess baggage fees
  • Alcoholic beverages (MT Sobek provides wine at select events)
  • Gratuities for MT Sobek guides and guide-drivers
  • Travel Protection Program
  • Personal expenses

Contact An Expert

800-974-0300

Need help picking your next adventure? Call us to answer your questions.

Go Custom

Create Your Very Own Adventure

Dreaming of an adventure designed exclusively for you? With insider access and decades of experience, our travel experts create custom tailored adventures that are perfect for families, couples, and large groups. MT Sobek's custom adventures are designed to our exacting standards and led by our award-winning adventure guides.