Iraq Kurdistan holiday

A week long, small group tour of Iraqi Kurdistan in the north of the country, an autonomous region. And a fascinating, and most welcoming one too.
Erbil St Matthew’s Monastery Gaugamela Dohuk Al Qush monasteries Zakho and Delal Bridge Amadiya Barzan Suleimaniyah Amna Suraka (Red Security) buildings Halabja Qizqapan Cave Koisinjak
Price
£3435 excluding flights
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Duration
8 Days
Type
Small group
Group size
Up to 12 people
Reviews
More info
Price includes: Accommodation • transfers • guiding (We ONLY use LOCAL GUIDES) • meals as shown (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)• Maximum group size 12 people • ABTA and ATOL bonded • Single Supplement - From £325
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Description of Iraq Kurdistan holiday

This week long Iraqi Kurdistan holiday, sometimes called the ‘other Iraq’, is an extraordinary journey around this ancient region in northern Iraq, which has autonomous status. With parts of the region horrifically scarred by Saddam Hussein’s regime, we can’t avoid some of the memorials put in place to recognise these terrible times, but we can also celebrate its cultural and natural wonders which are now slowly being revealed to world travellers.

Iraqi Kurdistan is a fascinating and very beautiful place, with warm and friendly people and a profound if challenging history. This small group tour starts in the ancient city of Erbil, also the capital, which is packed with cultural sites and monuments that immediately show us what a vast history we are dealing with here. This is, after all, one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world and sites like its Qalat Hawler citadel, Qaysari Bazaar and maze of ancient streets capture this.

Travelling by private car or minibus, depending on the group size, we head from Erbil to Dohuk visiting more sacred sites en route and then spending a night in this picturesque town in the Tigris River Valley, totally enveloped by mountains. A fertile area, it is particularly famous for grape production, as well as other fruit and vegetables. Close to the Turkish border, it became an important hub for produce being grown or smuggled in during the years of sanctions imposed on the country. Like most places in this part of Iraq, there are many stories to be told and no better place to hear them than at Dohuk’s lively bazaar.

Zakho, with its stunning stone arch bridge over the Khabur River is another fascinating urban stop as are Suleimaniyah and Halabja, both of which were targets of Saddam Hussein’s brutality. The Kurds are a welcoming people, natural hosts, and are keen to share stories of recent resilience but also their ancient heritage, always over generous portions of tea and food. Visiting sites such as the Amna Suraka (Red Security) buildings in Suleimaniyah, where many Kurds perished, as well as the Monument of Halabja Martyrs and the Halabja Cemetery are difficult to take in, but a vital part of any trip to this region. You will also leave with some very happy memories of a thought provoking and totally inspiring destination.

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Price information

£3435 excluding flights
Convert currency:
Price includes: Accommodation • transfers • guiding (We ONLY use LOCAL GUIDES) • meals as shown (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)• Maximum group size 12 people • ABTA and ATOL bonded • Single Supplement - From £325
Make enquiry

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Holiday information

Small group tour:
Small group travel is not large group travel scaled down. It is modelled on independent travel – but with the advantage of a group leader to take care of the itinerary, accommodation and tickets, and dealing with the language. It’s easy to tick off the big sights independently – but finding those one-off experiences, local festivals, travelling markets and secret viewpoints is almost impossible for someone without the insider knowledge gained from years in the field. Those with a two-week holiday, a small group tour will save valuable planning time.

Reviews

2 Reviews of Iraq Kurdistan holiday

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Reviewed on 25 Apr 2019 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Interacting with the people and exploring the historical sights.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


There were issues with the tour operator's pre-trip information. 1) The given instructions where to meet our guide at the Erbil airport were terrible. After speaking with Balin, our guide, he told us that he specifically gave the tour operator precise instructions about getting on a bus and going to another terminal to meet him. Thank goodness for a kind local who offered to call Balin and let him know where we were. 2) The tour operator also did NOT inform us of the upgrade in hotels, also given to them in advance but never forwarded to the clients. I had called the tour operator earlier requesting that my traveling companion and I wanted to share a room with single beds but was informed that some of the hotels only had a double bed. Again, I asked the guide about this statement and he said that we were given wrong information by the tour operator. To say the least, I am very disappointed in the customer service and pre-trip information given by the tour operator.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


The local people loved meeting us and interacting. Yes, we did support conservation of their historical sites.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


In spite of difficulties with the booking company, this was one of my best trips ever, made very special with the energy and knowledge of Balin Zrar, our
guide...superb!

Read the operator's response here:

Hi,

Thank you for the positive feedback and we are delighted that you enjoyed the tour so much.

With regards to the couple of issues you had, the instructions for meeting the guide, including transferring from the arrival terminal to the meeting point with the guide are usually printed on your tour voucher. Our sincere apologies if this was missed off the voucher and we will make sure this information is always included in future.

A few weeks before your departure, you contacted the office and asked if we could provide twin rooms for you and your travel partner. We then contacted the local team and we were advised that it was not 100% guaranteed that all the accommodation used on the tour would be able to confirm a twin room until your arrival. When we advised you of this you informed us that you were happy to continue with single rooms.

We do hope that this has not spoilt your memories of Kurdistan.

Kind regards,

The tour operator.

Reviewed on 01 Nov 2012 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


The visit to the battlefield of 331BC Guagemela where Alexander the Great defeated Darius III was particularly good because of the excellent talk on the history and strategy employed. However the scenery in the mountains, the Kurdish people and the many historic and cultural site were all interesting and memorable.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


The more you have read about the area first the more I think you get from the trip. Be prepared to be flexible and enjoy it as it comes.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


We ate out at amny local restaurants and cafes benefitting local businesses but spent very little money really as there was not much time in shopping areas apart from fairly quick visits to bazaars and a v positive aspect of the trip is the lack of tourist infrastructure.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Very enjoyable, an very interesting itinerary, good guide with us, very safe driver (valuable given some of the roads and other drivers!) and an agreable group of people in the group.

Responsible Travel

As the pioneers of responsible tourism, we've screened this (and every) holiday so that you can travel knowing it will help support the places and people that you visit, and the planet. Read how below.

Planet

Our local partner in Kurdistan is instrumental in developing a regional policy for environmentally sustainable tourism and works very closely with the Kurdish Regional Government in advising them how to best implement this. This includes the preservation of some of Kurdistan’s key natural attractions and ensuring that the gradual increase in tourism and its associated services does not have a detrimental effect.

This is a concept that is still very much in its infancy in this part of the world and we are proud to be working with such a respected pioneer in this field at such a key moment in tourism. This includes such issues as waste management, management of scarce resources such as water, and ensuring that future developments in the tourism sector are carried out in an environmentally sensitive manner.

We work with our local suppliers to highlight best practice in terms of environmental issues, an important effort in a country where the environment is often taken for granted.

People

Our philosophy is to only use small and locally owned suppliers, meaning that the income remains within the country and creates a real economic contribution. We also feel that the passion inherent within such suppliers means that your experience will be enhanced. We also try to engage with our suppliers on an equal basis – getting the lowest possible price usually isn’t the best outcome for local communities and is ultimately unsustainable. We aim to always treat our suppliers fairly and with respect; they are after all part of the key to our success and to us working together is much more than just a business arrangement, but an ongoing relationship that we aim to ensure truly benefits everyone involved.

We believe that tourism is a double edged sword that needs to be wielded very carefully. Our philosophy is to have a limited amount of departures – usually between one and three a year - for each of our itineraries. By limiting our presence in areas where local culture can be quite fragile, we hope to avoid as much as possible the phenomenon whereby an area changes in character due to repeated and prolonged exposure to tourism. We want to visit an area as friends, not intruders and to ensure that what we see will also be there for others to enjoy for many years to come.

We only employ local staff and unlike many operators we believe that to send a foreign Tour Leader along to accompany your trip is an unnecessary burden on your wallet and our carbon footprint. We believe that locals know best. Our local operators only use locally owned accommodation. This means your money stays in the area to benefit the local community. When possible we use local transport, (i.e. rail or bus) and we always use local restaurants, markets and shops and encourage our clients to interact both financially and socially with the communities that they are passing through. In doing this your travels are supporting and encouraging the development of local services.

We only work with operators who are as committed as we are to putting something back into the communities we visit. This may include giving a percentage of the profits from each tour to a foundation to help street children or local conservation projects. Our local supplier in Kurdistan works closely with the Kurdish Regional Government to help protect the impressive archaeological sites to be found here.

Our groups average only six clients, and many tours operate on a private basis with just two travellers. This has much less impact when travelling through rural areas, reducing our environmental and social affects. Finally to emphasise our commitment to Responsible Tourism all clients will receive a copy of our Travellers Code of Conduct with their travel documents.

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