Last Updated on May 26, 2021 by

Iraqi Kurdistan is a different place from southern Iraq and is actually safe to visit. Here’s my detailed Iraqi Kurdistan travel guide. Join us on our new Iraqi Kurdistan tours

When I mentioned I was going to Iraq, I received many looks of shock and horror. They were followed by questions and comments like, “Why would you want to go there?” and “Please don’t get killed there!”

Let me start by saying that what we see in the news doesn’t always reflect what is really happening on the ground. Not all of Iraq is covered with bullet-marked buildings and destroyed towns. In reality, there are some parts of Iraq that are safe to visit and are welcoming to travelers.

iraqi kurdistan travel guide

My Iraqi Kurdistan Travel Guide

Having been spared the war of 2003, Iraqi Kurdistan is a very different place from southern Iraq. Also known as “the other Iraq”, the semi-autonomous region is relatively safe, because of its strong military Peshmarga forces who have successfully defended the country from ISIS. I was blown away by how different Iraqi Kurdistan was to how many of us imagined. It wasn’t what one would describe as “war torn” at all — instead, the cities were bustling and vibrant, and the natural sights were spectacular. 

In all honesty, this trip to Iraqi Kurdistan was truly transformational. I didn’t know what to expect in Iraqi Kurdistan. I knew that it would be a learning experience, but I had no idea it would stir up so much emotions in me and change some of my perspectives in life.

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iraqi kurdistan travel guide - rawanduz canyon

Where is Iraqi Kurdistan?

Located in northern Iraq between Iran and Turkey, Iraqi Kurdistan is a semi-autonomous region often described as “the other Iraq”. Since 2003, it has had its own government (Kurdish Regional Government) and military who have done a great job at defending their borders from ISIS.

Landscapes wise, Iraqi Kurdistan couldn’t be more distinctive from the south. The area is covered with green mountains and snow-capped peaks, criss-crossed with valleys and lush waterfalls. On our trip, we did several short hikes to deep caves, took in views of canyons, and drove up to the top of mountains.

The cities in Kurdistan are prosperous and vibrant, with tall buildings and five-lane highways dotting the cityscapes. I was honestly surprised by just how much life there was in Erbil, Dohuk and Sulaimaniyah — they reminded me of Amman and Cairo!

iraqi kurdistan travel guide - map of iraqi kurdistan

Who are the Kurds?

What makes Kurdistan truly special is its people: The Kurds are an ancient people with a strong sense of identity and rich culture. Their descendants were indigenous people from Mesopotamia and they have a long history that goes back thousands of years. They are different from the Arabs (Iraqis) in many ways: from their language to cultural traditions and religious beliefs.

They are incredibly welcoming and more often than not, you’ll find yourself getting invited to tea or dinner at a local’s home. We were so lucky to get to meet plenty of them, including some Peshmerga soldiers and a local family who invited us to stay with them. The Kurds are also generally very honest and dignified people — rest assured you won’t get cheated of your money here.

The Kurds are incredibly fond of foreigners, especially those from countries that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The take down of Saddam led to a safer, freer and more autonomous Kurdistan.

iraqi kurdistan travel guide - friendly kurds

Why You Should Travel Iraqi Kurdistan

Any trip here is an eye-opening experience. I read all about the history and politics of the region before my trip — but nothing prepared me for it. Traveling Iraqi Kurdistan gave me the answers I was seeking for and helped me understand more about the Kurds and their desire to have a free, independent nation. (Scroll down to the ‘History’ section.)

For centuries, the Kurds have fought to have their own homeland. In September 2017, the Kurds held an independence referendum where 92% of them voted for independence. Yet, it was considered illegal by Iraq, and was not supported by UN or the international community. Until today, the Kurds, numbering around 35 million, are the biggest ethnic group to not have a homeland of their own.

The Kurds need support from the international community — OUR support — in order to gain independence. There are over 35 million of them in the world, with over 6 million living in Iraqi Kurdistan. They are such a big force to be reckoned with, and yet they remain ignored by the world.

The best way to help the Kurds get international support is by visiting Kurdistan, talking about them and spreading the word for them.

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iraqi kurdistan travel guide - wall art

Is it Safe to Travel Iraqi Kurdistan?

Unlike Iraq’s capital Baghdad, the Kurdish region is relatively stable. This is mainly because of its strong military Peshmarga forces who have successfully defended the country from ISIS. But I’d be lying if I said Kurdistan is 100% safe to visit. There are still instances of attacks from ISIS in certain areas, and conflicts between the Kurds and Arabs in others parts. It is best to keep abreast of latest developments and stay in the bigger cities.

There were fightings between Peshmerga and Iraqi military just last year, after the independence referendum in October 2017. Even though over 92% of the Kurds voted for independence, the referendum was considered illegal. Iraqi forces then struck back and took more land from Kurdistan— including Kirkuk, one of the biggest oil reserves in the region. Kirkuk and Mosul now belong under central Iraqi ruling and are not considered safe to visit.

All in all, I felt completely safe traveling in Iraqi Kurdistan. I traveled all over the region with a guide and we explored everything from deep gorges to waterfalls and ruins of Saddam’s palaces. There are also dozens of checkpoints in the region and security is very tight all over Kurdistan, and particularly at the airport.

iraqi kurdistan travel guide - barzan gorge

History of Iraqi Kurdistan

All the battle for land and independence started a few hundred years ago. The Kurds used to have their own territories, until the Ottoman Empire collapsed. The superpowers at that time, the British and French, divided them into four separate countries. The Kurds then became minorities in Turkey, Iran, Syria, and Iraq.

Because the Kurds have remained a separate ethnic group, they’ve always sought independence. This has resulted in almost continuous conflict and repression from the Iraqis.

In the late 1970s, the central Iraqi government began forcibly relocating Kurds and destroying Kurdish communities. Their efforts accelerated in the 1980s during the Iran-Iraq War, in which the Kurds backed the Islamic republic of Iran. In 1988, Saddam Hussein unleashed a campaign of vengeance on the Kurds — the biggest attack being the poison gas chemical attack in Halabja.

In 1991, Saddam sent tanks, artillery and helicopter gunships to attack the big cities in Kurdistan. A mass exodus resulted, where several millions of Kurds poured out of those cities and fled into the mountains, heading for the Turkish and Iranian borders.

Fast forward to 2017, the Iraqi Kurds held an independence referendum and an overwhelming 92.7% voted for independence. The Iraqi central government insisted it was illegal and the UN did not support them either. Iraqi Kurdistan ended up losing even more land to the Iraqis, including Kirkuk, one of the biggest oil reserves in the country.

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iraqi kurdistan travel guide - tanks at red prison

How to Get to Iraqi Kurdistan

It is surprisingly easy to enter the Iraqi Kurdistan (though a very different story for the rest of Iraq — more details in the next section). Most nationalities can enter Kurdistan without a visa, and flights to Kurdistan are really affordable from other parts of Middle East and Europe. You can also cross overland from Turkey and Iran, though you should check if the borders are opened prior to crossing.

By Air

From western Europe and other parts of the Middle East, you can easily fly into Erbil and Sulaimaniya, the two biggest cities of Iraqi Kurdistan. Most flights into Kurdistan will connect via Istanbul and Dubai. Flights to Erbil from Istanbul are really affordable and take only three hours. Pegasus Airlines fly the route for as cheap as US$300 return. I paid $450 for my return flights from Amsterdam to Erbil. Flights from New York to Erbil cost around US$1000 return.

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iraqi kurdistan travel guide - erbil airport

By Road

Iraqi Kurdistan has several borders with Turkey, Iran and Syria. The Syria border is currently closed due to instability on the Syrian side. Those who don’t need a visa for Iraqi Kurdistan can enter through these borders. These are the land borders that are still open:

Turkey – The main crossing is at the Ibrahim Khalil/Habur border. From Turkey, there are regular shared taxis leaving from the town of Silopi which will take you through the border and into the town of Zakho in Iraqi Kurdistan (cost = 20 Turkish Lira / 20,000 ID).

Iran – The popular border post is the Haj Omaran crossing located along Hamilton Road that leads from Erbil to Iran. Take the bus from Tabriz or Urmia/Orumiyeh. The bus leaves at 9am everyday and it’s best to book in advance. It costs 450000 rial ($12 USD) and gets you all the way to Erbil.

iraqi kurdistan travel guide - overland crossing

How to Get a Kurdistan Visa

Most nationalities can enter Kurdistan without a visa, including US, Canada, Australia, and EU passport holders. For other nationalities, you will need an e-visa to enter Kurdistan. Contact the nearest KRG representative to you and find out how to apply for one. Here is a list of KRG representatives around the world.

I applied for mine through the KRG mission to the EU in Brussels. They allowed me to mail copies of my passport and other documents, along with cash of 35 euros (US$40). I received my e-visa via email within a week.

Before your trip, you just need to print out the e-visa and show it at the ‘VISA’ booth upon arrival at the airport. You can then stay up to 30 days in Kurdistan, but you won’t be able to travel to other parts of Iraq beyond the Kurdistan region. Note that a visa for Arab Iraq is very hard to get and costs around US$500.

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iraqi kurdistan travel guide - kurdistan flag

Travel Iraqi Kurdistan Independently or Book A Tour?

It IS possible to travel Iraqi Kurdistan independently, but I highly recommend an Iraqi Kurdistan tour to really go under the surface and get to know it well.

Public buses only connect the main cities and the only other way to get to small villages and natural sights is by hitch-hiking. There is a lot to see in the remote, rural areas of Kurdistan. The region is mountainous and dotted with valleys, rivers and waterfalls that can only be explored on a tour. Also, one of the biggest charms of Kurdistan is Kurdish culture and the warmth hospitality of Kurdish people. Having a guide will bridge that gap and help you connect more with the Kurds, plus you’ll hear more first-hand stories from the war and genocide. 

Girls need to be careful when traveling solo. It is a man’s world here in Kurdistan and you’ll see only men in teashops or street food stands. Women don’t usually go out at night in Kurdistan. I had an incident in Dohuk where a thug bumped into me on purpose and tried to grope me, even though I was walking with my guide and two other girls. Thankfully nothing more happened.

We are running 2 Iraqi Kurdistan tours in 2020 during the two most important festivals of the year: Nowruz and Yazidi New Year. These are the best times of the year to visit Kurdistan, where locals will be dressed in traditional wear and celebrating the arrival of light with fireworks, bonfires and dancing.

We will be traveling with the local guide I used on my trip, Karwan Wahed. He’s an excellent local guide who’s passionate and knowledgable about all things Kurdish — he happily answered our questions on everything from the Kurdish genocide and Saddam’s evil doings to funny Kurdish jokes and pop songs. We had eye-opening conversations on Kurdish-Iraq relations, as well as fun times joking around and belting out Kurdish songs in the car. I can’t recommend Karwan enough.

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iraqi kurdistan travel guide - with our guide Karwan

When to Travel Iraqi Kurdistan

Spring, specifically May, is the best time to travel Iraqi Kurdistan. It’s when all the landscapes in mountainous Kurdistan get lush and green. Temperatures are also mild and pleasant, around 25 deg C (77F) in the day and 15 deg C (59F) at night.

I traveled Iraqi Kurdistan in mid-October when temperatures were mild and comfortable everywhere we went. Erbil was warm, with temperatures ranging around 23-26 degrees C (73-79F). In the mountains, temperatures dipped a bit to around 15 degrees C (59F) at the lowest. A small jacket was enough for the chilly evenings.

Kurdistan can be extremely hot in summer (between June to August) with temperatures rising to almost 50 deg C (122F), and very cold in winter (November to January) with snow in many areas.

iraqi kurdistan travel guide - Gali Seperka falls

How Long to Travel Iraqi Kurdistan

We traveled all over the region in 7 days. According to our guide, we saw almost everything we could have seen in Iraqi Kurdistan— though we did it at a pretty fast pace, moving hotels everyday. He packed in so much to our itinerary that we saw as many as 13 sights in one day!

I would recommend spending at least 7 days at the minimum, especially if you’re interested in hiking and seeing the natural sights of Kurdistan. The optimum length would be 9-11 days so that you can spend two days at each major city and also see the myriad of valleys and canyons along the way.

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iraqi kurdistan travel guide - view near Rawanduz Canyon

Where to Stay in Iraqi Kurdistan

Accommodation in Kurdistan is generally quite affordable and comfortable, offering good value for money. Most hotels have really good WiFi — I could do video calls and watch Youtube without any problem at all.

One thing to note: almost everyone smokes in Kurdistan and smoking is allowed everywhere, including in hotel rooms. It’s quite common to smell smoke in your room, either from neighbors or previous occupants.

Merci Hotel, Erbil — We stayed at this hotel three times over our entire week in Kurdistan. It became our home away from home. The small three-star hotel is about a 10-minute drive from the Citadel/Bazaar (historical town centre) and a $3-5 taxi ride away. There are kebab shops, grocery stores and restaurants right outside the hotel. It’s really affordable and quality of accommodation is good.

Kristal Hotel, Duhok — This modern hotel has apartments that are spacious and comfortable. We had a lounge area and two bedrooms, and 3-4 beds in each bedroom. There are also lots of bakeries and shops right outside the hotel, and it’s within walking distance from the city centre.

Soran Palas Hotel, Soran — Located near the beautiful Rawanduz Canyon, the Soran Palas Hotel is another comfortable three-star hotel with comfortable rooms. This hotel is located a few kilometers from the city centre on a highway, so make sure you have transport if you’re staying here.

Babylon Hotel, Sulaimaniya — Located in a quiet area in Sulaimaniya, Babylon is another decent three-star hotel ideal for budget travelers. WiFi is slightly slower here than in the other hotels mentioned above. Service is good and the breakfast spread is not too bad.

iraqi kurdistan travel guide - erbil

Things to Do in Iraqi Kurdistan

The biggest surprise from this trip was just how much there was to see in Iraqi Kurdistan. In one week, we saw plenty of natural sights: from blue waterfalls to steep gorges, spectacular mountains, and deep caves. We also visited a number of monasteries, Yazidi pilgrimage site and a mosque. Personally, the highlights of the trip were visiting Saddam’s palaces, learning about their tragic history at the Red Prison and getting to know a few Peshmerga soldiers.

Visit Saddam’s Palaces

During Saddam’s reign, he built over 60 lavish palaces all over Iraq for his own pleasure. Today most of these palaces have been destroyed and abandoned, but they offer an interesting glimpse into the past. Karwan brought us to two palaces: one in the town of Qadish, and the other on the highest point of the Gara Mountains.

The latter had a spectacular setting, overlooking the mountains and valleys. It was just amazing to see the crumbling ruins of the palace and see the views from there. Our guide also had a photo of how it used to look like, and it was truly a sharp contrast to what it is today.

iraqi kurdistan travel guide - saddam's palace on gara mountains

Meet Peshmerga soldiers

Saddam’s palace in the Gara Mountains is now guarded by Peshmerga soldiers, as it has been converted into a TV tower owned by the state. The Peshmerga (meaning ‘those who face death”) are Kurdish military forces who are well known worldwide for fighting off ISIS and successfully defending the Kurdish borders.

Thanks to our guide, they kindly invited us for tea and allowed us to ask any questions we had. It was such an honor sharing a table with them and hearing them talk about life as a Peshmerga. Despite receiving a measly stipend from the government, these soldiers chose to be a part of the Peshmerga in order to protect their families and their homeland. Having survived Saddam’s regime, they are proud that they have fought for the freedom that they deserve. Having the chance to sit down and chat with Peshmerga soldiers was truly the highlight of our trip and an experience that will stay with me for awhile.

iraqi kurdistan travel guide - meeting Peshmerga soldiers

Pay Respects at the Halabja Monument

One of the worst tragedies that the Kurds faced was the 1988 poison gas attack in Halabja. Orchestrated by Saddam Hussein, the gas attack killed over 5,000 people and displaced hundreds more. Many children fled to the Iranian border and some of them never returned.

We met Akram Mohamed, a survivor of the gas attack, who works at the Halabja Museum today. He was only 10 years old at the time of the attack. He had survived after being flown to Iran on a helicopter, and getting medical treatment in a hospital. For a year, he lived in a refugee camp in Iran. Sadly, all his family had perished, except for his grandparents. I cannot begin to imagine what it must have been like to go through a disaster like that — I can only thank him for sharing his story with us.

iraqi kurdistan travel guide - photos at halabja museum

iraqi kurdistan travel guide - halabja monument

Visit the Red Prison in Sulaimaniya

The Red Prison (Amra Suraka) was probably the most powerful museum I’ve ever visited (a close second and third are the Kigali Genocide Museum in Rwanda and Tool Seng Prison in Cambodia). Originally the headquarters of the Ba’ath regime’s Iraqi force, the center was used to imprison, detain, torture and kill thousands of Kurds. In 2003, it was converted into a museum with exhibits and photos from the atrocities that Saddam committed.

The prison has been left largely as it was the day of its capture by Peshmerga: structurally intact but studded with holes from warfare. The walls of the prison cells still bear witness to carvings from prisoners, while art sculptures that replicate prisoners stand in the haunting doorways. The Hall of Mirrors is covered with 4,500 light bulbs representing villages destroyed during the genocide, and 182,000 shards of broken glass—for every person killed.

In one of the rooms, you can also watch a BBC footage of the 1991 Kurdish mass exodus (where millions of Kurds fled to the mountains en masse following Saddam’s genocidal attacks). My guide Karwan was only 4 years old when he was part of the exodus. It was unfathomable that Kurds of my generation have gone through all that.

iraqi kurdistan travel guide - red prison in sulaimaniya

iraqi kurdistan travel guide - haunting art sculptures

Explore the Erbil Citadel

At 6,500 years old, Erbil is one of the oldest cities in the world. Towering over Erbil (locally known as Hawler), the fortified settlement has stood at that exact spot for thousands of years. The earliest evidence for occupation of the citadel mound dates back to the 5th millennium BC, and possibly earlier.

Unfortunately, today it is no longer inhabited and feels rather barren as restoration works are still in the process. The 840 families who lived in the citadel were evicted from the citadel in 2007, as part of a large project to restore and preserve the historical quarters. Only one family was allowed to continue living on the citadel to ensure that there would be no break in the possible 8,000 years of continuous habitation of the site. The citadel has been a World Heritage Site since 2014.

iraqi kurdistan travel guide - erbil citadel

Hike in and around Rawanduz Canyon

One of the most beautiful natural spots we visited in Kurdistan was the Rawanduz Canyon. The town of Rawanduz is perched right on top of the canyon, approximately 500m above sea level. A river snakes its way through the canyon, flanked by vertiginous rock walls. The landscape is absolutely stunning and makes for a great hiking spot. Shame that it was raining the day we visited and the muddy tracks were too slippery to hike on.

In the vicinity, there are plenty of things to do, including skiing at the Korek Mountain. Skiing is of course only possible in winter, but if you’re visiting outside of the season like me, you can catch a chair lift to the peak of Korek Mountain. The cable car travels a distance of 4km and at a height of 75m above the canyon.

iraqi kurdistan travel guide - korek mountain

Drive the Legendary Hamilton Road

Hamilton Road is a scenic road built between the narrow canyons in the Rawanduz area. It was built by a New Zealander named Hamilton, but a new road has since been paved to replace it. It connects Kurdistan with Iran.

Driving along the Hamilton Road will bring you deep within the canyons and also next to waterfalls such as Bekhal waterfall and Gali Ali Beg, said to be the highest waterfall in Iraq and featured on the Iraqi dinar note.

iraqi kurdistan travel guide - hamilton road

Make a Pilgrimage to the Holy Site of Lalish

Lalish is known as the holiest site for the Yazidi people. According to Yazidi belief, they are supposed to make a six-day pilgrimage to Lalish, at least once in their lifetime. 

The Yazidis are monotheists who absorb beliefs and traditions from Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism. The largest population of Yazidi (650,000) is found in Iraqi Kurdistan. According to the Yazidis, god bestowed the task of watching over the world to seven angels. Of these angels, Melek Taus (The Peacock Angel) is the central figure. The Lalish Temple is so important because it is the burial site of the Peacock Angel.

Lalish is definitely worth a trip, but you can easily spend hours here wandering the temple and chatting with locals. Before even entering the temple grounds, you have to take off your shoes as the entire mountain is considered holy by the Yazidis. When stepping into the temple, be sure to step over the threshold. I was surprised by the amount of people here — and even more so by how many of them wanted selfies with us.

iraqi kurdistan travel guide - lalish

iraqi kurdistan travel guide - selfies with locals

Wander Around Amedi Village

Perched atop a small plateau in the Dohuk province is the quaint and charming town of Amedi (also spelled Amadiya). The city is surrounded by steep cliffs on all sides. At this elevation, the city has one of the most picturesque locations in Iraqi Kurdistan.

From afar, it resembles a medieval castle in a fairy tale. If the town were in Europe, it would have long been transformed into a tourist town packed full of souvenir shops and al fresco cafes. But here in Iraqi Kurdistan, Amedi has retained a historical charm and manages to stay completely free of tourists.

The town itself is a typical Kurdish community, with no particular sights of interest. We were very lucky to be invited to stay with a local family in Amedi. Havgez and his wife Solin kindly put us up in their beautiful home and even made an amazing feast for us. Havgez spent hours chatting with us and sharing stories about his life with us. It was incredible to experience their hospitality.

iraqi kurdistan travel guide - amedi

Food in Iraqi Kurdistan

As with many other Middle Eastern cuisine, Kurdish food is all about meat. Grilled meat is the staple in Kurdistan and you’ll find shish kebab restaurants everywhere. Grilled vegetables, salad, rice or Kurdish bread are always served with the meat. In a casual sit-down restaurant, expect to pay around 3000-5000 dinars (US$3-5) for a meal.

Other Kurdish dishes include dolma (stuffed grape vines), shila u brinc (the Kurdish national dish made of chicken and rice), and okra bamiya (a tomato-based stew). The best places to try these foods are usually in private homes. Kurdish hospitality is famous, so don’t hesitate to say yes if you get invited to peoples’ home.

For those on a budget, you can easily get shawarma (slices of kebab meat served in samoon breads) or falafel (balls of mashed chickpeas) for around 1000-2000 dinars (US$1-2). There’s no shortage of shawarma shops whether you’re in a big city or small town.

It can be challenging if you are a vegetarian or vegan. Most falafel shops store the falafel together with meat. Soup often contains animal products (milk, butter, meat), and hummus may have some yoghurt.

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iraqi kurdistan travel guide - local restaurant

iraqi kurdistan travel guide - streetside shawarma

Internet and Data in Iraqi Kurdistan

Internet is surprisingly fast and easily available in Kurdistan. You can easily get a SIM card that has 4G data, with speeds up to 25mbps. I didn’t get one myself, but I did tether to my guide’s phone. It worked really well and I could upload videos and photos quickly. He also had mobile signal almost everywhere we went (even on the top of the mountain).

SIM cards are easily available at the airport and bazaars (especially the one in Erbil). Kurdistan’s telecom industry is largely dominated by these companies: Asiacell, Korek, and Zain. Fastlink is said to have the fastest 4G but can be pricey.

All the hotels we stayed at had free WiFi that was amazingly fast. I could do video chats and stream videos with no problems at all. Some shisha (hookah) cafes also have free WiFi, just look out for signs.

iraqi kurdistan travel guide - kurdish desserts

Money and Cost of Travel in Iraqi Kurdistan

The currency in Kurdistan is Iraqi Dinars. There are ATMs at the airport and also in some of the bigger hotels, as well as the Family Mall and Majidi Mall. ATMs are not easy to find outside of the big cities, so best to bring cash to avoid running out of money. Most restaurants and hotels don’t take credit cards.

Your best bet is to bring some USDs to exchange at the Citadel or in your hotel. You can easily exchange USDs and Euros in Erbil and Sulaimaniya, mainly in the Citadel and other parts of the city centre. Look out for glass stands that have stacks of cash on display (that shows how safe Kurdistan is!).

Iraqi Kurdistan is relatively cheap: expect to pay around US$30-50 per night for a single room in three-star hotels, and $5 for a proper meal with meat and rice, or a shawarma/falafel sandwich for just $1-2.

Hiring a guide generally costs around US$150 per day for each person. The more people there are in your group, the lower the cost per person. 

iraqi kurdistan travel guide - money in kurdistan

What to Pack for Iraqi Kurdistan

The Kurds are some of the most liberal and secular Muslims in the Middle East. Many Kurds lost faith in Islam after suffering under Saddam’s regime. Most still follow the general rules of Islam, and fast during Ramadan. But some of them drink alcohol. Only married women wear head scarves, and even then they have the choice to decide for themselves if they want to or not.

Don’t be too stressed about what to wear in Iraqi Kurdistan — the Kurds are forgiving of foreigners. Just make sure you don’t wear shorts (fine for men). Long pants are best and t-shirts are fine. Loose shirts and tunics would be the best. Skirts should cover your ankles (especially when visiting the Lalish pilgrimage site).

Make sure to bring a jacket and long-sleeved shirts if you’re traveling outside of the summer season. I wore my soft-shell jacket almost everyday on my trip in October. Also remember to bring a scarf for visits to the mosque.

Here are some of the essentials to pack for a trip to Iraqi Kurdistan:

1. North Face quick dry t-shirt: You’ll need around 4-5 of these quick dry t-shirts that are comfortable for hot weather. You can easily wash them and they’ll dry in one day.  

2. Moisture Wicking Tees: For chilly mornings and evenings, these long sleeve t-shirts are great to keep you warm even when the temperature rises later in the day. 

3. Soft Shell Jacket: Pack a thin waterproof, soft shell jacket regardless of the weather you’re traveling. It’s particularly useful for the rain. This also acts as an extra layer between your shirt and down jacket or parka. I used this almost everyday on my trip.

4. Quick-Dry Pants: These are something I wear on almost every trip. They’re lightweight, thin, comfortable and waterproof. I can wear them in winter and summer, without feeling too warm or cold.

5. Hiking Boots: A pair of sturdy hiking boots that are waterproof and protective for hiking, though a pair of sandals would do if you’re not planning to hike much. 


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iraqi kurdistan travel guide