Entire Iraq Tour
What's it all about?
The second half of the Iraq Tour takes us to the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan. Northern Iraq offers not only safety, but stunning mountain ranges with more than 3000 archaeological sites and some of the most friendly and welcoming people on the planet.
Basra – Nasariyah – Najaf – Karbala – Babylon – Baghdad – Samarra – Mosul – Erbil – Sulaymaniyah – Halabja – Rawandas – Duhok – Lalish – Erbil.
September 24th – October 8th, 2023
For Kurdistan, luckily it’s visa free for most nationalities including the EU, US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. If you’re not sure if you qualify just ask us and we’ll let you know.
For Southern Iraq a new visa on arrival scheme has been announced for citizens of the EU, UK, US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, Russia, China, Japan & South Korea. If you are not from one of these countries then we will apply for a visa on your behalf. An invitation letter is issued and you can bring this to your local embassy to apply for the visa.
September 24th - Basra - Arrival Day
- Arrival into Basra at your own leisure. Airport transfers provided to our hotel.
- Today is mainly an arrival day so you’ll have free time before we meet up in the hotel lobby at 6pm.
- Meet & greet / discuss the itinerary before heading out for a group dinner.
- Overnight in Basra.
September 25th - Basra
- Breakfast at the hotel before exploring Basra for the day.
- Visit the Ashar and Shanashil Al Basra area to catch a glimpse of the old Basra: traditional style merchant houses with balconies leaning over the narrow streets.
- Take a cruise across the Shatt Al Arab river and see some shipwrecks from the Iran-Iraq War from the 1980s.
- See the famed Tree of Knowledge – the same tree, according to local legend, that Eve ate from in the Garden of Eden.
- Traditional Iraqi Lunch.
- We’ll also have the opportunity to explore one of Saddam Hussain’s palaces’ – the now converted Basra Museum.
- After we’ll stop by the Souq and the historic old Central Railway Station.
- Dinner and overnight in Basra.
September 26th - Chibayesh | Ur | Uruk | Najaf
- Up super early for sunrise in Mesopotamian Marshes! We’ll take a boat trip through the maze of marshes stopping by local villages for tea. The marshes once engulfed a whole swathe of Southern Iraq with numerous floating villages. Today the receding waters have led most families to change their livelihood but we’ll still see the few that remain.
- It is also home to the Maʻdān population who over the centuries have adapted to life on the water. Stop by a traditional house for lunch and tea.
- Tour the local market of Chibayesh and have lunch in a traditional reed house.
- Continue to visit the Ziggurat of Ur, a neo-Sumerian construction built in 2000 BC. This used to be the capital of Mesopotamia during the Sumerian time and it is a UNESCO world heritage site since 2016.
- Drive to Ancient Uruk – home of the world’s oldest civilisation and first alphabet.
- Drive to Najaf.
- Dinner and overnight in Najaf.
September 27th - Najaf & Karbala
- Najaf tour, including Imam Ali’s house (the very spot where imam Ali was killed) and the Imam Ali Shrine itself.
- Visit the Wadi-Us-Salaam – the world’s largest graveyard. It is said to contain tens of millions of bodies. Many shiites request to be buried here in one of the numerous catacombs.
- After lunch head to Karbala and visit the holy city’s famous Al Abbas mosque and Iman Husayn shrine at dusk.
- It’s also home to some of the best baclava in Iraq!
- Dinner and overnight in Karbala.
September 28th - Babylon & Baghdad
- Drive to Babylon, once the largest and most important city in the world. We tour the ancient ruins with our local expert and see what’s left of the hanging gardens.
- Saddam Hussain Palace – Perched right on top of Babylon, the dictator made sure he had the best view of the site. We spend some time exploring the looted remains of one of his many former palaces.
- Trip Highlight – *We’ll have a picnic lunch inside Saddam’s abandoned palace!*
- After extensively exploring Babylon, continue onto the ancient city of Ctesiphone.
- These days all that’s left is the palace archway which is the largest single span vault of unenforced brickwork in the world.
- Drive an hour to Baghdad.
- Visit the Save Iraqi Culture Monument.
- Dinner and overnight in Baghdad.
September 29th - Baghdad
- After a delicious local breakfast, it’s a full Baghdad city tour starting with the Liberation Square monument in Tahrir Square, which commemorates the establishment of the Republic of Iraq.
- Visit to the National Museum of Iraq. Reopened in 2015 after notorious looting during the war, it contains various treasure from the Mesopotamian and Babylonian periods.
- Stroll along the Tigris River and cross over the water on a boat.
- Visit the incredible and well renovated Al–Mustansariya School. This is commonly known as the oldest school in the world.
- Walk through the book market and adjoining copper market. A great place for souvenirs and photography.
- Take a well deserved break in the Shabinder cafe for tea and Shisha.
- Lunch in the famous Kubba restaurant next door.
- The Al Shaheed Monument is the martyr’s memorial spot for people who died during the Iran-Iraq War. These days it’s a highly controversial monument, as it was originally built during the Saddam era.
- Traditional Fish Masgouf dinner and overnight in Baghdad.
September 30th - Baghdad - Samarra - Mosul
- Hit the road and drive north to Samara. We pass through multiple checkpoints along the route.
- Samara is famous for its huge Minaret (also known as the Great Mosque of Samara). We’ll climb the spiral staircase all the way to the top for the 360 degree view. Not for the faint hearted!
- Visit the Jawsaq al-Khaqani – otherwise known as the Caliphal Palace. It’s one of the largest of its kind in the Islamic world.
- After lunch drive towards Hatra, an important historic religious center with a strategic position along caravan trade routes. Hatra was one of the first Arab states to be established outside of Arabia. We’ll see the incredible refurbishment efforts underway here after its liberation from ISIS.
- Continue driving to Mosul and overnight.
October 1st - Mosul - Erbil
- Start the day with a local breakfast before we start discovering the reconstruction of the old city including the Al-Nuri mosque and Al Tahira church.
- See the Bash Tapia castle with its amazing views over the city and Tigris river.
- Lunchtime with the “Kubba of Mosul” the area’s most popular dish.
- Before sunset we head to Erbil in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.
- Farewell dinner to those leaving us in Erbil and meet up with those joining us for the Kurdistan tour.
- Overnight in Erbil.
October 2nd - Erbil
- Free morning to sleep in or walk through the main bazaar. Pick up a few souvenirs or just take in the atmosphere. Stop for Kurdish tea/coffee inside the market.
- In the afternoon we’ll visit the citadel – the oldest continually inhabited place in the world. Take in the views over the city from the top of the Citadel.
- Check out the textile museum, Minaret Park & the Jalil Khayat Mosque.
- Rest up in the hotel before going out for dinner with the rest of the group in the Christian district. Plenty of Kurdistan cuisine options here!
- Overnight in Erbil.
October 3rd - Sulaymaniyah
- We hit the road early and drive to the second major city of Iraqi Kurdistan – Sulaymaniyah.
- We’ll stop at the old Jewish town of Koya along the way before lunch. Visit the ancient and crumbling Caravanserai here.
- On arrival in Sulaymaniyah we head straight to the the infamous “Red prison” – once a torture centre for Saddam Hussein’s regime. The prison is now a fascinating museum.
- Walk through the bustling central Bazar right next to our hotel
- Tea in a traditional tea house.
- At sunset we’ll drive up Goyzha Mountain for the stunning views overlooking Sulay.
- Get the cable car back down the mountain!
- Dinner and overnight in Sulaymaniyah.
October 4th - Halabja
- We drive one hour to Halabja. This was the scene of a chemical attack on the Kurdish people, perpetrated by the Baathist regime towards the end of the Iran/Iraq war. Here we’ll tour the memorial and mass grave sites.
- We head to Tawela on the Iran border, and previously the front line in the Iran/Iraq war.
- Lunch by the border.
- Drive onto Ahmed Awa waterfall.
- We head back to Sulaymaniyah for some leisurely time around the bazaars.
- Group dinner and drinks.
- Overnight in Sulaymaniyah.
October 5th -Sulaymaniyah - Rawunduz
- We depart Sulay this morning and head west towards Lake Dokan. Weather depending we’ll take tea, snacks and a boat ride here.
- Drive the famous Hamilton road. The road was built by AM Hamilton in the 1930’s for what he hoped would unify the peoples of the region. It linked Iran with Iraq and was an engineering marvel of the time.
- Stop by the Bekhal waterfall.
- Continue driving through incredible mountain ranges stopping at various points for photos.
- Overnight in Soran.
October 6th - Duhok
- Drive to the historic Shanidar cave.
- Amadiya – the stunning mountain top village. Walk through the quiet streets and visit the mosque and church here. See the ancient gateway to the town.
- Qubahan School – the fascinating ruins of an ancient madrassa
- Drive to Saddam Hussein’s former mountaintop palace. You’ll know instantly why he choose this site. Explore the ruins and admire the views.
- Continue towards Duhok
- Tour the Duhok Bazaar and visit a tea house dedicated to Martyrs killed at the hands of ISIS.
- Dinner and overnight in Duhok.
October 7th - Lalish - Erbil
- Depart Duhok for one of the world’s oldest monastery’s – Alqosh is built into the mountains and is technically part of Mosul and Iraq “proper”.
- We then drive one hour drive to Lalish for Autumn Assembly celebrations. This is the most sacred town for the Yazidi religion. We’ll tour the temple, meet the locals on pilgrimage here and learn about their recent dark history with ISIS.
- Spend the afternoon here mingling and joining in on the festivities.
- Drive to Erbil.
- Final group dinner and overnight in Erbil.
October 8th - Erbil
- End of tour, we can arrange additional accommodation or transport to the airport.
You’ll be in the experienced hands of our legendary English speaking local guide and Rocky Road Travel guide. We visit Iraq regularly, so we know the best spots and have perfected the itinerary accordingly. Your itinerary may change slightly but we will always endevour to go above and beyond with added extras to the itinerary such as stops at local cafe-bars, shisha lounges and amusement parks.
Before & after each tour we will add you to dedicated email and social media groups so you can share photos easily with your travel mates. Just let us know is you want to opt out of this.
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Iraqi Kurdistan vs Federal Iraq Iraq is a complicated place. Sectarian divisions have long characterised the country, be that between the various factions of Islam