Overview – Sights of interest
Distance between cities
Erbil to Slemani - 170 km, approx. three hour drive
Erbil to Dohuk - 245 km, approx. three hour drive
Dohuk to Slemani - 340 km, approx. five hour drive
Erbil and surrounds
Erbil citadel dates back 6,000 years BC and forms the original boundaries of the city. Erbil is one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world.
Sami Abdul Rahman Park is a large municipal park built on the site of a former Ba’ath military base.
Qaysari bazaar is Erbil city’s traditional market, selling household goods, food, textiles, gold and souvenirs.
Sheikh Chooli minaret in the western district of Erbil was built by Sultan Mudhaffarudeen and dates back to the early Islamic era. The minaret is the focal point for the recently developed Minara Park.
Khanzad castle on the Erbil - Shaqlawa road dates back to the Soran Principality period when Kurdistan was ruled by a number of principalities.
Rabban Beya monastery is a one-hour climb over mountain paths. There are two large highly engraved cave-like chambers that date back to the fourth century AD.
Shaqlawa resort is 51 km north of Erbil and is a popular weekend and holiday destination with a great fresh produce market.
Gali Ali Beg ravine and waterfall is 130km from Erbil, a popular place for recreational picnics. Bekhal Resort is another small water resort 140km from Erbil and a short drive from Gali Ali Berg.
Pank Resort offers small holiday villas in a park with funfair rides and attractions, surrounded by mountain views.
Korek mountain ski resort, including cable cars, is the first resort of its kind to offer snowsports and modern facilities in the mountains of Kurdistan.
Duhok and surrounds
Saint Ith Llaha Church, just west of Dohuk, is the oldest church in the region and dates back to 500AD.
Amadiyah, 90km north east of Dohuk, dates back to the Assyrian Period and is a former principality. Amadiyah’s minaret is 30 metres high, with views from the top of the nearby mountains and valleys.
Amadiyah citadel is located on the eastern side of Amadiyah city.
Slemani and surrounds
Slemani museum, located on Salim Street, houses local items that date back thousands of years. It is one of the richest museums in the Region.
The Red House Museum, which was a detention centre under Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath regime, shows how its detainees lived, and recounts the genocidal campaigns against the Kurds in Iraq.
Dokan Lake, 70km west of Slemani, is a local resort with hotels, restaurants and holiday chalets.
Darbandikhan dam 65km south east of Slemani also has tourist cabins, restaurants, leisure facilities.
Ahmadawa resort, known for its springs, waterfalls and orchards, is a popular summer escape for locals and tourists.
The Kurdistan Region is an ideal destination for those seeking unspoiled mountain scenery and ancient archeological sites off the beaten track. During the Kurdistan Region’s long hot summers, visitors and locals can enjoy the cooler weather of Kurdistan’s hillside resorts.
The town of Shaqlawa, about 50 kilometres from the capital Erbil, lies at the base of Mount Safeen which is nearly 2,000 metres high at its peak. It has several fruit orchards, a food market, restaurants and hotels. Further away deeper into the mountains and gorges, Gali Ali Beg and Bekhal waterfalls and the water source at Jundyan offer beautiful scenery and a place to stop and enjoy lunch or a drink at the outdoor restaurants, or simply sit down to enjoy your own picnic in a quiet spot.
Take a drive through the deep gorge called Gali Ali Beg, along the famous Hamilton Road that passes through some of the finest scenery in Kurdistan. At the end of the gorge is the hillside town of Rawandoz, which was the capital of Soran principality until the 19th century. Visitors in Rawandoz can stay in chalets or in holiday homes in Pank Resort. The resort hosts rides and a roller-coaster sledge ride, and is surrounded by mountain views.
At Haji Umran, where you will find the Kurdistan Region’s highest mountains, the spa water is renowned locally for treating ailments and the highlands usually remain green through summer.
About 70 kilometres from Slemani, the picturesque Dokan and Derbendikhan lakes are lined with cabins for visitors to enjoy boating or swimming. The lakes are a result of hydroelectric power dams built decades ago. At Ahmadawa, east of Slemani, springs form several waterfalls surrounded by walnut, pomegranate and fig trees, attracting visitors to their cool shade.
In Duhok province at Silav resort, open-air restaurants provide a view looking up to the nearby ancient town of Amedi (Amadiyah), which sits atop a two-kilometre wide plateau. Muslims and Christians have lived alongside each other for centuries in this small town. In former times, it was also home to a thriving Jewish community. Amadiya offers a wonderful view of the nearby valleys and gorges.
The best time to visit Kurdistan is March when people celebrate Nawroz, the New Year marked by the spring equinox, by having picnics and dancing in the hills and valleys. In October and November, the weather is very pleasant and still warm enough to enjoy sightseeing.
Erbil and Slemani each have a museum holding collections of antiquities, statues and remains from the Region, while Duhok Traditional Museum displays Kurdistan’s folklore and heritage.
Inside the ancient citadel of Erbil, you will find a beautiful traditional rugs and textiles at the Kurdish Textile Museum. The museum also showcases and preserves textile techniques by traditional tribes and endangered nomads of Kurdistan.
The citadel offers great views over the city. Erbil also benefits from an archeological museum and near the town centre is the Sheikh Chooli Minaret, built by Sultan Mozafared and inscribed with Kufic calligraphy. Sami Abdul Rahman Park, stretching over many hectares, is the ideal place to enjoy greenery, peace and quiet without having to leave the city.
Slemani, Kurdistan's cultural capital, has a bustling bazaar as well as the modern Altun shopping centre and a bowling alley. At the large Azadi Park, children can use the playground, swimming pool and artificial lakes. The public garden in the city centre features statues of poets and writers.
Erbil has been named the 2014 Arab Tourism Capital by the Arab Council of Tourism. The city plans to host at least 40 different events and activities in 2014, ranging from skydiving, ice-skating, and a marathon, to traditional Kurdish arts and culture.
The Kurdistan Region's three main cities are developing rapidly, and now have modern shopping malls for visitors who want to go to cafes offering internet access and looking for international retail brands.