Overview – Sights of interest
Distance between cities
Erbil to Slemani - 170 km, approx. three hour driveErbil to Dohuk - 245 km, approx. three hour driveDohuk 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.
Duhok and surrounds
Slemani and surrounds
Travel by car in the Kurdistan Region is very simple and generally safe. Private cars and drivers are available, but they can be expensive. Taxis are a far more economical option, and they are readily available on most major roads in all the cities. A ride to or from almost anywhere in the cities normally costs somewhere between 3-7,000 ID, and you can catch a seat in a shared taxi between any of the major cities for 10-30,000 ID depending on the distance—just ask a city taxi driver “garajee + the name of city/town where you want to go". There are generally two types of taxis in the cities. Some are painted orange and white, while others are painted a light tan colour. The light tan taxis are driven by government vetted drivers, and they are considered to be safest—these cars are usually newer and cleaner also.
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.
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