Iraq Kurdistan for Nowruz

Mar 15-22
8 Days

From the most mind-blowing landscapes in the Middle East to breathtaking Christian monasteries and some of the oldest cities in the world, Iraqi Kurdistan is a particularly safe, autonomous region within Iraq that will definitely break all stereotypes you may have about any Middle Eastern destination of this kind.

In this EXPEDITION, we will explore beautiful remote mountains, discover Saddam Hussein’s legacy, visit endless historical, cultural, and religious sites and, of course, learn about the Kurdish culture.

It’s a unique, exclusive itinerary only offered by Against the Compass.

But most importantly, this tour will take place during Nowruz, the Kurdish/Persian New Year, which is celebrated in the city of Akre and attended by hundreds of thousands of Kurdish people, quite a unique experience.


March 15th to 22nd


8 days

Lead by Oriol López

travelers who joined past expeditions say


Note that we always keep the itinerary flexible, and it may be subject to change, depending on the political situation.

Day 1 – Visit Erbil

Day 2 – Mar Mattai & Lalish

Day 3 – Sadam Hussein Palace + Amedi

Day 4 – Sulimaniyah

Day 5 – Halabja & Iranian border

Day 6 – Akre

Day 7 – Spend the day with Kurdish nomads

Day 8 – Erbil and departure

Day 1 – Erbil, the capital of Kurdistan

Our tour guide will meet you at the arrival terminal of Erbil International Airport. For that, you should share your flight itinerary with us in advance, in order to arrange the pickup.

Before starting the tour, our local guide will give us an introductory explanation about this Middle Eastern region.

Erbil is a 7,000-year-old city, one of the oldest in the world, filled with historical sites and inhabited by some of the most hospitable people in the Middle East, the Kurds.

Erbil, Kurdistan
Erbil main square

For sightseeing, this is my favorite capital in the Middle East.

During our visit, we will visit the Old Citadel, the bazaar, Jalil Khayat mosque and, in the evening, we can all go for drinks to the Christian district of Ankawa.

Lunch, dinner and overnight in Erbil.

Kurdish people
A Kurdish man in Erbil old city

Day 2 – Mar Mattai, Lalish, and Duhok

Early in the morning, we will head for the historical Christian monastery of Mar Mattai, located only 20km from Mosul, and very close to the former front line against ISIS.

Mar Mattai Monastery
Mar Mattai Monastery and a priest

Then, we will go to Lalish, the holiest place for Yazidis, a religious group who mainly live across the Middle East, the Caucasus, Turkey, and Russia but Iraq has the largest population.

We will visit their temple and meet the Yazidi community.

We will finish our day in Dohuk, one of Kurdistan’s main cities.

Dinner and overnight in Dohuk.

A Yazidi woman
A Yazidi woman in Lalish

Day 3 – Saddam Hussein’s Palace and Amedi

After visiting Dohuk, we will drive to Amedi, my favorite town in Iraqi Kurdistan, built on the top of a flat mountain, with incredible views of the valley.

Saddam Hussein Palace
Saddam Hussein Palace, today a Peshmerga base

It’s a 5,000-old historical village and believed to be the home of the Three Wise Man, who made a pilgrimage to Bethlehem to see Jesus Christ after his birth.

On the way, we will stop at one of the several abandoned palaces that Saddam Hussein had across Iraq.

After lunch, we will visit one of the most beautiful natural places in the region, Gali Sherana, a set of natural pools where we can certainly have a swim, depending on the weather.

In the evening, we will go back to Erbil and stay there overnight.

Amedi, Kurdistan
Amedi, Kurdistan, from above

Day 4 – Sulaymaniyah

In the morning, we will drive towards Sulaymaniyah, the most Westernized and modern city in all of Kurdistan, where we will visit the Red Security Museum, aka Saddam Hussein’s House of Horrors, located in what used to be the headquarters of Saddam’s regime.

After lunch, we will visit the different bazaars and mosques of Sulaymaniyah.

We will finish our day over a few beers at the top of Mount Goyzha, from where you have magnificent views of the entire city.

Former Saddam Hussein’s tanks

Day 5 – Halabja and Iranian border

We will wake up early in the morning to drive towards Halabja, a small town in which Saddam Hussein organized a massive attack with the use of chemical weapons, which killed thousands of people in a matter of seconds.

We will visit a sobering memorial and museum.

After Halabja, we will visit Byara, a traditional Kurdish-stepped village located right at the border with Iran.

Dinner and overnight in Erbil.

Byara, Kurdistan
A charismatic man serving tea in the Iran-Iraq border

Day 6 – Akre for Nowruz

Surrounded by beautiful nature and composed of a good-looking old city and houses, Aqrah (or Akre) is the most photogenic town in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Akre, Kurdistan
Beautiful Akre

We will spend the morning exploring its windy alleys and then, we will have the rare chance to experience the celebration of Nowruz, where every year, hundreds of thousands of people gather over bonfires and fireworks.

We will also witness the hundreds of Kurds, wearing traditional clothes and climbing down the mountain with torches, a visual spectacle.

At night, we will head back to Erbil.

Nowruz in Kurdistan
Nowruz in Kurdistan
Nowruz celebration Kurdistan
Nowruz celebration

Day 7 – Rawanduz and Hamilton Road

On this day, we will head for Rawanduz: jaw-dropping canyons, fairy meadows, deep gorges and traditional Kurdish villages.

Rawandiz is a small town surrounded by the finest and most beautiful landscapes in the region and we will spend the whole afternoon exploring its natural wonders.

We will also drive through the Hamilton Road, an internationally famous road built in the 30s.

If we have the time, we will also spend some time with Kurdish Nomads.

Dinner and overnight in Erbil.

Rawandiz canyon
Rawandiz canyon, this is Iraq

Day 8 – Back home and transfer

After enjoying breakfast altogether, we will take care of your transfer to Erbil International Airport.

If your flight is later in the afternoon or evening, no problem, we can spend the day together hanging out in Erbil Old Town.

What’s Included

Travel Insurance that covers travel in Iraq

Airport transfer to Erbil International Airport

7 nights of accommodation (twin shared) in hotels mentioned in FAQ

Private transportation and driver around Kurdistan

Breakfast and lunch

English-speaking knowledgeable local guide

Entrance fees to all sites listed in the itinerary

Not Included

International flights

Visa fees


Single supplement. Having your own private room costs $200


March 15th to 22nd


8 days

Lead by Oriol López


Which hotels do we stay in?

These are the hotels where we always stay but note that once in a while, they might be subject to availability.

How to get a visa?

Most nationalities can get a visa on arrival, for which you pay 75USD.

Which nationalities can join this tour?

Pretty much all Western nationalities can join.

How to get there

Easy. Erbil has an international airport with loads of connections. If you are coming from anywhere in Europe, the best is to come via Istanbul (either Pegasus or Turkish Airlines), and those coming from the American continent, also have the option of coming via Doha or Dubai.

Is it safe?

It’s important to separate Iraqi Kurdistan from the rest of Iraq.

While Federal Iraq has always been a stable region, Kurdistan has always been particularly safe.

How many people will attend this tour?

We will be a group of maximum 12-13 people.

How does payment work?

In order to secure your spot on the tour, we require a 500€ deposit.

Then, the remaining amount should be sent no later than 60 days before the departure date.

Methods of payment will be shared upon booking your spot.

What about the cancellation policy?

Please refer to our Terms & Conditions.