When we announced our plans to visit Iraq, the general response from people was “ Really? Is it safe to visit Iraq?” or “But isn’t it dangerous?” Of course, the main picture that comes to mind when you imagine Iraq is war, desert, and ISIS. If you check any government advice, you will find that they strongly advise not to visit Iraq.
Our situation was different; we are visiting every country in the world on our quest to be the first Australian and Slovakian women to do so. After a lot of research, our plan for Iraq was set. We were going to visit Iraq Kurdistan and the city of Erbil.
Where is Kurdistan?
This autonomous region of Northern Iraq is different from the rest of Iraq. It’s a land of Kurdish people who have their own traditions, language, and clothing.
They have also been enjoying a relativity peaceful period with economic growth until ISIS changed everything in 2014. Nevertheless in our opinion, today, Erbil in Kurdistan is a great place to visit for seasoned travellers.
There are not many options for clean and comfortable hotels in Erbil that are well located. We wanted an affordable hotel that was near enough to walk to the centre of the city and close enough to a supermarket.
Our hotel room in Erbil – Is it safe to visit Iraq?
We paid USD $58 per night for a room, we made the reservation via Booking.com. The rate included a great buffet breakfast, which to be honest kept us full for most of the day. The room was very clean, and comfortable and the wifi connection was fantastic!
What to See and Do in Erbil Kurdistan
In the heart of Erbil is the Citadel, perched on a rock and overlooking the city, this is the longest inhabited structure in the world. When UNESCO finally recognised its status plans were set up to fully restore this gem. It means that although the citadel is currently accessible to visitors, there are parts of it closed off for restoration.
The best time to visit is definitely just before sunset, you can join the locals to take some selfies.
Looking up at the citadel from the city square – Is it safe to visit Iraq?
From gold and jewellery to underwear and dried fruit or nuts, you can find anything in the bazaar. It felt like the heart of the city and once inside you can be lost here for hours. The roofs of the bazaar are also worth admiring.
Once you pop out head to the side of the bazaar near the main square with a fountain, this is where you find shops with baklava so you can stop for tea and do try the amazing knafeh (a Middle-Eastern dessert made out of cheese and syrup).
You can also find fresh juice shops along the front of the bazaar, perfect to cool down from the super-hot temperatures outside during the day.
Is it safe to visit Iraq? Fresh Juice Iraq
If you’re hungry, you can find many basic eateries offering falafel or kebab. You can’t miss the rotisserie-style lamb and chicken being grilled at the front of the shops.
These are very affordable, starting at only 750 Iraqi dinars (IQD) or USD 0.60 cents each.
View of the bazaar, city centre. This picture is taken from the Citadel
The Kurdish Textile Museum
This was an unexpected gem. Located in the Citadel it offers a great insight into Kurdish clothing and textiles. The museum is stretched across two floors with a small cafeteria. The textiles here are beautiful.
Treat yourself to baklava or knafeh with a tea or strong coffee
Baklava! So many sweets to choose from here.
Similar to other countries in the middle east, drinking tea (or coffee) is a great way to connect with locals and watch the world go by. Middle Eastern cultures are by far some of the most hospitable people in the world. The warmth and genuine hospitality is also one of the things we loved most about visiting Iran.
Where to Enjoy Tea and Sweets in Iraq Kurdistan
There is a small shop at the edge of the bazaar facing the main square with a coffee roaster right next to it. This is the perfect place to enjoy a strong Turkish coffee or fresh tea with a piece of baklava.
Tea and baklava. A great way to take a break from exploring this city.
Is it possible to explore more of Kurdistan?
There are a couple of day trips available from Erbil to see more of the surrounding area. We hear the price is between $100-$200 for the day. This price is to hire a driver who knows the area well, along with an English-speaking guide for the day.
At the time of our visit, it was advised that we should not travel far from the city for safety reasons. We were happy enough to stay in the city of Erbil during our stay in Iraq and this city felt extremely safe.
We’d recommend checking how safe the area is with your government website before taking any day trips from Erbil. We frequently use www.smarttraveller.gov.au for up-to-date information regarding our travel movements.
Make sure you get travel insurance before hitting the road. Trust us, it’s one of those things you don’t want to leave home without. We recommend either World Nomads or SafetyWing, depending on the type of traveller you are.
🚌 Transportation: To book trains,Trainline is the best and cheapest website. To book transport in Europe, USA & Canada, we useOmio & FlixbusUS. For travel in Asia, we use 12Go.For all other countries, we use BookaWay to compare and book Bus, Ferry, or train tickets to get around.
A coffee lover, history junkie, former tour guide, and endless optimist. The mastermind of logistics and chief navigator for Very Hungry Nomads, two women on an adventure to visit EVERY country in the world. Marty is a social butterfly who describes her life as “just livin’ the dream".