It might not be on the top of your list of places to go, and huge swathes of it are indeed not safe enough to visit at the moment, yet travellers do make it out here. And once the dust settles you can join them and more. For now the intrepid stick to Iraqi Kurdistan, a safe slice of Iraq, while they dream of the day they can wander on down into the rest of the country. Iraqi Kurdistan is mountainous beauty, thriving and surprisingly modern cities, and an educated and self-confident population.
When peace returns, head down the Euphrates and Tigris rivers towards Baghdad, fabled city, setting of most of the stories in 1001 nights. Head into the land of Babylon, of Ur, and of Nineveh. Head into the cradle of civilization.
It was here between the two rivers that the first cities arose, and the first Kings fought each other for supremacy over the fertile and green land of Mesopotamia. It’s less green than it used to be, and the cities have all crumbled, some by the sheer force of years that have passed and some by the constant wars. Hopefully a few of the excavated ruins and archeological sites will survive the current phase of devastation. If not, even the rubble of a Babylon or Ur will evoke an emotion, the weight of the past suffers no destruction.
When the fighting stops and the guns finally fall silent, visit this ancient land, but until that time restrict yourself to the north.
Highlights from Iraq
- Visit cosmopolitan Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan with its citadel
- Hike around the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan
- Walk around ancient Akre (aka Aqrah), a picturesque Kurdish city
- Wander around Baghdad and make sure to visit National Museum and the Abbasid Palace
- Watch the sun set over the Al-Askari Shrine of Samarra
- Look at the Shia Pilgrims milling around the Imam Husayn Shrine in Karbala, or at the Imam Ali Mosque in Najaf
- Take a boat trip down the Euphrates river to Basra
- Scramble around the ruins of Babylon, or visit the Ziggurat of Ur
- Visit the Yazidi temples of Lalish
- Make your way to Mosul, and nearby Nineveh (if there is anything left of it)
Hints and Tips for Iraq
- For Iraqi Kurdistan most citizens from Western countries will be able to get a visa on arrival at the airport, for the rest of Iraq you will have to apply at the Iraqi embassy.
- When visiting Iraqi Kurdistan stay well away from the borders, and always get the latest information on where you can and cannot go from the tourist information, or other sources.