The Kurdistan Region is an ideal destination for those seeking unspoiled mountain scenery and ancient archaeological 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 kilometers from the capital Erbil, lies at the base of Mount Safeen which is nearly 2,000 meters 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.