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31 Lesser-Known Destinations to Visit in Iraqi Kurdistan – Part 2

Visit Iraqi Kurdistan

Visit the Kurdistan Region of Iraq
Visit the Kurdistan Region of Iraq

Welcome to the second part of my travel guide to the unknown destinations of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. On this page, I focus on the least famous destinations in Iraqi Kurdistan: Caves, Waterfalls, Castles, Shrines, Rock-reliefs, Temples, and Archaeological Sites.

If this is your arrival page, you might want to start from the first part:

Kurdistan Region of Iraq Unknown Destinations Part 1

Some destinations on this page are located on disputed areas and under the control of the central government in Baghdad. Technically and by the Iraqi constitution, they don’t belong to the Kurdistan region, and are indeed controlled by the Iraqi Army and not by the Kurdish Peshmerga army.

Iraqi Kurdistan Off the Beaten Path Destinations – Part 2

17. Chami Razan

جيمي ريزان

Visit Chami Razan in Iraqi Kurdistan
Visit Chami Razan in Iraqi Kurdistan

Chami Razan (Jami Rezan) is a very nice place surrounded by incredible mountains, several large caves, and numerous waterfalls. The bigger cave was the headquarters of Voice of Kurdistan Radio station during the Kurdish revolution of 1961.

Photos of Chami Razan

18. Timar village

تيمار

Visit Timar village in Iraqi Kurdistan
Visit Timar village in Iraqi Kurdistan

Unknown places often give us the best travel experiences. Timar is a small village off the main Dokan road. Going up the mountain and with traditional stone houses, Timar surprises with amazing mountain views and welcoming people.

Photos of Timar

19. Jasna Cave and Waterfall

Visit Jasna Cave in Iraqi Kurdistan
Visit Jasna Cave in Iraqi Kurdistan

Off the main road, a mere 15 km away from Dokan, we turn right to a fantastic discovery. Jasna Cave and its waterfalls are impregnated by historical meaning.

During the British besiege of Sulaymaniyah in February 1923, Sheik Mahmood looked for safe refuge in Jasna cave. He brought his printing machine to publish and consequently distribute the initial release of the newspaper Banki Haq.

Photos of Jasna

20. Dokan

دوكان

Visit Dokan in Iraqi Kurdistan
Visit Dokan in Iraqi Kurdistan

One of the most beautiful mountain views of Iraqi Kurdistan can be found in Dokan. This city is famous due to its impressive lake. 70 km from Sulaymaniyah, Dokan is a residential area with splendid nature, which draws vacationers from home and abroad. One of the sights not to be missed is the breathtaking panoramic views from the Pasha Kura Fortress.

Photos of Dokan

21. Koya 

Visit Koya in Iraqi Kurdistan
Visit Koya in Iraqi Kurdistan

Another nice surprise during my trip to Iraq was Koya. Who would say I would find a fascinating fort in Koya city center? This made me delay my arrival to Erbil for another day.

The Assyrians and Medians occupied Koya throughout the ages. The city is renowned for its mosques, studies of sciences, arts and reputed university.

Koya Qshla (fort) was built in the second half of the 19th century during the rule of the Midhat Pasha of Baghdad, an Ottoman Governor.

Photos of Koya

22. Shrine of Marbina Qadisha

Visit the Shrine of Marbina Qadisha
Visit the Shrine of Marbina Qadisha

Just near Harmoota village, 3 km away from Koya, we find the interesting shrine of Marbina Qadisha, also known as Marbina Behnam.

I was told that this place is from when monks of Mosul had to run away during the Mongolian invasion a few centuries ago. Don’t miss the chance of walking around the complex and inside the impressive church.

Photos of the Shrine of Marbina Qadisha

23. Dere Castle

قلعة ديري

Visit Dere Castle in Iraqi Kurdistan
Visit Dere Castle in Iraqi Kurdistan

Dere Castle was built on the top of a hill and raised high above the
surrounding area in order to establish control over the plateau.

The existing structure of the castle dates from the reign of Prince Mohammed the King of Rwanduz, but recent excavations point out that the castle existed as far as the Assyrian era.

Photos of Dere Castle

23. Dwin Castle

قلعة دوين

Visit Dwin Castle in Iraqi Kurdistan
Visit Dwin Castle in Iraqi Kurdistan

The castle is supposed to have belonged to Jalaluddin, the grandfather of the famous Saladin, who amassed an enormous Muslim army to fight the European Crusaders out of the Levant.

Saladin sultanate included Egypt, Syria, Mesopotamia, Hejaz, and Yemen. In 1187 and under his leadership, his forces subjugated the Crusaders at the Battle of Hattin, leading the way to the capture of Palestine and Jerusalem.

Photos of Dwin Castle

24. Korek Cable Car

تلفريك كورك

Visit Korek Cable Car in Iraqi Kurdistan
Visit Korek Cable Car in Iraqi Kurdistan

Who would say that Iraq has a 4 km cable car up the mountains, and that it’s used as the country’s main ski resort during the winter?

Korek cable car is located near Bekhal, 110 km of Erbil. This place came as a totally unexpected surprise. I left my camper van in the parking lot and there I went on a 20 minute ride up the Korek Mountain that reaches 2215 meters high.

Photos of Korek Cable Car

25. Gali Zenta

مصيف گلي زنطة

Visit Gali Zenda in Iraqi Kurdistan
Visit Gali Zenda in Iraqi Kurdistan

Gali Zenda resort is a section of the Zenda Canyon where a small waterfall creates a beautiful resting point along with some riverside restaurants. Gali Zenda is located around 11 km from Akre city center direction Erbil, on the Zenda Valley road.

26. Akre (Aqrah)

عقرة‎

Visit Akre in Iraqi Kurdistan
Visit Akre in Iraqi Kurdistan

Built on a sharp hill by Prince Zand in 580 BC, the old city of Aqrah (Akre) is best explored walking around town to locate hidden staircases in the tight alleyways.

Go up the viewpoint near the radio station, explore the lively market, and try to find the water cistern and The Jail (an eagle-like room). Akre is one of the most picturesque cities in Iraq.

Photos of Akre

27. Sennacherib’s Aqueduct at Jerwan

عبارة جروانا الأثرية

Visit Aqueduct at Jerwan in Iraqi Kurdistan
Visit Aqueduct at Jerwan in Iraqi Kurdistan

I don’t quite remember how I end up finding the place as it was out of my normal route towards Lalish.

Northern Iraq is full of historical surprises, and I end up visiting the Sennacherib’s Aqueduct at Jerwan during sunset. Incredible to be able to visit such a place on my own, discovering hidden cuneiform scripts among the vegetation.

On its ninety-five-kilometer journey from the mountains to Nineveh, the Khinis canal crossed over an aqueduct at Jerwan. Commissioned by Sennacherib and designed by Assyrian engineers, the aqueduct allowed long-distance canals to cross high ground and valleys with equal ease. The monumentality and engineering of the Jerwan aqueduct exemplifies the power of the Assyrian Empire. Although ancient inscriptions focus on the elite in the capital, these images show offtakes from the main canal that suggest the water also helped Assyrian farmers as it made its way towards Nineveh.

Sennacherib’s Aqueduct at Jerwan by Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology

Photos of Jerwan Aqueduct

28. Neo-Assyrian rock reliefs at Khaniss

موقع خنس الأثري

Visit rock reliefs at Khaniss in Iraqi Kurdistan
Visit rock reliefs at Khaniss in Iraqi Kurdistan

The Neo-Assyrian rock reliefs at Khaniss are worth a visit and detour anytime you visit the northern part of Iraq.

I spent the night inside the complex gates after the army personal contacted their superiors in order to let me in. In the morning I explored the site and was amazed by its beauty and historical importance.

The outdoor museum lies 16 km northeast of Shekan, in the Khinis Valley east of the Gomel River. This ancient site was built by the Assyrian King Sennacherib (700 B.C.), who named it Khanosa. The rock reliefs and tombs are considered the finest ancient rock carvings in the Badinan Region. Many reliefs were carved into the rock above ground, and their majesty is still visible to this day. Many tourists flock to see the Winged Bull, Sennacherib and two gods, different tombs, the gate with cuneiform writings, and the water canal tunnel.

Neo-Assyrian Rock Reliefs: Ideology and Landscapes of an Empire by Metmuseum

Photos of Khaniss

29. Lalish

لالش

Visit Lalish in Iraqi Kurdistan
Visit Lalish in Iraqi Kurdistan

Lalish Temple is the holiest site for the Yazidi religion that believes that this is where Noah’s Ark animals disembarked after the great Biblical flood. According to them, Lalish is very important for the rebirth of civilization.

Today, Lalish is a significant pilgrimage site for Yazidis coming from all over the world. Drinking the holy water from the numerous fountains around the village is a must. Visitors have to take their shoes out as soon as they enter the village.

Yazidis commemorate Spring Festival on the first Wednesday of March so if you’re around northern Iraq during these dates, don’t hesitate to participate in Lalish festivities.

Photos of Lalish

30. Saddam Hussein’s Palace at Gara Mountain

قصر صدام حسين في سارسنج

Visit Saddam Hussein Palace in Gara Mountain
Visit Saddam Hussein Palace in Gara Mountain

At 2150 meters high, on the top of Gara Mountain, there is a former Saddam Hussein palace that is now used as an important Peshmerga army base. The palace can be visited, and you will be amazed by the incredible views over the Sarsing plateau. Be cordial to the army personal and they will escort you around the complex.

Photos of Saddam Hussein’s Palace

31. Dalal Bridge

جسر زاخو

Visit Zakhi Bridge in Iraqi Kurdistan
Visit Zakhi Bridge in Iraqi Kurdistan

Dalal Bridge over the Khabour River is located in the city of Zakho, near the Turkish border. The structure of this ancient stone bridge appears to be from the Abbasid era but some earlier vestiges date back to Roman times.

Photos of Zakho Bridge

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