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:
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
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
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
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
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
Another nice surprise during my trip to Iraq was Koya. Who would say I would find a fascinating fort
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
Just near Harmoota village, 3 km away from Koya, we find the interesting shrine of
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
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.
Photos of Dere Castle
23. Dwin Castle
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.
- Read the page: Dwin Castle in Iraq.
Photos of Dwin Castle
24. Korek Cable Car
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
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)
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
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
موقع خنس الأثري
The Neo-Assyrian rock reliefs at
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 theNeo-Assyrian Rock Reliefs: Ideology and Landscapes of an Empire by Metmuseum
KhinisValley 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.
Photos of Khaniss
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
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
Photos of Saddam Hussein’s Palace
31. Dalal Bridge
Dalal Bridge over the Khabour River is located in the city of Zakho, near the Turkish border. The structure of this ancient stone
Photos of Zakho Bridge
NOTE: I’ve been to Iraq three times. The first time back in 2010, the second time at the beginning of 2016, and the third time just recently in 2018 traveling for one month driving my campervan. Throughout recent years, Iraq has become safer, and there are many areas that can be visited without any issues. If you think you’d like to make such a trip, check out RJ Travel‘s available Tours in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Disclaimer: All these images are protected by copyright and cannot be used without permission.