The Kurdistan Region is composed of an ethnically diverse populace that includes Kurds, Arabs, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Turkmen, and Armenians. The population of the Region is skewed young, with 36% aged 0-14 years and only 4% over the age of 63. The median age is just over 20.
One of the best digital sources for detailed information about tourist sites is the website of the General Board of Tourism. The Board has also produced a mobile app for tourists visiting the Kurdistan Region.
The majority of Kurds are Sunni Muslims. There are also multiple Christian sects including Syrian Catholics, Syrian Orthodox, and Assyrians.
ATMs can only be found in shopping centers. Additionally, most hotels receive 3% commission from credit card payments.
Citizens of the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Turkey, and EU countries are issued free, 15-day visa stamps upon arrival in the Kurdistan Region. Other nationalities are required to get a valid “Iraqi” visa from their local Iraqi diplomatic office. KRG Representations abroad do not issue Iraqi visas. Travelers wishing to remain in Kurdistan for a period longer than 15 days are required to visit an immigration office to obtain the necessary documentation. The entire process can take up to four hours to complete. Companies may expedite the visa application process by registering a new employee with Iraqi authorities and applying for all necessary permits on behalf of the individual prior to his or her arrival in Kurdistan.
Erbil International Airport (EIA)
Slemani International Airport (SIA)
Air Arabia, Air Berlin, Air Olympic, Al-Naser, Aseman Airlines, AtlasJet, Austrian Airlines, Azmar Airlines, Caspian Airlines, Cyprus Airways, Egypt Airlines, Emirates, Etihad Airways, FlyDubai, FlyGeorgia, Georgia Airways, Germania Airlines, Gulf Air, Hermes Airways, Iraqi Airways, Lufthansa, Mahan Air, Middle East Airlines, Olympic Airlines, Pegasus Airlines, Qatar Airways, Royal Falcon Airlines, Royal Jordanian, Transavia, Turkish Airlines, Viking Hellas, ZagrosJet
There are two main ways for a traveler to get from Erbil International Airport to a destination in Erbil. The longer (but cheaper) route involves new arrivals taking an airport bus to a separate terminal, where passengers may then bargain with taxi drivers for a fare usually between 5,000-10,000 IQD. The more direct (and expensive) route is to book a private taxi for approximately 25,000-30,000 IQD. “Hello Taxi,” a local company, has an agreement with the airport that allows its vehicles to access the terminal directly. Vehicles can be booked in advance via the company's website or by waiting in line outside the main arrival/departure terminal.
Taxis in Kurdistan do not have meters. Instead, passengers and a driver must agree on a price prior to departing for a destination. Taxis are readily available on most major roads in all large cities in Kurdistan. Rides within cities normally cost somewhere between 5,000-10,000 IQD. A private taxi between any of Kurdistan’s three major cities will cost between 120,000-150,000 IQD. There are generally two types of taxis in major cities: those painted in white (private drivers), and others painted in a light tan color (government vetted drivers). The latter are generally newer and safer options.
The dates for the holidays listed below are based on the Muslim calendar, and therefore change each year.
Malik Mahmood Circle Street, Sulaimani
T: +964 (0) 770 900 0000
60m St., Erbil
T: +964 (0) 66 210 7001
Nakhosh-Khana St., Duhok
T: +964 (0) 627224074
Salim St., Slemani
T: +964 (0) 770 384 4040
Bakhtiyari St., Erbil
60 Meter St., Erbil
Bakhtiyari St., Erbil
My Flavor Catering
Dream City, Erbil
30 Meter Street, Erbil
Family Mall, Erbil
English Village, Erbil
Babylon FM – 99.3 FM
Italian Village, Erbil
Divan Hotel, Erbil
5 Khabat Street, Ankawa, Erbil
Divan Erbil Hotel
There are formal currency exchange centers at airports and modern shopping facilities in Kurdistan. However, informal exchange booths in the traditional bazaar areas offer more favorable rates.
The beginning of life in Erbil is associated with the creation of the historic Erbil Citadel, which has been continuously inhabited since at least 6000 BCE. The Citadel, which sits atop a plateau and is designed in a circular shape, has inspired the development of the city as a whole, which forms increasingly large, concentric rings expanding out from the structure. The size of the city has expanded dramatically in recent years as its population has grown from 500,000 in 2004 to 2 million in 2012. This rapid development has strained Erbil’s existing infrastructure, particularly its road networks and sewer systems. The considerable amount of infrastructure development that has taken place within the capital over the past few years has somewhat alleviated these issues, though.
The modern city of Duhok has historically served as a bridge to the Region’s most strategically significant neighbor: Turkey. The city, which is home to approximately 1.3 million residents, has a comprehensive master plan that will guide development through 2032. The plan itself calls for a phased approach to address current and future issues, particularly the need for urban rehabilitation and infrastructure improvement. Duhok’s proximity to the Tigris River (and the scenic mountain ranges that frame the waterway) make it ideally suited for Kurdistan's developing tourism industry.
Nicknamed the “cultural capital” of the Kurdistan Region, the modern city of Slemani was founded in 1784. Today, it is well known for its open, relatively liberal, and tolerant society, as well as being a center for culture and learning. The city boasts a population of approximately 1.9 million inhabitants and is expanding at a rapid pace. Prior to 2003, the city was contained within a 60-kilometer ring road. Since then, however, rapid urbanization has led to residential and commercial development beyond this area. Without the benefit of a development master plan, this growth has resulted in urban sprawl. A master plan has since been implemented and is designed to improve functionality while supporting projected population growth. As such, Slemani currently has the capacity to accommodate its projected five-year population growth without the need for additional horizontal expansion.
Rotana Erbil has been named “Iraq’s Leading Hotel” for 2012, 2013, and 2014. The hotel features 201 lavish rooms and suites, five food and beverage outlets, a grand ballroom, five small meeting rooms, a health and wellness center, and multiple luxury boutiques. The hotel’s dining options (notably Basilico, Italian restaurant, and Al Bustan, which offers authentic Lebanese cuisine) are known throughout the surrounding region.
The 24-story Divan hotel features 227 guest rooms, ten meeting rooms, five restaurants, four up-scale boutiques, a cigar lounge, multiple bars, a gym, and a spa. The hotel seeks to redefine the business experience with its well-appointed rooms, gourmet dining options, luxurious décor, and spacious meeting areas. For its efforts, the World Travel Awards named the Divan “Iraq’s Leading Business Hotel” for 2014.
Located in Erbil, the Tangram hotel has emerged as a favorite destination for business travelers in the Kurdistan Region. Each of the hotel’s 118 rooms features a comfortable bed, a flat screen TV, a working desk, and a spacious bathroom; high-speed Internet and a lavish breakfast buffet are included at no additional charge. The Tangram also offers multiple gourmet dining options, and the most well appointed gym in Erbil.
The Jouhayna hotel offers the specialized service and attention to detail that only a smaller, more intimate facility can. The majority of the rooms are suites that include a bedroom, living room, dining space, and balcony. In addition, the hotel features Sidon (a Lebanese restaurant), a breakfast buffet, and modern spa and gym facilities.
The Grand Millennium offers 253 guest rooms, 55 luxury suites, 7 executive suites, and a presidential suite. The hotel offers large conference facilities, a grand ballroom that accommodates 750 people, and an auditorium that seats 350 people. The hotel has an indoor/outdoor swimming pool, a gym, and a spa.
The Copthorne Hotel Baranan offers the finest hotel and dining options for visitors to the city of Slemani. The facility’s 78 luxury rooms and suites are finished with contemporary décor and modern luxuries, and its four stylish restaurants offer a variety of both local and international cuisines.
Al Bustan brings authentic Lebanese cuisine, entertainment, and atmosphere to its customers in Erbil. The restaurant features indoor seating as well as outdoor dining areas surrounded by pools and gardens. The Al Bustan menu includes a variety of cold appetizers, salads, hot mezzes, grilled meat platters, seafood entrees, and regional desserts. Dinner service commences at 19:00 and extends until 23:30, with lunch offered on Friday from 12:00 to 16:00.
When people think about the Kurdistan Region, sushi isn’t usually one of the first things that comes to mind. However, that may be changing thanks to the delicious offerings currently being served up at “Qi 21,” a Japanese sushi restaurant located on the 21st floor of the Divan Hotel. Dining service begins at 6:00pm and runs until 11:30pm, with bar service until 12:30am.
Chopin Bar has the rare distinction of being both an excellent meeting location and a superb late night destination. During the day, Chopin features a variety of lighter dining selections. In the evening, the space transforms into a lively jazz bar featuring live music, with a wide variety of the finest imported beverages available for selection. Chopin begins service at 11:00am and closes at 1:00am.
Basilico is the first Italian restaurant in Erbil offering authentic Italian cuisine in a modern setting for an ideal experience. The restaurant introduces the various cuisines from Italy through its wide range of famous appetizers, antipasti, soups, Panini and pastas in addition to a well-designed desserts menu.
The Al-Safadi brand is one of the foremost international fine dining establishments in Kurdistan. Al-Safadi, known to customers in Dubai for its Lebanese cuisine, opened in Erbil in October 2013. The restaurant has the capacity for nearly 600 guests and boasts VIP rooms, as well as a large, landscaped garden that can accommodate around 360 diners. From an original core of 40 international staff, the restaurant has grown to employ around 120 workers. To win over local customers and the expat community alike, Al-Safadi utilizes a detail-oriented approach that tries to combine a focus on food with an emphasis on things like the restaurant environment, the manner in which customers are greeted and served, and the value of its cuisine for the price guests pay. As the restaurant industry in Kurdistan becomes more saturated, Al-Safadi looks to this holistic focus on customer satisfaction to set it apart. Al-Safadi is open all week from 10:00 AM to 11:30 PM.
Those looking for excellent food and local charm outside of Slemani’s international hotels are urged to try Chalak’s Place. Mirroring the east/west dynamic of its décor, the restaurant fuses Italian and Kurdish cuisines. The cafe offers some of Slemani’s best pastries for breakfast, salads, pizzas and pastas for lunch, and Italian and Kurdish entrees for dinner.
The DC Steakhouse has clearly raised standards for premium international dining in Erbil. The restaurant’s elegant and comfortable décor, coupled with excellent steaks and side dishes, and a broad range of drinks, make the DC Steakhouse unique, even amid the ever-broadening range of dining options now found in Erbil and Kurdistan.
Since opening in 2013, Casa Del Habano has been the main center of attraction for cigar aficionados in Kurdistan. As the sole provider of Cuban cigars in the Kurdistan Region and Iraq, Casa Del Habano Erbil is the only one-stop-shop for cigar lovers. The shop offers an extensive collection of Habanos, coupled with a wide selection of various limited edition Cuban cigars. You can also find all kinds of cigar accessories, including humidors, lighters, cigar cutters, and ashtrays. You can visit the shop between 10.00am-8.00pm any day except Friday.
Cigar Brands Available at Casa Del Habano Erbil: Bolivar - Cohiba - Cuaba - Diplomaticos - Fonseca Hoyo De Monterrey - Juan Lopez - H. Upmann Montecristo - Partagas - Punch - Quai D Orsay Romeo y Julieta - San Cristobal
Levelini's showroom, billed as the largest of its kind for Italian furniture in Kurdistan, offers local customers a taste of the company’s eclectic mix of styles sourced from European manufacturers. Levelini’s clients benefit from a range of tools the company offers to help them visualize interior spaces that meet their design needs. To meet client needs, Levelini puts great emphasis on smooth logistics, maintaining a large inventory of furniture in its showroom to ensure short waiting times for the fulfillment of orders and providing both transportation and on-site assembly for customers.
Located on Kirkuk Road in Erbil, the Tangram Hotel has already established itself as one of the premier hotels in Kurdistan. Tangram Fitness Center is one of the most well equipped facilities in Erbil. Featuring numerous pieces of Technogym equipment, the spacious Tangram Hotel Fitness Center also includes a sauna.
Zen the Spa provides premier therapeutic treatments offered by certified spa therapists. The facility, the first of its kind in Kurdistan, features five massage rooms, as well as dedicated sauna and steam rooms.
Every day in the summer from 07:30 to 22:30, guests at the Rotana Hotel are invited to take a break from their busy schedules and indulge in a bit of relaxation courtesy of the finest swimming pool in Erbil. The facility, which is surrounded by a lush, green garden, also offers outdoor dining options and fresh drinks at the Aquarius Pool Bar.
Well-known Lebanese hairdresser Tony Sawaya will open a branch in the Divan Erbil Hotel in May 2015. The Center, which will be a first-rate beauty center for women and men, will provide an extensive range of beauty and wellness services, including manicures, pedicures, peeling, and botox treatment. The center will also have a certified dietary expert.
The Divan Erbil has added an expansive spa to its portfolio of luxury amenities. Hotel guests and Erbil residents alike can take advantage of the spa’s state-of–the-art fitness facilities. The spa also features a 20-m semi-Olympic indoor pool, sauna, and steam room, as well as message suites and a Turkish bath.