Welcome to the cradle of civilization: Iraq
Grand Iraq May Tour
Join us on our annual autumn trip to Iraq. During this period the temperature is at its most pleasant across the country. On our tour we will visit all the famous places of Iraq, from the past to the present. The programme includes a visit to Samarra, Babylon, Baghdad, Basra and the Ctesiphone. We will also visit the holy cities of Karbala and Najaf. During the trip we have an amazing guide with us who will tell you a lot about the cradle of our civilisation: Iraq.
|10 May 2024
|16 May 2024
|7 days / 6 nights
€ 3,395 (Kurdistan Tour combo)
Transportation on the ground
Western & local guide
Single room (€ 300)
Lunch & Dinner
Tips for the guide
This offer is covered by the STO Garant guarantee. You can find the conditions for this guarantee scheme on STO Garant’s website.
Friday 10 May – Baghdad
- Arrive at your own convenience at the hotel in Baghdad (we will provide instructions).
- Meet up with our local guide who will give an introduction on travelling in Iraq.
- If time permits we will visit a couple of famous sights in Baghdad.
- Al-Mutanabbi street, this is the famous book street, here used to gather all the intellectuals.
- When possible we’ll take a quick tour around at Tahir Square, Firdos Square (where Saddam’s statue was toppled in 2003), Liberation Square and Former Camp Al-Adala (where Saddam was hanged) and try to catch a glimpse of the crossed swords, which are located in the off limits green zone.
- Overnight stay in Baghdad.
Saturday 11 May – Baghdad – Ctesiphon – Agargouf Ziggurat – Karbala
- This morning we head out straight after breakfast for the drive north to Ctesiphon. We pass through multiple checkpoints along the route driving by many villages recently destroyed during fighting against ISIS.
- Highlight: Arrive at the ancient city of Ctesiphon. These days all that’s left is the palace archway which is the largest single span vault of unreinforced brickwork in the world.
- Located opposite was a former panoramic Museum of Ctesiphon. During the war against ISIS the museum was used as a fortification. We’ll enter inside and up to the rooftop where you’ll find many bullet shells, bullet holes, and debris leftover from those days.
- Highlight: Continue 100km southwest of Baghdad to Iraq’s holiest city of Karbala – the shrines of Imam Husayn and Al Abbas are considered incredibly holy for Shi’ite Muslims, the same way as Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem.
- Before arriving at Karbala we’ll stop at Abu Ghraib – not to be mistaken as the prison which is long gone, but it’s abandoned and ancient site of Agargouf Ziggurat.
- Dinner and overnight at Karbala.
Sunday 12 May – Karbala – Babylon – Najaf
- Highlight: Breakfast at hotel and begin our day by visiting the Al Abbas mosque and Iman Husayn shrine – tens of millions of Shi’ite Muslims visit this sacred site twice a year, rivalling Mecca and Mashhad by the number of pilgrims annually.
- Drive further east to Babylon – once the largest and most important city in the world. Here we’ll tour the ancient ruins with our local expert and explore what’s left of the hanging gardens.
- Lunch break on the way
- Highlight: Explore Saddam Hussain’s Palace – Perched right on top of Babylon, the dictator made sure he had the best view of the site. Here you’ll be able to walk through the abandoned palace and discover the looted remains of one of his many former palaces.
- Continue driving to Najaf – the third holiest city in Shia Islam. We’ll take in its most important site – the Imam Ali shrine.
- Dinner and overnight in Najaf
Monday 13 May – Najaf – Ur – Marshes – Basra
- Breakfast at hotel and begin walking tour of Najaf, including Imam Ali’s house, the very spot where Imam Ali was killed, and the Kufa Mosque.
- Highlight: We’ll head to the UNESCO heritage site of the Wadi-e-salam cemetery, also known as the Valley of Peace. This is the largest cemetery in the world with over 6 million corpses. It attracts millions of pilgrims annually.
- Drive south to visit the Moon Ziggurat of Ur, a neo-Sumerian construction first built over in the year 2000 BCE and which has gone through various restorations throughout history.
- Highlight: Visit to the Mesopotamian Marshes – we’ll take a bout trip through the maze of marshes stopping by local villages for lunch and tea. The marshes once engulfed the whole swathe of Southern Iraq with numerous floating villages. Today the receding waters have led most families to change their livelihoods but we’ll still see and experience the few that remain.
- Continue driving onto Iraq’s southernmost city of Basra – most famous for its port.
- Dinner and overnight in Basra
Tuesday 14 May – Basra – Baghdad
- Highlight: After breakfast, visit the Ashar and Shanashil Al Basra area to catch a glimpse of the old Basra: traditional style merchant houses with balconies leaning over the narrow streets.
- Take a cruise across the Shatt Al Arab river and see some shipwrecks from the Iran-Iraq War from the 1980s.
- Here we’ll also have another opportunity to see yet another Saddam Hussain’s palace in Basra.
- After lunch in town we’ll begin our longest drive of the tour back north to Baghdad with plenty of rest stops along the way for refreshments, toilet breaks and photos.
- Highlight: Before arriving in Baghdad, we’ll visit the vast Basra British War Memorial – the memorial commemorates over 40,000 Commonwealth forces members who died during the Mesopotamian Campaign, from 1914 to 1921.
- Arrive in Baghdad and check into your hotel room
- Farewell dinner and overnight at Baghdad Hotel
Wednesday 15 May – Baghdad – Samarra – Mosul
- We’ll begin making our way north of Iraq passing multiple checkpoints again passing many villages returning to life after the destruction ISIS had left behind.
- Highlight: Samarra is famous for its Minaret (also known as the Great Mosque of Samarra). We will climb the spiralling staircase all the way to the top for the 360 degree view. Not for the faint hearted!
- Continue north and stopping for lunch on the way
- Highlight: Explore the UNESCO sites of Hatra – a religious and trading centre of the Parthian empire, it had once flourished during the 1st and 2nd centuries BCE. This city survived multiple invasions before being completely destroyed in 241 CE. Permission is only granted on the day and notice can be rather last minute.
- Arrive in Mosul – Iraq’s second largest city and is considered one of the most culturally significant cities of the Arab world due to its strategic location. The city was captured by ISIS in 2014 and reclaimed again by the Iraqi forced in 2017. The city mostly remains in destruction by the locals are determined to rebuild and move on.
- Head out for dinner and explore the nightlife of the city.
- Overnight in Mosul Hotel
Thursday 16 May – Mosul – Bakhdida – Erbil
- After breakfast, explore the remains of the Al-Nuri Mosque – the most famous landmark of Mosul for its leaning minaret which earnt the city its nickname “the hunchback”.
- Visit the Al Tahira Church – it started construction in 1938 and is the largest church in Iraq.
- Highlight: Walk around the Bash Tapia Castle – built in the 12th century as one of seven castles within Mosul’s city wall. A missile fell near the castle on during the war against ISIS and damaged its walls.
- We’ll have lunch before departing Mosul as we head for the Christian village of Bakhdida – this village was largely destroyed by ISIS, but has completely been restored.
- Stop by the Church Square – Pope Francis held a mass on his historic visit to Iraq in March 2021 where he famously said “Terrorism and death never have the last word”
- Whilst this village is full of many churches we’ll visit the one not to be missed – the Immaculate Church. Ridden with bullet holes.
- Continue on and arrive in Erbil – the capital of the Kurdistan region of Iraq..
- End of tour.
- OR: join the Kurdistan Summer Tour.