ArbilIraqi Kurdistan, and the fourth-largest city in Iraq. It is one of the oldest continually-inhabited sites of human civilization, and is also a rapidly-growing and urbanizing center for the oil industry and NGOs in the Middle East.
- Old Erbil The historic and geographic center of the city. Home to most major tourist sights, including the Citadel, Qayseri Bazaar, and museums, as well as many government offices.
- South Erbil Neighbourhoods immediately south of the old city include Minaret Park, Shanidar Park, and Iskan Street.
- Northwest Erbil Brand-new developments between 60 Meter Road and 100 Meter Road, west of Ankawa include many of the city's restaurants and hotels, as well as Sami Park and many upscale villa and apartment communities.
- Northeast Erbil Developments east of Ankawa and outside 60 Meter Road include Arbil's three major shopping malls, hotels and restaurants, and sprawling, brand-new villas and apartment towers.
- American Village On the eastern outskirts of Arbil, this community contains a large number of foreign companies and workers as well as a popular bar.
- Komari Where the stadium and Hawler Plaza Hotel are located.
- Ankawa Christian suburb to the north of the city and close to the airport, home to most of the city's bars, many hotels, and a large expatriate community.
VisasCitizens of the EU, the US, Canada, Japan and Australia are given a free stamp of 30 days on arrival. After that you must visit the residency office to extend your visa. Other nationalities must have an Iraqi visa before arrival.
By planeNorthern Iraq is served by Erbil International Airport with a growing number of international airlines serving Erbil. Several airlines suspended flights due to fighting in Nineveh province, west of Erbil, in fall 2014 and have not resumed flights, but may in the future. This includes Etihad (to Abu Dhabi), Iran Air (to Tehran), and Tunisair (to Tunis).
- Austrian Airlines has flights between Vienna and Erbil on a daily basis.
- Turkish Airlines, Iraqi Airways, and AtlasJet fly to Istanbul daily or almost-daily. Pegasus and ZagrosJet each fly three times a week to Ankara; Turkish and Pegasus also fly to Antalya during summer.
- Middle East Airlines flies to Erbil from Beirut on 7 flights per week; ZagrosJet flies three times a week.
- Royal Jordanian has daily flights to Amman, while ZagrosJet has two flights weekly and Iraqi Airways has several flights a week to Amman.
- Qatar Airways flies 4 times a week between Erbil and Doha.
- FlyDubai has flights to Dubai daily, while Emirates flies twice a week to Dubai.
- Lufthansa flies two weekly round-trip flights from Frankfurt.
Other destinations are served with less frequent flights. In Europe, destinations with at least weekly flights include Berlin (Iraqi Airways), Dusseldorf (Iraqi Airways and Germania), Munich (Germania), Stockholm (Germania and ZagrosJet), Copenhagen (Iraqi Airways and ZagrosJet), London (Iraqi Airways), and Amsterdam (ZagrosJet). Egypt Air has flights four times a week to Cairo, while Mahan Air has three flights weekly to Tehran. Iraqi Airways provides frequent flights to other parts of Iraq, but the security situation in these places is rarely safe even for experienced travelers.
The security situation in Iraqi Kurdistan is very safe compared to the rest of Iraq. However one should not travel to Iraq unless there is a specific mission or business. In May 2007, a suicide truck bomber detonated his bomb in front of the Interior Ministry, and two suicide bombings occurred in 2014 with some casualties.
There are many Iran bus companies that run services connecting Iran to Erbil. This is about or 10 hours.There are many cities in Iran that connected to Erbil by bus including Tehran, Isfahan, Tabriz, Shiraz, Kurdistan , and Ahwaz. The VIP buses travel from Tehran to Erbil every day, 2 buses per day. If you take move by bus to Erbil, you should stop in Piranshahr city, at the Iran-Iraq border, to show your passport. If you have an Iranian passport, you don't need a visa to cross the border. Companies include
Bus companies also connect Erbil to Diyarbakir in Turkey (10–15 hours) and Istanbul (36–48 hours). The list of companies here is incomplete; are at least two other Turkish companies running busses from Erbil to cities in Turkey - look around for flyers on Iskan Road. Arrival time depends on border formalities (around 2 hours from Turkey to Iraq in March 2012 and 5–8 hours back to Turkey).
- Cizre Nuh (Tel Erbil: 0750 340 47 73) runs everyday at 15.30 from the New City Mall, 60m Road to Istanbul ($100) via Silopi ($40) Diyabakir and other cities in between. Tickets can be brought at the New City Mall, Flyaway on Barzani Namir and at a Phone Shop on Shekhi Choly close to the Bazaar.
- Can Diyarbakir (Tel Erbil: 0750 895 62 17-18-19) leaves daily from Family Mall on 100mt Road to Istanbul via Ankara, Diyarbakır and other cities in between.
- Best Van runs from Ainkawa Road in Erbil to Istanbul via Adana, Aksaray, Ankara (14 o'clock) and Diyabakir (16 o'clock, via Hasankeyf, Batman). Bus from Diyabakir to Erbil departs at 11 o'clock.
Public transportation is available in the form of taxis and some bus routes, but automobiles are the main mode of transportation. Compared with other cities in the Middle East, shared taxis and buses are very infrequent and impractical. If you don't know your way around or have a guide with local knowledge it is inadvisable to try public transporation alone.
In terms of taxis there are several choices:
Hello TaxiErbil's branded taxi company and has English speaking drivers, but at highly inflated rates. USD is accepted. From the airport to Erbil center the rate is $15, to Ankawa $10.
"Street Taxis"Generic independent taxis which will take you most places in Erbil and Ankawa. Rates are negotiable, however, for a drive across town (15–25 minutes) expect between 3000-6000 IQD. It is acceptable to pay at the end of a ride without negotiating the price beforehand.
phone: +964 (750) 7372288address: Italian Village, Villa 137Most of their rental cars have automatic transmissions.
Citadel of ArbilThe Citadel (an UNESCO World Heritage site) sits in the middle of Erbil City. It is a round structure, 30 meters high which dominates the old city and has been built upon seven layers of civilization. The total area of the Citadel is 110,000 square meters. The history of its building dates back to 6000 years and has been continuously inhabited since its founding. The citadel has seen the reign of many historic civilizations including Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians, and Assyrians. Other ancient powers including the Achaemenian, Seljuks, and Sassanians also dominated the Citadel before being finally conquered by the Muslims. The Citadel of Erbil consists of three main quarters: Topkhana, Saray, and Taki, with a total of 605 houses in the areas. Picturesque view from the upper floors of the opposite shopping center. Unfortunately, as of November 2014 the Citadel was undergoing a major restoration. While visitors can walk to the top and see the main square and road, the back streets are blocked off. Construction and excavation make the views much less picturesque, and mosques were closed.
Grand MosqueErbil's historic central mosque, still open despite renovations on the Citadel.
Kurdish Textile MuseumSmall museum that displays textiles produced in Iraqi Kurdistan, as well as traditional clothing and other artifacts. Located in a restored early-twentieth century traditional house.
Mudhafaria MinaretThe 36 m high Mudhafaria Minaret dates back to the late 12th century AD and the reign of Arbil king Muzaffar Al-Din Abu Sa’eed Al-Kawkaboori. It has an octagonal base decorated with two tiers of niches, which is separated from the main shaft by a small balcony, also decorated. Another historical minaret with turquoise glazed tiles is nearby.
Quayseri MarketErbil's historic covered bazaar, built out of vaulted yellow brick. It is similar to many others found throughout the Middle East and North Africa, but with less tourism than most. Market stalls sell everything from cheap toys and pirated DVDs to bulk spices to fine jewelry and carpets.
Jalil Khayat MosqueErbil's largest mosque, built in 2007 in a neo-Ottoman Style. Very impressive inside.
Erbil Civilization MuseumSmall archaeological museum run by the Erbil Governorate.
Mound of Qalich AghaAn excavation here in 1996 found tools from the Halaf, Ubaid and Uruk periods. On the grounds of Erbil Civilization Museum.
Shanidar ParkShanidar park feats an aerial cable car connecting with Minaret Park.
Sami Abdulrahman ParkAbdulrahman Park is Erbil's newly-constructed central park, spanning hectares at the edge of the city. It includes gardens, a jogging track, and ample walking paths, is mostly well-lit at night, and is a popular local gathering spot on weekends and evening.
- Stroll around in the deserted city inside the citadel in the centre of Arbil. Hundreds of houses that appears to have been abandoned in a hurry. Walk into the court yards, sleeping rooms and bed rooms or up to the rooftop terraces to enjoy an spectacular panorama of Arbil or ponder what life might have been in this place before the inhabitants were repopulated.
- In season, see the Erbil SC football team play a match at Franso Hariri Stadium, south of the city center. Erbil SC is a regular winner in the Iraqi Premiere League, runner-up in the Asian Football Cup, and beloved by many locals.
- Explore Arbil's nascent local art scene at the Shanadar Gallery, in Shandar Park, then take in Kurdish, Arab, and Persian music at one of the many restaurant/show venues in the city.
Quayseri MarketIn addition to sightseeing, Erbil's historic bazaar provides good opportunities to haggle for carpets, jewelry, traditional Kurdish clothing, and other handicrafts.
Majidi MallA large, Western-style shopping mall opened in November 2009, with stores such as Mango, Adidas, and Levis as well as Turkish and Gulf brands. Also has a very large hypermarket in the basement of the mall, and a food court at the top.
Family MallThe largest shopping mall in Erbil (and one of the largest in Iraq) with predominantly American, European, and Turkish clothing labels and other stores. Includes a movie theater and food court
Royal MallThe most centrally located of Arbil's large, Western-style shopping malls. Includes a popular food court as well as clothing stores
Mega Mallphone: +964 750 742 9391
Iskan StreetPopular street lined with cheap Kurdish and Turkish kebab shops, as well as one of the center of (male) social gathering. Kebabs are usually served with a soup, bread, and assortment of pickled vegetables.
India GateOffers surprisingly good curries and other British-Indian fare. Erbil has a large population of Pakistani workers, who run the restaurant and sometimes patronize it.
Abu AfifErbil's most famous bakery and confectionery, and stems out of an equally famous Baghdad bakery that has been open since 1973.
Second CupAmong the best places in Erbil for European-style espresso drinks. Also offers light sandwiches and an attractive space.
Sandwich shopsShops near the Quayseri Market offer a cheap, quick lunch of kebabs and bread.
Abu ShahabAn iconic (and physically sprawling) Erbil restaurant serving standard Kurdish cuisine (salads, soups, and meat-based entrees), as well as a popular spot for local celebrities.
Saj Alreef RestaurantServes a smorgasbord of standard Asian, Western, and Middle Eastern Cuisine. Like Abu Shahab, this is a local icon and sprawling emporium.
Tarin RestaurantFeatures fairly typical, heavy Kurdish restaurant cuisine, with live music (Arab, Kurdish, and Turkish) and an attractive outdoor garden. Serves alcohol.
ZahleServes Lebanese mezzo and meats, in a more intimate environment than most Erbil restaurants and with attentive service. Serves alcohol.
O'CaffeeGood Italian cuisine, including oven-baked pizzas, good pasta dishes, and Western-style salad. Also has one of Erbil's better espresso bars
Kebab Yasin (Main)phone: +964 750 461 6610Good Middle Eastern, halal, excellent kebabs.
Qi 21Erbil's only sushi bar, located at the top of the Divan Hotel with panoramic views of the city. Prices are astronomical, but the sushi is good. This is a place to see and be seen, and attracts a wide range of celebrities and politicians. Serves alcohol.
OnyxEserves what could be described as nouveau Kurdish cuisine: lighter than typical Kurdish fare, with a mediterranean influence and focus on vegetables. Like Qi 21, it attracts a clientele of the Kurdistan Region's rich and famous. Serves alcohol.
Greek GrillDespite the name, is a steakhouse with Mediterranean accents rather than a proper Greek restaurant. The food is good, however, and prices are more reasonable than other high-end hotel restaurants. Serves alcohol.
In addition, the bars at the major luxury hotels (such as the Divan and the Rotana) are popular gathering spots.
phone: +964 750 488 3981For German draft beer and food. Features dancing and Western music on weekend evenings.
Mamounia Sky BarCocktails, wine and beer, and dancing at the top of the Noble Hotel.
T Bar Sports Lounge and GrillAmerican style sports bar and lounge. Features plasma TVs with international sports.
Hotel below the main gate to the CitadelOne of the cheapest options in town. Numerous other hotels exist in this area or just west of it.
Hotel Aliaddress: Bata St.Basic but clean, shared bathrooms, squat toilets, Sat TV.
Lonia MotelOffers rooms which includes a bedroom, sittingroom, kitchen and bathroom. Free internet is included.
Erbil International HotelNicknamed "The Sheraton". Erbil's oldest high-end hotel, built in 2004, and centrally located. There are several relatively good restaurants in the hotel (including East Asian and Indian food).
address: Near Residency Office in Ankawa.It is nice and clean, the staff is very helpful.
Classy HotelBusiness-oriented hotel in Ankawa, popular with international travellers.
Tangram HotelBiggest hotel in South Arbil, close to Salahaddin University.
phone: +964 66 210 5000address: Gulan StreetMajor luxury hotel with several restaurants, popular bars and lounges, a duty-dree shop, and large gym and pool. Along with the Rotana, a center of the high-society social scene. Higher security than other hotels.
phone: +964 66 210 5555address: Gulan StreetMajor luxury with spa and outdoor swimming pool, plus popular bars and restaurants. ALong with the Rotana, a center of Erbil's high-society social scene. Security is tighter than other hotels.