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The Kurdistan Region is an ideal destination for those seeking unspoiled mountain scenery and ancient archeological sites off the beaten track.

Hillside resorts and lakes 

During the Kurdistan Region’s long hot summers, visitors and locals can enjoy the cooler weather of Kurdistan’s hillside resorts.

The town of Shaqlawa, about 50 kilometres from the capital Erbil, lies at the base of Mount Safeen which is nearly 2,000 metres high at its peak. It has several fruit orchards, a food market, restaurants and hotels. Further away deeper into the mountains and gorges, Gali Ali Beg and Bekhal waterfalls and the water source at Jundyan offer beautiful scenery and a place to stop and enjoy lunch or a drink at the outdoor restaurants, or simply sit down to enjoy your own picnic in a quiet spot.

Take a drive through the deep gorge called Gali Ali Beg, along the famous Hamilton Road that passes through some of the finest scenery in Kurdistan. At the end of the gorge is the hillside town of Rawandoz, which was the capital of Soran principality until the 19th century. Visitors in Rawandoz can stay in chalets or in holiday homes in Pank Resort . The resort funfair rides and a roller-coaster sledge ride, and is surrounded by mountain views.

At Haji Umran, where you will find the Kurdistan Region’s highest mountains, the spa water is renowned locally for treating ailments and the highlands usually remain green through summer.

About 70 kilometres from Slemani, the picturesque Dokan and Derbendikhan lakes are lined with cabins for visitors to enjoy boating or swimming. The lakes are a result of hydroelectric power dams built decades ago.

At Ahmadawa, east of Slemani, springs form several waterfalls surrounded by walnut, pomegranate and fig trees, attracting visitors to their cool shade.

In Duhok province at Silav resort, open-air restaurants provide a view looking up to the nearby ancient town of Amedi (Amadiya), which sits atop a two-kilometre wide plateau. Muslims and Christians have lived alongside each other for centuries in this small town. In former times, it was also home to a thriving Jewish community. Amadiya offers a wonderful view of the nearby valleys and gorges.

The best time to visit Kurdistan is March when people celebrate Nawroz, the New Year marked by the spring equinox, by having picnics and dancing in the hills and valleys. In October and November, the weather is very pleasant and still warm enough to enjoy sightseeing.

Vibrant cities, bazaars and museums 

Erbil and Slemani each have a museum holding collections of antiquities, statues and remains from the Region, while Duhok Traditional Museum displays Kurdistan’s folklore and heritage. Read more about Kurdistan’s archeological sites.

Inside the ancient citadel of Erbil, you will find a beautiful traditional rugs and textiles at theKurdish Textile Museum. The museum also showcases and preserves textile techniques by traditional tribes and endangered nomads of Kurdistan.

The citadel offers great views over the city. Erbil also benefits from an archeological museum and near the town centre is the Sheikh Chooli Minaret, built by Sultan Mozafared in between 543 and 586 AD and inscribed with Kufic caligraphy. Sami Abdul Rahman Park, stretching over many hectares, is the ideal place to enjoy greenery, peace and quiet without having to leave the city.

Slemani, Kurdistan’s cultural capital, has a bustling bazaar as well as the modern Altun shopping centre and a bowling alley. At the large Azadi Park, children can use the playground, swimming pool and artificial lakes. The public garden in the city centre features statues of poets and writers.

Erbil has been named the 2014 Arab Tourism Capital by the Arab Council of Tourism. The city plans to host at least 40 different events and activities in 2014, ranging from skydiving, ice-skating, and a marathon, to traditional Kurdish arts and culture.

The Kurdistan Region’s three main cities are developing rapidly, and now have modern shopping malls for visitors who want to go to cafes offering internet access and looking for international retail brands.

Ministry of Municipalities and Tourism 

These are just a few of the enjoy in the Kurdistan Region. To learn more about tourism in Kurdistan, please visit the official Kurdistan Tourism website, www.tourismkurdistan.com.