I recently spent a week in Kurdistan on vacation. Kurdistan is officially a part of Iraq, although they differ in language and culture. It’s my belief that Kurdistan is one of the best destinations in the world for tourism. Why do I believe that? What makes a destination great? I love destinations that have authentic culture, great food, kind people, lots to see, and very few tourists. It also helps if they are safe.
Let’s examine these one by one to see just why Kurdistan is so great.
Authentic Culture – Kurdistan receives very few visitors compared to the tourist hot spots of the world. Millions each year flock to Paris, Vienna, Rome, etc. The original culture of these places has been changed to cater to tourists. There is very little authentic culture to be found. It’s a sad fact. Kurdistan is the opposite. The people there go about their daily lives without feeling the need to cater to tourists. You’ll get a glimpse into how these people really live their lives. Or at least you’ll get a good glimpse of this if you have a great guide. I’ll get to that at the end.
Great Food- I love food. That’s not a big secret. When I was traveling to Kurdistan I was worried that the food was going to be just acceptable or decent. It ended up being fantastic. The soups were amazing, the shawarma wraps were incredible and the home made dolmas were to die for. Imagine a giant hunk of lamb on a spit, it’s being expertly cut and then layered into a fresh piece of bread. Now imagine you pay 75 cents to buy this delicious creation. That’s Kurdish food for you. Also, I never got sick. I’ve gotten sick in several countries eating the local food, but never there.
Kind People- I’ve been to 62 countries so far and no one has been as kind as the Kurdish people. They are so incredibly generous, kind, and selfless. I was invited into their homes and treated not as a guest, but as family. I really can’t express in words how kind they were. People on the street acted like we were best friends. I got involved in a snow ball fight and they apologized for throwing the snow balls too hard. I was given free food because I was an American. My guide in particular was an incredible human being.
Lots to see- Their culture dates back thousands of years. Long before Christopher Columbus was born there were people in Kurdistan building monasteries and temples that still exist. These were incredible to explore and read about. Equally as amazing were the giant cliffs and mountains that fill the country. Imagine the highest and most beautiful cliffs you have ever seen. Then imagine them covered in a lush green grass. I’ve never seen such a stunning landscape.
Few Tourists- This is pretty self-explanatory. I saw one other tourist the entire time I was there. Just one. So you’re not going to be fighting with people to see these sights that I’ve mentioned. I suggest you travel there before it gets too crazy. It’s going to be popular.
Safe –Erbil was recently ranked as the 5th safest city in the world. It’s incredibly safe. I walked 2 miles down the street at night from my hotel and felt totally safe. I’ve actually rarely been anywhere that I feel that safe. The problems that have plagued the rest of Iraq never reached Kurdistan. It’s the kind of place that my mother could travel to by herself and I wouldn’t be worried about her. You quite simply are extremely safe in Kurdistan. There are no concerns.
Another consideration is that you don’t need a visa at all. You just show up! There are daily flights from Istanbul, Dubai and other cities. It’s easy to get in. I would suggest you get a guide though. I used a guide named Karwan. He was incredibly kind and he ran a great tour. I felt like I got an amazing value for what I paid. I’ve rarely had a trip where I saw that many things, acquired so many funny stories, and made a lifelong friend in my tour guide. If I was to pick a country to travel to again it would be Kurdistan. If I could recommend one country for someone to visit I would recommend Kurdistan. You will love every minute of it.