Don't miss out on these top things to do in Kurdistan. 

If you zoom your map to the intersecting borders of Syria, Turkey, Iran, and Iraq, you will find an autonomous region called Kurdistan. Kurdistan is home to so many vibrant cities. Some beloved cities include the popular Erbil and Slemani. Along with exploring these cities, there are so many neat things to do in Kurdistan that many visitors are sure to be impressed. Today, we are going to take an in depth look at what makes this beautiful region perhaps the Middle East's best kept secret. Let's take a look at our top hot spots and popular things to do in Kurdistan that you cannot miss out on. Let's get started.

1. Visit the Slemani Museum 

Things to do in Kurdistan

Credit: ​Slemani Museum

One of the best things to do in Kurdistan is to visit the iconic Slemani Museum. The Slemani Museum is located in the popular city of Slemani, Kurdistan. The history behind this museum is quite interesting. This museum was first established in 1961. It was then that the Museum began its collection of historical artifacts that define not only Kurdistan, but the surrounding areas.

The Slemani Museum features two floors of artifacts that pertain to this unique geographical location. Although it has continued to expand its collection, the museum was not always readily open to the public. Because of wars that plagued the area, the museum was shut down temporarily until the conclusions of those wars. Luckily, the current situation in the region has allowed it to be a thriving museum open to both locals and tourists.

Some of the outstanding artifacts that you can expect to find here include gold earrings from the New Sumerian Period. These stunning gold earrings show off the delicacy and intricacy that went into crafting jewelry for royalty. Along with that, visitors can expect to find a range of pottery including a halaf bowl that dates back to the fifth millennium BC. There is also a Neo-Assyrian cylinder seal that gives visitors a glimpse into the past as well.

When you come to Kurdistan, it is a must that you dive into the beauty of this iconic location. Visiting the Slemani Museum is easily one of the best things to do in Kurdistan that you cannot miss out on.

2. Visit the Erbil Citidale 

One of the most popular things to do in Kurdistan is to visit the iconic Erbil Citidale town. The Citadel of Erbil is located in the middle of the Greater City of Erbil. The expanding city of Erbil has completely engulfed the Citadel, however, it is considered to be one of the most iconic landmarks in the heart of this commercial district.

When you reach the Citadel, you will immediately be blown away by its beauty. The Citadel boasts beautiful alleyway and unrestored homes that capture the history of the that once existed here. Along with that, there are public baths (also known as hammams) that are as interesting as they are intriguing to visit. There is also a beautiful mosque here. You can expect to find locals coming out to prayers five times a day here. Lastly, there is a range of cultural attractions and museums that are just waiting to be explored.

The history of the Citadel town of Erbil is impressive in the fact that it has been present since the Assyrian Period, nearly 3,000 years ago. Along with that, there are some archaeologists who have dated this town to have been settled sometime during the Neolithic to Mid Bronze Age Period.

This beautiful fortress stands above the surrounding city below at nearly 28 to 32 meters high. Because of this dominating height, The Citadel offers some pristine views of the city below. The beauty of this fortress is iconic. No matter where you go in the city, you will not find a better view than the Citadel itself. Because there is plenty for you to do outside, the best time to visit the  Citadel of Erbil is anytime during the warmer months. Without a doubt, revisiting history here is one of the best things to do in Kurdistan.

3. Erbil Square

Things to do in Kurdistan

Credit: ​Alan Farhadi

When you are done exploring the beauty of the Citadel, your next destination should be the Erbil square. The beautiful Erbil Square lies just below the Citadel and is only a  short walk away. For lounging around and strolling through Erbil, this square is the place to be. There are dozens of beautiful fountains that highlight the landscape here. The walkways and alleyways are perfect for strolling through these fountains and soaking in the beauty around you.

Tourista are not the only ones who love the beautiful Erbil Square. Locals consider it a past time to come out and enjoy the beauty here. And there's no surprise why. With all the local food vendors around you, there's no better place to grab a bite to eat and relax than at the Erbil Square.

4. Go Shopping in the Bazaars

Things to do in Kurdistan

Credit: Birawar najm

While you are hanging around or Erbil Square, you must make it a point to go out and explore the surrounding bazaars. The beautiful city of Erbil is only made that way because of the plentiful shopping that surrounds you. From food vendors to clothing shops, to jewelry boutiques, there is something for everyone here. Not only that, but you are sure to get a first hand experience at the incredible hospitality that the Kurdish people have to offer. Not only can you snag some great deals at the bazaar, but you are sure to find some wonderful friendships too.

While Erbil boasts some of the best bazaars, that Kurdistan has to offer, you can find some other prominent bazaars in popular cities including Duhok and Slemani too. WIthout a doubt, shopping around is one of the best things to do in Kurdistan.

5. Visit the Jalil Khayat Masjid

One of the most beautiful and easily one of the best things to do in Kurdistan is to visit the iconic Jalil Khayat mosque. When it comes to this mosque, the beauty is simply stunning. This vast architectural beauty features a stark minaret that beckons worshippers here five times a day. When you enter, you will be greeted by a serenity and beauty that is highlighted with intricate designs and stunning mosaic tiles.

The Jalil Khayat Mosque was unveiled in 2007 and has been a prominent landmark of the city of Erbil. If you do plan on visiting the inside, you do have to keep a couple of things in mind. Because of restrictions surrounding modesty, there is a certain clothing attire that you will want to adhere to.

Ladies, make sure to bring along a scarf to cover your hair as well as long-sleeved shirts and pants. Guys, a similar standard of modesty is expected as well. Bring along long sleeve pants and a modest shirt or dress shirt and you should be good to go.  As with any religious landmark in any country, an authentic experience is one that does not impose on the locals. Rather aim to maintain traditional customs as not to offer the locals.

6. Visit the Erbil Civilization Museum.

Kurdistan is one of the most unique regions in the world in the fact that its location is considered to be the cradle of mankind. Because of this distinction, one of the best things to do in Kurdistan is to visit the Erbil Civilization Museum.

The Erbil Civilisation museum is popular for so many reasons. For starters, it takes visitors on a journey into the past. This journey allows you to see and understand where the Kurdish people came from. There are an amazing collection of relics, statues, and artifacts for you to view here. Not only that, but the guides here are incredibly knowledgeable and welcoming. Without a doubt, visiting the Erbil Civilization Museum is easily one of the best things to do in Kurdistan.

7. Visit the Ankawa Christian District

What makes the region of Kurdistan so unique is the fact that you can find a range of people from all different faiths living together in harmony. One of the best things to do in Erbil is to visit the popular Christian District, Ankawa. Ankawa is home to the largest Christian Community in the region of Kurdistan. When you are here, you will find a range of buildings that you may not find elsewhere in the region. For example, here you will find plenty of beautiful churches to stroll through.

Speaking of strolling through, the district of Ankawa is perfect for exploring by foot. For starters, this district is a drastic change from the hustle and bustle of the main city. You will not find many cars the streets. Rather everyone is on foot so that they can pop in and out of shops.

Another popular facet of this district is the fact that you can broaden your horizon when it comes to the food selection here. Visitors here can get a nice break from the traditional Kurdish cooking that is found through Kurdistan. Instead, you will find a range of restaurants that offer delectable dishes from all around the world. You can expect to find international restaurants that serve Italian food, Indian food, and yummy Lebanese food.

Because of attractions found in this district of Ankawa, it has become a popular destination for expats and digital nomads to call home. If you are looking for a fellow tourist, you are likely to find them here. To get to the Ankawa district, you will simply need to grab a taxi from the Erbil Citadel. It is not too far of a drive away, but it is certainly not within walking distance. For a refreshing experience of the Christian culture here, visiting the Ankawa district is certainly one of the best things to do in Kurdistan .

8. Visit the Family Mall 

Things to do in Kurdistan

Credit: ​Family Mall

For travelers and locals alike, visiting the Family Mall is easily one of the best things to do in Kurdistan. For starters this small is huge. There are so many different retailers and shops that you can choose from. Not only that, but tourists are pleasantly surprised at how modern and up-to-date this mall is. There are plenty of activities waiting for you to explore here. 

In addition to all that the mall has to provide, it is a popular hotspot because of its western appeal. If you didn't know you were in Kurdistan, you may mistakenly assume you were in a mall in North America. The atmosphere in the Family Mall is one that is inviting for families from all over. Because of this inviting atmosphere, the Family Mall has turned into a sort of hot spots where locals go out to hang out in.

If you are in the mood for a movie, you can certainly enjoy the cinema that plays not only Kurdish favorites but Hollywood box office hits too. If you are traveling through the city on a rainy day, then visiting the family Mall in Erbil is easily one of the best things to do in Kurdistan.  Be sure not to leave it off your list.

9. The Korek Mountain Resort & Spa

Things to do in Kurdistan

Korek Mountain Resort & Spa / Facebook 

If you are looking to enjoy the luxuries that Kurdistan has to offer, then one of the best things to do in Kurdistan is visiting the Korek Mountain Resort and Spa. The ​Korek Mountain Resort and Spa is essentially the first of its kind in the region of Kurdistan. For starters, it is one of the best spas that the region has to offer. Not only that, but the geographical location of this spot is simply pristine.

The Korek Mountain Resort and Spa is located 2000 meters high on the mountain of Korek.  While not in Erbil, it is well worth the drive just outside of the city of Rawanduz to get to. In fact, many of the locals who are looking to spend some downtime away from the city look forward to taking the trip up here to relax.

There is a range of things that make the Korek Mountain Resort and Spa one of the best things to do in Kurdistan. For starters, if you are staying in Kurdistan, then the resort is one of the best places to go if you are looking for a quick weekend getaway. Here you will have a choice from 132 residential villas that are perfect for wasting the day away in. These villas here feature state of the art experiences that include luxury furniture and all around five star service. When it is time to dine, visitors will fall in love with the stunning Lodge Restaurant. The Lodge Restaurant is nicely situated in front of the scenic view of the mountains and valley below.

Getting to the resort is quite a journey of all on its own. Visitors can expect to find a gondola cable car that will take you up to this stunning resort. The ride is roughly 12 minutes long.  During those 12 minutes, riders can expect to be met with beautiful scenery surrounding them. Once you get to the top of the mountain, you can continue your exploration of the wilderness here by way of the resort offered ATVs. The ATVs make exploring the mountain a little bit more accessible if hiking is not an option for you. Lastly, If you are looking to really explore, be sure to pack along your favorite GPS watch. That way, you will always know where you are at. 

If you are looking to spend a relaxing vacation or simply looking to get outside of the main cities for a day or two, then one of the best things to do in Kurdistan is to venture out and explore The Korek Mountain Resort & Spa.

10. Visit Shanadar Park 

If there is one thing that Kurdistan is known for, it is their appreciation and respect for the natural beauty around them. This appreciation of the land has paved the way for one of the most beautiful parks in all of Kurdistan. In fact, one of the best things to do in Kurdistan is to visit the iconic Shanadar Park. Shanadar Park is the perfect place to go to if you are looking for an outdoor experience that the whole family will enjoy.

Shanadar Park is located just south of the Citadel of Erbil. The Shanadar Park features a range of play areas that were designed specifically for children. Speaking of the design, visitors can expect to find a modern and sleek architecture that makes Shanadar Park so unique. Along with the many play areas for children, visitors can expect to find a gallery that is perfect for enlightening your senses. The on site art gallery is the go to place for local artists to display their work. You can expect to see a range of artwork put forth by the many talented Kurdish locals who call Erbil home.

Lastly, the well maintained grounds of Shanadar Park make it the perfect place to stroll through. If you ask any local, they will tell you that the best way to enjoy Shanadar Park is by grabbing a snack to eat from the local restaurants and having a picnic right on the grounds. As you soak in the beauty of the park, you will quickly understand why this is one of the most relaxing things to do in Kurdistan.

11. Take a Day Trip to Gali Ali Bag Waterfall

Things to do in Kurdistan

Credit: Pinterest

If you are an outdoor enthusiast who loves the wonder of nature, then this next location is for you. One of the best things to do in Kurdistan is to take a day trip out to Gali Ali Bag.  This incredibly stunning waterfall is the highest waterfall in all of the Middle East. To get to Gali Ali Bag, you will want to set aside a day for this trip. It takes roughly three hours to get to from the outside of the city of of Erbil. While the drive here is one that is accompanied with a lot of dust, you really are in for a treat. The scenic beauty between Erbil and the waterfall is something that you will not forget.

When you do get here, there is plenty for you to enjoy. The hiking trails are perfect for exploring the wilderness of Kurdistan. If you find yourself at the waterfall during the warmer months or the peak of summer, then there is no better place to cool down in. There are plenty of boats that will let you get right on the water below this majestic waterfall. You can even to your toes in or jump in all the way if you are looking to cool down some more.

One of the best ways to enjoy the waterfall is to bring along a hefty lunch. Many locals consider this the best place to go to if you are looking to have a quaint picnic in the Kurdish wilderness. The natural beauty here is a stark contrast to the delicate cascade of the waterfall and the rugged dramatic mountain scenery. This natural beauty of Kurdistan is really the highlight of your trip out here. Without a doubt, based on the beauty alone, this is one of the best things to do in Kurdistan.

12. Visit the Mudhafaria Minaret

Things to do in Kurdistan

Credit: Wikipedia

Take a step back into history and visit the legendary Mudhafaria Minaret. The Mudhafaria Minaret is located on the western region of Erbil. For history lovers, taking a trip out to this minaret is easily one of the best things to do in Kurdistan.

What makes this landmark so spectacular is the fact that it is the only remnants left of the oldest mosque in Erbil. Due to a devastating earthquake, the mosque was demolished,  save for the minaret. Today, the Mudhafaria Minaret is a historical icon in the city. Surrounding the minaret, there is a beautiful stretch of greenery that is perfect for lounging around in. for many pioneers of antiquities and ancient history, visiting the minaret is easily one of the best things to do in Erbil. If you find yourself in Kurdistan, be sure not to miss out on taking an hour or two to soak in this beauty.

13. Go to a Kurdish Party 

Things to do in Kurdistan

One of the best things to do in Kurdistan is to party the way the locals do. Contrary to what many consider a party to be, Kurdish people have a unique spin on the way they like to do  Things when it comes to celebrations. In a sense, the Kurdish people will find any reason to get together and celebrate. Whether it is the welcoming of the new year or the union of two lovebirds. Kurdish parties are unique in their own right. If you have the opportunity, then going to a Kurdish celebration or a party is one of the best things to do in Kurdistan.

What makes a Kurdish celebration so unique is the fact that the music is not only super catchy but impressively distinct too. In any Kurdish party that you go to, you will immediately be sucked into the charming and vibrant atmosphere. Along with the music, there should be no other reason that you go to a Kurdish party than to admire the beautiful Kurdish clothes. Kurdish women know how to glam up when it comes to style. You can get a first hand experience at the beautiful Kurdish dresses that are so unique to this region. Expect to find yourself in a sea of dazzling sea of glitter that is as colorful as it is sparkly.

Final Thoughts

With so many things to do in Kurdistan, you can easily spend a week here without getting tired. There are so many reasons that have allowed Kurdistan to remain as the Middle East's best kept secrets. For starters, the Kurdish people have done such a great job of maintaining their heritage here. Whether you are walking through the streets or strolling through the malls, you can get a deep sense of that Kurdish heritage. Better yet, that deeply rooted heritage is accompanied by a wonderful hospitality that you can not get anywhere else.

No matter what type of things you do in Kurdistan, you are sure to find that hospitality and every corner. Whether you stop by for a couple of days or a whole week, we are sure you will not be disappointed. Be sure to keep some of these things to do in Kurdistan on your itinerary list before your trip here is over.

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Nadia El-Yaouti is a mother, English language arts middle school teacher, writer, and photographer. She lives in Central Virginia with her husband and two little girls. Although she considers herself a workaholic, Nadia’s greatest pride is being a mom. When she’s not juggling work, you can be sure to find her traveling the world with her little family.

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