Eco-friendly travel guide to Erbil advises how to be a responsible tourist. Learn how to explore the attractions in a sustainable way and how to respect the local people and culture. Make your trip green by supporting locally owned hotels, organic restaurants and other businesses. Read more on how to protect the environment by making conscientious choices and how to travel green in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan, Iraq.
- Air quality: 3 / 5
- Exploring by foot: 3.5 / 5
- Exploring by bicycle: 4 / 5
- Public transportation: 4.5 / 5
- Parks: 4.5 / 5
- Outdoor activities: 4 / 5
- Locals' English level: 3.5 / 5
- Safety: 4.5 / 5
- Accommodation: US$150 - $200
- Budget per day: US$100 - $150
- 1 Responsible Travel
- 2 Air Quality and Pollution
- 3 Respect the Culture
- 4 Top 10 Places to Visit
- 5 Explore
- 6 Eat
- 7 Drink
- 8 Activities
- 9 Accommodation
- 10 How to Get There
- 11 Moving Around
- 12 Sustainable Shopping
- 13 Recycling
- 14 Work and Study Abroad
- 15 See Also
Responsible traveling always involves some simple responsible traveling steps that you must adopt while you are spending vacation days in any city or country. With Erbil, things can be a little bit different. Erbil is one of the largest cities in Iraqi Kurdistan and is far away from the modern touch and glamour. Still, now, the city lives under the blanket of traditional cultures and preserves every bit of it. From cities’ devotion towards the rich heritage to the local people, you will find that the city is different from the rest of Kurdistan. The capital city is gradually growing from a relatively small town to a hub of commerce in the Kurdistan region. Being a responsible traveler, you can adopt sustainable steps that will preserve the environmental conditions of the city. Make sure that you are not harming the sustainable beliefs of the locals here. Unlike the rest of federal Iraqi Kurdistan, you will see that the locals here are very much into traditions and culture.
Air Quality and Pollution
Even though the city is concerned about the traditions and cultures, and about the environmental condition, yet Erbil faces some alarming environmental issues. Wastewater treatment, improper water supply, air pollution, and much more. The pollution levels in increasing due to the rise in the number of vehicles. Hence, if you are someone who has asthma, then it is best to wear masks whenever you are going out. Although you might not face issues during the morning, in the evening make sure that you are not coming out of your house without any kind of protection. If you are allergic to dust, then the smog and the dust particles might cause irritation thus leading to shortness of breath.
Respect the Culture
Erbil is famous for the huge skyscrapers and is considered among the oldest inhabited settlements in the world. The people here are into the traditional cultures as well as the rich heritage of the city. Once you visit the city, you will find that it is quite different from the rest of the cities. Erbil features the chaotic accumulation of age-old cyclical depopulation and urbanization. From the oldest yet popular landmarks to modern archwork with a traditional touch, you will get almost everything here. Although the city is gradually moving towards modern ethics and lifestyle, still you will find that the locals try to maintain the traditional dignity of the city.
Top 10 Places to Visit
Nowadays, Erbil is the best place where people from different parts of the world love to visit. And you can also make your holiday trip more exciting if you visit these 10 places.
- Erbil Citadel- It is one of the most famous castles, which showcases some of the prominent architectures from the period of history. Get a fair knowledge about them, and it would be easier for you to share them among your beloved persons.
- Jalil Khayat Mosque- This mosque is named after the famous Kurdish person called Jalil Khayat. He had a bigger contribution towards promoting the cultural heritage of the city. Come here and get to know some of his best works and responsibilities.
- Grand Mosque- There is no doubt about this thing that this mosque is huge and has some greater significance. It tells you about the history of this country and how things used to work in the early ages.
- Aqua Tarin Water Park- In this water park, you would get some amazing slides and many other rides. Bring your kids over here and see how they enjoy it to the fullest.
- Haji Dawood Mosque- Without any hesitation, we can say that this mosque is fabulous and can become your point of attraction. Visit here during the daytime and see how well your time is spent.
- Virgin Mary- Do not go by the name of this place because it is simply a monument. It is better during the night time as the lights make it brighter and shiner.
- Mudhafaria Minaret- In simple words, it is a monument that gives brief information about how an ancient mosque was destroyed. Never miss this place because you may not get the opportunity of visiting here again and again.
- Kurdish monument- This is one of the finest monument which gives respect to all the Kurdish martyrs. They sacrificed their lives in the war against the enemies. If you want to know more about them, then this place is a must-visit for you.
- Family Mall- After visiting all these places, you can visit here with your family and buy some of the household goods. Just try them out and see that you will get them at a cheaper price.
- Barcelona Cafeteria- It is a restaurant cum casino center where you can have the best dish and also play a game of poker. Go for it and see how wonderful an experience you can get from here.
Now when it comes to exploring the city of Erbil, then these 10 places are not enough. You also have to try some city parks and museums, as they will give you a different level of enjoyment.
- Shanadar Park- This park is suitable for a nice picnic with your family and friends. Come here during the daytime and enjoy all the precious moments of your life.
- Sami Abdulrahman- Never think that because of this weird name, it is a monument or something like that. It is a park which has a beautiful ambiance, and you would like to get absorbed in it.
- Peshmarga Park- If you love to go for a long walk, this park is the perfect place for you. Come here and see how it gives you the most lovable exposure of your life.
Unfortunately, the city of Erbil does not have any beaches as it is all about mosques and museums. But do not worry because in some nearby districts you can get some beaches.
- Minare- This landmark was build in the 13th century, and it also has some gardens and even a famous fountain. Take a camera with you and capture every moment so that they remain as your memories.
- Civilization Museum- In this museum, you would know some interesting things about civilization and how it was important. Visit here and get a fair idea about this thing which will help you a lot in the future.
- Kurdish Textile Museum- It is a modern museum, which displays various varieties of textiles and handlooms. Go through them, and you would have an eagerness to know about them in full detail.
Middle East cuisine is quite popular throughout the world due to the selected use of aromatic spices and flavors. Apart from that, the raw materials used for preparing the dishes are of good quality. Due to this reason, you will find that the traditional Middle Eastern dishes are unimaginably delicious. Hence, Erbil is considered a prominent culinary destination. Delving into the finger-licking cuisine of the Middle East, you will find out innumerable delicious blend of Arabic and Kurdish traditional recipes. You will find diners that offer various international food from different cuisines. From Erbil kebabs, biriyani, to Kellane and Kutilk, you will get everything here. Both vegans and non-vegans will enjoy a wide range of delicious dishes. The Kurdish diet includes both fresh vegetables and fruits as well as a wide range of meat, lamb, and chicken.
Traditional Local Restaurants
Erbil is always ahead in preserving the rich history and culture of the city and the food industry is not left behind too. Once you visit the city, you will find innumerable traditional restaurants, which are favorite among the locals as well as the tourists. Let us check out some of the local restaurants that you must visit in Erbil.
- ABC restaurant Erbil- The wide range of vegetarian as well as non-vegetarian dishes that you will get here will no doubt fulfill your desire to try out the Middle Eastern cuisine. Keeping aside all the menus, the never-ending list of steaks, grills, and seafood is quite interesting. Besides, the quality of food is quite impressive and so is the ambiance.
- The Grill- Located in the Gulan Park World Trade Center, The Grill is yet another top-rated local restaurant where you will get some delicious lamb chops, exotic cocktail selection, and juicy steaks. Although it is a little bit on the pricier side, the taste and choice of dishes make The Grill worth every penny.
Vegetarian and Vegan
For all those vegans out there, you will also get innumerable options when it comes to vegan restaurants. From delicious breakfasts to full-course dinner, you will get here everything. Here are some of the vegan restaurants that you must try.
- Fuul W Hummus- Although it is a normal restaurant where you will get some great dishes, you will also get some amazing vegan dishes as well. From chickpeas and salads, burgers and sandwiches, you will get some amazing options. Besides, you will get options in drinks as well.
- Indigo Xpress- Another popular vegan restaurant that you must visit if you are planning for a vacation in Erbil. It is an Indian fast food restaurant where you will get exquisite vegan dishes. From pakoras and samosas, bread, curries, and rice, you can try out everything.
Street foods are one of the best things that you should try in Erbil. From delicious pakoras to chowmein and biriyani, you will get everything in the city. The street foods also include Middle Eastern spices and aromatic ingredients. Here are some of the street food outlets that you should try.
- Dawa 2 Restaurant- This restaurant is perfect for all those who love tasting Turkish foods. Dawa 2 is certainly not a proper street food outlet, but a worth visiting restaurant where you will get unique breakfast, lunch, and dinner options.
- Shanishin- If you want to taste some of the best rated Iranian snacks, then make sure to try out Shanishin. The endless options that you will get here in Iranian food are unbelievable. The only thing that you have to keep in mind is you will not get the option of sit and dine.
Just like, the Middle Eastern cuisine is famous for raw materials as well as spices, the traditional drinks, which the locals of Erbil drink, have a sheer essence of Kurdish cuisine. Hence, you can imagine how utterly smooth and delicious the drinks would be. A simple black sweetened tea is one of the most common drinks, which the locals here tend to prefer. Besides, you can also try some of the best-rated local wines and cocktails available in the restaurants. The wines available here are undoubtedly tasty and you will not get the slightest hint of being an aphrodisiac. You can visit the bars in Erbil if you exclusively want to try out the exotic cocktails and wines too. Here you will get a huge collection of some of the best-rated imported cocktails.
As already mentioned, Erbil is suffering from massive pollution levels. Even though the city is not yet completely developed and is on its way to modernization, the rise in vehicles is leading to air pollution. Besides, as the number of factories and industries are growing along with the tourist influx, the rate of water pollution is also increasing every year. Hence summing up things, the tap water is quite risky to consume here. As the countries in the Middle East suffer from high temperatures, you might feel the urge of drinking water especially if you go outside in the morning. Make sure that either you are carrying your own bottled water or you can buy packaged drinking water to be on the safe side. On your way, you will come across small shops selling soft drinks you can also consume that. The government is taking steps to reduce pollution levels in the city. Various measures and drives are organized every year to bring improvements to the situation.
If you love spending time amidst a laid-back ambiance with your friends and have healthy food, then nothing can be better than visiting the organic cafeterias. Although not every city is still accustomed to the concept of organic cafes, few cities are there where you can find organic cafeterias. From delicious yet healthy foods to drinks, you can get almost everything here. Although you might not find many organic cafeterias in Erbil, there are a few, which are worth visiting.
- Top Organic Café and Rest- This is by far one of the most hyped organic cafeterias that you will find in the city. Due to the minimalistic yet eco-friendly interiors of the café, both tourists, as well as locals, love this place. From delicious sandwiches to cold coffee, you will get everything here.
- Top Organic- Top Organic is yet another one of the most popular restaurants that offer some scrumptious meals. Coming to the prices, the foods here are moderately priced. Although it is not an organic café; however, you will find that the ambiance of the restaurant is filled with sustainable items.
Breweries are yet another one of the most exciting things that you will see in Erbil. Apart from some classic restaurants, there are many best-rated breweries where you will get craft beers as well as exotic cocktails. Let us check out some of the breweries where you can taste the imported crafted beer.
- German Beergarden and Restaurant Ainkawa- German Beergarden is one of the infamous breweries where you can get some best quality beer. Apart from that, you will also get some exotic cocktails as well. Besides, do not forget to taste the snacks and appetizers range here.
- Hiptun Bar- Hiptun is not a proper brewery; however, you will no doubt get some delicious and chilled beer to taste. With a laid-back ambiance and light music, you will no doubt enjoy the exotic crafted beer as well as cocktails.
Even though Erbil city is indeed filled with tradition and rich culture, you can still engage in exciting activities too. For years, the tourists come here to indulge in some enthralling activities that will remain memorable. Erbil occupies the largest inhabited land in the world Here are some of the activities that you should try if you are Erbil.
- Erbil Citadel- This is one of the most popular attractions and is a World Heritage Site. Excavations depict the evidence of the citadel’s inhabitation. Here you will explore the maze-like alleys as well as the antique buildings in the citadel. If you are interested in knowing about the history of Erbil, then nothing can be better than this place.
- Sami Abdulrahman Park- Situated on the site of Saddam Hussein’s former military base, Sami Abdulrahman Park is yet another popular location where tourists come to relax and unwind. Set amidst green lawns, fountains, and lakes, this is indeed the best place for relaxing.
Yoga and Retreats
No matter where you go, yoga retreats are something that gives enough peace and mind relaxation. Besides, at times, yoga and retreats are some of the best ways if you want to feel relaxed and free yourself from anxiety and stress. Erbil features some of the best and top-notch yoga retreats here. Here are some of the yoga retreats that you should visit.
- The Fig Club- If you want to spend some relaxing time while practicing yoga amidst a peaceful ambiance, then The Fig Club is no doubt the best place for you. The teachers here are quite professional and will give you proper guidance.
- Barezbid.com- Located in Sultan Muthafar, Barezbid is one of the most popular yoga retreat centers where not only you can get a chance to practice yoga therapy but some ayurvedic treatments as well that will help you to relax and get away from stress.
Accommodation is one of the most important factors when it comes to vacations. Before coming to Erbil, you will come across innumerable accommodation options Erbil. No matter what you want, from five-star hotels to hostels and guesthouses, you will get almost everything. Apart from that, if you want, you can stay with the locals too. Suppose, you want to book accommodations, you can take the help of Airbnb. From Airbnb, you will be able to get some well-furnished and clean rooms here. Just make sure that you are providing some valid identity proof. Also, do some research before booking the accommodations beforehand.
The trend of green hotels is quite high these days and the reason behind this is that the hotels follow sustainable practices that help in maintaining environmental conditions. If you book the green hotels, you will be enjoying a secluded vacation away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Let us check out some of the popular green hotels in Erbil.
- Erbil Rotana Hotel- One of the best-rated hotels that you will find in the city where you will get some outstanding features like airport shuttle, free WiFi, different breakfast options. Besides, the interiors of the hotel are sustainably designed.
- Cristal Erbil Hotel- With an indoor pool and restaurant, Cristal Erbil is yet another infamous five-star hotel for the tourists. Here you will get some outstanding amenities to make your stay comfortable.
Hostels and Guest Houses
Besides the fancy hotels and amenities, you will get the option of hostels and guesthouses. Hence, if you are interested in exploring every corner of the cities and not spending too much on fancy hotels, then the hostels are undoubtedly a good choice. You might not get fancy amenities in the hostels and guesthouses, but you can find fellow travelers and exciting companies throughout your trip. Separate bathrooms, bars, and free breakfast are something that you will get as amenities in the hostels and guesthouses. Before coming to the city, make sure that you are booking the hostels in advance since they always remain in high demand. Shared lounges is yet another best facility where you can chill and relax. Some of the popular hostels and guesthouses you can find in Erbil are East Home and Guest Land.
If you want to get the most out of your vacation, then make sure that you are not planning alone. Include your friends and family members to make it more fun and interesting. Besides, if you are going on a vacation with your friends and family members, make sure that you are booking apartments, as it will give you enough space to accommodate everyone. You can book the apartments or take the opportunity to stay with the locals. If you want to book apartments, then you can search online. For example, Airbnb is a great place where you can get some best-rated accommodations. The accommodations online are well furnished and come with some great amenities too. Also, the locals here are friendly and will let you stay with them throughout your vacation. The only thing that you have to keep in mind is no matter whatever they are doing for you, you have to acknowledge it.
Couchsurfing is one of the most popular services that helps in connecting people to the global travelers’ community. You can utilize the Couchsurfing facility just to find out a place to share your home or even hometown with the travelers. Staying away from the home can be hectic and therefore, with help of Couchsurfing, you will be able to stay connected with fellow travelers. All you have to do is create your profile and send a request to the Couchsurfing community in Erbil. Once your request is accepted, you can easily come and stay with the traveling community.
While exploring the city, you will come across many Couchsurfers in the area. At times, the Couchsurfing community organizes various events and you can take part in them. On top of that, if you do not want to spend huge on fancy accommodations nothing can be better than opting for Couchsurfing. Locals here are friendly and they will let you stay with them as long as you want. From delicious food to comfortable and cozy accommodation, they will provide you everything.
People who love indulging in adventurous experience, they will always appreciate camping and the unbelievable thrill that it comes with. Waking up to sky-touching hills, gushing rivers, green forests, and fresh is always worth cherishing. Hence, make sure that you are going on a camping every time you are going on a vacation. Bonfire with your friends and barbeque is something that you will love. Erbil is undoubtedly one of the best places where you can camp with your friends amidst greenery. Here are some of the places in Erbil city you should go camping.
- Sami Abdul Rahman Park- One of the most favorite places for the locals and the tourists, Sami Abdul Park is the best place you can consider going out camping. Sami Abdul Rahman is clean and has a friendly environment that makes it a perfect place for going out camping.
- Shanadar Park- It is a community park having lawns and huge lakes thus making it an ideal spot for camping with friends. The soothing environment and the peaceful ambiance of the park make it one of the favorite spots for camping for tourists.
How to Get There
Many ways are there by which you can reach Kurdistan’s Erbil. As aforementioned, the city is gradually developing, and from trends to different transportation modes, everything is developing. From all the ways of reaching Erbil, one of the best and effective ways is the air route. You have to first come down to Kurdistan, from where you can travel further to the main city. Overall, it can be said that although the city is not very tough to reach only if you stay near or around the city. The only thing that you have to keep in mind is to carry all the valid documents. Only then, it will be easy for you to travel. Before booking the tickets, make sure that you are checking all the important details.
Kurdistan has two international airports, Erbil and Suleymaniyah Airport. Almost all big cities have direct flights to Kurdistan. The flight tickets are quite cheap and are the common route since most tourists who are planning for a vacation in Erbil consider taking the flight route. Most flights coming to Kurdistan connects through Istanbul and Dubai. Considering the flight route is a great idea, especially if you are traveling from Istanbul.
Kurdistan shares borders with Syria, Turkey, and Iran. People who do not require a visa for Kurdistan can enter inside the border. Some of the land borders that are still open are the Turkey border. The main crossing is the Ibrahim Khalil or Habur border. Once you cross the border, you can take either cabs or public buses for traveling to Erbil. Similarly, the Iran border is open too, through which you can enter as well. After crossing the order, you will get public buses traveling regularly to Erbil.
The train route is not very famous in the city since locals here choose either cabs or public buses to travel from one city to another. Also, as the flight tickets are quite cheap; therefore, they prefer the flight route. All these reasons are convincing enough, which has made the train route unpopular in the city.
Although the concept of hitchhiking is quite common and although the concept is popular in other modern cities, you will find traces of hitchhiking in selected areas. While traveling on the countryside roads, you will notice that families waiting for four-wheelers to pick them up. It would be wrong to say that the concept of hitchhiking is quite famous in Erbil. The reason behind this is that the concept of hitchhiking is moderately believed by the locals. Hence, you will have to be careful about your belongings if you want to be picked up by locals. You will not see that all the vehicles are stopping near any stoppage. Also, you might not get hitchhiking throughout the day since it depends completely on the mood of people.
You can only visit Erbil through other transportation modes. Now, these options include private cars, rental cars, or tourist buses. If you stay near the main city or in the surrounding areas, then it would be easy for you to opt for the other transportation options. However, it is always a good idea to choose common transportation options like public buses or tourist buses.
As Erbil hides a lot of cultures as well as rich history deep inside its heart, you will find many worth visiting places in the city. From monuments, museums to markets, you will come across various places to visit. Hence, moving around can be immense fun here. Also, do not forget to include the small hills and valleys that will blow your mind. Foot walking is indeed the best option when it comes to exploring the city. If you are someone who enjoys indulging in tasting some of the best-rated local and infamous foods of the city, then make sure to visit the food markets, as you will get small food outlets selling the signature and traditional dishes of Erbil. The only thing that you have to keep in mind is to avoid the busiest time.
Erbil is the capital city and therefore you might find some interesting tourist attractions in the city that are best to explore by foot walking. But, if you are planning to cover fur to five spots, then it is best to opt for taking public buses or cabs. Similarly, if you want to shop from any markets, then make sure that you are renting cars otherwise, it might tough for you to carry bags. Markets remain crowded throughout the day and it might get difficult for you to walk.
If you want to follow a responsible travel rule, then nothing can be better than opting for renting bicycles. Neither it is costly nor will it harm the environment. Moreover, you will be able to move through the alleys and crowded areas on bicycles without any issue. Most of the time, the roads remain crowded throughout the day. Hence, choosing any hassle-free transportation option is indeed a great idea.
You might not see many people using electronic vehicles since the trend is still not very popular here. Due to this reason, most people tend to drive petrol-driven cars. Also, the cabs and public buses here run on petrol and diesel. The only benefit is the petrol prices are not bombarding. The government here is gradually trying to come up with the concept of electronic vehicles to reduce pollution levels.
Don’t want to spend on renting cars or cabs, then choosing public buses is always the best and effective idea. Doing this, not only you will be able to save money on transportation but also choose to visit any favorite place or try any new food with that. Public buses here are quite convenient and are not overcrowded. The rates are quite cheap compared to the cabs and rented cars. In addition, public buses travel throughout the city and at any time of the day, you can avail of them.
Tram, Train and Subway
Kurdistan Regional Government has made announcements regarding starting with an interprovincial railway for the region. Hence, it is clear that the train route is not available for the locals or the tourists. If you want to travel to Erbil, you have to opt for either the flight route or the bus route to reach. Also, it is a good idea since the flight ticket rates are quite cheap and almost everyone can afford them. Two nearby airports are there close to the main city. From the airport, you can take cabs to reach your destination.
The concept of sustainable shopping is quite popular throughout the world and the only reason behind coming up with the concept of sustainable shopping is to preserve the environmental conditions. From organic fiber clothes to food items, sustainable shopping includes everything. The entire world is gradually learning the benefits of sustainable shopping. Although you will not find many sustainable shopping outlets in Erbil, still you can move away from the main city to get one. Overall, the locals in the city are gradually being accustomed to the concept of sustainable shopping. The prices of these items are quite in your budget and you do not have to spend huge on them. The government here is concerned about maintaining good environmental conditions; hence, sustainable shopping is becoming popular.
Imagine getting the flavor and essence of Middle Eastern cuisine even after returning from Erbil. Yes, this is only possible if you bring home some secret ingredients, which the chefs add to the local dishes here to make it more delicious and tasty. You will come across some popular food market in Erbil from where you can buy the signature spices as well as the raw materials to prepare some interesting Middle Eastern culinary dishes. Besides, the sweets and the dates available here are quite famous. Make sure to pack them as souvenirs for your friends and family.
No matter where you go, every corner of the world features some amazing flea markets where you can get clothing items, accessories, and home decoration items at a much affordable rate. The flea markets in Erbil are famous for selling unique gift and home decoration items. Besides, the clothing items that you will get here are no doubt fashionable. Some of the popular flea markets in Erbil are Kuran Bazar, Langa shop, and Dubai Flea Market.
Second Hand Stores
Besides the flea market, if you want to buy some vintage items, then nothing can be better than the thrift stores. Locals here love shopping from the second-hand stores since the sticks here are quite good and the prices are good. Also, the quality of the items available in the second-hand stores is quite good.
Locals in Erbil are learning about the concept of eco-fashion and how to use organic materials to make environment-friendly clothes and home decoration items. As already, mentioned, sustainable shopping is not yet common here. Hence, you will not see people using many eco-friendly items.
Recycling is undoubtedly a good thing that you can do to keep your city clean and the locals of Erbil believe in the same too. They do not throw away litter here and there and store them for recycling. Make sure that you are making it a habit of throwing the litter inside the bin to support recycling.
The waste generation rate in the city is quite high due to the tourist influx in the city. Due to this reason, both the locals as well as the government here arranges various waste drive management programs to keep the city clean.
Work and Study Abroad
Students from around the world come here to take admission in the top colleges and universities. Erbil features some of the best-rated colleges and universities that offer the best education to the students. Besides, the education expense is quite low here thus making it affordable for the students. Many eligible workers from different corners of the world come here to work with the reputed MNCs.
Since the colleges and universities here offer exclusive scholarship programs; hence, the students come here to enroll in the universities to avail the scholarship programs. The faculty here is quite high and offers top-notch education facilities.
Women in Erbil believe in working and therefore look for such services that will take care of their kids. Au Pair service is one of the best service, which is best suited for them who have to remain out of their house throughout the day.
Volunteering plays a significant role in the cities that has cultural diversities and rich heritage embedded in its heart. With the help of volunteering services, it becomes easy to maintain the monuments and archaeological preservations. Many NGOs and other nonprofit organizations take care of these monuments.