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Asia > Middle East > Iraq > Iraqi Kurdistan > Erbil

Erbil

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Erbil (Hawlêr in Kurdish and also transliterated as Arbil) is the capital and largest city in Iraqi 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.

View of Erbil Citadel from the 3rd floor of the shopping center
View of American Village

Districts[edit]

  • 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 Erbil's three major shopping malls, hotels and restaurants, and sprawling, brand-new villas and apartment towers.
  • American Village On the eastern outskirts of Erbil, 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.

Understand[edit]

Climate[edit]

Erbil has a hot-summer Mediterranean climate (Csa), meaning it has extremely hot summers and cool wet winters. January is the wettest month.


Erbil
Climate chart (explanation)
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See the forecast for Erbil at the Accu Erbil Weather
Imperial conversion
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Average max. and min. temperatures in °F
Precipitation+Snow totals in inches

Get in[edit]

Visas[edit]

Citizens 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 plane[edit]

  • 1 Erbil International Airport (EBL IATA). Serves Northern Iraq with a growing number of international airlines. 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). Erbil International Airport on Wikipedia Erbil International Airport (Q648423) on Wikidata
  • 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.

The federal government in Baghdad closed the airspace to international flights and created a 'no fly zone' over Kurdistan from late 2017 until March 2018. The ban has been lifted and all flights are operating unhindered.

By bus[edit]

There are many Iranian bus companies that run services connecting Iran to Erbil. This is about 916 km (569 mi) 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 buses 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 (US$100) via Silopi (US$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 (14:00) and Diyabakir (16:00, via Hasankeyf, Batman). Bus from Diyabakir to Erbil departs at 11:00.

Get around[edit]

Map of Erbil

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:

  • 1 Airport Taxi, Airport, +964 750 507 0000. Taxi service at the Erbil Airport
  • Hello Taxi. Erbil'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 US$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 Iraqi dinars. It is acceptable to pay at the end of a ride without negotiating the price beforehand.
  • 2 Europcar, Italian Village, Villa 137, +964 (750) 7372288. Most of their rental cars have automatic transmissions.

See[edit]

Citadel of Erbil
Shanidar Park
Parki-Shar
Jalil Khayat Mosque in Erbil
  • 1 Citadel of Erbil (قهڵای ههولێر, Qelay Hewlêr) (City Center). The Citadel an WV-Unesco-icon-small.svg UNESCO World Heritage site in the centre of the 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 m². 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. 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.
  • 2 Grand Mosque (The Citadel). Erbil's historic central mosque, still open despite renovations on the Citadel.
  • 3 Kurdish Textile Museum (متحف المنسوجات الكردية) (In the Citadel), +964-66-25 11 660, e-mail: . 09:00-17:30. Small 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. Free entrance. Kurdish Textile Museum on Wikipedia
  • 4 Mudhafaria Minaret (Minaret Park, several blocks from the citadel). The 36 m high Mudhafaria Minaret dates back to the late 12th century AD and the reign of Erbil 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.
  • 5 Quayseri Market (Across the street from South Gate of Citadel). Erbil'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.
  • 6 Jalil Khayat Mosque (60 Meter Road, across from Royal Mall). Erbil's largest mosque, built in 2007 in a neo-Ottoman Style. Very impressive inside.
  • 7 Hawler Museum.
  • 8 Erbil Civilization Museum (Municipality Street, near Francoise Haririr Stadium, 1 km from the Citadel). Small archaeological museum run by the Erbil Governorate.The Erbil Civilization Museum is in the city center opposite the City Hall. It is divided into three historical sections. Antiques are exhibited according to eras starting from ancient periods until advanced ages. The origin of some exhibits goes back to 5000 BC and reflects the patterns and ways of life in Kurdistan and Iraq. A rich library is adjacent to the museum. It is considered among the most prestigious and historical libraries of the city
  • Mound of Qalich Agha. An excavation here in 1996 found tools from the Halaf, Ubaid and Uruk periods. On the grounds of Erbil Civilization Museum.
  • 9 Jalil Khayat Mosque (جامع جليل الخياط). The largest mosque in Erbil, named after Jalil Khayat who took the initiative for construction, but passed away in 2005 before it could be completed. His sons finished the project in 2007. The mosque architecturally resembles the style of the Mosque of Muhammad Ali in Cairo, and the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. It is widely regarded as having one of the most beautiful interiors. It relies on a combination of islamic architecture and al-Abbasi design, except for the domes which are of Ottoman design. Standing 48 m tall, the main dome with a diameter of 20 m dominates the mosque. It is surrounded by 4 half domes and 12 quarter domes. With an area of 15 000 m², the mosque has a capacity of 1 500 to 2 000 visitors. Jalil Khayat Mosque on Wikipedia جامع جليل الخياط (Q19960324) on Wikidata

Parks[edit]

  • 10 Shanidar Park (Across the street from Minaret Park). Shanidar park feats an aerial cable car connecting with Minaret Park.
  • 11 Sami Abdulrahman Park (Between 60 Meter Road and Gulan Street). Abdulrahman 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.
  • 12 Shar Park (Parki Shar), In Front of Erbil Catidal. Free.
  • 13 Peshmerga Park (Parki Peshmerga), Kwestan Quarter. Free.

Do[edit]

  • Stroll around in the deserted city inside the citadel in the centre of Erbil. 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 Erbil 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 Erbil'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.

Buy[edit]

  • Quayseri Market (across the street from South Gate of the Citadel). In addition to sightseeing, Erbil's historic bazaar provides good opportunities to haggle for carpets, jewelry, traditional Kurdish clothing, and other handicrafts.
  • 1 Majidi Mall. A 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.
  • 2 Family Mall (100 m road besides Family Fun). The 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
  • 3 Royal Mall (60 Meter Road). The most centrally located of Erbil's large, Western-style shopping malls. Includes a popular food court as well as clothing stores
  • 4 Mega Mall (Pirmam St, near Shorsh Petrol Station), +964 750 742 9391.
  • 5 Tablo Mall, Kirkuk Road,Near to Franso Hariri Stadium, +964 750 193 3330. 09:00-12:00. Tablo Mall is one of the famous malls in Erbil City, it has 270 shops, a hypermarket, games hall for kids, furniture shops and many cafeterias.
  • 6 Langa Market (Bazari Langa), Peshawa Qazi (100m Street), Near to Rizgary Teaching Hospital, Erbil, +964 781 057 7040. 09:00-20:00.

Eat[edit]

Many good restaurants exist in Erbil. However, the vast majority serve kebabs and chicken, with some Lebanese and Turkish restaurants. Options for foreign food are limited. Most restaurants, except those in high-end hotels, do not serve alcohol or accept credit cards.

Budget[edit]

  • Iskan Street. Popular 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. Meal for two: 10,000 dinars/USD 8.
  • India Gate (Two-Side Road, Ankawa). Offers surprisingly good curries and other British-Indian fare. Erbil has a large population of Pakistani workers, who run the restaurant and sometimes patronize it. Meal for two: 25,000 dinars/USD 20.
  • Abu Afif (60 m road near Ministry of Trade). Erbil's most famous bakery and confectionery, and stems out of an equally famous Baghdad bakery that has been open since 1973.
  • Second Cup (Jouhayna Hotel, 100 m road across from Empire). Among the best places in Erbil for European-style espresso drinks. Also offers light sandwiches and an attractive space.
  • Sandwich shops. Shops near the Quayseri Market offer a cheap, quick lunch of kebabs and bread.

Mid-range[edit]

  • Abu Shahab (Meal for two: 45,000 dinars/USD 36). An 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. Intersection of Gulan Street and Ankawa Road.
  • Saj Alreef Restaurant (on Kirkuk Road and Gulan Street). Serves a smorgasbord of standard Asian, Western, and Middle Eastern Cuisine. Like Abu Shahab, this is a local icon and sprawling emporium. Meal for two: 50,000 dinars/USD 40.
  • [dead link] Tarin Restaurant (Saladin Road, just outside city limits). Features fairly typical, heavy Kurdish restaurant cuisine, with live music (Arab, Kurdish, and Turkish) and an attractive outdoor garden. Serves alcohol. Meal for two: 35,000 dinars/USD 28.
  • Zahle (Arabella Hotel, 60 Meter Road opposite Parliament). Serves Lebanese mezzo and meats, in a more intimate environment than most Erbil restaurants and with attentive service. Serves alcohol. Meal for two: 35,000 dinars/USD 28.
  • O'Caffee (Ankawa Main Road, Ankawa). Good Italian cuisine, including oven-baked pizzas, good pasta dishes, and Western-style salad. Also has one of Erbil's better espresso bars Meal for two: 35,000 dinars/USD 28.
  • 1 Kebab Yasin (Main) (Grand Bazaar), +964 750 461 6610. 07:00-17:00. Good Middle Eastern, halal, excellent kebabs. Meal for one: 9,000 dinars/USD 7.

Splurge[edit]

  • 2 Dawa 2, Mosul Road, Erbil 0964 (South side of Sami Abdulrahman Park), +964 750 445 0330. Particularly good local restaurant serving meat kebabs. All freshly prepared, often in front of you. This is a large modern and clean place. Have a look at the 'rogues' gallery of well known people that have dined at the restaurant.
  • Qi 21 (Divan Hotel, Gulan Street). Erbil's only sushi bar, 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.
  • Onyx (Divan Hotel, Gulan Street). Serves 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 Grill (Classy Hotel, Ankawa). Despite 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. Meal for two: 85,000 dinars/USD 68.

Drink[edit]

You can buy a wide variety of beer, wine, and liquor at pretty reasonable prices in Ainkawa, the Christian suburb of Irbil. Just look for any of the local liquor stores. A liter of Jack Daniels for about US$22 is cheaper than back in Tennessee where it is bottled! Remember that Erbil is a predominantly Muslim city: drinking in public is unacceptable and public drunkenness is frowned upon.

In addition, the bars at the major luxury hotels (such as the Divan and the Rotana) are popular gathering spots.

  • Marina. Great food! Pretty expensive.
  • 1 Deutscher Hof (Ankawa), +964 750 488 3981. For German draft beer and food. Features dancing and Western music on weekend evenings.
  • Mamounia Sky Bar (Noble Hotel, Erbil). Cocktails, wine and beer, and dancing at the top of the Noble Hotel.

Sleep[edit]

Budget[edit]

  • Hotel below the main gate to the Citadel. One of the cheapest options in town. Numerous other hotels exist in this area or just west of it. Beds on terrace start from 5000 dinars/USD 4. Rooms 25,000-50,000 dinars/USD 20-40.
  • 1 Hotel Ali, Bata St (one street west from the main gate of the Citadel). Basic but clean, shared bathrooms, squat toilets, Sat TV. From 20,000 dinars/USD 16.
  • Lonia Motel (Kirkuk Road near the Tablo Mall.). Offers rooms which includes a bedroom, sittingroom, kitchen and bathroom. Free internet is included. USD 80.

Mid-range[edit]

  • 2 Erbil International Hotel (Barzany Namr Street, across from City Council). Nicknamed "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). USD 200.
  • 3 Ankawa Palace Hotel, Near Residency Office in Ankawa.. It is nice and clean, the staff is very helpful. USD 150.
  • 4 Noble Hotel (100 Meter Road, Ankawa). USD 175.
  • 5 Classy Hotel (Ankawa Main Road, Ankawa). Business-oriented hotel in Ankawa, popular with international travellers. USD 200.
  • 6 Tangram Hotel (Kirkuk Road, South Erbil). Biggest hotel in South Erbil, close to Salahaddin University. USD 200.

Splurge[edit]

  • 7 Hotel Divan, Gulan Street (Gulan Street, near Sami Park), +964 66 210 5000. Major luxury hotel with several restaurants, popular bars and lounges, a duty-free shop, and large gym and pool. Along with the Rotana, a center of the high-society social scene. Higher security than in other hotels. USD 300.
  • 8 Erbil Rotana, Gulan Street (Gulan Street and Mosul Road), +964 66 210 5555. Major 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 in other hotels. USD 300.

Go next[edit]

Sulaymaniyah is an easy 2-3 hour drive. Described as the centre of education and culture in Kurdistan. The city features the best museums in Iraqi Kurdistan, good hotels and a number of pleasant parks including Chavvy Land.


This city travel guide to Erbil is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.