The ancient city of Erbil is in the Kurdistan region of Iraq and its famous Citadel is thought to be the oldest continually occupied habitat in the world. Visiting a city that dates back approximately 7000 years is a thrilling experience and with historic sites and a terrific cultural mix it's a wonderful vacation choice.
The impressive Citadel has three main quarters - Saray, Taki and Topkhana, and you'll find the city souk here where you can buy everything from smartphones to Kurdish crafts. While you're in the Citadel, the Kurdish Textile Centre is worth seeing for gorgeous antique rugs and a good gift shop where you can buy high quality locally-made souvenirs. Shopping is a popular pastime in the city, and you'll discover designer brands, antique stores and speciality shops in the Family Mall, Majidi Mall, Hawler Mall and several others.
Explore the unique culture and history of the city during a visit to the Syriac Civilisation Museum or the Erbil Heritage Museum. Be sure to take a look at the magnificent Central Mosque, or plan a visit to Minaret Park to see the 118 ft (36m) tall Mudhafaria Minaret which dates from King Muzaffar Al-Din Abu Sa'eed Al-Kawkaboori's reign at the end of the 12th century. There is also a beautiful turquoise tiled minaret nearby.
Take the cable car from Minaret Park to Shanidar Park for exciting views over the city, or enjoy a coffee in a street cafe as you watch the world go by in a city that is one of the world's oldest and most interesting.
Best Time to Fly to Erbil
Summer heat can be extreme, so the city is best avoided during the months of May to September if you prefer cooler conditions. Winter in Erbil is short and sometimes wet, but temperatures never get uncomfortable between November and February, so it's a good period to plan a stay - particularly at Christmas when the malls are decorated for the festive season. You can also try skiing and zip-lining on Korek Mountain or stay in one of the comfortable mountain cottages. The best time to visit is March or April when the parks, hills and nearby mountains are green, and the days are warm and pleasant. March is also when locals welcome the Kurdish New Year, and you can take part in exciting Newroz Festivities.
Local school vacations and an influx of vacationers from Iraq and other Arab countries means that the peak time months of May to September are also the most expensive time to visit. The low season is from February to March and it's the best time to look for cheap flights to the city. This doesn't however, apply to October as you might expect. October is one of the busiest times in the city as business visitors come for the Erbil International Trade Fair at the Beirut Exhibition Centre, one of the Middle East's most modern and sophisticated trade show venues. Christmas school holidays, the festive season and the ski and winter sports opportunities nearby see a rise in demand for flights to the city from December to March, but it is possible to find good deals at any time of year.
Getting around Erbil
Many three and four star hotels employ private drivers for the use of their guests, and although local bus services are limited there are plenty of taxis to choose from. Women may prefer to use the PNK taxis which are specifically for women and have female drivers, and you'll be expected to negotiate fares with any of the local taxis before boarding.