Those that have not been living on another planet for the past five years will be aware that Iraq is currently one of the most dangerous countries in the world and not suited to tourism right now. When the situation improves, Iraq is a country that should be making a name for itself for its wealth of historical sights rather than for pervasive violence and religious tension.

Baghdad is a bustling Middle Eastern city of bazaars and glorious mosques and the ancient city of Babylon, one of the true pearls of the region, if not the world.

When to Go

Iraq can get extremely hot and is generally dry.

The very short winter in December and January sees temperatures drop, but generally the country is baking hot year-round, especially during the summer from May to September. The country sees little rain, except during the winter.

Getting There & Away

Air traffic into Baghdad International Airport is slowly increasing. Flights are available to neighboring Turkey, Dubai and Lebanon along with a few other countries in the region. There are currently no international train links to Iraq, but it is possible to cross the border from Turkey, Kuwait and Jordan. Transport around the country is usually by private car and can be extremely dangerous, particularly in remote areas and north of Baghdad. Kidnappings and killings in these areas are frequent.

Health & Safety

Still the biggest concern in Iraq is the appalling security situation which has left thousands of its citizens dead along with a steadily increasing toll of US servicemen. Travelers are therefore advised to avoid the country at all cost. Kidnappings, murder and bomb attacks are rife, particularly in the center of Iraq. This is further complicated by stories that the Iraqi security forces have been infiltrated by insurgents bent on undermining US efforts to stabilize the country. All of these problems are likely to remain for sometime.

Food & Hospitality

Given the severe damage sustained by Iraq during the war, infrastructure has been damaged, although this is changing as US and international reparations continue to help. Baghdad though is still not well set up for tourists compared to other capital cities in the region. A range of hotels are available however.

Food-wise, the country is sometimes lacking in hygiene when it comes to preparation, but food is good value, Middle Eastern fare. Western fast food outlets including Burger King and Subway have been set up in the recently renamed International Zone in Baghdad. Despite being Muslim, alcohol is available in Iraq, but not as widely available as in the West.

Itineraries

  • Four days in Baghdad
  • Three days in Babylon
  • Two days in Samarra

Additional time

  • Two days in Mosul
  • One day in Tikrit

Note: This all depends on the current political situation as of right now several of these areas are no-go for tourism.

Highlights

baghdad: the Iraqi capital is a city of bustling neighborhoods and bazaars and was once the heart of the most sophisticated civilization in the world.

babylon: the most famous ancient city in the world, now partly a US military base, is a must-see once Iraq ends its circle of violence.

samarra: one of Iraq’s four holy cities is also considered one of the largest ancient settlements still in existence.

mosul: the country’s second city, situated on the Tigris River, is teeming with historic architecture and is a good starting point for visiting the north.

tikrit: once Iraq recovers, this provincial town will likely attract a number of tourists given that it was the birthplace of the country’s notorious former dictator Saddam Hussein.

Activities

Sightseeing: Iraq’s rich history and stunning array of ancient architecture mean there are plenty of attractions for tourists to enjoy.

Shopping: like most Middle Eastern capitals, Baghdad is a city of busy markets where the locals expect hard bargaining.

Go on a cruise: once the tourism scene is back in full swing, cruising on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers will make for a lazy few days away from the heat of the desert.

Museums: get in tune with history at the informative Iraqi Museum in Baghdad.