Iraq, a country known for its conflicts and turmoil, is often overlooked for its many positive qualities, such as its stunning cityscapes, fertile valleys, turquoise rivers, shimmering oases, fantastic birdlife, and UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Some of the world's oldest societies emerged from this ancient land, which is often referred to as the "cradle of civilization." Despite its rich history, Iraq has little to celebrate at present, with most of its political, social, physical, and economic infrastructures destroyed by the US-led invasion in 2003. However, there were reasons for optimism when successful elections and the withdrawal of troops in 2009 led to a climb in tourism to an impressive two million people per year by 2013, with plans to triple that number. The government even announced plans to restore the world's largest brick arch, the Arch of Ctesiphon, and the ancient Persian capital of the same name, as well as repairing the southern marshes that Saddam Hussein had drained, turning them into a bird haven and eco-tourism center. If and when the country stabilizes, it is expected that tourists will return in greater numbers to the "cradle of civilization," but until then, travel to Iraq is strongly advised against.Get Started
Join the pilgrims travelling to Karbala, 100 km south of Baghdad. It's the spiritual home of Shi'ia Muslims who make pilgrimages to the impressive mosque housing the shrine of Hussein. The monuments there are amongst some of the finest in the Islamic world.
The ancient Sumerian city of Ur is one of the most impressive archaeological sites in Iraq, with its earliest buildings dating back to around the 21st century BC. Archaeological excavations have revealed the remains of the Great Ziggurat, one of the most breathtaking structures of the ancient world.