Southern Iraq Tour
Following the fall of ISIS in 2017, we conducted our first ever research tour to Southern Iraq in April 2018 and followed it up with our first regular tour. It proved to be not only very safe but incredibly informative & fascinating. The area is spoiled with world-class heritage and is completely unspoiled by tourism meaning we will feel like the only foreign travelers in town.
There is a huge amount of ancient and modern history waiting to be explored in Southern Iraq. We’ll travel from Baghdad north along the former death highway to Samara and back again to Najaf, Karbala, the Mesopotamian marshlands and onto Basra before boarding the only train in the country back to Baghdad. We cover a huge amount of ground with our expert local guide explaining all as we go.
Join us for this unique southern Iraq tour and see the whole of Iraq by adding in our Iraqi Kurdistan tour as a combo!
For more info on travelling in Iraq, check out our Blog!
Baghdad & Beyond
April 14th - Baghdad
- We meet up in Baghdad airport at an arranged time in the afternoon. Due to the high-level airport security formalities, we will have to wait for each other and leave the airport as one group.
- Meet up with our local guide and fixer who will give an introduction on travelling in Iraq and a breakdown of the itinerary for our stay.
- Dive by the square where Saddam’s statue was toppled in 2003. A short drive from here to our hotel.
- Overnight in the high security “Baghdad Hotel”. Complete with swimming pool, gym and bar!
April 15th - Baghdad
- It’s a Baghdad city tour day and we kick things off with a visit to the National Museum.
- Visit the incredible and well renovated Al–Mustansariya School. This is commonly known as the oldest school in the world.
- Walk through the adjoining copper market. A great place for souvenirs and photography.
- We drive an hour outside of the city to the ancient city of Ctesiphone. These days all that’s left is the palace archway which is the largest single span vault of unenforced brickwork in the world.
- Back to Baghdad for dinner and overnight.
April 16th - Samarra & Karbala
- Hit the road and drive north to Samara. We pass through multiple checkpoints along the route driving by many villages recently destroyed during fighting against ISIS.
- Samara is famous for its Minaret (also known as the Great Mosque of Samara). We’ll climb the spiral staircase all the way to the top for the 360 degree view. Not for the faint hearted!
- Drive back to Baghdad and head straight to Abu Ghraib. Not the prison which is long gone but it’s abandoned and ancient site of Agargouf Ziggurat.
- Continue on south to Iraq’s holiest city of Karbala.
- Dinner and overnight in Karbala.
April 17th - Karbala & Najaf
- Up early for some Karbala sightseeing taking in the must-see Al Abbas mosque and Iman Husayn shrine.
- Drive to Babylon, once the largest and most important city in the world. We tour the ancient ruins with our local expert and see what’s left of the hanging gardens.
- Saddam Hussain Palace – Perched right on top of Babylon, the dictator made sure he had the best view of the site. We spend some time exploring the looted remains of one of his many former palaces.
- We drive to Najaf, the third holiest city in Shia Islam. We’ll take in its most important site – the Imam Ali shrine.
- Dinner and Overnight in Najaf
April 18th - Najaf & Basra
- We wake up early for a walking tour of Najaf, including Imam Ali’s house (the very spot where imam Ali was killed) and the grand Kufa Mosque.
- Drive south to the Mesopotamian Marshes. We’ll take a boat trip through the maze of marshes stopping by local villages for tea. The marshes once engulfed a whole swathe of Southern Iraq with numerous floating villages. Today the receding waters have led most families to change their livelihood but we’ll still see the few that remain.
- Visit the Adam and Eve tree AKA the tree of knowledge in the village of Qurna. Legend has it that Eve ate the apple from this very tree in the Garden of Eden.
- Drive onto Iraq’s southernmost city of Basra
- Dinner and overnight in Basra
April 19th - Basra - Baghdad
- We’ll visit the Ashar and Shanashil area to catch a glimpse of the old Basra. Think old style merchant houses with balconies leaning over the narrow streets.
- We take a cruise across the Shatt Al Arab river and see some shipwrecks from the Iran-Iraq War from the 80s.
- Just like most places in Iraq, Saddam Hussain also built a grand palace in Basra. And of course we’ll visit it!
- Iraq’s biggest football stadium is in Basra. Iraqi’s love their football and are even more proud of the 60,000 seater Basra sports city stadium!
- If you’re a train fanatic then this one is for you; we’ll take the only active railroad in Iraq – the night train from Basra to Baghdad.
April 20th - Baghdad
- Early arrival into Baghdad train station. The station itself a real highlight so we’ll take some time to get some breakfast and take photos here.
- Visit the incredible Suffi shrine – a welcome escape from the city’s hustle and bustle
- See the Liberation Square monument, which commemorates the establishment of the Republic of Iraq.
- The Al Shaheed Monument is the martyr’s memorial spot for people who died during the Iran-Iraq War. These days it’s a highly controversial monument, as it was originally built during the Saddam era.
- And of course, Baghdad can’t be complete with a visit to the Flying Carpet Monument, Alibi Baba and the 40 thieves’ monument and the Magic Lamp monument.
- End of tour for those who don’t carry on to Iraqi Kurdistan.