DestinationsIran TourismKurdistan

Kurdistan Travel Guide

Embark on a Captivating Journey Through Kurdistan

Kurdistan, with its diverse culture, pristine natural beauty, and rich history, is among the popular tourist destinations in Iran. A trip to Kurdistan can turn into a unique cultural and tourist experience, allowing you to explore its historical, ancient, natural, and cultural attractions. In this travel guide to Kurdistan, we will introduce you to the most remarkable attractions of this beautiful region.

Kurdistan province spans from the northwestern Zagros Mountains to the eastern Taurus Mountains, covering an area of approximately 500,000 square kilometers. It’s worth noting that there are around 30 million Kurds worldwide, with a significant Kurdish population residing outside the Kurdish regions in cities such as Istanbul, Tehran, Ankara, Karaj, Urmia, as well as countries like Germany, Sweden and Norway.


Accessing Kurdistan

If you’re looking to access the captivating region of Kurdistan in Iran, there are two fantastic ways to embark on your journey: by land or by air. Situated approximately 500 kilometers from Tehran, the central hub of Kurdistan, Sanandaj, is easily reachable by road. You can opt for a comfortable bus ride or even use your own private vehicle to make the scenic drive.

For those who prefer a quicker and more convenient travel experience, flying to this charming destination is a viable option. Sanandaj has its own airport, ensuring a hassle-free arrival.

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Distances to Kurdistan from Other Iranian Provinces

To give you an idea of the distances between Sanandaj, the heart of Kurdistan, and some major Iranian cities:

  • Sanandaj to Tehran: 494 kilometers
  • Sanandaj to Isfahan: 701 kilometers
  • Sanandaj to Shiraz: 1,185 kilometers
  • Sanandaj to Tabriz: 451 kilometers
  • Sanandaj to Mashhad: 1,376 kilometers
  • Sanandaj to Zahedan: 1,806 kilometers
  • Sanandaj to Bandar Abbas: 1,605 kilometers
  • Sanandaj to Ahvaz: 616 kilometers

Kurdistan’s Climate and the Best Time to Visit

Mountains of Kurdistan, Iran
Mountains of Kurdistan, Iran

Kurdistan is nestled in a mountainous region and is one of Iran’s highest provinces. Its capital, Sanandaj, is located at a distance of 512 kilometers from Tehran. Due to its location, the region experiences a cold and semi-arid climate.

Considering the climate conditions, the best time to plan your visit depends on your preferences. For those who enjoy mild weather and lush landscapes, the ideal time to explore Kurdistan is during the months of Farvardin and Ordibehesht (roughly April and May). This period coincides with abundant rainfall and the lush greenery of the region.

On the other hand, winter sports enthusiasts can embrace the snowy delights of Kurdistan during the winter season. The region is perfect for skiing and snow-related activities, making the winter months an excellent choice for those seeking adventure.

Exploring the Most Beloved Kurdish Dishes

When discussing the wonders of Kurdistan, it’s impossible to ignore the natural attractions like springs, rivers, lakes, caves, and waterfalls that make it a paradise for nature enthusiasts. However, one aspect that often goes unnoticed is the rich culinary heritage of this mountainous region. Kurdistan boasts a treasure trove of unique and flavorsome dishes crafted from its natural bounty, each with its distinct aroma and taste.

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1. Shilkinah: A Local Delicacy

Shilkinah
Shilkinah (photo by Wikipedia)

Shilkinah is a highly sought-after local treat that many travelers seek as a souvenir to bring back for friends and family. This delectable delight is a must-try when visiting Kurdistan.

2. Kalaneh: Kurdish Pizza

Kalaneh
Kalaneh (photo by Wikipedia)

For those who appreciate fast food, Kalaneh is sure to please your palate. Resembling a pizza, Kalaneh is made using a mix of fresh vegetables and leeks, giving it a distinctive flavor.

3. Riwas Stew: A Mountainous Delight

Riwas Stew
Riwas Stew

Kurdistan’s mountainous terrain ensures an abundance of fresh herbs and edible plants. Riwas stew is a testament to this culinary richness, incorporating a variety of these natural ingredients.

4. Qayirme: A Unique Culinary Gem

Qayirme
Qayirme

Qayirme is a dish that boasts an exotic appearance. To prepare Qayirme, artichoke hearts (or celery) are peeled, diced, and submerged in a thick, yogurt-based sauce. The sauce is created using eggs, water, saffron, butter, and flour, resulting in a tantalizing blend of flavors.

Other Kurdish Delicacies Include:

  • Ash-e Adas Balghoor (Lentil Soup with Bulgur)
  • Ash-e Doogh Waa (Yogurt Soup)
  • Ash-e Gozne (Noodle Soup)
  • Kurdish Kebab
  • Grilled Fish
  • Reshte Ron (Kurdish Noodles)
  • Dolma Barg-e Mo (Stuffed Grape Leaves)
  • Hetimcheh (Stuffed Cabbage)
  • Savar (Kurdish Dumplings)

Kurdistan, with its rich history and culture, boasts a plethora of diverse and abundant tourist attractions that attract numerous visitors each year. From its pristine and scenic mountain ranges to ancient cities and bustling commercial centers, Kurdistan is one of Iran’s beloved tourist destinations. In this guide to traveling in Kurdistan, we will delve into the most popular attractions, each with its unique charm, making a trip to Kurdistan an unforgettable experience.

Horaman or Uraman: A Cultural Gem

Horaman, Kurdistan, Iran
Horaman, Kurdistan, Iran

Horaman or Uraman is a symbol of the traditional culture of the Horami people, a Kurdish tribe that has inhabited this region since the third millennium BC. Human settlement in these two valleys has adapted to the challenging mountainous conditions over thousands of years. The region’s architecture features sloping roofs, dry stone gardening, livestock farming, and vertical seasonal migration, reflecting the cultural and traditional life of the Horami people, who live in the lowlands and highlands at various times of the year.

The step-like architecture of the Uraman region gives the entire area a distinctive conical shape. In this architectural style, each house’s roof serves as a courtyard. The majority of houses are located at the bottom, while an ancient castle is perched at the top, enhancing the conical shape of the region. Due to its resemblance to the village of Masuleh in northern Iran, this stepped design has earned the Uraman region the nickname “Village of a Thousand Masulehs.”

The settlement of people in 12 villages within this cultural landscape demonstrates how these people, over thousands of years, have adopted advanced strategies to overcome the challenges of fertile land scarcity in the mountainous climate. According to discovered documents in this region, settlement in Uraman dates back to prehistoric times, and evidence of Assyrian, Median, Achaemenid, and Greek rule has been confirmed in this area.

The name of this region is derived from two words, “Hora” or “Ahura,” meaning “sun,” and “Man,” meaning “coming.” Thus, the combination of these words gives the name to the cultural landscape of Uraman, meaning “House of Ahura Mazda” or “House of the Sun.”

The cultural landscape of Uraman/Horaman is the twenty-sixth global heritage site in Iran and the third Iranian cultural landscape registered on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

Sirwan River: A Majestic Waterway

Sirwan River, Kurdistan, Iran
Sirwan River, Kurdistan, Iran (photo by Wikimedia Commons)

One of the most significant rivers in Kurdistan, renowned for its picturesque beauty, is the Sirwan River. This winding river flows through the western and northwestern parts of Horaman and divides the Horaman region into two parts. Most of the river’s course lies in the city of Paweh, starting from the Razav and Marivan districts of Kurdistan. After passing through the northwestern regions of Uramanat, it enters Iraq.

Kurdistan is a land of diverse landscapes and rich cultural heritage, and these attractions are just a glimpse of what this region has to offer. Whether you’re captivated by the traditional charm of Uraman, the majesty of the Sirwan River, or any other facet of Kurdistan, each experience promises to leave an indelible mark on your journey.

Marivan

Marivan, Kurdistan, Iran
Marivan, Kurdistan, Iran

Marivan, a picturesque border city nestled in Kurdistan Province, boasts its exceptional natural beauty due to its proximity to the Zerivar and Uraman Lakes. The origin of the city’s name, Marivan, has multiple narratives. Some believe it stems from the Kurdish word “Marawi,” meaning “a place for waterfowl,” as this region is home to the Zerivar marshland, teeming with various waterfowl species.

Zerivar Lake in Marivan

Zerivar Lake, Kurdistan, Iran
Zerivar Lake, Kurdistan, Iran (photo by Wikipedia)

Let’s kick off our travel guide to Kurdistan with Zerivar Lake. Situated at an elevation of 1,285 meters above sea level, Zerivar Lake stands as one of the most unique freshwater lakes globally, resembling the characteristics of an international wetland.

Remarkably, this lake lacks any flowing rivers, sourcing its water from underground springs and the melting snow from the surrounding mountains. During winter, the lake’s surface freezes due to the cold climate, but around 60 points within the lake remain unfrozen, thanks to these underwater springs.

Zerivar Lake, nestled within a relatively high valley, is surrounded by lush, forested mountains on both its eastern and western sides. The lake is home to various fish species, diverse birdlife, and rich plant biodiversity. Additionally, Zerivar is a renowned recreational area, playing a vital role in the region’s agriculture. Fishing in the lake is a popular activity, particularly during holidays.

Sanandaj

Sanandaj Bazaar, Kurdistan, Iran
Sanandaj Bazaar, Kurdistan, Iran

Sanandaj, one of the most beautiful and tourist-friendly cities in western Iran, experiences increased travel activity with the onset of summer and warm weather. Serving as the capital of Kurdistan Province and the second-largest Kurdish-majority city in Iran, Sanandaj encompasses numerous historical and natural attractions. The pleasant climate during the summer, the abundance of tourist attractions, and the unique hospitality of the Kurdish people make Sanandaj one of the top summer destinations.

Abidar

Abidar Mountain, Kurdistan, Iran
Abidar Mountain, Kurdistan, Iran (photo by Wikipedia)

Abidar, often referred to as “Avir” in the local dialect, is a mountain located opposite the city of Sanandaj in Kurdistan Province. This mountain, which is in the southwestern part of the city, derives its name from the combination of “Ab” (water) and “Dar” (from), reflecting the presence of rivers and springs flowing from the surrounding mountains.

Abidar consists of two main peaks: Abidar Bozorg (with an altitude of 2,550 meters) and Abidar Kuchak (with an altitude of 2,350 meters). Abidar boasts a plethora of natural attractions, including the Shafa mines, Mamatekhe, Bante, Gooze Kohir, Kharzende, Bagh Amirieh, Haft Asiyab, Ban Shalaneh, Kuchek Quran, and Abidar Summit, where a shelter has been constructed for mountaineers.

Moreover, a forest park is situated at an elevation of 1,600 to 2,500 meters above sea level, covering an area of approximately 2,800 square kilometers. The park features various tree species, including black pine, Turkish pine, blackberry, Arizona cypress, and plane trees.

Bijar

Bijar, Kurdistan, Iran
Bijar, Kurdistan, Iran

Bijar, often referred to as the “Rooftop of Iran,” is one of the highest cities in the country. When visiting Bijar, be sure to indulge in its traditional ice creams, known for their freshness and unique flavors, adding a touch of delight to your journey. The city boasts historical treasures like the traditional bazaar and the Qamchay Castle. Don’t miss out on the Nasar Ski Resort, offering fantastic skiing experiences.

Saqqez

Saqqez, Kurdistan, Iran
Saqqez, Kurdistan, Iran

Saqqez reveals its historical wonders, including the ancient mound of Ziweyeh, once inhabited by the Manai tribe in ancient times. The city holds other historical attractions worth exploring, such as the Domanareh Mosque, dating back to the Afsharid era, and the Haj Saleh Bathhouse, a relic from the Safavid period. Saqqez’s rich history and cultural heritage make it a captivating destination.

Baneh

Baneh, Kurdistan, Iran
Baneh, Kurdistan, Iran

Baneh has earned its reputation as a shopping haven in the border region, attracting countless domestic travelers every year. If you plan to shop in this city, it’s best to visit on non-holiday weekdays to avoid the crowds. Baneh offers a wide range of shopping options, making it a shopper’s delight.

Kamiaran

Kamiaran, Kurdistan, Iran
Kamiaran, Kurdistan, Iran

Kamiaran, a beautiful and enchanting city located approximately 65 kilometers south of Sanandaj, is a hidden gem in Kurdistan. This city boasts 130 historical buildings, with 74 of them listed as national heritage sites. One of the most attractive tourist spots in Kamiaran is the village of Palangan, renowned for its potential in attracting tourists and its stunning natural beauty.

Palangan Village

Palangan Village, Kurdistan, Iran
Palangan Village, Kurdistan, Iran

Our next destination in the Kurdistan travel guide is Palangan. Situated just one kilometer from the Tangiwar Valley in Kamiaran County, Kurdistan Province, Palangan is a village inhabited by Orami-speaking Kurds. The origin of the name “Palangan” is not entirely clear, but it may derive from the Kurdish words “palang” or “pal,” meaning refuge or shelter.

Palangan’s unique charm lies in its location along the sides of the valley, with houses constructed from stone. The village’s water source is the Tangiwar River and 20 springs in the area. What’s truly astonishing about Palangan is that these springs create breathtaking waterfalls within the valley.

The Tangiwar River joins the Sirwan River after Palangan. Approximately one kilometer southeast of Palangan, in the heart of the valley and next to the springs, stands a sturdy fortress known as the “Palangan Castle.” It bears traces of ancient hearths, internal and external bridges, dating back to the time of the Medes.

Additionally, Palangan boasts seven other castles, remnants of an ancient city dating back to the Median period. There is also a Jewish cemetery from the Achaemenid era with inscriptions on the tombstones from the 6th and 7th centuries.

Every year, the residents of Palangan celebrate Nowruz, the Iranian New Year, just like the rest of the country. During this celebration, a large bonfire is lit, accompanied by local music and dance, making it an exhilarating time to visit this village.

Pir Shalyar Ceremony

Pir Shalyar Ceremony In Kurdistan Of Iran
Pir Shalyar Ceremony In Kurdistan Of Iran

The Pir Shalyar Ceremony is a remarkable cultural event in the Horaman region of Kurdistan. Often referred to as the “Pir Shalyar Wedding,” this ancient ceremony has been celebrated for thousands of years. It takes place twice a year, once on the 15th of Bahman (February) and the other on the 15th of Ordibehesht (May) in Kurdistan.

The Unique Kumasi Ritual

Kumasi Ritual in Kurdistan
Kumasi Ritual in Kurdistan

However, the Kumasi Ritual, also known as the “Breaking of the Sacred Stone,” presents a slightly different aspect of the tradition. This ritual occurs on the last Friday before the middle of Ordibehesht (around the 15th of Ordibehesht). It is held at the Pir Shalyar shrine in Horaman, starting early in the morning.

The Kumasi Ritual includes reciting prayers (Fatehah), playing traditional drums (Daf), and chanting Talileh verses. At the conclusion of each ceremony, a sacred stone is shattered. According to local beliefs, this stone miraculously regrows by the following year. The Kumasi Ritual attracts numerous tourists during the spring season, bringing visitors from various countries to Horaman.

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Final Words

Considering the high level of hospitality in Kurdistan and its abundant natural and historical attractions, a journey to this region promises a unique cultural and tourist experience. In this travel guide to Kurdistan, we’ve explored and introduced you to the region’s captivating destinations. With this information, you can plan a well-informed trip to this beautiful province and make the most of your travel experience.

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SURFIRAN Editorial Team

SURFIRAN is an Iranian tour operator and travel agency offering tour packages to those interested in Iran. It provides the tourists with services needed to travel to Iran, offers tours across the country, and assists the tourists in obtaining Iranian visas.

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