A city full of contradictions, Erbil fascinates and surprises at every turn. Located in the center of Kurdistan, Erbil is the largest city in the region with a population of roughly 1.5 million, and is a significant commercial hub that attracts lots of foreign investment. These foreign interests have seen the city modernize rapidly, with high-rise hotels and flashy shopping malls springing up from the foundations of the ancient city.
Despite being in such a conservative country, Erbil has a vast array of cultures and religions; there are a total of eight separate Kurdish communities and, although Islam is the major religion, there are also Christian, Jewish, Yazidis, Yarsan, and Alevis worshippers. All of these communities coexist peacefully, which is testament to the open-mindedness of the locals.
Erbil has a Mediterranean climate with very hot summers and warm, wet winters. Temperatures can soar up to 50°C between May and September, making it impossible to stay outside in the middle of the day. During the summer be sure to protect yourself from the sun and to drink plenty of water.
The best time of the year to explore downtown Erbil is between March and May when spring is blossoming, and temperatures are warm by day and cool by night. October to December is also very pleasant weather-wise.
You must obtain a visa to enter Iraq. You can get a 15 day visa on arrival in the Kurdistan region however this won’t be valid for travel to other regions of Iraq. If you are a citizen of one of the countries on this exemption list, you won’t be required to issue a visa.
For a business visa you will need to provide a completed application form, two passport photos, a color photocopy of your passport, a letter from your company in Iraq outlining your reason for travel (sponsorship form), and proof of funds for the entirety of your stay. Your passport should be valid for 3 months from the date of entry.
All visitors to Kurdistan who are staying more than 15 days needs either short or long-term permissions for residency and they are required to have a blood test taken to test for HIV and hepatitis. Information on where to go to receive the test can be found on arrival at the airport.