Kurdistan Province, Located on north-west Iran, south of the Azerbaijan region, is one of the most important tourist attractions in Iran due to its unique climate, beautiful landscapes and many historical sites dating back to antiquity.
Kurds, one the most ancient ethnic groups on the planet, constitute the great majority of the population in the region and remnants of their rich history are still there in their present language, rites, foods, clothes, etc. So, to travel to Kurdistan can be a form of time-travel, an adventure into a zone still buzzing with myths and forgotten rituals.
Major location suitable for touring in Kurdistan:
The capital of Kurdistan is the city of Sanandaj. Other major cities considerable for a tour includes Kamyaran, Mariwan, Baneh, Piranshahr, Saqez, Bijar, Diwandarreh.
When to go to Kurdistan and how to get there?
the Best time for visiting Kurdistan (the best time as in heavenly and unforgettable high altitude atmosphere) is the period between May and September. To reach Kurdistan you can take a bus from almost all the major cities in Iran to Sanandaj.
Sanandaj’s Distance from Tehran amounts to 500km. Due to the mountainous terrain and rangy roads, the trip could take up to 8 hours. There is also an airport in Sanandaj, so likewise you can fly to Kurdistan from most of the major cities in Iran.
Kordestan and sanandaj on map:
Hotels in Kurdistan:
While there, Depending on the city of your choice, accommodating options in Kurdistan may differ.
From luxury hotels in some of the cities to local houses in historical villages, you will always be embraced generously (and with low-prices too!) since Kurds are incredibly hospitable people, especially towards foreign visitors. Some of the Hotels in Major cities are:
Shadi Hotel – Sanandaj
Address: Opposite Kordestan Medical University, Pasdaran Blvd
Tourist Hotel – Sanandaj
Address: Pasdaran Blvd.
Abidar Hotel – Sanandaj
Address: Ferdowsi st, adjacent to Bahman Theatre
Zarivar Hotel – Mariwan
Address: Daryache Blvd East side of Zarivar Lake
Haleh Hotel – Baneh
Addrs: Motahari st, Farmandari sq
Zana Hotel – Baneh
Address: Saqez road, opposite the main bus station
Kurd Hotel – Saqez
Address: Madar sq
Maad Hotel – Saqez
Address: Saqez, Haft-e-Tir Blvd
But the real Kurdistan lays deep in the mountains, where for eons Kings and warriors and Sufis and Travelers have been lured into these magical spines of the earth, seeking refuge or glory, finding peace and spiritual solitude.
Kurdistan’s civilization dates back to the Median Kingdom, 7th century BC. Its incredible natural environment is host to some of the most exciting historical sites you’ll find in the region. These are several places where you can find this unique blend:
Hawraman or Ouraman (and Pir Shalyar Wedding ceremony):
This beautiful region, located on a mountain range which is the border between Iran and Iraq, has been attracting tons of travelers in recent years and is the most recommended place to visit in Kurdistan.
You can enjoy the breathtakingly winding green valleys, very high mountains, muddy rivers and spectacular clouds of Hawraman while visiting its numerous ancient attractions, from ruined castles of dead kingdoms to still-populated villages that are as old as their awning mountains themselves.
Local people speak Hawrami, which is a branch of the Kurdish language. It is believed to be one of the oldest dialects of northwestern Iranian language, Zaza-Gorani. According to a survey carried out in 1996, there were only 40 thousand speakers of this language in the world.
Stair-stepped villages of this region are some of the most authentic attractions of Kurdistan. Unbelievable architecture, ancient ceremonies and tons of traditional merchandises await you there, especially in Hawraman village itself which is the site to The ruins of a Sassanid fire temple and host to the ancient ceremony of Pir Shalyar’s wedding.
Filled with rhythmic music, religious chants, and ritualistic dances, Pir Shalyar’s wedding is one of the most intact festivals from ancient years, celebrated in the magical village of Hawraman. It is said that Pir Shalyar celebrations go back to over 950 years ago.
It recalls and reanimates an old legend, about a wise old man, called Pir Shalyar, who was very much respected and well known in the region and cured the princess of Bukhara of her deafness and married her later. Legendary Dervishes of Hawraman dance to the rhythmic pulse of Daf to celebrate this mythic event.
The wedding ceremony takes place each year in early February, starting on a Wednesday, during which a traditional soup (with the same recipe of 950 years ago) will flavor the feast with the ancient taste of happiness.
The border city of Mariwan, in the Vicinity of Zarivar Lake, is famous for its pristine wilderness, a location of myths and fairytales. The lake itself, a body of water resultant of several spontaneous springs at the bottom of the lake, a “sourceless” lake, is a mystery worth exploring.
You can camp on its shores, go boating on it, and enjoy its unique wildlife. Various local foods and a decent Hotel nearby make the visit even more attracting.
Although the best time for visiting this region is during the warm season, the wintery landscapes of its adjacent planes and Zarivar Lake itself (frozen all over except for the boiling springheads) are also quite magnificent.
Although the capital of the province, Sanandaj is still a small town surrounded by hills and has a lively bazaar full of fresh fruit, vegetables, and herbs. In Iran, famous for its people’s hospitality, Sanandaj stands out as one of the friendliest cities you can visit.
Its old bazaar, founded in the era of Safavid Kings, is colorful, drenched in traditional scents and sounds, and is noted as a place to buy Kurdish handicrafts.
Sanandaj is home to the ruins of an 11th- and 12th- century fortress, the Dar al-Ehsan Mosque, and the Sanandaj Museum. The museum is a 19th-century royal palace called the Kurd House, whose Arusi Room, or Wedding Room, is considered a masterpiece of handcrafted woodwork.
While there, you can also visit the world’s largest outdoor cinema in Amiriye park.
The area outskirt of Sanandaj is known for its many mountain caves, hot springs, and freshwater lakes, many of which cater to travelers. a good base for tours to Marivan, and a great place to learn more about Kurdish history and culture than anywhere else.
You’ll see plenty of men wearing traditional cummerbunds and baggy Kurdish trousers. Yet it’s a modern, noticeably prosperous city with a large, fashionable population of students keen to try out their English. For getting by better, remember this: In Sanandaj’s Sorani-Kurdish language, ju-an means beautiful and deso hoshbe means thank you.
If you happened to go to Bijar, make sure you try their traditional ice-creams, rose-watery and full of cardamom. Bijar is one of the highest cities in Iran and is called Iran’s roof-top. Its traditional bazaar must be high on your touring list since locals sell famous Bijari rugs there, known for their fine quality for millennia.
If icy fun is your style, Do not forget Nesar Ski Resort which can be riched quick and easy since it’s in the immediate vicinity of the city itself. Last but certainly not least, comes Qomchoqay Castle, a structure dating back to ancient Iran, one of the few remaining examples of ancient Kurdish architecture.
the second-largest city in Kurdistan, old and cold and beautiful, is Saqez. as all the historical cities in Iran, the local bazaar is a must-see. Do-Menareh (two-minarets), a 400 years old masque and a traditional public bath called Haj Saleh (from Safavid era) might be of interest to you. but the main attraction lies just outside of the city:
Iran, a country of historic castles, is proud of Ziwiyeh, an ancient stronghold on top of the strategic mountains of northern Kurdistan. it is said that it’d been a Median settlement and the artifacts ungrounded there certainly imply so.
Kamyaran (and the village of Palangan):
The beautiful city of Kamyaran itself is an incredible example of how in Iran eons of civilization are lying on top of each other like mounds of alien history. Kamyaran with its 130 historic buildings is one the most visited places of Kurdistan. but even more exciting is the nearby village called Palangan.
This stepped village is an oasis of peace and quietness. Tangivar River flowing through the village is a graceful river, local fishermen bring back Maahi for the simple outdoor restaurants near the river serving excellent grilled fish and tea.
numerous waterfalls and mineral water springs, delicate brines of the mountain, attract urban Kurds themselves from Kamyaran and Sanandaj to this place for a pick and nick. Palangan offers visitors a glimpse into a lifestyle that has all but disappeared from the modern world.
Far away from the endless distractions of big cities, the villager’s simple lives are filled with calm and tranquility. Watching livestock cross the bridges, listening to the soothing sound of the river, and simply resting under the shade of the mulberry trees allows one to reconnect with mother nature and reach a deep sense of inner peace.
so if you’re able to make the trip on local holidays, you can be sure you’ll end up taken care of in the most pleasant way by the generous local people.
Without a doubt the best time to visit Palangan is during the annual Nowruz (Iranian New Year) celebration, usually held in the middle of March (the exact day is declared by the village council a few weeks before that and varies year by year, but is always held a few days before the actual New Year). At this time, the entire village assembles next to the river.
A large torch is lit (and kept on for several days), important villagers make speeches, and then traditional Kurdish singing and dancing begins.
Foods of Kurdistan:
All over these cities and villages, in fact all over Kurdistan province, you can enjoy the famous Kurdish cuisine. Among them, we strongly recommend Shalkineh, a traditional bread- Kalaneh, a pizza-like veggie meal- Rheum Stew (Khoresh-e-Rivas) with rice (Polo)- Qayromeh, a mouthwatering Veggie Kebab- and of course Kurdish Kebab itself.
Souvenirs of Kurdistan:
Kurdistan is well-known for its handicraft. If you want to bring back some souvenirs from your trip to the region, consider handicrafts such as carpet-weaving and woodworks (Chessboard and backgammon board are two important and delicate woodworks of this province).
The province boasts various local confectioneries such as Konjed Gazanbin, Badam-Sukhteh, Baslogh, and Nan-Berenji. From among these confectioneries, Konjed is specifically made in the provincial capital Sanandaj and is highly favored by travelers. Then there is Julai, the ethnic costumes of Kurdish men and Klash (ethnic shoes).
But don’t forget, Kurdistan is famous mostly for its musical sphere and handcrafting beautiful and traditional musical instruments such as Daf, Qernetre, and Tanbur is a source of pride there.