Join us on our epic train tour to Iraq; a journey that inspired Agatha Christie to write Murder on the Orient Express!
We’ll begin our tour from Lupine HQ in Wigan town and travel onward through the cities of London, Paris, Munich, Zagreb, Belgrade, Sofia, Istanbul, Ankara and Diyarbakir, before crossing the border into Iraqi Kurdistan.
You’ll get to relax on board the trains with fellow group members and other travellers; sharing stories and experiences alike. We’ve also included time to spend in each of these captivating cities, so that you can do some investigating of your own.
We’ll travel as far as eastern Turkey by train and then transfer to a private bus before loosely following the traditional route. Most of the original tracks are today sadly abandoned or no longer in place since being pulled up by Saddam Hussein's forces in the 1980's to use the steel for weapons.
Once in Iraq, we’ll have the opportunity to explore this fascinating and seldom visited region; which boasts some of the most beautiful scenery in the whole of the Middle East. Although this region is now safe and stable, its people suffered greatly under the reign of Saddam. We'll learn more about this sad history during our time here.
We start the tour in Wigan; base of Lupine Travel. In the afternoon we'll take a walking tour of the town, where we'll see the George Formby and 'Face of Wigan' statues, the George Orwell plaque (situated on the location of where he stayed whilst writing his 1937 book, "The Road to Wigan Pier") and the 16th Century Parish Church. In the evening we'll go for a group welcome dinner.
Morning departure from Wigan North Western train station to London. Arrive into London Euston and make our way to St Pancras International train station for the Eurostar service to Paris. Check into our hotel and evening at leisure in the French capital.
Free morning and early afternoon to relax in bars and cafes or to explore some of the many sights of Paris. Follow the tourist hordes to the Champs Elysee, The Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral or catch a glimpse of the Mona Lisa at the Louvre Museum. For an alternative view of the city, visit Montemartre and take in the atmosphere of the old Latin quarter. Views over the city are excellent from here too. In the late afternoon we will take the TGV Duplex train to Munich. Once in the Bavarian capital we will have a couple of hours to grab some supplies or have a quick dinner before boarding the overnight train to Zagreb.
Morning arrival into Zagreb and transfer to our hotel. Free time around the Croatian capital, where you can take in the sites of the gothic twin-spired Zagreb Cathedral, St Mark’s Church, and wander along Tkalciceva Street for its lively atmosphere.
In the early afternoon, we take the train to Belgrade where we will stay for two nights. Arrive in the Serbian capital in the evening and transfer to our hotel.
Today we take a break from the train and have a full free day in Belgrade. Maybe visit the famous Belgrade Fortress, take a walk around Kalemegdan Park or head over to the vintage street of Skadarlija; which is charming both during the day and night.
Early morning departure today to Sofia, with transfer stops along the way in Nis and Dimitrovgrad. Arrive into the Bulgarian capital of Sofia in the early evening. Transfer to our hotel where we'll stay overnight.
A free day today to explore one of Eastern Europe’s oldest cities. Here you will have opportunity to see the medieval Boyana Church, Rila Monastery and the impressive Aleksander Nevski Cathedral. In the early evening we return to the train station to take the overnight train to Istanbul.
Early morning arrival to Istanbul and transfer to our hotel. Spend the day at leisure in the hustle and bustle of the city, where you will have the chance to visit the Blue Mosque, Grand Bazar, Hagia Sophia and countless other possibilities.
A further chance to explore Istanbul today, before a late afternoon departure to Ankara; the Turkish capital. Arrive in the evening and transfer to our hotel.
After breakfast, we return to the train station where we will take the 21-hour sleeper train east to the Kurdish capital of Diyarbakir.
Morning arrival into Diyarbakir. Today we will take a guided tour of South East Turkey's biggest city where we will walk around the ancient city walls, see the Great Mosque, the Four-Legged Minaret, the Armenian and Cyriac churches and two restored caravansaries. Evening at leisure.
The train journey is now at an end and we'll transfer to a private bus for the remainder of our tour. This leg of the journey will loosely follow the original train route. Previously the train line ran down from Eastern Turkey into Syria and across into Mosul before snaking South to Baghdad. Large sections of this line are either temporarily out of action due to conflict, or in the case of parts of Iraq, the lines were ripped up by Saddam's forces in the 1980's to use the steel for weaponry.
We will travel South and alongside the Syrian border before arriving at the Iraqi frontier. Undergo border formalities before crossing into Iraqi Kurdistan. Drive through Zakho before travelling onwards to Duhok where we will stay overnight.
After breakfast we will take a walk around the streets and bazaars of Duhok before we depart to the remote mountain village of Lalish; the spiritual heartland of the Yazidi people. Afterwards we drive to the Iraqi Kurdish capital of Erbil where we will stay overnight.
After breakfast we will take a tour of Erbil. Early in the day we will see old Erbil, visiting the Kurdish Archaeology Museum, the Mound of Qalich Agha and the ancient Citadel before stopping for a drink in one of the old tea houses. In the afternoon we visit the old railway station and the Jalil Khayat Mosque. In the evening we will head out to Ainkawa for food and drinks in the Christian district.
After breakfast we travel out onto the famous Hamilton Road. Widely regarded as one of the greatest engineering feats of the 20th Century, the road was engineered by New Zealand-born Archibald Hamilton between 1928 and 1932. The road snakes through incredible scenery, from gorges, canyons, rivers, lakes and mountains. We will stop along the way at Bekhal Waterfall, Gali Ali Bag Waterfall and also pass through the towns and villages of Shaqlawa, Harir and Soran. In the late afternoon we will head to Pank Resort; a holiday destination for both Kurdish and Arab Iraqis. As well as breathtaking panoramic views, there is also the chance to use a self drive rollercoaster! Afterwards we have the option to head to the Korek Mountain ski resort with a 15 minute cable car ride to the top. Afterwards we will return to Shaqlawa where we stay overnight.
After breakfast we will travel to Sulaymaniyah. En route we will visit the Qshla of Koya Citadel and the beautiful Dokan Lake, where it is possible to take a boat ride, and then we will stop for lunch. Upon arrival in Sulaymaniyah, we'll take a sombre visit to Amna Sukhara, also known as the 'Red Prison'. This was the former Northern headquarters of Mukhbarat (the Iraqi Intelligence Service) and was used by Saddam Hussein's regime for imprisonment and torture of Kurds. Within the prison is a beautiful memorial made from 182,000 mirrored pieces and 5400 lights. Each piece of mirror signifies one Kurd killed by Saddam's regime and the lights for each Kurdish village destroyed. Afterwards we'll check in to our Sulaymaniyah hotel., rest of the evening at leisure.
Today we will visit the town of Halabja. On March 16th 1988, the town was subjected to the worst case of genocide in Iraq's history. Over a period of 5 hours, chemical weapons were used against the civilians of Halabja with 5000 killed and up to 10,000 injured. We will visit the Halabja Monument Museum before having a short walk around the town and stopping for lunch. Afterwards we will return to Sulaymaniyah with the rest of the evening spent at leisure.
In the morning we will walk around the streets and markets of Sulaymaniyah before returning to Erbil where we will have some free time for some last minute souvenir shopping before we enjoy our last dinner together before departure the following day.
The tour ends today. You will be transferred to the airport for your flight home.