Zakho in Iraq is a friendly and interesting city just over the border from Turkey (the Ibrahim Khalil border crossing is less than 10km away). It is definitely worth a stop over on your way through to the larger Kurdish cities of Dohuk or Erbil, or to the Iraqi capital Baghdad.
The city has some beautiful surroundings, and is a great base for a day or two exploring the Kurdistan Region’s north. After spending some time in and around Zakho, here’s my list of things to do, and places to stay.
Things to do:
Visit the Pira Delal Bridge
Zakho’s ancient Pira Delal stone bridge is over 1000 years old and 16 meters high, but has definitely seen better days. The crumbling stone structure is picturesque and Instagrammable, and also still used by vehicles and people alike. Young people will gather here to see a few brave souls jump off the top into the river below – a daredevil stunt that is probably better to watch than take part in.
Around 40km east of Zakho is the Sharanish waterfall. In a micro-climate of it’s own, and surrounded by lush green forest, Sharanish is a great place to go on a hot summer day as temperatures here will be several degrees Celsius lower than in Zakho city. A great place for a picnic.
Happy Theme Park
With fountains, a 5D cinema, cafes, theme park rides and lots of outdoor green space, this Zakho city attraction is a fun place to spend a few hours.
Visit the Bazaar
A typical Iraqi Kurdish bazaar, this place in the center of Zakho is well worth a visit. Get some local sweets, a cold icy drink on a hot day, or maybe haggle for some souvenirs that have caught your eye – for example a Kurdish style rug.
Go see Zakho FC play
If you’re a football fan, go and see Zakho’s very own football team who frequently play in Iraq’s highest division. The team play at the impressive 20,000 capacity Zakho International Stadium, and tickets are cheap – a couple of dollars.
Where to stay:
Hotels in Zakho are cheap and the service is generally very good. However many of the cheaper hotels don’t have an online presence, but when you’re in Zakho city itself you can easily spot them on most major streets. There will always be vacancies, so just walk in and ask about the price. You can negotiate and haggle the price down, especially if you’re staying for longer than a day. This is typical practice in the country, where hotel prices can always be negotiated even if the prices are on display.
A couple of decent hotels in Zakho, if you wish to plan ahead are:
Nobel Hotel: The décor is a little strange, but the staff are nice and hotel decent enough. Just ask a taxi driver to take you there. Expect to pay 15-20USD for a room, you may need to haggle to that price.
Sega Hotel: A clean simple hotel, with all the basics you will need for your stay in Zakho. Expect to pay around 20USD for a single, to 35-40 for a double.
Zakho is a safe city, and the local population is friendly and welcoming. However there’s no denying that Iraq, in general, is not the safest country in the world. Exercise caution as you travel, and be wary of entering areas in and around the region where there’s been a recent history of violence and conflict. For example, to the south in parts of the Nineveh Plains. As well as in the landscape around Amedi where Turkey frequently carries out bombings against Kurdish PKK rebels.