Duhok/Dohuk in Kurdistan in Iraq is an odd kind of town. You’ve never been in one like it before and you’ll never be in one like it again. In fact, the nearest comparison I can make to Dohuk is with a town called Vank in Nagorno Karabakh. Basically Dohuk wants to be cool. It really wants to be. But it has a lot of barriers to overcome. Slowly but surely this town is becoming a decent spot for travellers. Even though you won’t linger long (we stayed 2 nights), it’s definitely worth a trip if you’re touring Northern Iraq. And one more thing – don’t be confused by the spelling of the town in this post – it’s sometimes Dohuk, sometimes Duhok!!
Getting to Dohuk
Most travellers will come overland from either Zakho, Mosul or Erbil. Realistically Mosul is in the “dangerous” part of Iraq so you’ll more than likely be arriving from Zakho or Erbil. A friend reckons there are decent bus networks available if you look around, but we couldn’t find many (and they are few and far between) so we stuck to sharing taxis with the locals. Safer, faster and easier to sort out, if slightly dearer. The main Garaj (taxi/transport station) is near Cinema Street and the Bazaar in the town centre.
Where to Stay in Duhok, Kurdistan, Iraq
There are LOTS of budget hotels in and around the town centre, especially near the Bazaar. We opted for the cheap Parlaman Hotel which is actually at the far entrance to the Bazaar itself. It was cosy and cheap and the wi-fi worked. Rooms weren’t the cleanest though, and no breakfast. Overall ok though!
10 Things to see and do in Dohuk, Kurdistan, Iraq
I’ll cover Dohuk only in this post and highlight what I deemed to be the top 10 things to see and do in Dohuk itself. We also visited the mountains towns of Sulav and Amadiya, but I will write about them separately, you can see my post on exploring Amadiya here.
1. The Corniche Promenade
Running long and windingly through the city, and right out to Dohuk Dam, this trendy and smart looking promenade makes a fresh and relaxing walk. Students hang around to study, old men chat, kids mess around and the big city carries on regardless up above. I ended up walking almost the whole way along it. That was probably too much – it needs a bit of work done to it, but it’s pleasant enough.
2. Dohuk Valley and Dam
This might just be your highlight from Dohuk. Walk out of town and you will see a massive dam which has been built against completely immaculate and scenic countryside. The walk takes you up a hill past a proud Kurdistan flag and then there it is – the Dohuk Dam.
The valley spreads far and wide and the views are worth it.
3. Dohuk Waterfalls
First of all – these waterfalls are FAKE. They are not natural at all. We caught them out one morning while walking past they had turned one of them off!! However this doesn’t stop the locals going and enjoying them and you’ll want to get your photo taken anyway as you walk past.
4. Dohuk Bazaar
It seems that every city or town of any decent size in Iran, Iraq and Turkey has a bazaar. Dohuk’s is colourful and has all the usual stuff – fruit and veg stalls, drinks, clothes, nik baks, electronics etc.
5. Admiring the Views – Azadi Viewpoint/Rasan/Sindore Street
Azadi Viewpoint is a custom built viewpoint over the city. In honest, there are better places for views though like the walk to the Dohuk Dam along Sindore Street and the Rasan Hotel.
6. Rasan Hotel 8th Floor Bar
Alcohol in bars is not easy to find in Dohuk, predictably Ask around and you might be lucky to find an off the wall merchant selling beer unofficially in the back. But enter the posh Rasan Hotel which has an almost “secret bar” on its 8th floor. This is where I enjoyed my first beer in Iraq (a Corona). The bar has a great view over the city – probably one of the best views you’ll get. The owner also showed me the secret stash in the beer fridge. The Iraqis and Kurds that were drinking there had to do so with the lights out. It’s all a bit secretive but that made the experience even better!
7. Dohuk Art Gallery
We couldn’t get inside the days we were there but this place has a load of Kurdish Art which for sure will be unique and interesting, finding a museum in Iraq is hard at the best of times – their first museum opened in 2003.
8. Dohuk Grand Mosque
Well I can’t leave a Mosque out – we’re in an Islamic state here. The old Grand Mosque in the Bazaar is hardly the prettiest you’ll ever see, but its minaret spikes out rightly from the old poky lanes of the Bazaar and the call to prayer rings round town.
A nicer Mosque towers high on the edge of town…
9. Church of St. Ith Llaha
There are Christians and Armenians in this region too so the Church of St. Ith Llaha is worth checking out.
10. Dream City
Not quite the dream you imagined, but between Dream City and the park near Dohuk Dam we have the reason this is similar to Vank. This is a theme park full of rides and a few food outlets. It’s basically a fun fair and this type of thing is becoming cool in Iraq these days.
So you’ll not be short of things to do in Dohuk. There are also a load of cool restaurants including Omara Restaurant Dohuk and many in and around the bazaar. Smoking shish is a common pastime too on the streets – but its 100% guys doing it – as a foreigner you’d probably be the only girl there smoking.
Dohuk is worth checking out everyone! Don’t forget to read my post on getting an Iraqi Kurdistan Visa on arrival at Erbil International Airport.
Here are some great other sites to check out if you want to visit Iraqi Kurdistan:
36 thoughts on “10 Things to see and do in Duhok, Kurdistan, Iraq”
Even though you are spending 10 days in the Kurdistan region, I am finding these posts to just be fascinating. Just makes you think what else Iraq has to offer once/if it stabilizes again in our lifetime! I really love the 8th Floor hotel bar suggestion, though. Gotta love those “hidden gems” of travel. Makes me wonder how you found out about this place and your immediate reaction once you did. 😉
Thanks for the comment Ray. Kurdistan region is probably the safest in Iraq. We have passed through Kirkuk and by-passed Mosul too, those cities are not completely in Kurdistan and are not recommended. I spoke to an archaeologist yesterday and he told me that sadly Babylon’s Hanging Gardens is not recommended for tourists at the moment, nor is the Garden of Eden or Ur. As soon as it becomes safer I’ll give it a try to backpack the south of this immense country. I found this bar by walking down the street, walking in and asking reception for a beer. Two other cities in the Kurdistan region have lots of bars – including a European Sports Bar (where I watched football) and a German Bar serving German beer and bratwurst. It’s a beautiful country with great people. Such a shame they have been through a horrific regime and hopefully they will enjoy a peaceful future. Safe travels. Jonny
Nice tips Jonny. It looks like the city fathers have cleaned up the corniche – it was filthy with rubbish when we walked along it. I had no idea those waterfalls were fake, though am glad I wasn’t fooled by the plastic animals in and around it 🙂
There is a street with a small cluster of bars and off licenses grouped together on a street leading off the main road. The bar we went in seemed legal but the windows were covered up and it was the gloomiest lit bar I’ve ever drank in. I can’t remember the name of the street (but it could be Nohadra Road) but if walking along Kawa Road from Hotel Parleman (where we stayed too) to Mankal (or Manqal) Restaurant, the street is on the left, and nearer to Mankal than the hotel. I hope that helps any thirsty travellers out there in need of an Efes or two.
Shane recently posted…More Working Abroad Posts in The Working Traveller in 2014
Hi Shane – thanks so much for the tips here – they will help my readers and other travellers for sure! We’ve left Duhok now and are back in Erbil but loved being the only 2 backpackers in Duhok. I didn’t see any of the bars you mentioned but did happen to get a cheap few beers in the Rasan Hotel! Safe travels. Jonny
Thanks for sharing …it’s great to see Dohuk revitalized…..I was there in 1991 helping the Kurdish refugees, helped get a small hospital running….I also met my American Husband there…..spent some time north of there too in a clinic in the mountains…..the Kurdish folks were so welcoming, it was sad when we left…..
Wow – you were there back in 1991 – must have been a really cool experience back then. I really enjoyed the city! It’s still very welcoming, just a shame that there are so many problems in that region. Peace to them all. Safe travels. Jonny
Have you read the book Miracle of the Kurds by Mansfield? Very informative and interesting.
Hi Millie, thanks for the comment – I haven’t read it but I’ll keep it in mind, thanks. Safe travels. Jonny
I am planning to visit duhok and find some work to do but I am afraid because of the war over there that’s put me off, so pls if can assure me that all visitors are save ? We will be gladly to visit your country
Hi Margaret, as with everywhere, there is no assurance with safety in Duhok or anywhere, so please check with the relevant parties in advance – friends who live there, hotels, embassies etc. and safe travels. Jonny
Hey, thanks for the info. This is really helpful. I maybe moving here for work, and wanted to ask if Dohuk is a feasible place to run and cycle with regards to accessibility to roads and security? I’m assuming security is ok as you apparently moved through smoothly.
I hope you doing well and still enjoying your travel
I was surprised when saw your blog. I googled for some pictures of Duhok. Some 40 years ago I was born there in Duhok where I spend the first two decades of my life before immigrating to Europe. I visit Duhok once a year on average.
If Margaret will read this, I think Duhok is safe even for European criteria. Imagine that some shops in the city centre don’t have solid gates and they are just covered with a large piece of cloth and that’s for over night
Hi Bashir, thanks for the comment and apologies for late reply. I have stopped blogging here since December to concentrate on fixing my depression. Safe travels. Jonny
Hi Adam, I was there in 2013-2014 so I do not know if the situation is still the same there in Iraqi Kurdistan. You would be better to check with someone who was there more recently. Safe travels. Jonny
Well, It´s seems this weekend, we gonna stay in Duhok, thanks for the 10 thing to do In Duhok is a really god guide, the best suggestion is the beer LOL. Greetings Bro.
Is not possible to find Colombain aguardiente? jejeje
Hi Diego, thanks for the comment. That sounds good, enjoy the city, definitely no Colombian products! I hope it hasn’t changed much – long time ago I was there now. Safe travels. Jonny
Thanks for the quick look at Dukot. My daughter and son in law are just there for a look see and possible short time job while she finishes field work for a PhD. Be save in your travels, Jonny!
Hi Constance, thanks for your comment. I hope you have fun in Duhok. Safe travels. Jonny
Hello jonny blair, and thank you so much for this promotion, I’m from duhok and I am a student at dep. Ecotourism form university of duhok, a lot of things changed since you posted and more changes to go, we are trying to make our tourism better and better, specially in terms of Ecotourism, if you need any kind of help, I’ll be appreciated to help you visit kurdistan even volunteer, I will give free tours to any one who contact me and want to visit duhok, to improve my skills, and provide wellbeing to my home, my city duhok. To contact me here’s my email: [email protected]. special thanks to you jonny blair
my name is Dakhaz I am from Duhok , if anyone would like to visit Duhok please contact with me 009647504057903
Hi Dakhaz, thanks for this information. That could help people when they visit Duhok or Dohuk! Safe travels. Jonny
Hello jonny blair, i was in duhok member of esi company, so nice friends, mr daud, mr ramzan, mr mahdi, mr hamid, and so many friends, beutiful and unforgettable time i pass during construction of dam, and finally kidnapped by kurdish peashmargha, live with them around two and a half mounth, so many beautiful memories
Hi …im from duhok
If any one need help he can message me +9647514902010
Hi mohammed with you from duhok
If any one vist duhok can tell me i well take hem any where he want .
Hi Tatar, thanks for the comment. Ecotourism in Kurdistan sounds great – good luck with your project and I hope you get more customers and tourists in days to come. Safe travels. Jonny
Hi Mohammed thanks for the comment and sorry for the delay – I am finally going through all my emails and blog comments after 4 years of depression. Duhok was a great time for me – 2013/2014. Stay safe. Jonny
Hi Muhammad, Thanks for the comment and sorry for the delay – I have been in depression a lot of the last 4 years and not been checking messages or emails. I had a lot of fun in Duhok / Dohuk. Stay safe. Jonny
Hi Mohammed, Thanks for the comment and I am extremely sorry for the huge delay in replying to you. I have been going through problems with depression and wasn’t checking the comments or messages that much. Stay safe. Jonny
hi my name is barwar im from kurdistan now i live in united kingdom if you need some thing can you contact with me for this account instagram:barwar_kurdee
Hi Barwar, thanks for the comment. I had fun in Duhok. Safe travels.