(*Other spelling versions include Sulamaini, Suleimaniyah and Sulaymaniyah)
Location: The farthest south of the 3 major cities of Iraqi Kurdistan, Sulamaniyah is located close to the Iranian border and 2.5 hours away from Erbil by shared taxi.
Population: 1,000,000 (approximate)
As the cultural capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, this somewhat modern, attractive city has a stunning location as it is almost completely surrounded by mountains. And with it’s fascinating combination of hip shisha bars, traditional markets, western-style eateries and Chinese shops and restaurants, Sulamaniyah offers interesting and rewarding experiences around every corner. This is often a favorite city among travelers to Iraqi Kurdistan as new collides with old in a way that one doesn’t find in the rest of the region.
Clusters of hotels can be found either near the main bazaar (on Kawa and Pyramed Streets) or on Salim Street, in the newer part of the city. As is the case with the rest of the region, the room options vary significantly but in general, good rooms for decent prices can be had without having to do too much searching.
Here is a list of several hotels…
Hotel Chrakan – A very good budget hotel with acceptably clean, large rooms with private bathroom and friendly staff. Located on the corner of Salim Street and a small side street, right next to the significantly more upscale Ashti Hotel. Rooms cost 30,000 ID for a single and 40,000 ID for a double. (There are a few mid-range options on the same side street about half a block away, most with great rooms for around 60,000 ID.)
Ashti Hotel – One of the many mid-range/theoretically upscale hotels along Salim Street. Good rooms cost a steep $75 USD for a single and around $110 USD for a double.
Other higher priced options along Salim Street include the Sulamaniyah Palace Hotel, Hotel Soma and Mihrako Hotel. You can expect to pay at least $60 USD per night in this area, with the exception being Hotel Chrakan and the couple of other hotels on the same side street.
Hotel Mawlawi – Old hotel right in the middle of the bazaar with basic, relatively clean rooms, reliable hot water and helpful staff. Room rates are 25,000 ID per night.
You will find plenty of budget options around the main bazaar, some of which offer cheaper shared rooms with shared bathrooms. Just walk along Kawa or Pyramed Street and you’ll find plenty of options in the 15,000 – 30,000 ID range, including Mewan Hotel, Bukan Motel, Hotel Tara and Hiwa Hotel among others.
Things to Do (in the city):
Suleimaniah Museum: This museum can be found on Salim Street and is home to a collection of Kurdish artifacts from around the region, many of which are several thousand years old. It is the second largest museum in Iraq after the National Museum in Baghdad.
Amna Suraka Museum: Offering a look into the horrendous treatment of Kurds by Saddam’s Ba’ath regime, a visit to this museum also includes a tour of actual prisons and interrogation rooms that were used to detain the local people.
Jewlakan: This is the old Jewish quarter of Sulamaniyah (the once large Jewish population of which mostly emigrated to Israel en masse in 1951) and can be found on the outskirts of the city. The neighborhood consists of narrow alleys and mud-walled homes, with a few synagogues that have been recently renovated by the government.
Zamoa Gallery: This gallery, run by a famous Kurdish artist (Rostam Aghala), has on display the artwork of local artists from around the city of Sulamaniyah.
Things To Do (around Sulamaniyah):
Lake Dokan: The largest man-made lake in Iraq, and located at 900m above sea level, this is the site of a popular local resort town, with several hotels and restaurants set up to accommodate visitors. You can swim in the lake and even go boating.
Ahmad Awa: Another ‘resort’ that centers around nearby springs and waterfalls that travelers are able to visit.
Chami Rezan: A hike through this valley takes you to the series of caves that is considered to be the first human ceremonial burial site in the world. It is naturally a well-protected site but visitors are allowed.
Raniya: Surrounded by three mountain ranges, Raniya is a town and district with sites of interest that include a traditional bazaar, several springs and villages in the Dola Raqa valley.
Halabja: The site of the 1988 poison gas attack by Saddam Hussein against the Kurdish people, there is now a memorial/museum on the outskirts of town. The images inside are very graphic but they provide an opportunity to see first hand the devastation caused.
Qaladze: This small town, surrounded by mountains and located near the Iranian border, was destroyed during the Iraq-Iran War. The town’s inhabitants were moved elsewhere but they returned in 1991 to participate in the Kurdish revolution against Saddam Hussein’s regime.
As with Erbil and Dohuk, you can very easily wander around the center of Sulamaniyah on foot without needing to take any taxis. If you do wish to give your feet a rest or want to visit somewhere beyond the actual center, taxis generally cost between 2500 – 5000 ID per trip.
How To Get To Sulamaniyah:
Shared taxis run to/from Erbil all day long, arriving to and leaving from the “Erbil Garaj” on the outskirts of Sulamaniyah. It is also possible to catch a shared taxi or bus to Panjwin if you plan to cross the border into Iran, although you must have an Iranian visa in order to be allowed to cross. For shared taxi fares to/from Sulamaniyah, please visit our “Getting Around” page.
For a more detailed map that includes additional destinations and travel routes, check out “Maps & Itineraries“.