Holy Shrines of Najaf & Karbala
Spiral Minaret of Samarra
At a Glance
8 days/7 nights
2022 Guide Price (Variable depending on group size)
Sep to May
Baghdad Airport (BGW)
Baghdad Airport (BGW)
Subject to changes and modifications, based on local conditions at the time of tour.
This tour can be customized to your interests.
Check out this itinerary on Wanderlog.com for more additional details.
Arrive in Baghdad, transfer to accommodation and evening meal together.
Baghdad is the capital of Iraq and is, after Cairo, the second largest city of the Arab world and fourth largest in the Middle East with a city population of 8.1 million.
Famous for its booksellers and copper markets, Mutanabbi Street is the prefect introduction to Baghdad for its colours, sights and sounds. Try your hand at haggling as you explore the bustling bazaar!
Take a well-deserved break at Shabandar Cafe, a historic tea house, with its delightful decor of samovars and portraits of famous locals. Don't forget to try a glass of sweet, dried lime tea!
Drive through the Green Zone for a glimpse of the Victory Arch monument (access permitting) and the Save Iraqi Culture Monument.
Finish the day with a short visit through Firdos Square, where the famed statue of Saddam Hussein was pulled down in 2003 while the eyes of the world's media watched. Today, enjoy the quiet burble of fountains and the noisy blare of passing traffic in this historic space.
More in Baghdad
In the morning, visit the iconic Martyr Monument, designed as a split turquoise dome set amidst an artificial lake, and dedicated to Iraqi war soldiers.
From there, we'll drive south to Taq Kasra (Ctesiphon), a large, ancient archeological relic of a stone archway thought to date from the 3rd–6th centuries.
Return to Baghdad for a late lunch at
Dar Al-Atraqchi Heritage Cafe and an afternoon wander through Mustansiriyah University. Considered by some as the oldest university in the world, Mustansiriyah reflects the long-standing tradition of literature, culture, science and the arts in the Baghdad -- the once jewel of academia in the Middle East.
Spend the evening admiring the golden domes of the Kadhimiya Mosque and surrounding colourful neighbourhood, which attracts pilgrims and tourists alike.
Babylon to Najaf
Spend a morning exploring the archaeological site of Babylon, once capital of the most powerful and famous empire of the region. Be sure to grab a photo at the reconstructed, blue-glazed Ishtar Gate.
Just around the corner from the archaeological ruins, lies a former palace of Saddam, though the dictator never actually lived here. Gawk at the opulence and excess of the palace while contemplating the Babylonian ruins below. Which rule lasted longer?
Stopping en route to Najaf, the tiny hamlet of Al-Kifl is home to a curious shrine-turned-mosque, where the Jewish prophet Ezekiel is said to be buried. Can you spot the Hebrew script carved into the walls above the shrine?
End the day in Najaf and the Imam Ali Holy Shrine, a Shiite mosque with a huge, gilded dome, housing the tomb of Ali, the Prophet Muhammad's cousin.
Najaf to Karbala
Multiple shrines to multiple prophets are housed in the mosque at Kufa -- from Adam to Noah to Jesus. Ever heard of Kufic script? This blocky, geometric style of Arabic calligraphy was born here in Kufa, as well.
Cross the courtyard from the mosque to see the humble origins of Shia Islam in the House of Imam Ali.
Across town, the world's largest cemetery at Wadi Al-Salam will leave you in awe. Five million souls lay in rest in this holy city of the dead. Breathe in the fresh air with a walk along the corniche beside the Najaf Sea.
Depart Najaf for Karbala, and wander the bazar around the Imam Hussein Holy Shrine. Just across the plaza from the Imam Hussein Shrine, marvel at the Hazrat Al-Abbas Shrine, with its extraordinary tiling, mirrors, gold and gemstones inlaid across every surface.
Desert outside Karbala
Depart for a road trip into the desert oasis around Ayn al-Tamr, comprising many villages which are famous for palm orchards and mineral water.
Deep in the desert sands, discover Al-Aqiser. Reported as the oldest Orthodox Church in the world, the desert has reduced this structure to ruins, but it's still easy to see the outline of one of Christendom's earliest temples.
Finish the afternoon wandering the halls of Al-Ukhaider fortress. This Abbasid era fortress rises from the desert with imposing, impenetrable force. Explore the now abandoned corridors and archways of this middle eastern castle. Keep your eyes peeled for the owls living in the rafters!
Return to Baghdad for the night.
Ziggurats & Minarets
Just west of Baghdad, the ancient Ziggurat of Akarkuf is a popular picnic spot for weekending Baghdadis. Akarkuf was long believed to be a contender for the Biblical Tower of Babel story. While subsequent Ziggurat finds have thrown doubt on this theory, it remains one of the most intact and imposing ziggurats from ancient times.
Heading north from Akarkuf, drive to Samarra and visit Malwiya Mosque, with its iconic, towering sandstone minaret and spiral walkway to the top. Admire sunset from the summit before returning to Baghdad for the night.
In the morning, visit the National Archeology Museum to see the treasures now stored from some of the sites visited.
Return to the accommodations and prepare for an evening departure from Baghdad Airport.
Why not extend your tour to include the a week in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq? Inquire about changes, modifications or extra days.
All ground transport between cities and sites
English-speaking guides and entrance fees to sites
Meals, snacks en route, bottled water
Visa Fees ($77 USD on arrival for most citizens)
Minimum 2 participants required for departure.
10% deposit required to secure your booking (refundable up to 30 days in advance of departure)
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