Tourism in Iraq

Babylon was inscribed by UNESCO as a World Heritage site and receives thousands of visitors each year.
Aerial view of Erbil Citadel

Tourism in Iraq refers to tourism in the Western Asian country Iraq. Iraq was one of the main destinations for many years, however it changed dramatically due to conflicts. The tourism in Iraq has faced many challenges, however, in recent years there has been improvements. The capital city Baghdad is the second largest city in the Arab world and the 4th largest in the Middle East. Iraq has several World Heritage Sites, dating back to ancient Mesopotamia, most notably Babylon Iraq. Iraq is considered to be a potential location for ecotourism.[1] Erbil was chosen as "Arab Tourism Capital" in 2014 by the Arab Tourism Committee.[2]

World Heritage Sites[]

  † In danger
Site Image Location Criteria Area

ha (acre)

Year Description
Ashur (Qal'at Sherqat) Flickr - The U.S. Army - (218).jpg IrqSaladin Governorate35°27′32″N 43°15′35″E / 35.45889°N 43.25972°E / 35.45889; 43.25972 Cultural:IrqAsh


70 (170) 2003 Located on the Tigris and dating from the 3rd millennium BCE, Ashur was the first capital of the Assyrian Empire and the religious centre of the Assyrians. Following its destruction by the Babylonians, the city was briefly revived during the Parthian period.[3]
Erbil Citadel Hawler Castle.jpg IrqErbil Governorate36°11′28″N 44°00′33″E / 36.19111°N 44.00917°E / 36.19111; 44.00917 Cultural:IrqErb


16 (40) 2014 Situated on the top of a tell in Iraqi Kurdistan and overlooking the city of Erbil, the Erbil Citadel constitutes a typical example of Ottoman-era urban-planning. In addition to its 19th century fortifications, the site also contains remains dating back to the Assyrian period.[4]
Hatra اثار الحضر.jpg IrqNineveh Governorate35°35′17″N 42°43′06″E / 35.58806°N 42.71833°E / 35.58806; 42.71833 Cultural:IrqHat


324 (800) 1985 The fortified Parthian city of Hatra withstood repeated attacks by the Roman Empire in the 2nd century. Its architecture reflects both Hellenistic and Roman influences.[5]
Samarra Archaeological City صوره في اجواء مطريه للمأذنه الملويه في سامراء العراق.jpg IrqSaladin Governorate34°20′28″N 43°49′25″E / 34.34111°N 43.82361°E / 34.34111; 43.82361 Cultural:IrqSam


15,058 (37,210) 2007 Located on the Tigris, the Islamic city of Samarra was the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate. It contains two of the largest mosques and several of the largest palaces in the Islamic world, in addition to being among the finest example of Abbasid-era town-planning.[6]
The Ahwar of Southern Iraq: Refuge of Biodiversity and the Relict Landscape of the Mesopotamian Cities اهوار العراق ليلا.jpg Irq31°33′44″N 47°39′28″E / 31.56222°N 47.65778°E / 31.56222; 47.65778 Mixed:IrqAhw


211,544 (522,740) 2016 Located in southern Iraq, the site contains three cities of Sumerian origin, namely Uruk, Ur and Eridu, in addition to four wetland areas in the Iraqi Marshlands.[7]
Babylon Street in Babylon.jpg Babylon Governorate

Irq32°32′11″N 44°25′15″E / 32.53639°N 44.42083°E / 32.53639; 44.42083



1,054.3 (2,605) 2019 A former capital of Hammurabi, Babylon grew to become the largest settlement in ancient Mesopotamia during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar II.[8]

Additionally, Iraq has sites on the tentative list of UNESCO. The tentative list includes Ur, Nimrud, The Ancient City of Nineveh, The Fortress of Al-Ukhaidar, Wasit, Babylon, The Marshlands of Mesopotamia, The Site of Thilkifl, Wadi Al-Salam Cemetery in Najaf, Amedy city, Historical Features of the Tigris River in Baghdad Rusafa. In addition to these sites, there are must-see places to visit in person in Iraq, like the Iraqi Plastic Society which houses numerous art work demonstrating traditional as well as innovative styles of design.[9]


Baghdad is the capital of Iraq and the second-largest city in the Arab world. It is located along the Tigris near the ruins of the ancient Akkadian city of Babylon and the Sassanid Persian capital of Ctesiphon. In the eighth century, Baghdad was chosen as the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate, and became its most notable major development project

Religious tourism[]

Religious tourism is the most popular type of tourism in Iraq, with tens of millions of tourists from several countries visiting Holy cities and places in Iraq every year. These include:


Erbil City Tour Bus.

The number of tourist arrivals in Iraq in 2013 was 892,000. In the last two decades the highest number of tourists came in 2010 with 1,518,000 tourists. In 2012, the value of international tourism receipt was $1.64 billion.[10] Iraqi Kurdistan, an autonomous region of Iraq, was a hotspot for tourism. It was considered to be a safe and stable region and least affected by terrorism. In 2012, Kurdistan recorded a 70% rise in tourist arrivals. In 2007 Kurdistan had 106 hotels which increased to 405 in 2012 in addition to 214 motels and 50 tourist villages.[11][12] Erbil city in Kurdistan which was declared as "Arab Tourism Capital" in 2014. However, as of 2015, activities of the militant group ISIS have affected tourism in Kurdistan. According to the association of hotels, tourism in Kurdistan is going through a crisis. The Governor of Erbil said that the financial crisis of Iraq and the war against ISIS have affected all sectors of the economy including tourism.[13][14]

Najaf and Karbala are considered a thriving tourist destination for Shia Muslims and the tourism industry in the city boomed after the end of Saddam Hussein's rule.[15] However, due to the US sanctions on Iran, the number of Iranian tourists dropped significantly.[16]

See also[]


  1. ^ "Iraq: the world's next big eco-tourism destination?". Telegraph. Retrieved 2015-11-18.
  2. ^ "Travel and Tourism in Iraq". Retrieved 2015-11-18.
  3. ^ "Ashur (Qal'at Sherqat)". UNESCO. Retrieved 17 August 2011.
  4. ^ "Erbil Citadel". UNESCO. Retrieved 2 January 2015.
  5. ^ "Hatra". UNESCO. Retrieved 17 August 2011.
  6. ^ "Samarra Archaeological City". UNESCO. Retrieved 17 August 2011.
  7. ^ "The Ahwar of Southern Iraq: Refuge of Biodiversity and the Relict Landscape of the Mesopotamian Cities". UNESCO. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
  8. ^ "Babylon". UNESCO. Retrieved 5 July 2019.
  9. ^ UNESCO World Heritage Centre. "Iraq - UNESCO World Heritage Centre". Retrieved 2015-11-18.
  10. ^ "Iraq - International tourism". Retrieved 2015-11-18.
  11. ^ "Iraqi Kurdistan records 70% rise in tourism arrivals". 2012-08-28. Retrieved 2015-11-18.
  12. ^ Newton, Jay (2012-12-31). "Is Iraqi Kurdistan Emerging as a Tourist Hot Spot? |". Retrieved 2015-11-18.
  13. ^ "Kurdistan tourism devastated by ISIS Iraq chaos". 2015-02-02. Retrieved 2015-11-18.
  14. ^ "Iraqi Kurdistan's tourism sector is undergoing its worst stages: association". 2015-06-15. Retrieved 2015-11-18.
  15. ^ "Iraq's holy cities enjoy boom in religious tourism". Al Arabiya. 4 April 2013.
  16. ^ "Iraq's city of Najaf suffers as Iranian tourist numbers drop". The National. 20 February 2019.