Picture this. You’ve rented a car and you’re going for a little joyride in northern Iraq. You pass the turn off for Saladin’s Fortress, which, these days, finds itself surrounded by land mines. And then you turn onto one of Iraqi Kurdistan‘s premiere sights…the Hamilton Road. Right about now you’re probably thinking…I drove all this way for a road? But this is no ordinary place to drive…
Almost immediately after turning onto the Hamilton Road, you are presented with a choice…up, or down. Either option will make your jaw drop, for what has been an otherwise so-so drive is about to get extraordinary!
Choose to take the lower road and next thing you know you’ll find yourself descending right into a canyon! Along the way, as you drive along the river, gasping at the dramatic scenery that you’re suddenly surrounded by, take a quick a glance at the roaring waterfall. Don’t worry, it’s hard to miss all the cars parked just off the road! This is Gali Ali Bag, the so-called tallest waterfall in the Middle East! It also happens to be what Iraq puts on the back of its 5,000 Dinar note!
Choose the upper road and you’ll soon find yourself soaring up to the rim of the canyon! Here, the scenery is all the more impressive, for the walls of the canyon soar up from the rim you are on. It was here that I had to pick my jaw up off the floor, as I simply could not believe that I was driving through this striking canyon…in Iraq!
After both roads wind their way through the canyon, you pass through the Kurdish towns of Rawanduz and Soran before continuing on towards the border with Iran. You may be out of the canyon, but the majestic peaks of northern Iraq lay before you, with equally as impressive scenery.
This road dates back to 1928, when the British, who took control of Iraq following the fall of the Ottoman Empire, brought in Archibald Hamilton to design a road through the mountainous terrain to the Iranian border. Not only was it a strategic route but the mere fact that this road exists through such dramatic scenery is really an engineering marvel! Hamilton went on to describe his experience building this road in his book, Road Through Kurdistan: The Narrative of an Engineer in Iraq.
As I watched the mountains soar around me, I thought back to those American hikers who were arrested back in 2009 for supposedly crossing into Iran illegally. This is the part of the Iraq they were hiking in and it really wasn’t hard to see why! I would have loved to have spent more time exploring and hiking through some of this spectacular scenery, but I had to get back to Erbil…I was flying out the next day!
Still though, I’m so glad I rented a car and took this trip! For it is definitely one of the most beautiful drives I’ve ever taken!
Read More About My Adventure in Iraq
- So, What’s it Like to Travel in Iraq?
- Meet Kurdistan: The Other Iraq
- Is it Safe to Travel in Iraq?
- How to Cross From Turkey to Iraqi Kurdistan by Bus
- A Night at an Amusement Park in Iraq (With Video!)
- Inside Saddam Hussein’s House of Horrors
- Photo Essay: Inside 7,000 Years of History at Erbil Citadel
- Amadiya: A Charming Paradise in Iraqi Kurdistan
- How to Drive in Iraq