Explore Kurdistan: Great Gathering

eight left

Join us for a 10 day trip to Iraqi Kurdistan with George Butler - an award-winning reportage artist - in October 2020.

Further information will be released shortly.

Register your interest by emailing us at:


This is a unique opportunity to get behind the headlines, and experience Iraqi Kurdistan in a way rarely seen in the news. Spend the week travelling through Kurdistan discovering the beauty of the region and learning how to capture what we see in pen and ink with award-winning reportage artist George Butler. We will also spend time with inspiring individuals turning the tide of environmental degradation in a country which has been surrounded by conflict. 


Kurdistan is a semiautonomous region in the north of Iraq. It is a safe region, a place of great beauty, mountains, rich history and fascinating politics. We will be discovering ancient fortresses, bustling bazaars, spectacular mountain scenery, 5000 year old cities, and the notorious hospitality of the Kurdish people.


This is a 10 day trip that will take place in October 2020. Contact us for the specific dates (


The trip is open to all curious minds. You don’t have to be an experienced artist, nor an expert traveler, we will all be learning along the way. We will be a small team of up to 8 people. 

Terms & Conditions

A non-refundable deposit of £500 ($660) will secure your place. 

The remaining balance needs to be cleared 60 days before departure. This will allow us time to ensure that all arrangements are confirmed in the country ahead of time. 

Please see our terms & conditions page for more information.


Join us on this unique and exciting opportunity to experience a side to Iraqi Kurdistan rarely shown in the news. We will be visiting some unusual places, meeting inspiring people and learning from George Butler how to record what we see on paper.


Lake Dukan

Drawing & Painting workshops

Learn the art of reportage drawing from George Butler who will teach us to capture scenes with immediacy and authenticity.

Sulaymaniyah Art Scene

Explore the emerging contemporary and street art scene in Sulaymaniyah. 

Lake Dukan

Climb to the top of the highest mountains of Kurdistan, camp in nature and go on a boat trip through Lake Dukan.
George Butler

Lalish Izidi Temple

Discover the strange and unique village of Lalish, home to the holiest temple of the Yazidi faith. 
Sulaymaniyah Street Art

Learning the art of observational drawing

George Butler is an award-winning reportage artist who has covered scenes all around the world, from Yemeni tribes, to refugee camps in the Bekaa Valley. In 2017 George joined the Iraqi special forces’ “golden division” as they fought ISIS in west Mosul. 
We seem to have lost the art of the observational reporter with a sketchbook to photography, Butler's memorable images show that a closely observed drawing is not just worth a thousand words but hundreds of photographs.
A. A. Gill
Travelling with George, we will learn the art of ‘observational travelling’. Every day we will be focusing on different painting and drawing techniques, using watercolour, gouache and ink. By capturing what we see on paper, we will learn to look closer, look further and take home a unique collection of drawings that will remind us of our journey. If you are less interested in drawing, do not worry! There will be many opportunities to photograph, film and explore the landscape. 

Drawing Saddam Hussain's old palace on Gara mountain. 
Drawing Saddam Hussain's old palace on Gara mountain.
Drawing Saddam Hussain's old palace on Gara mountain. 
Drawing Saddam Hussain's old palace on Gara mountain.

Our destination

Kurdistan is a semiautonomous region in the north of Iraq. It is a place of great beauty, mountains, rich history and fascinating politics. 

Located on a tangle of ethnic, religious, and geopolitical fault lines, the Kurdish homeland has been affected by conflict for centuries. However, it is now a stable place to visit and is a welcoming destination for adventurous tourists. We will be discovering the legacy of the Assyrian empire, ancient fortresses, bustling bazaars, spectacular mountain scenery, 5000-year-old cities, and the notorious hospitality of the Kurdish people

Map of Iraqi Kurdistan
Map of Iraqi Kurdistan


The price includes all food, transport, workshops with George Butler and accommodation whilst in the country.   Further information will be released shortly.  Please contact us to register your interest, or join our waitlist.

This trip is expected to fill up fast. If you have any questions please get in touch:

Email to apply now:
Call us on +447946268180 


Is Kurdistan safe? 

Iraqi Kurdistan is a separate entity to the rest of Iraq and is perfectly safe for tourists. Kurdish Iraq was unaffected by the 2003 war, the region has a great deal of autonomy with its own government, army, police force and secure border. Foreigners are made to feel very welcome. Although there were issues with ISIS in the region during mid-late 2014, they were quickly pushed back from the Kurdish border, and the Peshmerga held the lines strong. Bombs are extremely rare in Kurdistan, but on the occasion that they have happened, they have been targeted at government offices and police stations. We will be monitoring the situation closely and would re-evaluate the tours if the security in the region declines.

Why travel with us?  

In an age where people are increasingly well travelled we are offering an entirely new travel experience. This is less about ticking the box list of ‘must-see’ sights and more about getting under the skin of a rarely visited and often misunderstood place. This trip will be about meeting inspiring people, visiting extraordinary places and learning how to capture what you see with pencil and paper.

What will the accommodation be like? 

Most nights we will be staying at comfortable, centrally located hotels. As we want to provide unique experiences we may also stay at some local guesthouses. One night will be spent camping in the mountains. 

What is included in the price? 

All accommodation, transport/transfers in Kurdistan, entrance fees, local tours, art lessons, breakfast, lunch and dinners are included in the price. International flights into and out of Kurdistan, any necessary visa fees, insurance, excess luggage charges, cameras, additional food and drinks, alcohol, medical expenses, art materials and tipping are not included.

Do I need a visa? 

Travellers from Australia, New Zealand, UK, EU, Canada and USA will be issued a free 14-day tourist visa upon arrival in Kurdistan. For other nationalities, we can advise as best as possible but we urge you to look into this yourselves too. 

Do I need any vaccinations? 

You should be up to date with routine vaccination courses and boosters as recommended by your doctor. These vaccinations include confirming all boosters of Hepatitis A, Diphtheria, Tetanus, Poliomyelitis, Typhoid and MMR. But ISHKAR does not take responsibility for vaccinations. Please check with your doctor if you are unsure what you need.

What do I need to wear? 

Light and comfortable clothing & suitable shoes for hiking. It is advised to dress reasonably conservatively. Women do not need to wear a headscarf but they should bring one for entering mosques. We will send more detailed guidance in our pre-trip information pack.

What is the currency? 

Iraqi Dinar. US dollars (USD) are preferable which can be changed for Iraqi Dinar in Erbil. ATM (cash) machines in Iraqi Kurdistan are rare so it is advised to withdraw money before you arrive. We can advise on amounts. 

What do I need to bring? 

We will send you a more detailed handbook before leaving, including recommended reading, clothing and preferred art materials (watercolour, pencils, ink etc.)

Do I need to be fit?  

Relatively fit, but this is not an expedition. The terrain which we cover can at times be a little rough and we may be doing a couple of long (4-6 hour) hikes.

What is the food like? 

It can be outstanding, but can also be very average. We will try regional specialities and dine with locals. There are vegetarian options in most places but please consult us if you have very specific dietary requirements.

Will I be able to travel on my own? 

We want the trip to be as flexible and dynamic as possible, but we also need to take your security seriously and therefore stay together as a group throughout the trip.

Do I need special travel insurance? 

You will be expected to have full travel insurance that covers the region. If you are unsure if the policy covers you we can suggest specialised insurers.

When do I need to book?  

As early as possible. The trip is for a maximum of 8 people and we expect it will fill up quickly. A deposit of £500 will secure your place and the final balance needs to be paid 60 days before departure. This is to allow us time to ensure that all arrangements are confirmed in country.

Can I book even if I don’t live in the UK? 

Yes of course. If you are travelling to and from the UK, someone from ISHKAR may also fly with you.

Is this trip suitable for solo travellers/couples? 

Individuals and small groups are equally welcome. We also think this could be the perfect trip to experience with a parent, son/daughter, or partner!