The Great Gathering


  • Kurdistan: The Great Gathering
  • Kurdistan: The Great Gathering
  • Kurdistan: The Great Gathering
  • Kurdistan: The Great Gathering
  • Kurdistan: The Great Gathering
  • Kurdistan: The Great Gathering
  • Kurdistan: The Great Gathering
  • Kurdistan: The Great Gathering
  • Kurdistan: The Great Gathering
  • Kurdistan: The Great Gathering

Kurdistan: The Great Gathering

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In October 2020, travel to Iraqi Kurdistan for a 10 day trip with George Butler - an award-winning reportage artist - who will teach us how to put pen to paper and record the scenes in situ.

The total price for the trip is $3780.  You will be required to pay a $650 deposit to secure a place on the trip.

To express your interest in joining the trip, please get in contact with us at:, or book a consulation with us by clicking on the button above.


Spend the week travelling through Kurdistan discovering the beauty of the region with George Butler.  Learn not only about drawing, you will learn the art of observational travel, looking harder and further in order to capture what you see on paper.


Iraqi Kurdistan, taking the long route around from Sulaymaniyah, the art capital of the region, to Erbil, the administrative capital.  We will stop along the way, visiting ancient fortresses, mountain scenery and bustling bazaars of Kurdistan.


This is a 10 day trip that will take place 2nd - 11th October 2020.


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.  Throughout the trip, we will be accompanied by a competent local guide who speaks fluent English, along with George Butler.

Due to high demand we interview everyone who applies to join ISHKAR trips.  Your group travel experience is as important to us as the destination experience.

Cost & Booking Information

A non-refundable deposit of $620* is required to secure your place on the trip. The total price for the trip is $3780*. 

Please note that by paying the deposit, you agree to abide by our Terms and Conditions.

For further information, please contact us at:

UK: +447946268180
FR: +33612101284

* Where international payments are due, we request that you ensure the full amount is received, after all bank charges have been levied as per the price and currency stated on the invoice stated.

Terms & Conditions

Please visit our Terms & Conditions page for further information


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. 

ISHKAR Travel - Map of Iraqi Kurdistan

Meet the master

George Butler is an award winning artist and illustrator specialising in travel and current affairs. Working in situ with pen, ink and watercolour, his drawings have been published in numerous publications including The New York Times, CNN and the Guardian and his work has been exhibited in the Imperial War Museum and V&A Museum.

In April 2017, George joined the Iraqi special forces “golden division” as they fought ISIL in west Mosul. At the time Mosul was a key stronghold for ISIL, where they held an estimated 200,000 civilians hostage. His work captured striking moments from the frontlines to the daily life of those rebuilding their lives in the recently liberated parts of the city.


ISHKAR Travel - George Butler


Our trips attract informed and adventurous people from all around the world.

Some of you will be drawn by the opportunity to learn illustration from a master of their craft, others will be drawn by the chance to learn about a fascinating and poorly understood part of the world.

We get to know everyone who applies to our trips over the phone. In this way we can curate groups guaranteed to enjoy sharing this extraordinary experience together.  What unites everyone is the same curious spirit and desire to get far away from the typical tourist trails.

ISHKAR Travel - Explore Kurdistan

The Price

The price for this once in a lifetime trip is $3780* per person, and itla sts ten days.  This sum includes all food, transport and accommodation whilst in country, along with illustration workshops with George Butler.  We will be assisted by a guide who knows the region inside out, providing access to areas rarely seen by tourists.

Email to apply now:

Call us on +447946268180

* Where international payments are due, we request that you ensure the full amount is received, after all bank charges have been levied as per the price and currency stated on the invoice stated.

ISHKAR Travel - Explore Kurdistan


We are uncompromising when it comes to the safety and security of our travellers and will not hesitate to alter plans or cancel trips due to changing security dynamics.

While large parts of Iraq suffer from  instability and conflict, Kurdsitan remains safe for foreign tourists to visit.  We have a strong network of local partners to ensure our security and provide us with the most up-to-date security information along with working with our local guide - Juan Omar.

Please see our Travel Security page for more information.

ISHKAR Travel - Explore Kurdistan

Your guide

Juan Omar

Juan is the first independent female guide in Iraqi Kurdistan. After working 16 years in a vocational school in the Netherlands, she embarked in her new profession bringing Dutch tourists to discover the beautiful side of her homeland. 

Given her success in this endeavour, she moved back to Erbil and keeps discovering new hiking routes and archeological sites to enrich her itineraries.

ISHKAR Travel - Explore Kurdistan

ISHKAR Team Member

Your ISHKAR point of contact for the trip is Ernesto Rollando.

If you have any queries about the trip, Ernesto is always on hand to answer them.  Email

Ernesto Rollando ~ Project Manager

Ernesto's diverse range of experiences include working for UNDP in Samoa and learning traditional skills of Oceanic navigation in the Pacific Ocean and gaining an MA in Photojournalism from the University of the Arts of London.  Always at the end of the phone, you can ask him any queries you may have relating to any of our trips.

ISHKAR Travel - Team


01 / Lake Dukan

Climb up in to the mountains surrounding Lake Dukan, camp in nature and go on a boat trip to freshen up.

02 / Drawing & Painting workshops

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

03 / Lalish Izidi Temple

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

04 / Sulaymaniyah Art Scene

Explore the emerging contemporary and street art scene in Sulaymaniyah. 


ISHKAR Travel - Explore Kurdistan

The trip wasnt just about my view of the place, but all the experiences that I went through together in the group and I enjoyed it. It was an eye-opening and enriching journey.

- Andi Iskandar, Bamiyan Traveller 2019

ISHKAR Travel - Explore Kurdistan

I've certainly made some friends for life by sharing such a rich experience together

- Glen Wilde, Bamiyan TRAVELLER 2019

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, meals, transport/transfers in Kurdistan, entrance fees, local tours, art lessons, 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?

Please check with your doctor for up to date information on vaccination requirements.

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 advise staying together as a group throughout the trip.

Do I need special travel insurance?

You are required to have full travel insurance specific to the region and ths activities.

If you are unsure if your existing travel insurance policy will cover you, we can suggest specialist insurance companies.

We use Battleface and highly recommend it. Other options include (but are not limited to): Clements, World Nomads, Petersen or The Universal Insurance Co Ltd.

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.

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!

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