US firm launches first ever tourist guide to Kurdistan

It is likely to boast of the beautiful scenery, ancient treasures and interesting archaeology to be found in the semi-autonomous region

However, tourists may still be hesitant due to the proximity of the IS militants.

Those fancying a holiday with a difference will soon be able to thumb through the first ever guide to Kurdistan – although whether anyone will be keen to take a break quite so close to ISIS’s murdering hordes remains to be seen.

The 400-page guide which includes more than 600 pictures is sure to boast of the amazing archaeology, the ancient bazaars and even the snow-covered mountains to be found in the semi-autonomous region.

All the same, the American entrepreneurs behind the new book have decided that now is a great time to launch Kurdistan Tour Guide.

Dr Douglas Layton, owner of Kurdistan Iraq Tours, said: ‘When I told my friends in America we were going to publish the book, they thought I was a little bit strange.’

But, he added, “ISIS has done a lot of public relations for us already: all we have to do is turn a negative into a positive.”

Dr. Layton and his colleague Harry Schute, a retired American army colonel, have more than 25 years experience in the area.

And they are used to working in conditions which may seem to others to be business.

The duo’s first travel business The Other Iraq Tours launched in 2008 – a period when the war was still on-going.

In fact, the tour company was going from strength to strength until ISIS captured Mosul, just an hour-and-half’s drive from Erbil, in June last year.

Ever since, Western media has been filled with pictures and stories of the horrific acts committed by the Islamic extremists – putting off even the bravest of travellers.

What’s more, the militants have also gone out of their way to destroy some of the buildings and artefacts which draw people to the region.

So Dr Layton and Col Schute decided to give the tourist industry in the north of Iraq a bit of a push, hoping to entice people back to the area, part of the ‘cradle of civilisation’.

They began a new division of the company, called Kurdistan Iraq Tours.

The first seven-day trip, priced at £3,500 ($5,475) a person, takes place this June, stopping in cities like Erbil and Duhok, as well visiting Neanderthal caves, ancient monasteries and the ruins of one of Saddam Hussein’s palaces – among other things.

Dr Layton said that he was certain it was Kurdistan’s turn to be considered the next ‘hot’ destinations for adventurous tourists.

‘Theyre looking for something fresh, and we have it to offer,’ he said.