The wide variety of landscapes, coastline spanning 1,250km, islands and archipelagos, along with the rich traditions and historical heritage make Tunisia one of the most fascinating countries in Africa.
Here are our picks for 10 things to do in Tunisia:
Carthage was the capital city of the ancient Carthaginian civilization, on the eastern side of the Lake of Tunis. Follow in the footsteps of Hannibal, and explore the ancient city destroyed and rebuilt by the Romans. The excavated site is large, but a light rail runs right through the middle of the city, which makes getting about easier. Make sure you check out the National Museum, as well as the amphitheater and the Antonine baths. We recommend setting aside a whole day to explore Carthage.
Located just outside of Tunis, the Bardo Museum is considered by many to be the equivalent of the Louvre for mosaics. The building itself is a 13th-century palace, and the Roman mosaics and other Tunisian artifacts it houses are outstanding. The museum is organized according to era, including the prehistoric, Roman, Christian, and Islamic eras, and is easy to navigate. It takes a few hours to see in its entirety, so give yourself a break from the heat and view some of the most beautiful mosaics, artifacts, and architecture of Tunisia.
You would be neglectful if you did not visit the Sahara, as it covers much of Tunisia. Travel down to the desert town of Douz, where you can organize a tour of the desert by camel or four-by-four. Of course, you wouldn’t come all this way and miss out on a visit to Luke Skywalker’s hometown, Matmâta: the Berber town, made up of dugout caverns, is where parts of the Star Wars films were shot and is now a popular tourist destination. You can even stay at the hotel that was used as the set for Luke’s home, the Hotel Sidi Driss.
Djerba, an island on the eastern coast of Tunisia, is the largest island in North Africa. Its interior is full of small desert areas, and among the island’s many sites are Roman ruins, an ancient synagogue, craftsmen working in silver and clay, and beautiful fruit orchards. And you can always enjoy a day at the beach, which spills out into the Mediterranean Sea. Get your tanning lotion ready.
Great for bird watching and getting some exercise, Lake Ichkeul was declared a World Heritage Site in 1980. Every year hundreds of thousands of migrating birds stop at the freshwater lake to nest. Unfortunately, owing to dam construction, the water levels have dropped significantly, and the number of winged visitors to the lake has decreased. The lake and surrounding national park are excellent for hiking and photography, though. Among the bird species are magnificent geese, storks, and pink flamingos.
Hammamet is the ultimate coastal location for relaxing: on the Cap Bon Peninsula, 40 miles south of Tunis, the beaches of Hammamet are always busy, and the village abounds in splendid architecture and comfortable hotels. We recommend hiring a tour guide to show you around Hammamet; then again, you may just want to stay in the water and go snorkeling or windsurfing.
Sidi Bou Said
There is a special atmosphere in this small Tunisian town. Sidi Bou Said is a village of blue and white buildings, overlooking the Bay of Tunis. It is a fine place to spend an afternoon drinking mint tea and admiring the views. We recommend taking some time to explore the town, buy some souvenirs from local craftsmen, and get lunch from one of the town’s many small cafés. Sidi Bou Said is a rare place for tourists and locals alike to take a breather from the daily grind.
Located near beautiful buildings and Roman ruins, the Korba Lagoon is frequented by many different species of birds during their migratory travels every year. The lagoon happens to be next to beaches as well; it’s worth a visit.
Amphitheater of El-Jem
El-Jem is home to a massive Roman amphitheater rising up from the low-lying landscape of the city. Declared a World Heritage Site in 1979, the amphitheater is the largest of its kind in North Africa, a place where gladiatorial fights and chariot races once were held.
These are definitely the best-preserved Roman ruins in the country, and it is worth your money to hire a guide to show you around the site. Be sure to check out the massive theater built into the hillside, as well as the beautiful Temple of Saturn. If you are around in July or August, come for the Dougga Festival, where you can watch performances in the theater.