Stroll the ancient Medina of Tunis and spend an unforgetable sunset amoung the whitewashed walls of Sidi Bou Said, a gorgeous town perched high on a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean.. Visit the UNESCO site of Dougga, an ancient Roman Berber city and arguably the most magnificent Roman site in Africa.. Spend the night in Le Kef, an authentic village on the edge of the Atlas mountains with an imposing kasbah sitting high on the top of mountain.. Make like Luke Skywalker and spend the night in a Troglodyte dwelling in Matmata
There aren’t too many places in the world that can offer a holiday like Tunisia. This captivating, diverse and friendly Mediterranean destination is back on the map. With a fraction of the visitors its Arabic and North African neighbors attract, Tunisia is a place to experience seaside bliss, desert landscapes, and a history as fascinating as in Egypt or Iran. It feels like a secret destination; where scents of jasmine float on sea breezes, coriander and cinnamon dance on the taste buds and there is always ample time to discover and explore uncrowded villages and ancient sites. It’s an exotic, mysterious and underrated destination – there has never been a better time to visit Tunisia.
Salam! Welcome to Tunisia
There's an important welcome meeting to attend at 6 pm. Other than that, your day is free.
You will be staying in the capital Tunis just a short distance from the International Airport. if you have pre boooked a transfer, look for the welcome board after clearing customs, otherwise the best way to reach the hotel is by metered taxi.
Tunisia is one of those places that flies under the radar; its particular blend of cultures, landscapes and history make it a dream to explore, but it's quite underrated as a destination. You'll probably notice the relative lack of tourists. Here in Tunis, if you dig a little beneath the modernising exterior you'll find a city that's hardly changed in ages, with souqs and ancient bazaars next to a glorious coastline.
The city has two main parts – the 19th-century ville nouvelle grid created by French colonials, and the 8th-century Arab Medina where all the twisted alleyways lead to the Great Mosque. But first things first: today's a great chance to sample the local food if nothing else - perhaps some lablabi (chickpea soup), tajine (different from the Moroccan version), or, for the sweet tooths, bambalouni (deep fried donughut).
Start with an exploration of the famous Tunis Medina - the old quarter. Stroll the streets of the Tunis Medina, the old quarter. This is the largest Medina in North Africa – larger than that of Fez, Algiers or Cairo. Walk through the twisting alleyways, passing shops overflowing with goods, where the smells of spice, essential oils and cooking fill the air. Explore the specialty souqs such as the Perfume Makers' Souq or the Grand Souq des Chechias, where the iconic blood-red felt hats are made.
Continue to the 9th-century World Heritage site of Carthage. Monuments such as the vast Antonine baths, Roman amphitheatre and the Punic ports evoke a bygone era. But some of the best relics can be found in the archaeological museum of Carthage. In the afternoon you'll head back into Tunis to tackle the Medina.
Later head out for sunset at Sidi Bou Said, a quaint village perched high above the Mediterranean. Its white walls and blue shutters provide a fantastic photo opportunity. The cobbled streets of Sidi Bou Said are lined with cafes and shops and local artisans. Stay for dinner
Today we visit the one the best-preserved Roman cities in Africa; Dougga. En route you'll stop in Testour and discover the Spanish influence that Andalusian Muslim refugees, evicted from Spain in the 17th century, brought to the town. See the Spanish-style Great Mosque and the village square.
The archaeological site of Dougga is built on an elevated and isolated site overlooking fertile plains, Dougga was the capital of both the Phoenician and Roman states and boasts many imposing monuments, including the theatre, built around AD 168, the impressive Capitoline Temple, and the 18-metre Nubian Mausoleum of Ateban monument. While the city’s monuments are truly amazing you’ll be struck by how quiet and tourist-free this enchanting place it, with the wind rustling though the olive trees and dry grass often the only sounds you’ll hear.
Tonight is spent in Le Kef, often referred to as El Kef. Whatever you choose to call it; it is undeniably a beautiful little city perched on the edge of the Atlas Mountains. This is also the highest elevated city in Tunisia, making it a good spot to take a panorama or two, especially from the fortified Kasbah.
After breakfast, it's off to explore in and around Le Kef. Enjoy a stroll through the old town, which is nestled into the cliff face overlooking stunning valleys. You’ll be able to see cisterns and Roman baths, an ancient church dedicated to St. Peter, and an 18th-century Jewish synagogue. Visit also the Sidi Bou Makhlouf Mausoleum, with its ribbed white domes and its octagonal minaret decorated with emerald green ceramics. Check out the Kasbah that lies near the top of the city rising out of the old Medina. Le Kef is famous for it barley, so take the opportunity to try some 'malthouth' while you're here – it's a ground barley prepared in the same way as couscous. Zrir, a classic local dish made with sesame and hazelnut cream, is another must-try.
After lunch, travel the short distance to the Jugurtha Tableland. At 1271 metres above sea level this mountain has rock-hewn steps which make for a quick ascent. The pinnacle is marked by a shrine dedicated to Sidi Abdel Jaoued and offers exceptional panoramic views. A stronghold was built by the Numidian King Jugurtha in his struggle against the Romans in the 2nd century BC. Later the Byzantines occupied the summit.
Lastly we continue to Kairouan (approximately 3 hours). Dinner is included in Kairouan this evening.
Kairouan is the fourth holiest site in Islam, after Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem. Discover more about the city with a visit the 9th-century Great Mosque of Oqba Ibn Nafi, an important example of Islamic architecture. Many of the columns throughout the complex were taken from surrounding ruined cities like Carthage. On a walk through the serpentine streets of the medina, pass the souqs, where we'll get a tasty sample of makroudh (traditional local pastry stuffed with dates) and learn about the traditional trade of the local women: rug making.
Then it's off to the oasis town of Tozeur, which is lined by extensive palm groves and was historically an important stop on the Bedoiun caravan route from the desert to the Mediterranean coast. Here you can live our your 'One Thousand and One Nights' fantasies, checking out family heirlooms and relics of the Beys (rulers) of Tunisia. The town is home to some of the world's most alluring palm groves and you'll check out the Eden Palm, a museum set in a beautiful authentic building which tracks the history of dates (there are 150 different varieties) and of the palm tree's by-products.
This evening in Kairouan is free for you to spend as you please.
Head out this morning to check out the medina, the heart of the town, with your leader. After getting the lay of the land on a quick orientation walk, Tozeur is yours to explore for the rest of the day. Your leader will highlight a few options you might like to consider.
You could explore the beautiful Oasis of Tozeur for a unique perspective on the Tunisian desert. The oasis is home to over 400,000 date palms, hundreds of fruit trees, and a running river. Or you can take a very different form of transport and ride the enchanting Lezard rouge. With tracks originally built for mining companies, the 'Red Lizard' train was constructed in 1910 and used by the bey of Tunis to travel from Tunis to his summer palace at Hammam Lif. The fantastical rock formations of Seldja Gorge make for superb scenery along the way. Today it's possible to take full- or half-day trips on the line.
Another great option is a 4WD tour of surrounding mountain oases, where many of the scenes of 'The English Patient' were filmed. You'll drive south into some of the country's most spectacular mountain scenery, visiting the mountain oasis of Tamerza, along with Mides and Chebika. For Luke Skywalker fans it will be hard to pass up the chance to visit the movie set where Anakin Skywalker lived and raced in Star Wars Episode I: the Phantom Menace. The area is largely abandoned now, but the dome-shaped houses and other film set pieces are well worth a look.
Continue to Douz (approximately 2.5 hours). You'll travel across Chott El Jerid, the largest salt lake in the Sahara Desert. Take in the green and pink hues of the lake as it streams by. The salt flats were used for the decor of the Lars homestead for the mythical planet of Tatooine (which got its name from the nearby town of Tataouine) in George Lucas’ classic movie ‘Star Wars’. There will be ample time to snap a photo before continuing to Douz in time for lunch.
Douz is a gateway village to the Sahara and rewards a little digging and exploration. Spend some time in the cafes around the bustling souq mixing with the local, and you might find it's not the sleepy town you first encountered. It's one of the friendliest in Tunisia.
Early afternoon it's time to meet your camel drivers, learn the etiquette of desert life, and begin the trek into the Sahara. The journey to our camp is by foot, but there are a few camels on hand for those who'd either like a rest or are up for a new experience. Arriving at camp just before sunset, relax and enjoy a camp meal, settling into a peaceful night under the stars.
After breakfast, take some time to enjoy the Sahara before our afternoon trek back to Douz. Our local team of Berber are with us for the duration of the trek to help you discover all the secrets of the Sahara. We'll arrive back in Douz for the evening.
Continue to Matmata, which is named after the tribe who live in the region. This place is best known for the houses built underground to protect the Berbers from the intense summer heat. These troglodyte villages are exciting places to explore. One of these, together with the surrounding 'lunar' landscape, was the set for the aforementioned Tatooine location. Scenes from Steven Spielberg’s ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ were also filmed here.
Before arriving in Matmata, check out the outstanding scenery and Berber village of nearby Toujane. The hillside is surrounded by stone houses and is home to the ruins of an old Kasbah, plus a gorge that leads down to the coastal plain. A guided visit will bring you to some troglodyte dwellings and artifacts including a very old oil press, used for centuries to press olives.
Your accommodation for the night is set in the beautiful remote desert in a partial cave building.
On the way to Mahdia, stop by El Jem's spectacular Roman amphitheatre. This Colosseum-like structure, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, is the third largest of its kind in the world - dating from AD 238 - but is remarkably well preserved and quickly transforms you back to the Roman days of gladiators and chariot races.
Make your way along the Mediterranean coast to Sousse, then stop in Mahdia for the night. This quaint fishing village has a great atmosphere, fantastic beaches and a rich history.
If you're up for a stroll, check out the 16th-century El Kebir fortress and the local clifftop cemetery. If you'd rather hit the beach, head north of town to discover some fine sandy stretches of coastline. Otherwise, this is the perfect opportunity to enjoy a bit of R&R.
Sidi Bou Said
On the way back to Tunis today you'll stop in the city of Nabeul, famous for its ceramic workshops in the Medina (thanks to the suitability of the local clay). Here is a perfect place to pick up pots of every shape and size, as well as beautiful tiled panels.
Continue to the small fishing town of Kelibia, where the streets are busy with the sights and sounds of workshops. The striking castle fort that dominates the town dates from the Punic and Roman time, and it's there to explore for whoever's interested. Also check out the ruins of Kerkouane, a unique window into a true Punic town (and a World Heritage site besides).
Just after Kerkouane, you’ll come to the mountain of Haouaria, which sits in a beautiful landscape overlooking the Cape Bon. Haouaria is famous for its falconry festival and bat caves. Finally we return to Tunis for our final evening, perhaps celebrating with an optional group dinner out on the town.
The trip comes to an end in Tunis this morning, but if you have any spare time before you leave don’t forget to check out the magnificent Bardo National Museum, one of the most important and culturally rich museums in northern Africa. It’s impressive collections house many important artifacts taken from the sites you have visited during your time in Tunisia.