Souks, Star Wars, Sahara…here’s a lowdown of what you can do in Tunisia!
1. Get to know the Carthage history.
15 kilometers away from Tunis is Carthage, a city established by a Phoenician colony that grew into an empire in the Mediterranean. During 146 BC, the city was destroyed by the Roman Republic and transformed into the Roman Carthage. Today, travelers can visit The Carthage Museum (Colline de Byrsa, Cartago 2016) and Punic Sanctuary, which is an ancient cemetery.
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2. Tour the Dougga ruins.
Heading west on a road trip, two and a half hours later is Dougga (Rte du Kef, GP5 Teboursouk, Dougga 9040) were UNESCO recognized it as a World Heritage Site as “the best preserved Roman small town in North Africa.” Approximately 160 acres of palaces, theaters and temples, Dougga is most famous for the time period during the Roman conquest, experts have found archeological evidence that ties Numidian-Berber, Punic, Roman and Byzantine history.
3. Visit mosques in Kairouan.
Heading south, another two hours later is Kairouan. After Mecca and Medina, Kairouan is considered one of the most important Islamic cities in the world, particularly for Sunni Islamic scholarship. When you find yourself in this city, make sure to visit: The Great Mosque, The Mosque of the Three Gates and The Mosque of the Barber.
4. View Sbeitla’s archeological site.
Another must-see Roman archeological site is Sbeitla, this is where Muslim entered North Africa and Southern Europe.
5. Catch the sunrise at the Sahara Desert.
Of course, a huge part of visiting Tunisia includes the Sahara experience. I highly recommend getting up bright and early to catch the sunrise. Your hotel or guide can organize a local jeep company for ride into the desert.
6. Jeep tour in Tozeur.
After the sunrise, we arrived in Tozeur, where the Star Wars saga was filmed. In the middle of the desert, Lucasfilm constructed a movie set which can be seen in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. Travelers heading there today, can still check out the set and shop for souvenirs.
7. Collect desert rose crystals.
Desert rose is a cluster of crystals that are formed in sandy conditions. They make the perfect souvenirs and you can really bargain for them.
8. Hike the Chebika trail.
A village now with the population of a few hundred people, Chebika is a mountain oasis. Before, it was a Roman outpost, then the Berber refugees arrived.
9. Walk through the Animal market in Douz.
Known as the Gateway to the Sahara, Douz is located in southern Tunisia. Merchants from all over Southern Tunisia congregate to trade livestock here. You won’t find many camels here, but chickens, rabbits, pigeons, donkeys, horses, goats and sheep are frequently being sold.
10. See how the Berbers live in Matmata.
Welcome to Matmata, home of the Berbers today. Look for houses with blue doors that overlook the hill. The Berbers are an indigenous ethnic group in North Africa. They have their own way of living and language. Today, many Berbers live mainly in Algeria and Morocco. But in Tunisia, the government designated an area on the border of southern Tunisia for them to live.
Make sure to grab a meal at Hotel Sidi Driss (Matmatat-Al-Qadimal, Tunisia) – cave like restaurant/hotel where Star Wars was also filmed.
11. Stay at a desert tent hotel.
Spending a few nights in the Sahara Desert is a must, why not bump up the staycation experience by opting for a desert hotel. I highly recommend Campement Yadis Ksar Ghilane (Ksar Ghilane, 2020, Tunisia).
12. Ride ATV & quads in the desert.
This is a thrill of a lifetime. Have you hotel book a company called: Leith Quad, they provide great service and a beautiful ride.
13. Shop for souvenirs in Medenine.
Okay, after all that desert adventure, we arrived in Medenine where Star Wars: Episode I was filmed. Medenine has always been a significant trading city, today at the Gorfa complex is where you can shop for a ton of souvenirs. Sightseeing and shopping…the best combination ever!
14. Ladies, get henna’d!
This dye from a plant or gorgeous body art is such a treat! I got the quick and easy version at the market because I wanted something done fast. But ask your guide for an artist to paint a more intricate and long-lasting design. At the Gabes market, got one for 15 dinars (USD $7.50).
15. See the amphitheater of El Djem.
When in Rome, oops, when in Tunisia…Travelers never leave Tunisia without checking out the historical amphitheater in El Djem, which was built by the Romans during 238. As you probably guessed, it was mostly used for gladiators. Also recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, Inside, you can also see where men and lions battled for life.
16. Visit the local souks in Sousse.
Some of my favorite things to do when I travel to this part of the world is exploring the markets. This is where you can see how the locals live and shop for food, clothing, groceries. Something I love to do is mingling with locals and sometimes, chatting up a storm.
17. Visit the Bardo National Museum in Tunis.
Back in Tunis, our last stop, is where we visited the Bardo National Museum. As one of the largest museums in Africa, this is where you can view a massive collection of Roman mosaics. This is also where the terrorist attacks occurred on March 18th, 2015. Today when you visit the museum, you can still see numerous bullet holes left from the attack in which 22 lives were lost.
Photos: Wendy Hung
Have you ever been to Tunisia? Let us know in the comments.