Tunisia is a destination of variety: sun worshippers will bask on its gorgeous sandy beaches, history lovers will wander the magnificent Roman ruins and world-class museums, and thrill-seekers will relish the chance to explore the dunes of the Sahara Desert. Best visited in spring or autumn when the climate is at its most temperate, Tunisia is a beguiling country which rewards thorough exploration.
Any trip to Tunisia should start with an exploration of the vibrant capital, Tunis, which is full of fascinating places to visit. Top of the list is the Bardo, a brilliant museum that houses one of the finest collections of Roman mosaics in the world: plan to spend at least half a day here marvelling at the exquisite pieces depicting ancient myths, such as Ulysses and the Sirens. Afterwards, head to the city’s east to visit the evocative ruins of Carthage, from which many of the Bardo’s mosaics were taken, then finish the day with a trip to the postcard-perfect village of Sidi Bou Said, whose immaculate blue-and-white buildings gleam in the Mediterranean sunshine. Spend the night in the brand new Tunis Marriott Hotel, which offers top-class rooms and a well-equipped fitness centre, as well as outstanding city views from the L'Onzième bar on the top floor.
Sousse has evolved into an idyllic beach holiday destination without losing its essential character, making it a perfect place to visit if you’re hoping to enjoy the Mediterranean coast while still immersing yourself in Tunisian culture. Spend the morning exploring the beautiful streets of the medieval medina and checking out the elegant Great Mosque, before heading down for an afternoon of sun, sand and sea at Bou Jaffar Beach. One of the best places to stay in town is the Sousse Pearl Marriott Resort and Spa, conveniently located on the seafront and equipped with a fitness centre, a spa, and an inviting outdoor swimming pool.
Tunisia’s Roman ruins are world-renowned, and if you’re hoping to visit some of the best, El Kef is where to go. This charming hilltop town in Tunisia’s west is within striking distance of the former Roman settlements of Dougga and Bulla Regia, both of which offer fascinating insights into life two thousand years ago. Dougga was clearly built to impress, with the ruins of baths, temples and arches suggesting a prosperous town. Bulla Regia, meanwhile, is unique in that the dwellings were built underground and are marvellously preserved, allowing you to explore nearly complete Roman homes in a way impossible almost anywhere else.
One of Tunisia’s top dishes to try is couscous, an example of Berber cuisine that’s found all across North Africa. Couscous is made by steaming semolina grains above a slow-cooking stew, so the grains absorb the flavours from the meat and vegetables below. Once cooked, the couscous and stew are served together. You’ll find couscous on the menu at any Tunisian restaurant: try Fondouk el Attarine, at the heart of Tunis’ medina, for some of the best.
For a hugely satisfying lunch, you won’t find a better option than makloub. Prepared as a soft and delicious flatbread folded around flavoursome grilled chicken, onion and peppers doused in spicy tomato harissa paste, this excellent dish is easy to find in cafés the country over, but one of the best places is Le Chergui in Sidi Bou Said.
With such an extensive coastline, it’s no surprise that Tunisia excels when it comes to seafood, with a wide variety of dishes to try including squid, mussels and lobster. Fish lovers are also well served: almost every restaurant will have a selection of sole, mackerel or mullet, grilled to perfection and expertly flavoured with herbs, spices and seasonings. Sousse and Sidi Bou Said have plenty of great places to eat seafood, with Sousse’s El Ons being one of the best.
Without a doubt, one of the best things to do in Tunisia is to pay a visit to the magnificent Roman amphitheatre of El Jem, only a short journey from Sousse. This unmissable sight is similar to Rome’s Coliseum, but is far less visited, and exploring its corridors and arena gives a real taste of life in the Roman period. Just outside the amphitheatre, you’ll find a range of cafés selling excellent makloub and ice-cold drinks.
No visit to Tunisia is complete without a trip into the world’s largest and most famous desert: getting on a camel for a ride through the dunes is one of the country’s most fun things to do. The Sahara is found in Tunisia’s far south, but can still be reached from Sousse, and it makes for a fascinating outing: as well as exploring the shifting sea of sand, one of the most interesting things to do in this region is to check out the Star Wars film sets, the most complete of which is the Mos Espa spaceport, found near the town of Tozeur.
If you’re searching for alternative things to do in Tunisia, make sure to stop by the town of Sbeitla, found in the centre of the country and reachable from Sousse. This little-visited but outstanding Roman site is remarkable for its well-preserved temples set amid evocatively waving grassland. En route, you could also stop off at the city of Kairouan, one of Islam’s holiest cities: exploring its atmospheric medina, tiled rooftop cafés and beautiful Great Mosque is a fantastic cultural experience and one of the country’s most unique things to do.
To enjoy a genuine slice of Tunisian culture – and come away with a perfect souvenir – it’s a great idea to visit a carpet shop. You’ll be warmly welcomed and shown a colourful array of rugs and carpets, after which, if you’re interested in buying, you’ll settle down with a glass of tea to haggle good-naturedly with the owner.
Published: July 26, 2022
Last Updated: March 31, 2023
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