Want to explore ancient Roman ruins, shop lively souks perfumed with spices, visit an iconic movie set, and ride a camel into the Sahara sunset — all within a day’s drive? Look no further than Tunisia. Its relatively small size, abundance of cultural and historical sites, natural beauty and friendly locals make it an ideal destination for travelers looking for an authentic North African experience.
Ease of access
Tunisia is a small country that’s jam-packed with unique historical and cultural sites. It’s possible to experience much of what the country has to offer in a relatively short period of time. Tunisia is 792 kilometers (or 492 miles) from top to bottom — about the distance between Chicago and Nashville. With a city like Tunis or Sousse as your hub, you can take day trips to many of the major cultural and historical sites, or you can plan a longer tour of five days to two weeks and see all the country has to offer. Tunisia is also just a short flight away from several other European and North African travel hubs, like Barcelona, Rome, Marrakech and Cairo, so it’s easy to tack on to a tour of the region.
Tunisia is like a layer cake of ancient civilizations — Berber, Phoenician, Punic, Roman, Arab — and traces of each civilization can be seen today. Tunisia is home to eight UNESCO World Heritage sites, including the colosseum at El Jem, the ruins at Carthage and Dougga, and the medinas of Tunis and Sousse. Many of these sites are incredibly well preserved and offer a glimpse of what daily life might have been like hundreds or even thousands of years ago in North Africa. And compared to similar sites in Europe, Tunisia’s ruins are rarely crowded (in 2018, all of Tunisia had 8.3 million visitors, compared to Rome’s 15.2 million tourists) and entrance fees are usually the equivalent of a few U.S. dollars.
The ultimate goal of any cultural tourist is to experience life as the locals experience it, and Tunisia offers plenty of opportunities to do just that. Shopping at the souk, taking a cooking class or participating in the local olive harvest are just a few ways visitors can get a taste of daily life in Tunisia. There are also lots of ways to explore difference facets of Tunisian culture and heritage. You can visit the ruins of Chenini, a Berber village in southern Tunisia, or explore Kairouan, home of the Great Mosque and one of the spiritual capitals of Islam. And don’t forget about those treasures of pop culture, the iconic sets of the Star Wars films.
From the inviting turquoise waters of the Mediterranean Sea to the mysterious orange dunes of the Sahara Desert, Tunisia is full of possibilities for those who prefer to spend their vacation exploring the great outdoors. Tunisia boasts 1,148 kilometres (713 miles) of coastline, and visitors can find world-class beach resorts from the capital of Tunis all the way down to the island of Djerba. Visitors can opt for just a taste of the Sahara, with a half-day ATV or camel ride, or a more immersive experience, like an overnight campout on the dunes.
The people of Tunisia are warm, friendly and welcoming to visitors. They’re interested in knowing what brought you to Tunisia, what you think about their home, and if you’ve tried their favorite dish. (And if you haven’t, they’ll tell you where to get some!) If you’re interested in finding ways to connect more deeply with locals during your visit, consider saying in a bed-and-breakfast run by a local family or adding a cooking experience to your itinerary. Guided tours offer you a chance to interact with a local, hear stories about their life in Tunisia, and access their vast knowledge of Tunisian history and culture.