Even before the Romans called it “Africa” Tunisia was a crossroads of wealthy and powerful civilizations. Three thousand years of rule by Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs, the French and others left splendid ruins, walled medinas, peaceful oases, ornate mosques and seven World Heritage sites. Tunisia is also mentioned in Virgil’s Aeneid: Dido, abandoned by Aeneas, was founder and Queen of Carthage (now Tunis).
Here are our top travel tips for a visit to fascinating Tunisia.
Best Time to Go: If you want to visit the desert, the best time to travel to Tunisia is late September to November and March to early May. During these months, it will be chilly at night, but not freezing, and it won’t be too hot during the day.
Great Museum in Tunis: In the capital city of Tunis, explore the Bardo National Museum, the oldest and most important of Tunisia’s museums. Housed in a 19th-century palace, the Bardo’s many splendid artifacts range from the Carthaginian through the Arab-Islamic periods and include the world’s finest collection of Roman polychrome mosaics.
Unusual Place to Stay: Located in the Sahara Desert is the deluxe tented camp of Yadis Ksar Ghilane. Each linen tent is equipped with air conditioning and private facilities, including a hot water shower. Activities available through this luxurious camp include camel rides, walks, and Jeep expeditions in the desert.
Top Spots to Shop for Souvenirs: Tunisia’s colorful souks (markets and bazaars) are a terrific place to buy items such as jewelry and ceramics. Stroll through the historic medina (old city) of Tunis, a maze of narrow streets where vendors sell a variety of handicrafts. In Kairouan, visit the medina with its colorful shops selling traditional carpets.
Roman Sites You Won’t Want to Miss: Tunisia is known for its remarkable ruins. Discover Dougga, one of the most complete ancient Roman sites in North Africa. With a commanding location at the edge of the Tebersouk Mountains, Dougga’s impressive ruins include a theater, forum, the Cyclops Baths, and the Capitol. Also be sure to check out El Jem, a central Tunisian town boasting an impressive Roman amphitheater.
Charming Seaside Village:Sidi Bou Said, where Paul Klee and August Macke painted, is a picturesque white-washed village set high on a cliff above the Mediterranean. The town’s cobblestone streets are lined with cafes and art shops, and it also has some restaurants with stunning views.
Best Attraction for Music Lovers: If you love music, visit Ennejma Ezzahra, the former residence of Baron d’Erlanger. Built between 1911 and 1922, the palace is now the Center for Arab and Mediterranean Music. In addition to being a museum space, the CAMM hosts events and is home to an instrument workshop.
Travelers on this program will explore Tunis, with its ancient architecture, traditional souks, and splendid Bardo National Museum; Carthage, site of a once great trading empire; and Dougga, one of the most complete Roman sites in North Africa. They will also visit picturesque Sidi Bou Said; travel to Kairouan to tour sites including Uthina, Sousse, El Jem, and Sbeitla; experience the majesty of the desert at deluxe tented camp Yadis Ksar Ghilane; and discover the Ksours area, known for its Berber fortresses.