Tunisia is fringed by a 1,148km Mediterranean coastline with views from the town of Sidi Bou Saïd leading out to Sicily. The west is where the Atlas Mountains meet the Sahara to form underground springs and desert oases before turning into the sand dunes of the Grand Erg Oriental, way down south. Date plantations can be found across the country’s arid central plains whilst closer to the coast, olive groves have existed, around Hammamet, Sfax and Carthage, since long before the Romans came to Africa. Monty Python and Star Wars fans should follow the Messiah to the Ribat (Islamic monastery) of Monastir, or head to Tozeur or Djerba Island in search of Tatooine.
Ancient Carthage

1. Ancient Carthage

Although this extensive archaeological site (20 sites in total) has found itself on the outskirts of ever-expanding Tunis, there’s still so much to admire; not least of all, the largest thermal baths in Roman Africa, the Baths of Antoninus. The hillside setting provides outstanding views over the Gulf of Tunis as well as architectural examples of ancient lineage from Punic to Roman to Islamic occupation.
Djerba Island

2. Djerba Island

This is rumoured to be the legendary island of the lotus eaters where Odysseus washed up on his voyage across the Med. These days it's still just as sleepy with whitewashed harbour walls hanging with octopus, juxtaposed against sandy beaches and azure blue skies. The car and foot passenger ferry from Jorf to Ajim is worth considering if extending a week away to include a bit of beach time.
El Djem Ampitheatre

3. El Djem Ampitheatre

The amphitheatre of El Djem is one of Africa’s most impressive Roman ruins, and was once alive to the cries of more than 35,000 gladiatorial spectators. Just as impressive as its counterpart in Rome, but receiving a fraction of the tourists, this was once the epicentre of the ancient olive oil producing city of Thysdrus; and thanks to the dry climate and drifting sands, it’s remained relatively intact.
Sahara Desert oases

4. Sahara Desert oases

One of the highlights of a trip to southern Tunisia are the Saharan oases, such as Chebika, Midùs and Tamerza, that appear around towns like Douz and Tozeur. Mountain oases, such as these, are caused by underwater springs where the Atlas Mountains meet the Sahara. Often, as you approach, palm fronds and greenery appear out of nowhere and then, splash, you're upon them.

5. Tozeur

Star Wars fans should visit the desert town of Tozeur, which once doubled as Luke Skywalker’s home planet, Tatooine. It’s all rather atmospheric, especially amongst the lattice carved sandy-coloured streets of the medina. Close to Tozeur you’ll find more oasis towns, like El Hamm and Kebili, as well as vast date plantations, one of which has tree houses that you can stay in, hidden amongst the palms.
Sidi Bou Saïd

6. Sidi Bou Saïd

The clifftop town of Sidi Bou Saïd has a much more Mediterranean feel than nearby Tunis, with whitewashed Grecian style buildings decorated in ornate bright blue doors and window shutters. You can actually see downtown Tunis from Sidi Bou Said but views from the steep cobbled streets are often far more rewarding in the other direction as you look to Sicily as the sun sets over the sea.
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Tunisia or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.
Tanner C. Knorr is the owner and founder of our Tunisia tour specialists, Off Season Adventures & Safaris. "Star Wars fans should visit Tozeur and the surrounding desert that was used to represent the home planet of Anakin and Luke Skywalker, Tatooine. The homestead where Luke was raised by his step aunt and uncle, Owen and Beru Lars, can be found in the small Berber village of Matmata in southern Tunisia. Traditional underground caves were once used by troglodytes and Berber families but today the site is best known for its Hollywood connections, including a large ‘Matmata’ sign that sits on a nearby hilltop. However, it’s also still possible for cultural travellers to visit these interesting homes with a guide and without the legions of Star Wars fans."
Written by Chris Owen
Photo credits: [Page banner: McKay Savage] [Ancient Carthage: Dennis Jarvis] [Djerba Island: Citizen59] [El Djem Colosseum: oatsy40] [Cheibka: Dennis Jarvis] [Tozeur: Veronique Debord-Lazaro] [Sidi Bou Saïd: Samuel_Fr] [Matmata: Arian Zwegers]