16 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Tunisia
Tunisia is a North African country with some of the most important archaeological sites in the world, from the mysterious stone pyramids of the Sahara Desert to the majestic Roman ruins of Tunisia's capital, Carthage.
Some of Tunisia's key sights are all well-preserved ruins, like the oldest preserved theater in the world and the remains of the ancient city of Carthage. On the coast are the impressive Roman ruins of Monastir and Dougga, both perched on cliffs over the Mediterranean. Tunisia has some great resorts and outdoor activities as well.
Tunisia has a rich history and culture and offers a multitude of things to see and do. Discover this fascinating destination with our list of the best places to visit in Tunisia.
Medenine is a picturesque walled village that lies on the bank of the Medjerda River, in the heart of Tunisia's medina. Set below the Al Jazira Mountains, the surrounding area is rich in wildlife and plants, including the rare cypress trees of the Atlas Mountains. The region is famed for its sand dunes, which are the largest in Africa and for which Medenine is known. Medenine is best reached by car or taxi from Tunis, but it is possible to take the Tunis-Djerba-Medenine train that departs from Tunis. Other possible activities include exploring the Al M’gouned, or the fortified village with its 30 towers that crowns the Al Quattara Mountains, hiking through the flora and fauna of the Merja Oasis, visiting the Roman ruins of the city of Volubilis, or just lazing around the many cafés, restaurants and bars in the region.
Monastir was one of the earliest recorded cities in the world and today lies in a spectacular mountain setting just 4 km from the border with Algeria. The city is famous for its Greek-style town square, known as Jemaa el-Fna, which fills with food vendors, mimes, acrobats and snake charmers on Sunday and has live entertainment on Wednesdays. It's also the place to try the local specialities of cerbatine and tagine. Try the local cuisine of this city of Saint Bessarion. It's a melting pot of cultures, as different Arabic groups from the country's north, have settled here over the past several centuries. The city has many sights including the UNESCO World Heritage Site-listed Sidi Yahya Medresse, founded in 1323 by Sultan Abu Inan Zaza.
The sandy limestone hills and pastel-hued buildings of Djerba are perfectly designed to blend into the surrounding Mediterranean landscape. Its small town, El-Bahariya, was founded in 1231 by the Almohad Empire. As a result of its history as a trading center, it boasts a lively bazaar and impressive fortifications, most notably an impressive Almohad castle, destroyed in the early 1900s by an earthquake. Djerba was also a prominent stop on the west-bound Crusades from Europe and is home to a number of churches, including St. Francis' Church in El-Bahariya.
Bardo Museum, or Memorial Museum for the Victims of the Revolution (Musée du Bardo), is located in the medina of Tunis. It is the center of the activities of the Memorial Association for the Victims of the Revolution, whose activities include the creation of museums of History and Ethnic Heritage in all the centers of Tunisia. The history of the museum is deeply linked to the events of the country. In a highly original and appropriate manner, the museum reflects and represents the transformation, the memories, the ideals, and the authentic desire for a better country.
Sidi Bou Said
Many visitors to Tunisia quickly turn to Tunisia's northern beaches, such as Sidi Bou Said, just south of the North African country's main hub, Tunis. A popular vacation spot for Europeans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, today Sidi Bou Said remains the place for a luxurious Riviera holiday, with beaches that draw an increasing number of tourists every year. Elegant hotels and Moorish-inspired villas huddle behind the white and powdery sand that stretches on for miles. But the beautiful beaches are what visitors come here for. There are three, all with wide, white-sand beaches and turquoise water and all reachable by a bus ride that takes you from the coastal town of Essaouira, where a host of bars, hotels, and restaurants attract tourists. A huge, popular hang-out spot among young Tunisians is the beachfront cinema, while hotels host a mix of café-goers and sunbathers. In addition to holidaymakers, Sidi Bou Said is a popular destination for Spanish and Italians, while as most of the hotels are owned by Europeans, European prices prevail.
Located in the heart of the Sahara, Sfax is a pleasant city of 200,000 inhabitants in which to spend a few days. The area is not known for its sandy beaches, but instead, to the south and west, are high, rocky plateaux with the incredible Kerkouane Mountains rising to a height of about 2,100 meters (roughly 1,000 feet) overlooking Sfax. Today, Sfax is dominated by its corsair past. Destroyed in the 18th century by the Tripolitanian forces of Tripoli, the city was rebuilt in the 19th and early 20th centuries and has some interesting architectural touches that remind travelers of the Barbary Coast, an area to the north in North Africa. To reach the city by car from Tunis, either take the N9 to reach the city from the east, or take the N50 highway from west of the city, which will lead you to the outskirts of Sfax. From there, go east, following the signs to Sfax. From the airport, buses arrive into the city every half hour from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. and cost around 8 dhs. From the train station in Tunis, take a taxi to the city.
Although not the most famous of the ancient world's ruins, Ben Arous is still an important archaeological site that can be visited in three stages. The highlight of the first is the impressive Hypogeum in the northwest of the site, which is thought to have been the tomb of one of the dynasty's elite members. This was erected during the reign of the infamous Carthaginian general, Hamilcar Barca (239-240 BC), and is one of the largest burial chambers in the region. The second stage of the visit is the grand opus of Etruscan civilization: the immense pyramids of Gavzan Moutsan in the southeast of the site, which occupy a huge plateau and are the world's largest examples of ancient architecture. The third stage is the great Necropolis in the east, which includes the Hypogeum, among other imposing structures. The Necropolis was probably one of the wealthiest and most populous Etruscan settlements of the third century BC. The site of the magnificent tombs of the aristocracy is now covered with the tombs of lesser Etruscans and non-Etruscans (kings and queens from Greece, Phoenicia, Rome and others). Another site of note is the Carthaginian necropolis, south of the Etruscan city, where members of the dynasty are buried in rows.
Cap Bon Peninsula
The northeastern tip of the Cap Bon Peninsula is one of Tunisia's most popular destinations, and is often the starting point for trips along the coast of the northern Mediterranean. The island of Cap Bon is a large spit of sandstone that extends into the Mediterranean for more than 20 kilometers. Attractions include beaches and caves. The largest of the beaches, El Kala, has a unique yellow-gray sand and shimmers in the sun, while the turquoise waters around Dahmani Beach are clean and picturesque. The rare wetland of Chemin de Djamaa Nature Reserve, an oasis of four hectares of pools and palm groves, is worth a visit. The peninsula is bordered to the east by the Mediterranean Sea and to the south by the St Lawrence River. By air, visitors can reach the peninsula through the large airport in Bejaia or through Tunis's Bardo airport. The peninsula has three main cities, Tunis, Sfax and Enfidha.
Kef is the gateway to Tunisia's most celebrated beach town, a tiny fishing village that has grown in the face of incredible sunsets and Mediterranean beauty. The water is warm here and everything is close at hand, with little more than white cottages and red-tiled roofs. There are no cars in Kef and visitors get around on foot or by bicycle. If you are looking to explore the area's beautiful natural scenery, head to the plateau on the edge of town, where you can take in the views from a wide range of lookout points. Make sure to visit the tiny Chapel of Saint Louis, built in 1924, which stands in contrast to the humble house in which it is housed. At the top of this lookout is the small and delicate Chapel of Our Lady of the Sun, which rises steeply up the hillside. Its construction in 1899 contrasts with its simple but elegant surroundings, featuring a pure white façade and dome. With all the options for exploring this intriguing town, you'll need a guide to help you navigate the waterfront sights. A dependable tour operator is at Bouliste Travel, which runs private tours to the area, or you can visit on your own using our advice on how to get around in Kef.
With more than a thousand monuments, the medina of La Goulette in Tunisia offers an eye-boggling historical cityscape with little sign of modern life. This bustling port town lies on a narrow peninsula at the heart of a chain of more than 20 coastal and inland towns and cities, all linked to the city by the beautiful golden road or El Mina el Dahar (The North Road). Built at the foot of an ancient desert dune, the medina is well-preserved. Walking along its winding, narrow streets, you'll find yourself in a different time as traditional Arab life is still practiced here. You'll also see painted buildings, carved houses, shops and businesses, cobbled roads, and an old street market. Visitors to the medina can access the area via the cruise ship port of Tunis, near the Ville Nouvelle (new city) section of La Goulette. From the port, you can take either of two taxi busses to the historic medina, one that passes through the Place des Martyrs (martyrs' square) and the Ville Nouvelle, the other through the Sidi Ferdjallah Mosque.
Chott El Jerid
The rugged, coastal plains of Tunisia are considered by many travelers to be one of the world's most alluring destinations, with the astonishingly beautiful beaches, silky-smooth sand and turquoise seas. In this stunning landscape, Chott El Jerid is located in the middle of the Saharan zone. Often visited by holidaymakers, the area provides the ideal setting for a holiday. Chott El Jerid is an old Berber town that lies in an inlet that receives the warm waters of the Mediterranean Sea. It is an Arab fishing village and offers visitors an abundance of fishing opportunities. Other tourist attractions are the typical Berber villages of El Hammar and El Kohl and the traditional fishing village of El Djeich, located 1.5 kilometers from the city of El Kef.
Sketching this verdant island village in the foothills of the High Atlas Mountains, you might think you've stepped into the Moorish Spain of the Costa del Sol. Here rustic wooden houses huddle around the palm groves, views of the Mediterranean appear in the haze above the hills, and the wildflowers and herbs growing beneath the trellis-patterned barbed-wire fences are a reminder of the harsh land of former days. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Nabeul has two faces, a downtown urban quarter with modern restaurants, boutiques, and guesthouses, and the gentle foothill life of the Medina, a quiet and charming oasis. It's the perfect spot for a tranquil getaway, far from the big city but close to the rest of the country. The best part of staying in Nabeul is coming to know the people who live here. Everyone speaks Arabic and is proud of their Berber culture and history. The people are warm and eager to share stories, give advice, and make you feel at home.
One of the most interesting destinations in Tunisia lies in the Gafsa region, which extends from the Mediterranean coast up into the highlands. The impressive desert landscapes include both the Rose Valley National Park (Wadi Hatta) and the Eastern High Plateaus (Dar Hamra). Highlights of the journey up to this fascinating region include the Tarhouna Oasis and the town of Kef on the banks of the Beladir River. Other points of interest include the traditional hammam baths of the El-Hamra Hotel in Kef and the lovely Bardo Museum in Gafsa, which is located in the renovated Arab castle. While Tunisia has the best wine in the Mediterranean, Gafsa is the major wine-producing region with vineyards extending along the coast and inland to the borders of Algeria. Other local produce includes olives, honey, and dates. Tunisia has been one of the most stable countries in Africa for some time now. Last year it was one of the only African nations to have maintained a strong growth rate in the African Diaspora. In 2011, Tunisia became the first African country to recover from the global financial crisis. Tunisia's three biggest cities are Tunis, Sfax, and Monastir. The main border crossing between Tunisia and Algeria is on the Mediterranean coast in the west. Although parts of the journey are along the coast, most of the journey is through the Great Tunis Desert in the center of the country. There are also borders with Libya and Italy in the east.
Sousse is a picture-perfect coastal town on the Tunisian Riviera. The medieval town is home to more than 400 Moorish and Roman buildings, many of which were built in the 13th century, and all of which offer some fascinating insight into the period of time when the region was in the hands of the rulers of Morocco and Spain. People are so drawn to the stunning old buildings in Sousse that many leave before seeing anything of the city, or even visiting the cultural center. Should you, though, decide to stay a little longer, you'll be rewarded with many charming side streets full of buildings from the 17th and 18th centuries, and an Arab quarter near the port of La Médina with its famous spice bazaar. With its exceptional nightlife, clean beaches and laid-back, unpretentious atmosphere, Sousse is a great base for exploring the surrounding coastal area.
In eastern Tunisia, El Jem is one of the most important pilgrimage sites in North Africa. During the eighth century BC the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans and Arabs ruled the region, leaving a number of impressive monuments in the spectacular setting of the medina (old town). Highlights include the Sassanid Palace of Tammoum, which houses a splendid two-story zellige (baked clay) hall, the Fatima mosque and the medina souk, which has its origins in the African market. El Jem is part of the UNESCO World Heritage site, the Roman towns of Gafsa, Thamusnaine, Béja, Djémila, Assa-Zitouna, Kef, Ksar Rhilane and Siliana. El Jem is well connected to the rest of Tunisia through Tunis, Medenine, Laganouan and Gafsa. From here you can take a direct train to any city in the country.
La Marsa (La Marsa Medina in Arabic), 50 kilometers (32 miles) northwest of Tunis, is a popular weekend and holiday destination for locals. It's best known for its charming stone houses, known locally as madjannas, built in the Spanish Renaissance style. They reflect the influence of the West that was felt during the Rifian era of the 19th century. La Marsa Medina is still governed by the same authorities that ruled it for 400 years. Situated on a plain, the medieval settlement has a small Medina with narrow streets leading to the Blue Mosque. Like all of North Africa, it's conservative and it can be off-putting to Westerners. In terms of culture, La Marsa has a small museum, a performing arts center, two fine old theater/music halls and a major fairground. Aside from trips to Tunisia's capital Tunis, where the central train station is within walking distance of the medina, there are no other destinations in Tunisia to visit from La Marsa.