Tunisia highlights: Where to go & what to see

Natasha Blair

Natasha Blair

Tunisia is making a comeback. With its glorious golden beaches, delightfully sunny weather all year round, and a fascinating mix of ancient UNESCO attractions, it's easy to see why.

Café des Délices overlooking the marina in Sidi Bou Said © R Otaviano - Flickr Creative Commons
Café des Délices overlooking the marina in Sidi Bou Said © R Otaviano - Flickr Creative Commons

What's more, there are many fabulously purse-friendly deals on holidays, making it a really affordable destination for all. If it's an all inclusive break you're considering, check out First Choice's selection of breaks to Tunisia, and find that value base from which you can start discovering in 2018/2019.

Weather in Tunisia: Find out when's the best time to go to Tunisia to make the most of its many attractions >>

To help you start planning, we've pulled together a handful of highlights you can experience in this enchanting sliver of a North African nation.

Sousse

It's hard not to fall for a resort city that boasts 3,000 years of history and an epic 10 km beach. Swirl in the glitzy Port El Kantaoui, with its marina and nightlife, on the Gulf of Hammamet, and Tunisia's third largest city offers a winning Mediterranean cocktail.

One minute you can be sipping a sundowner on the beach or nipping around on a jet ski, the next delving back through the centuries in the 1,200 year old UNESCO World Heritage listed Medina, picking up Berber rugs and seriously great value leather goods.

More layers awaits in the old quarter's fortresses, and Sousse Archaeological Museum in one of Tunisia's most intoxicating cities.

Hammamet

No wonder it's often hailed as 'Tunisia's St Tropez'. It's cool, it's hip and it's serious fun, though prices are keener and the pretension levels lower in its clubs than in its French sibling across the Mediterranean.

Hammamet boasts serious heritage too, as its beaches have attracted the discerning since the 1920s with Wallis Simpson, Sophia Loren and Winston Churchill all said to have been fans.

One of the outdoor pools at the Steigenberger Marhaba Hotel, Hammamet - photo courtesy of First Choice Holidays
One of the outdoor pools at the Steigenberger Marhaba Hotel, Hammamet - photo courtesy of First Choice Holidays

Everyone from the Romans and the Spanish, through to the Moors and the French, have left their cultural and architectural marks on this beguiling resort. A key attraction remains the sweeping beach that curls around the cotton soft beach of the Cap Bon Peninsula.

Meanwhile, in Hammamet, you can also check out the lively souk laden with myriad stalls, as well as the Great Mosque, one of Tunisia's most impressive religious sites.

Djerba

Djerba, an island in the Mediterranean off the coast of Tunisia, is hemmed with palm-tree lined sandy beaches, and a popular destination with holidaymakers exploring the country.

Head for Houmt Souk, the island's capital, for locally made souvenirs including brightly glazed pottery and an enormous selection of spices - just remember to haggle!

Other highlights include the Djerba Traditional Heritage Museum and the Djerba Explore Park, complete with a crocodile farm where you can see the giant reptiles basking in the sun.

You'll also find Africa's oldest synagogue, El Ghriba, in Djerba. The interior is covered with striking blue, white and brown decorated tiles and certainly worth a visit - just avoid visiting on a Saturday, as it's closed to visitors for the Jewish Sabbath.

Carthage

On the outskirts of Tunis, the country's capital, is the UNESCO World Heritage site of Carthage, founded in 814 BCE by the Phoenicians.

It was one of the largest cities of the Hellenistic period before the Romans destroyed the city and subsequently rebuilt their own on top.

Ruins include the largest well-preserved baths outside Rome, a Carthaginian cemetery with children's gravestones said to be sacrificed by their parents, and a reservoir that supplied the city with water from the Atlas Mountains.

It's believed that only a small amount of what lies beneath the ground has been excavated. On Brysa Hill, eighty metres above sea level, the 19th-century Cathedral of St Louis overlooks the remains.

Sidi Bou Said

Close to Carthage on a hillside overlooking a marina, the pretty village of Sidi Bou Said is famous for its white houses with royal blue decoration, bougainvillea, and narrow cobbled streets.

Traditional blue door in the village of Sidi Bou Said © AlexeyE30 - Fotolia.com
Traditional blue door in the village of Sidi Bou Said © AlexeyE30 - Fotolia.com

Visit the palace and grounds of Ennejma Ezzahra built in the early 1900s by Rodolphe d'Erlanger, a painter and lover of the Arab world. The palace is also home to the Centre for Arab and Mediterranean Music with two rooms devoted to musical instruments used throughout Tunisia.

Got a sweet tooth? Make sure you stop at a bambalouni kiosk for fresh, warm doughnuts made while you wait.

El Jem

Put simply, El Jem is one of the best-preserved Roman sites not just in Africa, but anywhere in the world. It's easy to delve right back to the days when legionnaires' sandals smoothed the streets of the ancient Roman city of Thysdrus.

The impressive 3rd-century amphitheatre of El Jem © Henry Patton - Flickr Creative Commons
The impressive 3rd-century amphitheatre of El Jem © Henry Patton - Flickr Creative Commons

The UNESCO World Heritage listed amphitheatre is up there with Rome. In its heyday, 35,000 screaming spectators would bay for blood as gladiators battled lions as well as each other.

It's truly remarkable to stand there imagining that construction began on the site almost 2,000 years ago. Tunisia's glorious beach resorts may be within easy reach of El Jem, but they feel a million miles away.

Thalassotherapy

Tunisia is considered to be one of the world's best spots for thalassotherapy, a hot seawater-based spa treatment combining massage, mud or seaweed wraps to promote wellbeing.

Said to help those with aches and pains, it's also great for the skin. Sweat it out in a hot, steamy traditional hammam before lying on a heated surface, and succumbing to a gommage, which involves being scrubbed all over to remove dead skin cells, leaving you glowing and relaxed.

Are you tempted to get a taste of Tunisia? First Choice flies direct to resorts in Sousse and Hammamet on Tunisia's Mediterranean coast from airports across the UK, including Birmingham , London Gatwick, Newcastle, Cardiff and Glasgow. There are plenty of great value deals on all inclusive holidays throughout winter 2018/2019 and into spring 2019 as well.

Remember, you can also find out more about the weather in Tunisia and see when we think is the best time to go for the finest conditions in which to enjoy the beaches, ruins, old medinas, and more.

Natasha Blair

Natasha Blair
Posted on Wednesday 12th September 2018 in: Africa Culture Excursions

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