Country guides Africa
Tunisia Travel Guide
Tourists travel to Tunisia for both its sun-kissed Mediterranean beach resorts and its archaeological wonders, which include the remains of the ancient empire of Carthage. However, all who visit Tunisia are amazed by the sheer wealth and diversity of things to see and do in the country, and many leave this modern, progressive Muslim country vowing to return.
Tunisia's Mediterranean coastline has long been favoured by European travellers looking for beach vacations on pristine shores. The glittering sea is perfect for swimming, and provides a lovely backdrop to Tunisia's coastal cities, with their palm-tree boulevards and unique Arabian character.
The most popular beach resorts in Tunisia include Hammamet, with its gorgeous medina (old town) area; Sousse, which is home to some brilliant architecture as well as golden sands and turquoise waters; Djerba, an island-town that is particularly popular with sun-seekers; and Monastir, a historic town that receives seasonal charter flights from Europe. The bustling capital city of Tunis also lies on the sparkling shores of the Mediterranean.
For history buffs, Tunisia must count as one of the greatest tourist destinations in the world. The country is full of excellent historical attractions, and lays claim to eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The ruins of Carthage, with a history dating back to 814 BC, are the most famous sights.
But there is plenty more for visitors to discover, including the magnificent El Djem Amphitheatre, the famous collection of mosaics in the Bardo Museum, and the prime archaeological sites of Dougga and Bulla Regia.
Best time to visit Tunisia
The weather in Tunisia is generally sunny and dry all year round, although the height of summer (July and August) is probably too hot for most visitors to handle, and so is considered an 'off-peak' period. The best time to visit Tunisia is in the comfortable months between October and May (making it a good winter sun vacation destination), with spring being particularly lovely because of the wildflower displays that grace the countryside.
What to see in Tunisia
-The absurdly photogenic town of Sidi Bou Said will linger long in the memory, and is a great place to do some souvenir shopping.
-The ruins at Carthage and the Bardo Museum are great sights for those interested in the country's 3,000-year-old history.
-The El Jem Amphitheatre, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a well-preserved example of one of the largest coliseums ever built.
-The Chott El Jerid, an enormous salt lake, is a bizarre and memorable geographical attraction that is best viewed at daybreak.
What to do in Tunisia
-Book a resort holiday in Hammamet, and divide the time between lazing on the beach, exploring the town's gorgeous medina area, and shopping in its vibrant souk.
-Visit the up-and-coming town of Tabarka, rent some scuba dive in the inviting Mediterranean Sea.
-Explore the troglodyte village of Matmata (of Stars Wars fame) and spend the night at the Sidi Driss hotel, where 'cave rooms' are arranged around underground courtyards.
-Ride the Lezard Rouge train through the Seldja Gorge.
Getting to Tunisia
Direct cheap flights to Tunisia are available from a huge variety of British and European destinations. American visitors will have to book a connecting flight. Flights to Tunis-Carthage International Airport operate regularly all year round, though passengers in the market for a beach resort holiday in Tunisia should investigate seasonal charter flights to Monastir Airport.
The Tremor of Forgery by Patricia Highsmith, A Pillar of Salt by Albert Memmi, and The Empire Stops Here by Philip Parker.
Star Wars (1977), The English Patient (1996), Monty Python's The Life of Brian (1979), and Pirates (1986).
Shorba frik (lamp soup), coucha (shoulder of lamb, cooked with traditional spices) and fricasse (fried sandwich, with tuna, harissa, olives and olive oil).
Local Tunisian wine or bhouka (fig brandy). Good, strong coffee and mint tea are enjoyed throughout the day.
What to buy
Pashminas, slippers, silver jewellery (usually with turquoise insets), Kairouan carpets and tubes of harissa paste.
What to pack
Plenty of sunscreen, after-sun lotion and lightweight clothing. Travellers should remember that although Tunisia is very progressive, it is still a Muslim country, and so they should avoid wearing anything too revealing in public places.
What's on in Tunisia
The International Festival of the Sahara (December) is a four-day celebration of Saharan culture with singing, dancing, feasting and camel racing. The Dougga Festival (June) is not to be missed, featuring classical dramas that are staged in a 2,000-year-old Roman theatre.
Did you know?
-The Tunisian city of Kairouan is the 4th most important city in the Islamic world, after Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem.
-It is illegal to take any Tunisian Dinars out of the country.
-The protest movement known as the 'Arab Spring' was begun in Tunisia, when widespread protests led to former president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali fleeing the country in January 2011.
A final word
Tunisia is a tourist destination that appeals to many travellers, whether seeking a spot of heaven on the Mediterranean, bustling and colourful cities, or some of the world's most significant cultural sites.