For those who believe that holidaying on the hills or the seas is too mainstream, there is absolutely no reason to be disappointed. More than just the Sun and the sea, the country of Tunisia occupying a slim wedge in the north of the vast African continent is an abode of distinct cultures and incredible landscapes, smeared with the spices of ancient civilizations. From the northern lakes that teem with flamingos and forests that rise from the coast, to the majestic sands of the mighty Sahara desert, Tunisia is a land of varied colours and contrasts whose bounty is sure to astound any human soul. It is one such place on the face of Earth where history walks hand in hand with the present. Tunisia is a favourite tourist destination round the year, for the beautiful beaches along the Mediterranean and ancient culture the well preserved amongst the Roman ruins. Besides, for all the Star Wars fans out there, it is an opportunity to experience the underground dwellings and sun-baked landscapes of Tunisia, which were used by director George Lucas to depict the life on the fictional Planet Tatooine.
Sidi Bou Said, Carthage
This gorgeous town located on top of a steep cliff overlooking the Mediterranean, is the place to camp in for the best experience during the stay. It has one of the best boutique hotels in Tunisia, the Dar Said. The streets are cobbled and are thronged with art shops, cafés and souvenir stalls. A walk along the whitewashed houses framed by bright blue doors and window trellises, draped in fragrant, cascading flowers makes it a sight to cherish. The place gives an easy access to explore the Roman ruins of Carthage.
If you thought that Tunisia is all about the desert and its heat, then the Kroumirie Mountains is a must visit for you. Covered in moss, heather, chestnut trees, maritime pines and above all cork oaks, these lofty mountains provide an excellent invigorating climate to relax your mind and sooth your soul. The beds of the river, which remain dry during most part of the year, are covered with oleander and other floral delights. Visitors can enjoy the snowfall during their stay in the winter season in the small villages dotting the mountains.
Located on the edge of the Grand Erg Oriental, Ksar Ghilane is a small oasis in southern Tunisia. From exploring the magnificence of the gold-coloured sea of sand on the back of a camel to living in Bedouin style tents and bathing in hot springs at Campement Paradis, one can delve into the desert life and enjoy the Sahara of his dreams. While there is an option to choose between a camel ride and a horse ride, the former is a better option given the cost and flexibility of the tour. One can trek on a camel long enough to enjoy the sunset across the orange dunes of the Sahara. For refreshments, there is always a café or a beer stall nearby. As a memento of the trip, one can always shop for a blue Touareg turban.
Kairouan, the Great Mosque
One of the most famous pilgrimage destination in North Africa, the Great Mosque serves the purpose of Mecca for those who cannot make a journey to Arabia. It is an exemplary piece of Aghlabid design. The inside of the mosque is astoundingly beautiful, with its courtyards and horseshoe-arched porticoes containing some four-hundred ancient pillars. Traces of Roman, Byzantine, and Latin Christian styles of architecture can also be spotted throughout. The courtyard also houses a three-story minaret on the northern side, that rises one-hundred and fifteen feet high.
Red Lizard Train
Starting from south-west of Gafsa, to the foot of the Tell Atlas to Metaloui, the centre of the country’s phosphate mining industry, the Red Lizard train ride is one of the must-do things in life. Developed by the French and later used by the Bey of Tunis to travel between Tunis and his summer palace at Hammam Lif, the train makes your sightseeing experience in the weird rocky landscape more remarkable and memorable.
The beautiful landscapes of Southern Tunisia, dotted with ancient hilltop Berber villages, multi-storied granaries and troglodyte dwellings are quite fascinating to explore. Zeraoua is one such village on a remote hilltop dating back to the Middle Ages. The route actually goes through Gabes to the Matmata area, famous for its troglodyte dwellings, and through Tatouine, Chenini, Ksar Hallouf, Ksar Haddada, Guermessa and Beni Kheddache. The village of Tataouine is famous for its fortified Berber granaries, called ‘ksour’, including the picturesque Ksar Ouled Soltane, Chenini and Douiret. The greatest attraction of the region is the Star Wars Tour. Many of the robots and other paraphernalia used in the movies have been left in the area and form a huge tourist attraction. One can actually stay in Luke Skywalker’s home, which has been made into Hotel Sidi Driss, or sleep on a Tatooine Moon!
National Bardo Museum
Tunisia has played a very significant role in history. Due to its strategic location in the vicinity of Italy and the Mediterranean, Tunisia has been home to a large number of civilizations including the Phoenicians, Romans, Vandals, Arabs, Ottomans and even the French. Located in the capital city of Tunis, the Bardo National Museum has the world’s largest collection of Roman mosaics among other antiquities of interest from Ancient Greece, Tunisia, and the Islamic period. The museum itself is a conglomeration of 17th and 18th century Moorish architecture.