Tunisia is well-known the world over as a sun sand and sea destination thanks to guaranteed sun on the Mediterranean coast all year long. Tunisia is currently embracing a new found freedom and revitalised optimism. And did you know that Tunisia also packs in a lot of rich culture and history? Throughout this North African country are important remnants of the Ottoman and colonial rule, which is evident in the ancient city of Carthage, Saint Louis Cathedral, The Roman Caves and the Saharan region.
The ancient ruins of Carthage and Roman Tunisia are surreal mostly because they have existed for almost 3,000 years. Carthage is an ancient Phoenician and Punic city that was an important trading empire throughout the southern Mediterranean. The city lies on the peninsula that extends into the Bay of Tunis. Once home to half a million residents, Carthage’s most famous leader was General Hannibal who went into battle with the ancient Romans. Ancient Carthage has an amphitheatre that was constructed in the 2nd century. Travellers can see its foundations and underground room. One of the most important remains is the Baths of Antoninus Pius that were the largest in the Roman Empire. Walk around the ruins of the Antonin Baths which are the largest baths outside of Rome. Browse the huge exhibits of artefacts and ruins recovered from the Carthage site in the Carthage Museum and Acropolium. Discover St. Louis Cathedral which was constructed in 1890. Explore the Christian temple of Basilica of Saint-Cyprien, the Presidential Palace and don’t miss a visit to the National Archaeological Museum where an extensive collection of Punic and Early Christian relics are housed.
Today the scenic and modern avenues of Carthage are lined with palm and eucalyptus trees. The pastel colored villas have exquisite gardens filled with red hibiscus and bougainvillea.
The small town of Hammamet was founded five centuries ago and is an ideal destination those that enjoy swimming and water sports as well as local history. It is located on the northern peninsula of Cap Bon. The area is known for its heady jasmine scent and there are an abundance of souvenirs made of jasmine. There is a seemingly endless stretch of pristine and sandy beaches such as Hammamet Sud. Try a variety of watersports such as paragliding, kite surfing, jet-skiing, swimming, tubing as well as camel rides along the beach. Visitors can enjoy the lively colourful nightlife with a good assortment of nightclubs, bars and outdoor restaurants.
Travel to the semiarid southern region of Tunisia which becomes the Sahara Desert. The Saharan region is a typical landscape of rocky plains and majestic sand dunes which offers desert trekking opportunities as well as some intriguing archaeological sites. The three main desert cities of Nefta, Tataouine and Tozeur offer a gateway into the desert. Whilst in the Sahara region, visit the Jebil National Park which has magnificent sand dunes and elegant rock formations. Explore Metlaoui aboard the fully restored vintage train that runs through dunes, hills and gorges. Visit the carefully preserved Roman town of Sufetula.
The modern capital of Tunis is sophisticated and exciting, although there are not many beaches. There are however tall buildings and ancient mosques scattered throughout the compact city which is rich in culture and history. One of the best attractions is the Bardo Museum, the oldest museum in Africa that once was a palace with artefacts from Carthage, Mahdia, Sousse as well as Roman and Arab artefacts. There is a huge collection of Roman mosaics and antiquities from Tunisia and Greece. Another great attraction is the Cathedral of St. Vincent de Paul, located at the Place de l’Indépendence in the Ville Nouvelle. The structure has a blend of Moorish, Gothic and Neo-Byzantine architectural influences. Browse the small folk museum Dar Ben Abdallah and visit the largest mosque on the country; the Zitouna Mosque.
Travellers can barter at the open air souqs and markets that are located in alleys and the medina. Try haggling on the price of rugs, clothes, jewelry and various other souvenirs.
You’ll recognise the name from the mainstream holiday brochures; this is where the Europeans spend their summer vacations thanks to fantastic beaches and crystal clear turquoise seas. Sousse is located on the Gulf of Hammamet and is the capital of the Tunisian Sahel. It is atop of a sloping hill and the architecture has a heavy Arab influence.
A must see site is the authentic Medina at the harbour which is UNESCO listed site. It is surrounded by a circuit of walls that were built in 859. Two of the original six gates still exist. Visit the Great Mosque which was constructed in 850 AD. Browse the Mosaic Museum and the Traditional Tunisian House Museum which houses local exhibits.
The local vendors at the bazaars and souks sell leather bags, copper goods and jewelry. Everything is pretty cheap anyway but haggling is widely accepted. Smile, keep it polite and savour that hard-won bargain.