From Roman ruins and Arab Fortresses to incredible beaches and great food, Tunisia has a lot to offer, While most tourists flock to nearby Morocco, Tunisia is left untouched by mass tourism. Before the revolution, Tunisia was a popular holiday destination, but since then, tourism has dropped tremendously. The last few years, the number of tourists has slowly increased, and now is the perfect time to go. The country is well organized around tourism, yet it’s far from crowded. Tunisia is one of the few country in the world where you can visit a UNESCO World Heritage Site without anyone else around and I really would like to help you to plan your Tunisia Itinerary.
Here is a sample 2-week itinerary that will take you to the country highlights. You should rent a car at the Tunis airport, pick a franchised car rental company and not an independent one and check the vehicle thoroughly before leaving. You could do this itinerary via public transportation, but you’ll need to count 3 to 4 weeks to complete it. Having a car is much more practical.
Table of Contents (skip directly to the info you're looking for)
- 1 Our suggested 2-week Tunisia Itinerary
- 2 Things to know before traveling to Tunisia
Our suggested 2-week Tunisia Itinerary
Start your Tunisian trip in Tunis. You can spend your first day taking in the local culture. Stroll around the busy Souk (market) inside the medina (old town) and have a look at traditional handicrafts. Don’t miss the massive wooden doors here and there, featuring intricate Muslim symbols. Finish the day sipping on a mint tea in one of the Medina’s many rooftop cafés, watching the sun set on the Great Mosque.
Tunis’ medina is where you’ll find the souk and is typical of Arab architecture. Medinas were built to protect its inhabitants from rival tribes’ raids, they are common in Tunisia. A thick wall usually surrounds it, and there’s almost always a Ribat or Kasbah (a fort). The medina in Tunis is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
In Tunis, you can also visit the Bardot Museum, a great place to learn more about the rich past of this region. The museum has an impressive mosaics collection from the Roman Empire Era.
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The next day, head for nearby Carthage, Hannibal’s ancient capital and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Most of the ruins are from the Roman Empire Era and are sparkled here and there throughout the now modern city. You can start by visiting the Carthage Byrsa Museum, next to it is the Byrsa Quarter, the only ruins remaining from Hannibal’s time. You can then have a look at the Roman villas, the amphitheater, the Antonine Baths, and the Tophet.
Finish the day in Sidi Bou Said, strolling around this white and blue city. You can have dinner or a drink at one of the many restaurant by the cliff offering a spectacular view.
Leave Tunis early morning on the next day to visit the Roman Ruins in the Northern part of the country.
Roman Ruins 2D/1N
After the fall of Carthage, the Roman Empire invaded most of current Tunisia and established several colonies. A lot of these cities have been well preserved and can easily be visited. Here are the main sites you shouldn’t miss:
- Bulla Regia
- Thuburbo Majus
On the first day, you can visit Bulla Regia, Mustis and Dougga. You can either spend the night near Dougga or go back to Tunis and visit Thuburbo Majus and Zaghouan the next morning. Then head for Kerkouane and spend the night in Sousse.
Kerkouane is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an ancient Punic town. Due to its remote location, it has been protected and left untouched for centuries. Time has left its marks though, and only the foundations remain. The site is vast, and you can still see some traces of past civilization and how the city was organized. There’s a small museum on site with tools and everyday objects found there during excavation work.
Sousse is a popular summer destination; there you’ll find tons of hotels, crowded beaches and a buzzing nightlife (Sousse is home to Africa’s biggest nightclub). Its medina is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a must-see on your Tunisia itinerary.
Sousse is an ancient city, founded in the 9th BC by Phoenician seamen, the medina was added during the Arab conquest in the 9th century. Inside the Medina, don’t miss the souk (market), visit the Great Mosque (opened to tourists until 2 pm), the Ribat (fort) and the city walls. Later you can visit the Dar Essid (a traditional house) and the Archaeological Museum.
The next day, visit Monastir and Mahdia on your way to Sfax.
Monastir is also a popular summer destination. There are a couple of beautiful beaches nearby, and you can spend a few days there if you have time and want to enjoy the beach for a while. Otherwise, spend half a day visiting its medina and main attractions.
Monastir was founded in 960 BC by the Carthaginians. The medina was built in 796 when the Arabs took control of the area. Monastir’s ribat (fort) is the oldest one in Africa, it’s really well preserved and can be visited. Next, have a look at the nearby 9th-century mosque (not opened to visitors.)
You can also visit Bourguiba’s Mausoleum, Tunisia’s first president. Monastir was his hometown. Outside the ribat, take a stroll along the coastline through the Sidi-El-Mézeri Cemetery.
On the same day, stop by Mahdia, a small city on the coast that also have a Medina worth visiting. The medina is on the peninsula, its tip is a cemetery, facing the sea. It offers great views. Inside the medina, don’t miss the main door, Skifa El-Kahla. Near it, you’ll find a small museum, from which you can access the rooftop of the city door and get a panoramic view of the medina and the city. Next, pass by the Great Mosque and then visit the Fort Borj El-Kébir from the 16th century.
Spend the night in Sfax and, in the morning, visit the medina. Sfax is great because it’s not touristy, so it really feels authentic, you won’t see souvenir shops at every corner when you visit the souk. In the medina, you can visit the Dar Jellouli, a traditional house, and the Ribat (fort), turned into an archaeological museum. Don’t miss the Great Mosque from the 9th century too.
Nearby Sfax, you should visit El Jem and its Roman Amphitheatre, the third largest amphitheater in the world. Built in the 3rd century, El Jem is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The architecture is a blend of Corinthian, Punic and African styles. There’s also a museum nearby with nice mosaics found in the area during archeological excavations.
After visiting El Jem, head for Gabès
Gabes is one of the last marine oasis left on earth. In the city, you can visit the small medina and have a look at one of the many apothecary shops.
The oasis is actually outside the city, in Chenini de Gabès where you’ll find a couple of guesthouses to spend the night. In Chenini, you’ll find a thousand years old palm groove home to more than 300 000 palm trees. Take a stroll through the verdant oasis where henna, pomegranate, figs, and grapes grow. In the town center, pass by the old Roman Arch and see part of what used to be the city walls.
In the evening head for Tatatouine.
Fans of Star Wars will recognize Tatooine: Luke and Anakin Skywalker’s home planet. Part of the movie was filmed near Tatatouin, there’s actually quite a lot of Star Wars movie sets in Tunisia. George Lucas got is inspiration from the troglodyte villages there. The type of cave houses you see in the movies are actually real, people used to live in this type of accommodation, and some still do.
In Tataouine, you can visit several nearby troglodyte villages, all of which are uninhabited, except one Ksar Haddada, turned into a hotel, and which also served as a Star Wars set. You can visit it even if you’re not staying there, only a part of the village has been restored, if you stray a bit farther from the entrance, you’ll see the original town. Ksar Haddada is the easiest to reach, you can park right in front of it.
Other troglodyte villages where built by Berber tribes, up the mountain, to protect themselves from Arab raids, so you’ll have to trek a bit to reach them. Amongst the most famous ones are Guermessa and Chenini. Guermessa is 100% abandoned, you won’t see anyone there. It takes about 20 minutes to reach the top. The view from up there is fantastic. If you take a closer look at the surrounding mountains, you’ll notice a horizontal line/mark in the middle, it’s because, thousands of years ago, sea level reached this line, almost everything there was covered with water.
Chenini is also an exciting place, it’s easier to reach, you’ll need only 10 minutes to reach the top. No one lives there but the mosque is still in use, and there’s a café on top. On your way to the village, stop by the Seven Sleepers Mosque. According to a Muslim legend, seven Christians, persecuted by the Roman, fled into a cave and slept for four centuries. When they woke up, the country was Islamic. They converted to Islam and led a happy life.
You’ll find Berber guides at the mosque who will show you around, they’ll expect a tip. If you’re there during winter and have more time, they can also guide you to Douiret, trekking through the mountains. Douiret is the oldest troglodyte village in the area (12th century). You can also drive to it.
On the second morning head for Toujane.
Toujane (or Toujene) is another great troglodyte village. There, you should stay in a troglodyte room (unless you’re claustrophobic). Several guesthouses there are offering both troglodyte and regular rooms. Breakfast and dinner are usually included. Houses were traditionally built inside rocks to keep a cool temperature in summer and to be warm during winter.
Pay attention to the older women, they’re usually dressed in traditional Berber clothing and have face tattoos. The tradition is getting lost as Islam forbids tattoos so you won’t see it on younger women.
If you’re there during winter, you can go trekking (with a guide) for a day. The landscape is beautiful, especially this time of the year when everything is green. In summer, it’s just too hot to trek. You can stroll around the village, most people have moved to the New Toujane, but some houses are still inhabited. Early morning or before sunset, you can climb up the mountain, and visit the ruins of a Berber castle.
Be careful, there’s the New Toujane, down the mountain, and the Old Toujane, with the troglodyte houses, 12 km further.
The next morning, head for Tozeur and make a stop in Matmata and Chott-El-Jerid on the way.
On your way to Matmata, you’ll find several viewpoints and a couple of troglodyte houses, the same type as Luke Skywalker’s house. Built underground with a huge opening in the middle. If you see tourist buses parked there, it means you can visit the house.
In Matmata, you can visit Sidi Driss, another Star Wars set turned into a hotel. It’s nice to stroll around, you don’t have to stay there to visit it. All the decors from the set have been left there.
On your way to Tozeur, you’ll pass by the Chott-El-Jerid, a salted lake. There’s almost no water if it hasn’t rained in a while and it looks like snow. The lake is huge, and the road passes right through it. It’s a spectacular sight.
Tozeur, located at the Sahara’s doorstep, is famous for its palm grove (the biggest in the country), its nearby mountain oases and a few Star Wars sets.
In the city, take a stroll through the palm grove. You’ll find a few restaurants and cafes there. Also, don’t miss the Medina. The architecture is totally different from the other medinas in the country. Most of the buildings are made with bricks, some have intricate patterns, mostly Muslim symbols. Notice the doors with three knockers, one for men, one for women and one for children, this way people inside the house know who is knocking, hence who has to open the door.
On the next day, in the morning, visit the mountain oases of Chebika, Tamerza, and Midès. The three villages have been abandoned in the 60s’ after massive floodings.
The new villages have been built nearby. The ruins are great to visit, but what’s even better is the landscape, it’s unique, and the views are spectacular.
In the afternoon, take a ride in the Sahara. This part is incredible, the sand is thinner than what you can imagine, and the dunes are endless. The Sahara is one of the greatest places on earth. Near Tozeur, you can visit Ong Jemel, a huge rock formation shaped like a camel.
You can stop by Mos Espa, a Star Wars set and also have a look at a set from the English Patient movie nearby.
There are two options to explore the Sahara. You can either book a jeep tour through an agency, and you’ll cross part of the desert, or you can drive all the way to Mos Espa, there’s a track, and then take a camel safari. If you drive there, you’ll be crossing the desert, so beforehand, learn what to do in case of a sandstorm.
Next morning head back to Tunis and make a stop in Kairouan on the way.
Back to Tunis
Kairouan is Tunisia’s religious capital. It’s an important place of pilgrimage for Muslims, as there are a lot of marabout’s graves there (marabouts are holy men, saints). Kairouan was nicknamed the 300 mosques city and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
You’ll need to stop by Agence de Mise en Valeur du Patrimoine et de Promotion Culturelle first to buy the ticket. You can just park there and do everything on foot.
The medina there is great, it’s a small one, it’s well maintained, and it’s super clean. Take a stroll through it, don’t hesitate to get lost in the small streets. Visit the Dar Hassine Allani, a traditional house turned into a guesthouse and museum.
You should also visit The Great Mosque Jamâa Sidi Oqba, the oldest Muslim religious site in Africa. Amongst the main marabouts’ mausoleums, you can visit the Sidi Abid El-Ghariani’s Zaouïa, the Abou Zamâa’s Zaouïa and the Sidi Amor Abbada’s Zaouïa. Have a look at the Raqqada Museum of Islamic Arts too.
Most sites close at 2 pm. When you’re done visiting, you can head back to Tunis.
If you have more time and if you’re there during winter, you can organize a trip in the Sahara from Douz. Tours vary between 3 to 7 days, and you can either go by jeep or by camel. It will be cheaper if you arrange it from Douz with an independent guide than if you go through an agency.
If you’re there during summer and want to spend a couple of days at the beach, you can add Djerba to your itinerary.
Things to know before traveling to Tunisia
- The country is mostly Muslim, you can wear a bikini at the beach but cover your shoulders and knees outside of touristy areas.
- Most of the cafés are for men only.
- They drive super fast and like madmen and the roads can sometimes have potholes, be careful when driving there.
- A lot of attractions are closed on Mondays.
- Tunisia’s second language is French, outside of the tourism industry, few people speak English.
- The summers are extremely hot, and the winters are chilly, bring appropriate clothing, jeans and a light jacket are enough for winter.
This is a guest post by Julie from: Juliearoundtheglobe.com
Author’s bio: “Julie has been traveling full time since 2016 and is always on the lookout for great destinations and travel hacks. She shares her best travel experiences on her blog Julie Around the Globe and aims to inspire others to travel more and to places less known. ”