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Tunisia is the northernmost nation of the African continent and is washed by the Mediterranean Sea towards its northern and eastern faces. The western and southwestern ends of Tunisia shares borders with Algeria while the southeastern border is shared with Libya. The Atlas Mountains end towards its western borders while the Sahara Desert reaches out to its southern parts. It is often thought of as a simple beach destination but there are a plethora of things that you could be doing in this exotic country.
Tunisia has a range of cultures, traditions, and attractive locations to offer to make it appear to be North Africa in a nutshell. The cities have crowded souks like most North African nations along with pastel-washed houses. The countryside will offer you many opportunities to explore ruins from ancient civilizations. The Sahara Desert brings with its huge expanses of arid lands often disturbed by the calming presence of oases or the rugged mountains from the Atlas Range!
The region has been ruled by the Phoenicians and Romans and has been often visited and inhabited by the Arabs. While these influences have brought about legendary wars, it has also brought in various architectural features which are sure to leave you awestruck. There is so much to discover in Tunisia; so, without much ado, let us hop on to the journey through the most exciting places to be in while you are visiting this nation!
El Djem is one of the most magnificent cities to find yourself in while you are wandering through Tunisia. If you are a fan of the ancient world, then this city has so much to offer to you. The best way to enter El Djemm would be to take a train. Regular trains are scheduled from all the major cities such as Sousse, Sfax, and Tunis. You could also enter the city via the road in a car- it'll take you about 1 hour from Sousse and about 3 hours from Tunis.
The modern city is built on top of the ruins of an ancient Roman city and thus you get to feast upon the occasional ruins. There are magnanimous archways to look out for and anything said about the amphitheater here would only belittle the immensity of the structure. In fact, the Amphitheatre of Thysdrus is so huge that it rivals Rome’s Colosseum and tells you how grand the Roman times were.
There are yet many attractions to be discovered in this city and requires much archaeological work. Since a lot of the monuments are yet to be discovered the most well-preserved example of the ancient world is the amphitheater. It is one of the prime attractions to visit while you are in El Djemm. You get to walk through the rooms that the legendary gladiators used to use as they prepared for a fight; you get to stand on the posts where the Roman governors stood and presided over a match in the pit, and so much more.
Tunisia is famous as a beach destination and you'd want to directly head to the best beach attraction that Tunisia has to offer! Well, you would have to go to the island of Djerba if you want to laze around on picture-perfect beaches.
The main attraction in Djerba has to be the town of Houmt Souk- it is an ancient city and even the dust in the streets would whisper volumes of history in your ears. The fort of Bordj el Kabir was constructed in this strategic location in the 14002 and 1500s and is an amazing place to visit. The purpose of the fort was t protect the harbor from seafront attacks and has been used by Numidians, Arabs, Spaniards, and Ottomans through the centuries. The whitewashed houses where the merchants used to reside are all there for you to explore. While you are in Houmt Souk, you have to experience the shopping activity of this town. There are many handcrafted items such as exquisite pottery that you will find with the beachside vendors that you can take home as souvenirs. Add to those Turkic mosques and old synagogues and you have got into a fantasy world probably from the Arabian Nights.
Sidi Bou Said
Sidi Bou Said is about 20 km away from Tunis, the capital of Tunisia, and could well be regarded as the suburban region of the capital. However, this small village set atop a cliff deserves a special mention because of the impossible levels of prettiness that it exudes. As you walk through the serene streets of Sidi Bou Said you’d feel as if you are walking through a scenic imaginary land painted on a canvas!
You will get a peculiar scenic feel in every nook and corner of Sidi Bou Said. The alleyways are pristinely whitewashed, you'll find intricate wrought-iron window frames on every home, and all the doors are painted blue making some fine examples of architecture- almost a gateway into a magical world. And to top it all remember that the soothing Mediterranean Sea forms the backdrop of this elegant sight making it all the more comforting. This is one of the best places to seek solitude and be with yourself. It is peaceful and calm and a great place to simply laze around and check souvenir items crafted by local artisans.
Tozeur is situated towards the southwestern extremes of Tunisia. You could get into Tozeur through a flight from the capital Tunis and it will take you about 1 hour to make the journey. Regular trains are also scheduled from Tunis and it generally starts early in the morning. You might as well hit the roadways and make the journey on a bus if you are looking for budget travel options or hire a car.
It is an impressive location within Tunisia to visit. A trip into Tunisia is not complete unless you take to the sands of the Sahara Desert and this is the starting point of the arid region. Tozeur is an oasis settlement and you will find the place lined with mud houses (which are built to keep the interiors cool)! The region could be well regarded as an exceptional example of Berber traditions. Typical of an oasis this region is lined by verdant palm trees that stand tall and give the region much-needed shade. This is coupled with the beautiful city itself which has lots of carvings and brick artistry works to showcase the shadows of an ancient world.
Tunis is the capital of Tunisia and you have to pass through this city at one time or the other. You would have to enter Tunisia through the international airport in Tunis and this could be a great starting point for your exploration into the nation. Being the capital city of the nation, it is well-connected to the rest of the country through roadways and railways. And once you are in Tunis, you will see just how grand this amazing city is!
Since Tunisia is located in the Maghreb region of North Africa you will find many Maghreb influences. However, when you pass through the great arches of Port de France (known as Bab el Bahr in Tunisia), you could clearly see both the French and the Maghreb sides of the city! The French side of the city is known as Ville Nouvelle and has a remarkable collection of French architecture to offer. There are so many traces of the French rule in this place to look out for. Wide tree-lined avenues and lazy coffee shops here and there are what marks the most exciting influence of the French on this part of the city. You will also find many Gothic cathedrals spread throughout the area and these are indeed monuments to look out for. The intricate architectural style is sure to leave you in amazement.
The African side of the town is markedly different from the sophisticated-looking French side. It brings out the very flavor of Africa in a very small space. The catchiest feature has to be the brightly colored souks or markets in this region selling all kinds of exotic wares. The streets are lined with vendors selling handicraft items and spices. As you walk through the streets on this side of the city you will be greeted with the intoxicating smell of mint teas and shisha pipes making you feel as if you are living a fantasy out of Arabian Nights.
Kairouan is an important city to the Islamic faith and has been a center of Sunni teachings since about the 7th century. This city also happens to be historically very significant. You can easily see that the city whispers tales that from times about 1,500 years ago! There are no railway routes into Kairouan and you can’t even fly in. The only way to enter the city would be through roadways. There are regular buses scheduled from the major cities in Tunisia, i.e., Tunis, Sousse, and Sfax. You will also find louages, a form of minibus public transport system in Tunisia entering Kairouan from many different cities in the country making it one of the best ways to enter Kairouan.
While you are in Kairouan you have to visit the Great Mosque of Kairouan. This mosque is a world-renowned site and brings in thousands of pilgrims every year. It is beautifully designed, has been around for a very long time, since the Aghlabids times, and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Once you are done with the Great Mosque, simply walking through the streets of this ancient city amongst whitewashed buildings is going to give you a unique taste of Tunisia. You should also visit the Mosque of Three Gates while you are at it. While you are walking through the streets of Kairouan (that being the best mode of transport within the city), you should remember to try the Tunisian pastries found in the many bakeries of the region.
Dougga is one of the most scenic places amongst the Roman ruins that you could visit in Tunisia. You could stay in the region for a day or two or even visit the relic as a day trip from Tunis or Tabarka, a beach town towards the northern side of the country. Dougga is referred to as one of the most important Roman relics in the North African region. The major monuments found in this region are very well-preserved which has led to this great importance. The beauty of this place is only enhanced by the rural setup giving the place an overall tranquil feel.
Though Dougga may seem to be off the beaten track, you have to believe that there have been settlements in this region that date back to the 6th century BC. The hilltop site used to be a bustling town in age-old times and has seen the influence of many major civilizations such as the Berber, the Punic, the Romans, and the Byzantines. Among all the monuments found in the region, those belonging to the Roman era are the finest and the grandest. The Roman Theatre and the Forum are must-visit attractions in the region. There are also many Roman bath complexes that you have to visit. Temples built in honor of Jupiter and also the Imperial Cult are also top attractions that you cannot miss while you are visiting this region.
Carthage is a place of legends and you have heard of this amazing place in history as well as in mythology. The name Carthage presses on your imagination and you are bound to think of legendary figures such as Aeneas and Dido and legendary battles fought on the Alps or the Mediterranean. You could easily enter Carthage from Tunis via the railways and might even visit the ruins as a day trip option from the capital. The best way to explore Carthage would be via walking through the city but you may also hire a cab if you are tired.
Carthage is a grand place to find yourself in, probably this is the reason why so many visitors come to this extravagant location every year! In fact, it is one of the most visited places in all of Tunisia. The region is steeped in history. However, the region has also witnessed centuries of invasions from the Muslims and also Punic wars. This has led to much destruction and abandonment and thus the ruins in Carthage might not feel as grand as some of the other ruins in Tunisia.
Sfax is one of the major cities of Tunisia and has to be on your Tunisia itinerary! This city is old, this city is elegant, and this city also has a vivid history to tell! Sfax is easily accessible through the rest of Tunisia through roadways as well as railways. There is even an international airport in Sfax where two flights from Paris are scheduled to reach every week. There are also many national flights into Sfax through other major cities making this an overall accessible place.
This city has seen numerous attacks from the likes of Sicilian kings to Spaniards, from Barbary pirates to the Ottomans! The old Kasbah is pockmarked by Moorish traits and you will see a fine amalgamation with Rococo as well as colonial elements. The city walls look great and seem like they have been taken out of a tale of Aladdin. You should also visit the Place de la Republique and the Sfax War Cemetery while you are visiting the city.
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