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Tourism in Tunisia
It’s understood that Tunisia’s tourism industry really got going in the 1960s and over time, it has become one of the main sources of income for the country. Millions of people flock from all over the world and not only that – the country also attracts millions of domestic tourists each and every year.
When you take a look at the nation in detail, the above really isn’t surprising.
Tunisia is one of the few countries which can well and truly cater for the masses. It manages to combine climate, golden beaches, history and shopping and create something of an “all-round” experience.
When you also consider the cost of Tunisia – visiting is an absolute no-brainer for most people. All of the above factors arrive at a much lower cost in comparison to other destinations and it means that since the turn of the millennium, tourism has boomed.
Beaches in Tunisia
First and foremost, let’s not forget the Mediterranean-factor with this country. It means that tourists can bask in glorious temperatures, whilst sitting on any of the umpteen golden beaches that the country offers.
Suffice to say ,there are some regions of the country which are more suited to the beach enthusiast than others. While we will take a look at some of the most prominent tourist destinations a little further down the guide, if you’re specifically looking for the best beaches in Tunisia the following regions will most certainly satisfy you:
History in Tunisia
Then, there is the history. This is arguably an even bigger pull for visitors; Tunisia has some of the most intriguing historical sites in the world and on the whole, these have been preserved fantastically well.
This is where the country really comes into its own and if you’re the type of tourist who likes to lap up culture, sights and general history, there are countless attractions that can fill your stay.
From the famous amphitheatre that has staged some of the most renowned movies in the world such as Gladiator, to ancient towns which have hosted the Star Wars set – many people don’t realise how much the country has to offer. The following attractions are seen as the most impressive in the country:
El Jem Amphitheatre – Arguably the most famous attraction in Tunisia, this is something that we will speak more about further on in the guide. In short, much of this amphitheatre is still preserved – allowing guests to get a feel for what life used to be like for Roman gladiators. It’s also worth mentioning that this is the third largest amphitheatre in the world – it can hold 35,000 spectators.
Matmata – If you’re a Star Wars enthusiast, tune in now. Matmata is a small village in South Tunisia, focussing on caves which are used as homes. It has been used as a filming location for Star Wars, while any Call of Duty fans may recognise the area as some of the game’s missions are based in it.
Dougga – If you want a bit of everything, this is where Dougga comes into play. The area has everything from a forum, amphitheatre to public baths – with some of the sites dating back to the second or third century BC. This is yet another UNESCO World Heritage site which is based in the country.
Carthage – With La Malga Cisterns, Byrsa Hill, the Zaghouan Aqueduct, a national museum, port, theatre, villas and countless other historic attractions based in Carthage – one could argue that this is the capital of Tunisia’s history. It’s hardly primed in terms of accommodation, which means that most guests only take day trips to it. Nevertheless, with so many different historic attractions housed in one area, it’s hugely popular.
Sousse Medina – Enclosed by Sousse’s city walls, this medina is certainly one of the more interesting ones in Tunisia. It’s ideal for any shopping enthusiasts and is yet another historic attraction that has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Shopping in Tunisia
Some people will also be attracted by the shopping. It would be fair to say that the Tunisian shopping experience is somewhat different to other areas; it’s here where you’re more likely to enjoy “local” shopping for crafts and other cultured items, rather than visiting the big brand shops that you’re used to back home.
While the former do exist, it’s the smaller establishments which can really offer gems and provide a completely unique shopping experience.
What are the major cities which cater for tourism?
Understandably, not every city in Tunisia is going to cater for tourism. While some people may like to frequent the smaller areas, the ones which are perhaps “off the track”, if you’re looking to get the absolute most out of the country there are certainly some cities which take precedence over others.
The following seven are the “big players” so to speak, and can offer the most to anyone visiting the country.
The location of Tunis would suggest that it should house some of the best beaches in the country, but in comparison to some of the other cities we’ll look at this isn’t the case. Instead, despite being the capital of the country, Tunis is one of the smaller cities on our list and is going to appeal to those of you who appreciate culture.
Some people will stay in Tunis to take advantage of all of its amenities, whilst traveling to the nearby Carthage to see the famous Roman ruins.
In terms of the must-see attraction in Tunis itself, it doesn’t come much bigger than Zitouna Mosque. The fact that this is the largest mosque in the country speaks volumes about its status, while it also dates all the way back to the 8th century and this means that it boasts some interesting architecture as well. There are several souks based around the mosque, meaning that visitors really can make a day of this attraction.
With this city having its own airport, it stands to reason that it’s going to be popular amongst tourists.
However, it could be said that the excellent transport links perhaps distort this city in the wrong light. Most people are under the assumption that any city with an airport is going to be relatively new and modern – yet this couldn’t be further from the truth with Monastir.
This is one of the most ancient in Tunisia and anyone who wants to tick off as much history and culture as possible should most definitely arrange a trip to this area.
While there are plenty of “tourism activities” such as golf, karting and scuba-diving to sink your teeth into, it’s the historical attractions which make Monastir tick.
The pick of the bunch comes in the form of Forte El Ribat, which as the name may probably suggest, is a fortress. It is incredibly well-preserved and situated right beside the sea, it also provides some fantastic views and is a photographer’s dream. There are various activities that you can engage in here, such as taking a ride on a horse-drawn cart, meaning that you really can spend a good few hours in the fortress. Additionally, and this is something which attracts a lot of people nowadays, is the fact that Monty Python’s Life of Brian was filmed here.
In comparison to the other regions of Tunisia we have looked at, there’s no doubt that Djerba is much different. This is in fact an island in South Tunisia and if you’re looking for the best beaches, this is where your vacation should be planned.
Therefore, if you’re in the business for golden beaches – Djerba should be your pick. Unlike some destinations which rely on their sands, Djerba hardly boasts a bustling and vibrant scene. Instead, it still retains a lot of its history and is a quaint destination that is ideal for anyone who is looking to relax.
Beaches are the primary reason anyone would visit this island, but there are still several attractions which can prove interesting. Arguably the pick of them comes in the form of Djerbahood – which is completely different to most of the attractions that are based in other cities we’ve covered.
On first look, Djerbahood is situated in something of a downtown district – a town called Hara Sghira Er Riadh.
However, as you venture further towards it, you’ll see some of the most stunning street art around. Again, all of the street art is based in a downtrodden area and you will have to navigate through trash and all sorts of other obstacles – but most people visiting the island can’t recommend this attraction enough.
Another area that is renowned for the beach is Hammamet. The fact that this is the oldest tourist area in Tunisia immediately makes many people think that it will be overflowing with attractions. Instead, it’s the beach which gets the most attention and most visitors are taken in by the white sands and clear waters.
Just like any beach-destination which targets tourism, there are all sorts of small attractions that you and the family can take advantage of. Water sports are popular in Hammamet and if you’re particularly keen on jet-skiing, tubing or paragliding you will be well catered for.
The age of the town means that there are still some historic sites to take in. Many visitors are intrigued by the fortress walls and the mosque which are both very well preserved. However, it would be fair to say that Hammamet is another Tunisian region which caters for the beach enthusiast – particularly if you like to be surrounded by plenty of bars and restaurants.
Sousse is probably one of the most famous destinations in Tunisia – and it’s for good reason. It’s a city which has a bit of everything and as well as fantastic beaches, there are countless attractions to see.
One could pen a whole dissertation on the magnitude of attractions within Sousse – there really is that much to see and do. However, most visitors will be quick to recommend the Medina before anything else. While other regions of the country also have a medina, the one in Sousse happens to be completely authentic and has therefore been classed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s here where you can barter away with local merchants and attempt to take advantage of all of the local products which are on offer.
Considering Sousse also has the Great Mosque, Mosaic Museum and even a Camel market – this is certainly a city which caters for anyone who wants the complete Tunisian experience.
It might be one of the smaller towns in Tunisia, but with El Jem housing the remains of a Roman amphitheatre it means that it simply has to be included on our list.
First and foremost, this isn’t any old amphitheatre – it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site and is one of the best preserved in the world. With movies such as Gladiator and Monty Python’s Life of Brian also being filmed there – it means that it’s always a favourite amongst visitors.
While there is also a small museum, most people will only take to El Jem for a day trip. Sousse is within suitable travelling distance and has a lot more accommodation options.
Port El Kantaoui
This is actually located around 10km from Sousse, but the fact it was only created in the late 1970s means that its worthy of its own separate section. Port El Kantaoui was specifically built for tourists and while Sousse might have been formed quite naturally, this is an area which is artificial in every way possible.
It boasts its own harbour, a PGA-approved golf course and everything else that the modern-day tourist would expect. You might not see the sights, history and culture of Tunisia by visiting Port El Kantaoui, but if you’re just looking for plenty of restaurants, shops and enjoyable activities then this region could be suitable.
A summary on tourism in Tunisia
As you can see, the state of tourism in Tunisia is vast. This isn’t a country which is just going to satisfy one element of a holidaymaker’s trip – it can tick several which is why it has proved to be so popular over the years.
Of course, if you are looking to just take advantage of the climates and beaches, some areas are better suited than others. At the same time, any person who is visiting purely for historic and cultural reasons is most probably going to visit Monastir and perhaps ignore the places which are more tuned towards beaches, like Djerba.