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Things to Do in Tunisia: Part I

Africa’s northernmost country, Tunisia has been a favorite holiday destination for decades. Whether you are looking for a straightforward fly, flop and fry beach break – the coast boasts many amazing resorts – or a trek through thousands of years of history with towns packed full of souks and medinas, or a journey through ever-changing interior landscapes – the countryside morphs from deserts to citrus groves to lush plains the further you go – there’s no dearth of things to do in Tunisia. Despite recent upheavals with the Jasmine Revolution in 2011 which led to the Arab Spring that engulfed the region, the country is still safe and very enjoyable. If in any doubt, consult your foreign office before traveling.

What to see and do

Tunisia is a country rich with things to see and do, where visitors can enjoy a massively diverse range of architecture, culture, scenery, and activities. With so much to experience it would be impossible to cram it all into one visit, but the must-do list should include a trip to the archaeological site of Carthage in the capital – a 9th century BC city which has now become a suburb of Tunis and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Off the mainland, journey to the stunning island of Djerba in the Gulf of Gabes near Tunisia’s southeast coast, where you can enjoy amazing beaches and some luxurious bars and restaurants while for a different day trip head to the south-western town of Tozeur and take to the skies above the Sahara desert in a hot air balloon. The towns and cities contain excellent souks to wander through and haggle for bargains while many hotels offer top-class thalassotherapy spa treatments for relaxation and wellbeing. The holy city of Kairouan with its colossal Great Mosque of Sidi-Uqba and the Bardo museum in Tunis are two other places which will take the breath away. Finally, head to the gorgeous unspoiled wonder of Cap Serrat for a picnic on the best beach in the country, where the lack of development means an intimate away-from-it-all experience you will never forget.

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Image Source: By MAREK SZAREJKO via Wikimedia Commons

Getting in and out

It’s easy to reach Tunisia, with countless direct or one-change flights. The country has six airports, with the lead hub – also known as Tunis-Carthage International Airport – located in the capital, Tunis. Flights into the country are available from Europe and around the world, with airlines such as Qatar, Emirates, Air Canada and British Airways providing excellent services, along with luxury privilege clubs, premium terminals, business lounges and more. Bear in mind when you leave that export of Tunisian currency is strictly prohibited, and an ‘exit fee’ of 30 Tunisian Dinars – roughly $15 – has to be paid at the airport for non-residents exiting Tunisia.

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Places to Stay

Tunisia has a well-developed tourist infrastructure, but patience is a virtue here – the revolution took its toll and while Tunis and the larger resorts have retained their wow factor, some places have been neglected, although regeneration is evident. One thing to keep in mind is the hotel star ratings – they are not the equivalent of US or European standards, so a three-star hotel may actually be two stars to you. That said, Tunisia contains many stunning luxury hotels and resorts which are truly worthy of their five-star status. The Residence in Tunis is just one: dubbed one of ‘the leading hotels in the world’ it is an opulent, breathtaking expanse of lush private gardens and Arab-Andalusian domed architecture on the shores of the Mediterranean. The resorts of Hammamet and Sousse offer luxury and elegance with the Le Royal and the Mövenpick Resort and Marine Spa respectively while the beautiful Tunisian island of Djerba has a number of excellent places to stay, including two fantastic Radisson Blu hotels and the palatial Hasdrubal Prestige Thalassa and Spa.

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Image Source: By Miroslav Krejcirik via Flickr

Eating and Drinking

Tunisian cuisine is terrific and combines French, Arabic, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean influences to mouth-watering effect. The country’s towns and cities have a fantastic selection of places to eat and drink, with everything from traditional, family-run restaurants to eateries serving international cuisine. Tunisian dishes – from fried and stuffed briks to the spicy scrambled eggs called Ojja – can be found on every corner, while everything from gourmet French meals to high-end dining experiences can be enjoyed in the hotels and restaurants in the larger cities. For exquisite food in historic surroundings try Dar El Jeld or the Dar Hamouda Pacha restaurants in the capital, Tunis, while the chic Resto of Dido in the ancient city of Carthage has captivating views over the Bay of Tunis. The town of Bizerte boasts Le Petit Mousse, one of the country’s most renowned restaurants famed for its seafood (particularly the lobster and oysters), while the island of Djerba contains several excellent places, not least the oriental setting of El Ferida.

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Image Source: By veroyama via Flickr

Top Image Source: By Tony Hisgett via Flickr