We officially did our first road trip of 2022 and it was in Tunisia! However, we didn’t go with our campervan Rainbow this time, but simply rented a tiny car and went off to explore!
While we were in Turkey back in November, we met a Tunisian couple, Maha and Aladin, who told us everything about Tunisia. You could feel their passion as they spoke about it and we immediately realized that Tunisia won a spot on our bucket list! Plus at that point, we considered them friends and we wanted to see them again.
However, during the time we had considered traveling there, there still was a quarantine in place for everyone entering the country due to Covid 19. So we asked Maha to lets us know when everything was lifted and we would plan to go. In February 2022 we got Maha’s call that we were finally free to enter. By March 7th we were on a plane to Tunisia!
What was our plan? As usual, we didn’t really plan much ahead. We like to ask for suggestions from locals but we also love to improvise. So after spending a few days in Tunis hanging out with our friends we decided to book a car and start a road trip around the country. Unfortunately, we did not have as much time as we hoped but we were going to make it work anyway! We love road trips because they give us the freedom to go where we want and stay as long as we like.
Here is our itinerary and some of the things we recommend doing while there! However, keep in mind that Tunisia is a lovely country and there is so much more to see than just what we are advising here. Our time was limited and we had to make a choice.
Are you ready to come with us on our road trip? Each description comes with a video so you can get a better feel of what we saw. Enjoy Tunisia!!!
Tunis – Tunisia
Tunis is the capital and largest city in Tunisia. It is a huge city! Honestly, we were a bit overwhelmed and uncertain about where to stay while we were there. In the end, we opted for La Marsa area which is on the sea and it felt a bit more relaxed compared to the center. However, we easily reached the downtown area by taking a shared taxi after all we did not want to miss a walk through the Medina quarter of Tunis.
The Tunis Medina has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979. It contains many monuments, including palaces, mosques, mausoleums, madrasas, and fountains. It dates back to the 7th century and it is built around the Zitouna Mosque. We could not enter because it was preyer time, but we did walk around it. Plus we were able to enter one of the shops and go up to their panoramic terrace to admire the view over the medina.
We walked around for hours in the tight medina streets packed with people and many many little shops. Luckily we had the chance to taste one of the best sandwiches I ever had, it was cheap and extremely delicious and spicy! While there we also had a chance to drink some mint tea at one of the many tea shops in the medina and taste a delicious fruit tart in one of the tiny streets! But we didn’t buy anything else, although there is so much you can buy here!!!
Carthage – Tunisia
Just a short drive away from downtown Tunis you can visit Carthage. This was the ancient city that once ruled a huge empire across the Mediterranean.
There are still so many ruins you can visit all around the area: the museum, Antonine’s Baths, the Punic port, the Roman Villas, and the Theatre. It is also a very nice walk to go up to Byrsa hill to enjoy some epic views and the museum. The ticket gives you the chance to enter all the different sites, which you can easily walk to if you enjoy it, or get a taxi.
We dedicated a whole day to the exploration of the area, walking from one part to the other. It is always interesting to see how grown-ups experience ruins differently than kids. They are jumping on every rock and exploring every tunnel, we, on the other hand, are reading the history and imagining what it must have been like back then. There is so much history here!
Sidi Bou Said – Tunisia
Another lovely place to visit while staying in Tunis is the picturesque seaside town Sidi Blu Said. It is famous for its white and blue architecture which inevitably reminds you of Greece. Everyone in Tunisia recommended us to go here. Honestly, it is lovely to just walk around the small streets and enjoy the stunning views over the sea.
Something else that you cannot miss while you are here is stopping on the main street to get a hot bambalouni (Tunisian hot doughnut). We tried them also in other places in Tunisia but those in Sidi Bou Said were particularly delicious!
Sidi Bou Said is named after Abu Said Ibn Khalef Ibn Yahia El-Beji, a Muslim saint who spent most of his life studying and teaching at the Zitouna Mosque in Tunis. After traveling through the Middle East, he came back and arrived in the peaceful village of Jabal el-Menar. He spent the rest of his life meditating and praying until his death in 1231. Now his tomb has become a pilgrimage site for devout Muslims, and over time, the town has grown up around it.
Kairouan and Tozeur
After leaving Tunis, our plan was to go directly to the desert and then drive back up from the coast. The drive to Tozeur is about 5 hours, so we decided to make a little break to visit Kairouan. This is one of the holiest places of Islam in Tunisia and it was the first capital of the Maghreb. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. The medina and the Great Mosque are for sure two of its main marvels. In fact, this site draws thousands of pilgrims to its prayer rooms and enclosures each year. The Great Mosque is one of the largest and oldest mosques in Tunisia. This city it’s been a center of Sunni teachings since at least the 7th century. We were not there for long but still enjoyed strolling around the streets of the medina and meeting also with a few locals that were happy to chat with us.
As we continued to drive to the desert it was fascinating to see how the environment changed, we went from green and lush to dry and with very low vegetation. Finally, we arrived in Tozeur which is a town surrounded by the Tunisian desert. There are date palms everywhere and the best dates come from here!
Our plan, while we were here, was to go into the desert. For this reason, we left our little car and booked a 4×4 tour with Voyajes La Palmeraie. It was such a fun adventure and our driver was great. Make sure to check out the video to get a better feel of what the trip is all about. Our half-day adventure included a stop at Chebika Oasis, where you can visit an old village and walk down to the waterfall that brings life to this part of the desert. We did a quick panoramic stop along the way and tasted our first palm juice ever, learning all about the process of how they make it.
Next, we went to Tarmeza, another oasis village, and saw the gorgeous canyon at Mides. Finally, it was time to continue our drive across the desert for some dune bashing in your 4×4 to reach Mos Espa, for our kids this was absolutely the highlight of our adventure and Luca could not get enough. Instead, although the Mos Espa film site (Star Wars) was fascinating to see it was also our least exciting moment because we were constantly stopped by someone trying to sell us something, however, the location is beautifully located amongst the Sahara dunes.
For our stay in Tozeur, we booked two rooms in the Maison D’Hôte called Jridia and it was absolutely lovely, (you can see it in the video).
Douz and Chott Djerid
During this road trip, we were not done with the desert yet! Our next plan was to actually sleep in the Sahara Desert and to do that we had to head to Douz. On the way there we crossed Chott el Djerid. This is a saltwater lake and throughout the year, geological changes modify the water’s colors to all kinds of hues of pink. Although there was barely any water while we were driving across it (60 km to cross) we still had to jump off and check out for ourselves its natural salt deposits. Our kids dipped their shoes in the salt too. It did get a bit messy! This is definitely one of the greatest natural treasures of southern Tunisia.
Once we left behind this amazing environment, we were finally in the Sahara desert. Unfortunately, the wind was not cooperating with our plans and we had to revisit our original plan by staying a few extra days in the area to wait for the wind to calm down so we could head more deeply inside the desert. We did try to venture to the oasis of Ksar Ghilane, but could barely see anything along the way. The wind was that strong! We did still jump in the oasis for a swim although, by the time we got out, sand was all over us!
A few days later we had a window of low wind and made our way to sleep one night in the Sahara desert! Our main goal was to wander around in the dunes riding camels and maybe adventuring also on a few quads. Did it happen? Luckily yes! For our stay, we booked a tent at Dunes Insolites and had one of the most amazing experiences there. We were also extremely lucky to be there during a Tunisian holiday. There was a large group of scouts who made the whole experience much more unique. We saw how the berbers cook the bread in the sand. We witness some traditional dances and also saw a horse show. The scouts dressed up in their traditional clothes and sang for hours. It was an amazing experience!
It was finally time to leave the desert behind and hopefully find some sunnier weather. The next stop was Matmata. This area is famous for the type of homes the Berbers built here. I had seen photos of this type of home but I had never connected it to Tunisia until I was recommended to absolutely stop here. In fact, in this area, you can find them all over the place.
The homes are known as troglodytes, which are houses that were built completely underground to keep cool during hot summers and warm in winter. One of them, Hotel Sidi Idriss has been turned into a hotel after it was used as the film set for Star Wars Episode 4 movie. We did stop in to take a look there too!
Once you arrive there you will notice many places that are museums. You can enter and visit at a fee or donation and see what these dwelling look like. However, if you don’t want to go inside you can simply walk around and look down at every hole you see, for sure that hole is where a troglodyte is!
Djerba is another very popular summer destination which we visited clearly not in the best time of the year. Strong winds and stormy days made our visit there very different from what you see in most videos or blog posts online. But after all, we don’t travel only in peak season so sometimes we won’t find the best weather.
In order to get to Djerba, you have a few options. You can cross with a 15-minute ferry boat ride or simply drive across the bridge, although depending on where you are coming or heading to, you might take longer to get there. We took the ferry on the way over and the bridge on the way off. Keep in mind that although the ferry can be a fun way of crossing, there can be over a 2-hour wait to get on it. So make your considerations before getting stuck in line waiting.
There are plenty of places to explore on this island but we opted for something that intrigued us more once I read about it: Djerbhood. What exactly is it? It was a street art event in which artists from all over the world gathered in the village of Erriadh to create 250 mural paintings. This project was established by the Itinerrance de Paris gallery in June 2014. So all you have to do is park your car and go for a walk making sure to not miss any of these amazing murals. We had a blast taking photos everywhere. We were admiring art and was all completely free!
Djerba is another of those places that should be visited in the summer when everything comes to life and the weather is stunning, unfortunately we were a bit too early into the season to experience that in first person!
Sousse, Monastir and El Jem – Tunisia
We have not been too lucky with the weather on our road trip as I have mentioned repeatedly. It was windy and rainy and although it was spring it felt like winter wanted to come right back. However, I must say that these last 3 stops have been delightful also with bad weather.
We stopped first in El Jem. Here you will find an ancient amphitheater built by the Romans in 238AD. This is the largest and best-preserved Roman amphitheater in Africa and it was designed to seat 35,000 people. It must be on anyone’s itinerary for Tunisia! It is still in great shape and it is absolutely amazing and fun to explore! Our kids had so much fun running all over the place.
Monastir was the town where we planned on spending the night. From what I read and the many resorts I saw, during high season it must be very busy. However, we were there in rainy days and it was just perfect. No crowds and we managed to explore a bit of the town. We spent a few hours around the ribat (fortress), which sits right on the sea. The old town, contains the Great Mosque, the ribat, the souks (marketplaces), and some Muslim quarters. In 1988 the old city was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The Ribat was worth visiting. It is still in great shape and it was fun to go all around it. We also climbed to the summit of its high tower so we could admire an extraordinary panorama across the roofs of the medina, the sea, and the courtyard of the Great mosque. Across from the ribat is the Mausoleum of Habib Bourguiba containing the remains of former president Habib Bourguiba, the father of Tunisian independence and the former president.
Just a short drive away from Monastir is the city of Sousse. It is well known for its incredible citadel fortress. We parked the car and went for a walk in the old medina. We experienced a visit to a carpet shop where they showed us the process of making carpets. Just before leaving, we noticed right in front of us the ribat, apparently the major attraction of the town. This gave us a chance to admire the whole medina from a higher point of view.
Hammamet – Tunisia
We stopped here just for half a day but absolutely loved what we saw! Hammamet is another great summer place with lovely beaches that unfortunately we could not enjoy yet. However, it was still lovely to wander around the narrow streets of the old medina and later stop at a cafe for a meal while enjoying the sound of the sea. Also here you can visit the fort, run around the walls and enjoy views of the sea and the city from the upper part of the fort.
Did you know that Hammame used to be a simple fishing village surrounded by lemon groves, but it is now a thriving resort town with many hotels and many visitors coming every year? It is one of Tunisia’s first tourist destinations due to its fine beaches and warm waters.
I hope you enjoyed coming with us on this tour of Tunisia. We spent a month here but there was so much more to see, but time never seems to be enough when you are exploring a new country. What I do want to mention though is that what made this road trip more special was the kindness of the people. Many stopped to say hi and welcome us and anytime we were lost or trying to find our bearings there was always a Tunisian ready to help. This is what we value most in a country and we found it here. Come to Tunisia!!!