Although it’s famous for its sprawling sand dunes, elegant spas and desert Star War sets, the smallest country in North Africa is not always synonymous with beauty, but of course, beauty is subjective and vastly underrated Tunisia is home to many places easily worthy of the word. From magical mountain oases to atmospheric holy cities, here is my choice for 20 of the most beautiful places to visit in Tunisia…
Tunis Medina – one of the most impressive medieval medinas in North Africa and one of Tunisia’s great treasures
The most beautiful part of the country’s capital city is the old Arab walled town, otherwise known as the Medina. Expect fine examples of Arab architecture and lively souqs where everything from household goods to gold items can be bartered for. The atmosphere is intoxicating and gives you a taste of what life was like in the Arabian opulence era which reigned from the 12th to the 16th centuries.
Chebika – an oasis that lies at the foot of the Djebel el Negueb mountains where Star Wars Episode IV
Of course it’s all a matter of opinion, but arguably the most beautiful places to visit in Tunisia are away from the cities. Chebika which lies at the foot of the mountains of the Djebel el Negueb is a perfect example. Here an Eden-like oasis of beautiful waterfalls, curious caverns and date palms surviving in rocky clefts is a dramatic sight – and unsurprisingly a popular tourist haunt. It’s also a popular place with film directors as scenes from Star Wars Episode IV and The English Patient were shot in this area.
Hammamet – a small fishing town turned beautiful coastal resort
Once a humble fishing village surrounded by lemon groves, Hammamet is now a thriving resort town lined with numerous hotels. It actually Tunisia’s first tourist destination due to its fine beaches and warm waters, which are perfect for water sports. Although it’s not all about all-inclusive hotels, Hammamet has a beautiful historic centre crisscrossed with narrow alleyways and here you’ll find an attractive medina and a 12th century Kasbah.
Sidi Bou Said – a cliff-top village with striking blue-and-white buildings, cobbled streets and stunning views
Perched on top of a steep cliff overlooking the Mediterranean is where you’ll find Tunisia’s prettiest town. Their gorgeous traditional houses have been whitewashed to perfection and beautifully accented with flashes of brilliant blue. It’s long been a bohemian enclave, but with a few trendy boutique hotels popping up it now attracts a more well-heeled crowd. Expect narrow cobbled streets lined with cafes, art shops and souvenir stalls framed by an abundance of fragrant, cascading flowers. The town also makes a great base to explore the nearby Roman ruins of Carthage.
The Sahara – one of the largest and hottest deserts in the world and home to surreally beautiful landscapes
Every visitor should include the world’s largest desert on their itinerary and the Sahara can be reached by tours arranged from most resort towns. The Eastern Sand Sea (Grand Erg Oriental) makes up a huge part of Southern Tunisia and it’s a magical place where scenes from Star Wars and the English Patient were once filmed. The area is best explored by jeep but to really up the romance stakes include an overnight stay in a traditional tent. Make sure you don’t miss Nefta, the most beautiful sand dunes in Tunisia and Chott el Jerid, a vast salt lake.
Matmata & the Ksour – a unique desert village with curious honeycomb-like houses
Movie fans would instantly recognise the intriguing troglodytic houses of Matmata – when director George Lucas visited here he was so taken with the area he used it as a set in his famous Star Wars films. It’s a uniquely beautiful place, home to attractive honeycomb-esque granaries known as ghorfas. The curious architecture style stems from fortified Berber settlements and are so unusual they almost look other-worldly.
Sousse – a beautiful city otherwise known as “the Pearl of the Sahel”
Located right on the coast, this former military port is known for its beautiful sandy beaches and UNESCO world heritage site status. It’s both a bustling tourist resort and a beautifully preserved place – a fine example of a town dating from the first centuries of Islam. Visit for outstanding Arabo-Muslim and Mediterranean architecture including ramparts, a Ftata Mosque, a typical ribat and a medina which is also home to the city’s Great Mosque.
Chott el Djerid – the largest salt lake in Tunisia which changes all kind of unusual colours
Unique is a word thrown around by visitors to Chott el Djerid. When visiting this beautiful place in Tunisia, you might believe you have seen it before. Truth be told, if you are a fan of Star Wars, you probably have. Much of the Tatooine scenes were shot in this location. Chott el Djerid is a saltwater lake and throughout the year, geological changes change the water’s color – the water turns all kinds of crazy hues, purple, pink and red. Visitors enjoy walking along the water’s edge and seeing its natural salt deposits. A popular activity for Chott el Djerid visitors is to fly over the lake in a paraglider to get a bird’s eye view of its amazing beauty.
Tamerza – the largest mountain oasis in Tunisia
The largest mountain oasis in the country is also a popular beauty spot and comes with an abandoned old town. Located in the mountains north of the salt lakes it’s an intriguing place with two waterfalls, an oasis and deep gorges. The town was abandoned after the river floods in 1962 and today it’s eerily quiet. Also make sure you include a visit nearby Mides, another mountain oasis that is home to a spectacular canyon.
Kairouan – a fascinating UNESCO listed city still anchored in a distant past
This important holy city has also been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Founded in 670 it has a rich architectural heritage as well as an attractive medina and lively souqs. Highlights include Great Mosque of Okba – one of the largest and oldest mosques in Tunisia and the 9th-century Mosque of the Three Gates.
Cap Bon – a beautiful peninsula very popular with visitors
The peninsula which lies at the North-Eastern tip of the country is so alluring it’s often referred to as the “the garden of Tunisia.” It’s also a popular resort area but it’s popular for a reason. Filled with sun-drenched beaches with clear blue sea, thermal springs, fragrant eucalyptus trees, lush palms and sweet-smelling flora this area is easily one of the most beautiful places to visit in Tunisia.
Bizerte – a coastal town with a picturesque old port, beautiful beaches and great restaurants
Beauty surrounds you at Bizerte. This beach location in Tunisia is not just a place to see the water but known for being the ideal location to enjoy some true relaxation. Along the coast of this very small island in Tunisia is a series of thatched-roofed shelters to offer some shade to those that want it and open-air hammocks for those that prefer to enjoy the heat of the sun. Those visiting Bizerte will enjoy the scenery along the coast, but can also indulge in some camping as well, so plan to stay awhile in beautiful Bizerte.
Nabeul – a lovely coastal town which became Tunisia’s first seaside resort
Nabeul is not just a beautiful place for locals to enjoy, but is Tunisia’s first seaside resort. Visitors are engulfed with views of the illustrious Mediterranean sea on both sides of this epic resort. Nabeul has been charming locals and visitors alike since the 5th century BC. Artisans throughout Nabeul today are known for making some of the most beautiful mosaics, painted dishes, potteries, and wall tiles, so be sure to visit one of the many shops dotted along this remarkably beautiful coastal city.
El Haouaria – a beach resort offering a more authentic Tunisian experience
When traveling, one can get quickly caught up in the allure of a high-end tourist attraction, but if you want a much more authentic Tunisian experience, El Haouaria is the ideal destination. Instead of a lot of tourists, you will rub shoulders with El Haouaria’s 9,000 locals. It is a small town, but there in lies its ultimate charm. You will not find white sandy beaches along this coast, but again, that is part of its allure. El Haouaria is comprised of sandstone adding to its illustrious beauty. Bring your camera and a good pair of walking shoes to this uniquely beautiful part of Tunisia.
Djerba – a stunning island located off the coast of Tunisia known for Mediterranean beaches and whitewashed desert towns
With a population of around 170,000 people, Djerba is certainly not considered a small village by any means. It is also among the more popular tourist areas in the country, but people do not simply come to Djerba for access to the spectacular beach or even for its hand made crafts found throughout the city. People enjoy a more diverse religious culture in Djerba that is not accentuated as much in any other part of Tunisia. Enjoy learning about a new religion and a new culture at the same time while enjoying a picturesque coastal destination.
Monastir Ribat – immaculately preserved military architecture
A visit to Monastir Ribat is essential if you want to get the most out of your Tunisian adventure. Monastir Ribat is today considered a holy site as it maintains two mosques servicing the city of Monastir, but it was not always so calm here. In 796 Monastir Riba was built as a military structure to ward off invaders. Throughout its many century history, rooms and additions have been added to ensure the building is always relevant. You can enjoy walking around Monastir Riba while taking pictures of examples of various architectural feats throughout its history.
Plage de Chaffar (Sfax) – a Mediterranean sandy beach resort popular with both tourists and locals
Strolling around Sfax will allow you to see many beautiful locations such as their museum of architecture, but if you are looking for somewhere to relax and enjoy the natural beauty of Tunisia Plage de Caffar is the place to be. This beach destination is home to a mild climate and white, sandy beaches. It is the place where locals bring their families to enjoy fun in the sun in Tunisia. Although it is a popular place for tourists and locals alike, this beach remains a calm, relaxing area to enjoy any time of the year.
Kantaoui Bay – an upscale resort set along the Gulf of Hammamet
Luxury is everywhere in Kantaoui Bay. Beach resorts throughout the area cater to every waking need of their high-end visitors, but rest assured, you do not have to be a part of the luxury sect to enjoy the sheer beauty of Kanaoui Bay. This Tunisian destination is ideal for tourists from every walk of life whether you want to relax along the coastline and soak up some sun, or would prefer to dive beneath the surface of the water for some supreme snorkeling. Everything you could want from a luxury coastal destination all in one location.
Ichkeul Lake – a UNESCO listed area which is a stopover for thousands of migrating birds including pink flamingoes
Beaches and coastal destinations have their allure, but Ichkeul Lake has an attraction all its own and if your destination brings you to northern Tunisia, Ichkeul Lake is the place to go. For those that are into bird watching, this lake boasts intricate wetlands attracting thousands of migrant birds each year including the stunning flamingo. Although construction on the dam for the lake has changed its ecological standpoint somewhat, birds and wildlife such as ducks, storks, flamingos and geese are still prevalent in the area.
Bou-Hedma National Park – a beautiful UNESCO listed park famous for containing many rare creatures
National parks are treasures to behold and in 1980, Bou-Hedma National Park was founded in Tunisia. Today, it is on the list for UNESCO heritage sites for its ecological significance and illustrious history. It is home to ancient Roman structures that are beautifully preserved within the park. Animals such as Gazelles can be seen throughout the park, but endangered creatures such as the Addax Antelope call Bou-Hedma National Park home as well. To help visitors learn more about the park and their ongoing conservation efforts, a museum was recently built within the borders of the park. Visitors are encouraged to visit this museum as it is a highly useful educational tool for adults and children alike.