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 cites, here is our collective choice for 10 of the most beautiful places to visit in Tunisia…
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.
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.
Once a humble fishing village surrounded by lemon groves, Hammamet is now a thriving resort town lined with numerous hotels (Thomas Cook offers good prices on last minute holiday deals here). 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
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.
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 or by camel 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
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.
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.
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 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 which is home to a spectacular canyon.
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 and the 9th-century Mosque of the Three Gates.
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.