History and archaeology
Although Tunisia is now mostly known for its beach holidays, the country has an amazing heritage with some extraordinary archaeological remains to explore.
Little remains of Carthage, but what is there is relatively well preserved compared to the rest of the ruins in Tunisia. This great city from the Phoenician and Punic periods dates from the 6th century BC and was the base of an enormously powerful empire that stretched across the southern Mediterranean. Its most famous general was Hannibal, who crossed the Alps to fight the Romans. In 202 BC, at the Battle of Zama, Hannibal suffered one of his first major defeats. And after being closely watched by Rome for over 50 years, Carthage was attacked and completely destroyed in the 3rd Punic War. A century later, the city was rebuilt by the Romans and Carthage became the capital of the Roman province of Africa. What we see today are the remains from that time.
Dougga and Kerkuoane are two other UNESCO World Heritage sites worth visiting with amazingly well-preserved ruins, but unfortunately they are less informative and have little to no signposting.
Both Monastir and Sousse are known among sun-worshipping Europeans as seaside resorts, but they are also towns with great historical heritage. Monastir has a history dating back to the time of Hannibal, a particularly remarkable museum and a wonderful ribat (fortified monastery). Sousse is a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its authentic medina and souk, not to be missed.
El Kef has a magnificent Byzantine kasbah rising from the old medina, showing both Byzantine and Ottoman architecture. In El Jem you will find extraordinary remains of a Roman amphitheatre, another Tunisian UNESCO World Heritage Site.
North of the desert
To the northwest, Jugurtha’s Table is a large mesa with a moon-like surface and deep crevices, usually accessed from the town of El Kef.
Tunisia has some of the most accessible, beautiful desert landscapes in the Sahara. If you’re a fan of George Lucas, you’ll probably would recognise the village of Matmata. The troglodyte dwellings here were used as the setting for young Luke Skywalker’s home on Tatooine. In the west-central part of the country, the desert towns of Tozeur (where Mos Eisley’s film was set) and Douz are surrounded by a landscape of beautiful Saharan dunes. Since 2009, the oasis of Ksar Ghilane has been accessible via a tarred road.