Roman ruins, Saharan desert and Troglodyte caves are all part of this trip to Tunisia. We tour the capital Tunis, explore the remains of the Phoenician city of Carthage and visit the magnificent Roman amphitheatre at El Djem. We also discover the Great Mosque of Kairouan, Tunisia's holiest site and spend a night on the coast.
Explore Tour Leader
1 nights comfortable camping
6 nights comfortable hotel
1 nights simple hotel
1 nights premium hotel
Trip maximum 16 Explore average 11
Itineraries on some departure dates may differ, please select the itinerary that you wish to explore.
We start our tour in Tunis, the modern bustling capital of Tunisia. There are no activities planned today, so you are free to arrive in Tunis at any time. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into Tunis International Airport (TUN), which is around 30 minutes from the hotel depending on traffic. For those arriving on time our Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 6pm for the welcome meeting and for those that wish, there is the chance to go out for dinner. Should you miss the meeting, your Leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up.
Carlton Tunis Hotel (or similar)
Despite being a dynamic city, Tunis still retains its distinctive Arab flavour with colourful souks crammed with everything from crafts, household wares to spices and baklava. Our morning tour will take us on foot around the medina with its concentration of streets and alleyways in the heart of the old city. After stopping for a tea break at a traditional Tunis cafe we'll travel by metro to the recently reopened Bardo national museum, housed in grand palace and home to a rich collection of artifacts, mosaics and treasures collected through the ages from multiple sites across Tunisia.
In the afternoon, we head to the coast for lunch at Dar Zarrouk restaurant with panoramic views looking out onto the Gulf of Tunis. After lunch we spend the afternoon exploring the picturesque village of Sidi Bou Said perched on a cliff overlooking the archaeological site of Carthage, where scarlet bougainvillea cascade over the white and blue walls of the narrow streets, and colourful shops overflow with carpets, pottery and jewellery line the winding streets.
Take a short drive to ancient Carthage. Founded around 1000 BC, Carthage grew to be the most important and powerful trading centre on the Mediterranean. The mighty fleet of hundreds of armed ships was an efficient deterrent against invaders for many centuries. Its geographical situation as the gateway to Africa (today only six hours by boat from Sicily), meant that it was a crucial strategic post which the Romans fought hard to attain. After the third and final Punic war the Romans sacked Carthage in 146 BC, destroying much of the old town. Today many of the ruins date from the Roman period but we'll also see the two ancient Punic harbours, once the very foundation of Carthaginian prosperity.
In the afternoon we depart the Tunis region, driving south to Kairouan, the holiest city in Tunisia which retains a strong spiritual feel. It is also the birthplace of great poets and doctors of religious law, echoing the traditional Islamic link between Art and Faith.
Hotel La Kasbah (or similar)
This morning we take a sightseeing tour of Kairouan. Heading through the imposing archway in the walled ramparts, we enter the labyrinth of the old medina and covered market. Here traditional crafts such as copper and silver engraving, carpet weaving and saddle making are carried out by skilled craftsmen. This is a good place to stop for a coffee scented with rose water or try a local delicacy 'makroudh'. They are small wheat cakes soaked in honey and stuffed with dates.
We'll also visit the Great Mosque of Kairouan, the 4th holiest Islamic centre after Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem. Originally constructed in the seventh century, the mosque has a myriad of columns and arabesque bas reliefs surrounding an immense marble courtyard.
After an early lunch (not included) we continue south, travelling through untouched Tunisia desert passing donkeys loaded with water from the public wells and small farms where cacti are grown for sisal carpets and rugs. In winter it is not uncommon for a flurry of snow to be found on the high passes.
Tozeur, our base for the next two nights, is an oasis town and is the capital of the south. In recent years Tozeur has become a busting tourist destination with a host of activities on offer. During your free time here you may wish to visit a street market as this is the place to pick up some exotic bargains but you must be sure to barter!
Hotel Ras El Ain (or similar)
Heading into town our tour leader will give us an orientation tour of the town and medina after which the rest of the day is free to relax and soak up the atmosphere of Tozeur.
You may opt to visit the fascinating Dar Cherait Folklore Museum (if open) with displays of treasures from the Arab world and scenes of simple Tunisian life, alternatively there may be the possibility to take an optional walk round the palmerie. The palm grove here is the second biggest in the country with 200,000 trees spread over 10sq km. There is also the option to visit the set of the 'Star Wars' village by 4WD or alternatively take an excursion by 4WD to the Tamerza desert oasis, please see the 'budgeting' section below for more details.
This morning we cross the Chott-el-Jerid, the largest salt flats in the Sahara, before continuing through to the oasis town of Douz. Transferring to jeeps, we drive out into the vastness of the Sahara where we spend the night in a desert camp. Enjoy a sundowner as the sun sets followed by a delicious dinner served under the magnificent night sky, with virtually no light pollution this is a great spot for star gazing.
We'll stay in a camp with twin share tents (two single beds) and a shared bathroom. Blankets and pillows are all provided. During the winter months, it can get cold in the desert so warm clothing is a must. Dinner is included and there is a licenced bar that serves alcohol.
Camp Mars (or similar)
Departing our desert camp after breakfast, we drive in jeeps through the sand dunes and open plains of the desert, retracing a route back to Douz where we are reunited with our vehicle.
Our destination today is Matmata, making a stop in the tiny stone village of Tamezret, perched on a hill with the pink and blue mountain of Djebel Tabaga in the distance.
Matmata is one of the most famous sites in Tunisia due to its 'invisible village' first recorded in the 4th century. Camouflaged by the sandy pockmarked landscape and situated within craters, you can find around 50 or so underground dwellings. Home to one of the oldest Berber tribes, many of the caves are still in use today. Circular pits with vertical walls have been dug out of the sandstone and a sunken courtyard created with tunnels cutting into the walls to form caves and rooms. This subterranean home is cool in the summer and warm in the winter. We have the opportunity to experience this unique dwelling style in our 'cave hotel' this evening.
Hotel Marhala (or similar)
Stepping back in time this morning, we will pay a visit to the spectacular World Heritage ruins at El Djem, site of the best preserved Roman Amphitheatre in North Africa. One of the largest of its kind in the world, this stunning monument to Roman glory once echoed to the sounds of gladiatorial contests and chariot races. El Djem was capable of seating 27,000 spectators although now has a capacity of around 500.
Continuing north along the Gulf of Tunis coast, we break the journey in Sousse where our tour leader will accompany us on a walking tour of the UNESCO protected medina, we will also visit a mosaics museum should time permit. Our final destination is the coastal town of Hammamet, dinner is included tonight at the hotel.
Hotel Le Sultan (or similar)
The morning is free to take a stroll along the beach or explore the delightful town of Hammamet. Due to planning regulations, Hammamet has escaped overdevelopment of high rise hotels and apartment buildings. The town's compact centre, surrounded by the original 15th centaury walls and white sand expansive beach make for a pleasant morning walk.
This afternoon we return to the capital Tunis where there is the opportunity to head out for a farewell dinner together.
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Tunis.
There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Tunis at any time. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you'll need to depart from Tunis International Airport (TUN), which is around 30 minutes from the hotel depending on traffic.
Tunisia has a Mediterranean climate with hot summers tempered by sea breezes and mild winters. Spring has the most rainfall but is the best time for flowers. In winter, days in the desert can be warm but come prepared for cold days, whilst at night temperatures can drop below zero. Additional information and climate charts can be accessed at http://www.explore.co.uk/weather. Seasonal weather patterns can be unpredictable. Up-to-date information on the weather worldwide can be found by following the BBC weather link on this page.
2 Pin Round
Day 5: Tozeur Half day Jeep tour to visit the Star Wars movie film site in Nefta : £ 50 per person Half day Jeep tour to visit the oasis of Chebika Tamerza and Mides: £ 40 per person A minimum of 4 participants applies
Summer: Clothing should be lightweight. However, a warm sweater is also advisable, as the desert can sometimes get cold at nights, even in the summer. Winter: Usually warm during the day but thicker clothing is essential for cold nights (Nov-Mar). It is advisable to take warm clothing (eg. track suit or thermal underwear) to sleep in, as the quality of heating in Tunisian hotel rooms can be variable outside of the main cities. A waterproof jacket, trousers and fleece are recommended in the winter months. Tunisia is a Muslim country and it is important to dress with respect for local customs. People may be offended by shorts or revealing dresses, which can attract unwelcome attention. Transparent, plunging necklines and tightfitting clothes should be avoided. Women should also cover their heads when entering a sanctuary, though in general, mosques are forbidden to non-Muslims.
We recommend sandals and walking boots with good ankle support as we spend time visiting several sites with unever terrain
One main piece of baggage and daypack. It is possible to leave your main luggage on the bus for the night in the desert.
A filter water bottle, sunhat and high factor sunscreen are all essential, whilst we recommend swimming costumes and towels.
It's worth bearing in mind that Tunisia is a developing country and standards might not always be equivalent to those at home. Some properties might be simply furnished, access to hot water may be sparse in certain stays outside of the main cities and the level of service might vary from place to place. Older buildings can get cold in the winter months and don't have heating facilities, so you might want to pack an extra jumper - hotels will provide extra blankets. During this trip, we'll spend one night camping in the desert. We'll stay in a camp with twin share tents (two single beds) and a shared bathroom. Blankets and pillows are all provided. During the winter months, it can get cold in the desert so warm clothing is a must. Dinner is included and there is a licenced bar that serves alcohol. The night in Matmata is in a cave hotel with basic rooms and shared bathrooms. Wifi is available in the reception lobby.
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Tunisia: Visas are not required by UK, Australian, New Zealand, US and Canadian citizens for stays up to 90 days. Other nationalities should consult their local embassy or consular office. On arrival in Tunisia, you may be asked to share your contact details and travel information with the authorities. Evidence of a hotel reservation (such as your Explore booking confirmation) is sometimes required to enter the country.
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