Tunisia is an exciting destination that combines the best parts of the Mediterranean with adventures in the desert. A nation rich in history and culture, it is a country with something for everyone from stunning beaches to ancient ruins, plus the abandoned movie sets of some of the most famous Hollywood films.
So is Tunisia worth visiting? How safe is it? And to start with, where is Tunisia? Here is a quick guide to this fascinating country.
What Is Tunisia Like to Visit?
The first thing to know about Tunisia is that it is a country with many sides to it. It is located in North Africa, sharing borders with Algeria and Libya.
The first thing that might jump to mind is the image of a desert country, but this is only partly true. While the south of the country marks the start of the Sahara — the world’s largest hot desert — the northern Mediterranean coast is far more green, similar to the nearby Italian island of Sicily. Meanwhile, the Atlas Mountains run through the west of the country.
This means that visiting Tunisia could be any type of holiday — rest and relaxation on the beautiful northern beaches, hiking and taking in the spectacular mountain views, or embarking on a desert adventure.
Another big draw of the country is its numerous ancient sites and historic cities. From Roman baths and amphitheaters to classic Islamic architecture, cities like Tunis and Sfax do not disappoint.
Simply put, Tunisia has something for everyone.
To-Do List for Tunisia
If you’re heading to Tunisia, some things just have to be on the agenda.
A trip into the Sahara Desert would be at the top of many people’s lists. The rolling sand dunes of the world’s largest hot desert provide a dramatic landscape to explore. Whether you go as part of a tour or brave the sands in a 4×4, you are sure to have an unforgettable experience.
If history is more your thing, there are 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Tunisia. In a northern suburb of the capital, Tunis, you can explore the ruins of the ancient city of Carthage — once a rival to the Roman Empire.
The site of Carthage includes Roman baths, a cathedral, and a number of museums that are well worth a visit.
The Romans later conquered and destroyed Carthage, taking control of what is now Tunisia and leaving behind impressive sites of their own. The El Jem Roman amphitheater is the third-largest of its kind in the world as well as one of the best-preserved. It has an estimated capacity of 35,000 spectators.
Most major Tunisian cities are also worth visiting. Each has a historic old quarter or medina with narrow streets and interesting buildings, giving you a taste of the character of the country for a truly authentic experience.
If you want some time to relax, head for the sea. Tunisia boasts 1,000 km of beautiful beaches along its Mediterranean coastline.
The food in Tunisia tends to be a high standard whether you’re staying in a resort or on a city break. International cuisine is readily available, but don’t be afraid to try the local delicacies. In coastal areas, the seafood, caught straight from the Mediterranean, is to die for.
Tunisia Meets Hollywood
Tunisia is a favorite for Hollywood directors and there is no shortage of classic movies that have been filmed here: The English Patient, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Monty Python’s Life of Brian to name a few.
However, none is more prolific than Star Wars. The desert landscape in the south of the country was ideal for bringing to life the planet of Tatooine.
If you are a fan of George Lucas’s epic sci-fi saga, you’ll be thrilled to know that many of the sets from the original film, as well as various other installments in the series, can still be found — and visited — in Tunisia.
The underground Berber houses at Matmata provided the interior for the Lars Homestead, where protagonist Luke Skywalker was raised in the original 1977 movie. Today, it is a surprisingly affordable hotel, where you can actually stay the night among props from the film set.
The exterior, which was used for the iconic dual sunset scene can also be visited out in the desert, close to the town of Tozeur. The nearby Sidi Bouhlel ravine was also used for filming various scenes, and has been nicknamed “Star Wars Canyon”.
The town of Tataouine, from which George Lucas took the name of the fictional planet, is a great base to visit more sets from the movie series, including Ksar Ouled Soltane and Ksar Hadada — fortified Berber villages that were used in the filming of The Phantom Menace.
Djerba Island is a highly-recommended beach spot, but was also used for shooting exteriors of the Mos Eisley spaceport, including the famous cantina. In addition, an old mosque just outside of Ajim was used for Obi-Wan Kenobi’s dwelling.
While you can explore the country on your own (a 4×4 would be recommended for any desert trips), it is much easier to book a special guided tour of the filming locations. Some of these are pretty long at seven days, but are well worth it for the local knowledge and insight into the sites.
Is Tunisia Safe for Tourists?
In general, the answer is yes. Tourism in Tunisia has taken a hit since the revolution of 2011, but most visitors report feeling very safe in the North African country.
In fact, since the old regime was deposed and parliamentary elections began, Tunisia has converted itself from an authoritarian, one-party state into the only fully democratic country in the Arab world. It has a high human development index and is the only North African state to be described as “Free” by Freedom House.
Despite being the victim of terrorist attacks in 2015, Tunisia is still regarded as being a safe country to visit.
As with any travel abroad, it is a good idea to exercise caution in unfamiliar surroundings. Stay alert and keep an eye on your belongings when in public, since opportunists exist in all parts of the world. Most importantly, use your common sense and you should be just fine.
And there you have it! Tunisia is 100% worth visiting and could be just the holiday experience you’re looking for, whether you are looking for culture, cuisine, or simply a beach.
Susan Noel is an experienced content writer. She is associated with many renowned travel blogs as a guest author where she shares her valuable travel tips with the audience.