Multicentre Holidays in Tunisia
Seaside havens and desert delights
From verdant hill country and rolling Saharan dunes to Mediterranean beaches and ancient marvels, Tunisia has a huge variety of landscapes and places, making it a great destination to explore on a tour or multi-centre holiday.
Many tourists come to Tunisia for its golden beaches and to stay in sunny resorts such as Hammamet, Sousse or on the island of Djerba. Its coastal towns are indeed a fantastic place for a classic slice of sun, sea and sand. But this is one of north Africa's most fascinating and hospitable countries that rewards further exploration.
Coast and culture
One way to appreciate Tunisia's diverse beauty is to split your journey between the capital Tunis and the beach towns of the east coast. The resorts of Sousse or Hammamet offer miles of golden beaches, water-sports, restaurants, souks and hotels galore. Alternatively, the artist's town of Sidi Bou Said is a good spot if you prefer a more relaxed and traditional vibe. This blue-and-white medieval port town has been frequented by a bevy of famous artists over the years, including Paul Klee and Henri Matisse, and is an enchanting place to start your Tunisian odyssey.
At only 20km south of Tunis, Sidi Bou Said makes a great alternative base to the capital if you are not keen on staying in a bustling city. All the cultural highlights of Tunis, including its fantastic UNESCO-listed medina and the ruins of the ancient Roman city of Carthage, are easily accessed via short forays from Sidi Bou Said. The Dar Said hotel is one charming accommodation option for travellers who want to spend a few days exploring the scented gardens and winding streets of the pedestrianized old town.
To the north-west is 'green Tunisia' with its own subtropical microclimate where verdant hills roll down towards the azure sea. As the town of Sidi Bou Said on the east coast has a reputation as an artist's hub, so the pretty town of Tabarka on the north-west coast is known for its music. In particular, July sees the town host a renowned jazz festival. With a wide sweep of white sand, a Genoese fortress and great hiking, the area makes a good alternative coastal retreat for those who want to enjoy nature and some time on the beach without the tourist hordes.
Amazing Roman ruins dot the country, so you are never far away from fascinating and atmospheric historic sights. When staying in Tunis or eastern resorts like Hammamet, for instance, take the opportunity to visit the astonishing UNESCO-listed ruins of Dougga in the central northern region. While El Djem, one of the Roman Empire's largest amphitheatres, is easily reached from the popular tourist hub of Sousse or the Mediterranean port of Sfax. The celebrated classical site at Bulla Regia in the north-west, where the Romans built underground settlements to escape the baking desert heat, is most easily accessed from Tabarka.
The idyllic island of Djerba, just off the east coast, fringed by white sand and blessed with Berber culture, is a popular destination for twin-centre holidays to the country mixing beachside relaxation with cultural sights and desert adventure. The island is around a four-hour journey by road and ferry from the desert oasis of Douz and the quirky Berber dwellings and buildings around Tataouine, making it an ideal destination if you want to split your time between the desert and coast.
The southern oasis town of Douz is a fantastic starting point for treks and safaris into the rolling Saharan dunes and the tented camps of Jebil National Park. Sprinkled with more than half a million palms, it is often described as the ultimate palm oasis and was once an important stop-off for trade caravans crossing the Sahara. If you are looking for a good place to stop-over en route to the desert, the four-star Hotel Sahara Douz is one of the best hotels in the area.
Further south, experience the quirkier side of Tunisia with a trip to the unique town of Matmata, featuring a cluster of underground troglodyte dwellings. Built by Berbers who chose to burrow beneath the earth to escape the desert heat, these homes are set in caves carved around open circular pits that form central courtyards. Rounded doorways lead away into cool rooms and passages while carved stairs ascend to surface level. If these unusual houses take your fancy, Hotel Sidi Driss, used as a film set for the classic Star Wars movies, is the ideal place to spend a night.
Mix and match
Depending on the type of activities that interest you, a twin- or multi-centre holiday to Tunisia can be easily arranged. Try combining the capital, Tunis, with a coastal town, or travel to Djerba and then decamp to a southern desert oases.
Multicentre holidays in Tunisia
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Tunisair Express has announced that it will be launching a third weekly flight between Tunisia and Malta next month. The additional service will be operating from 1st April, 2014 and will depart from Malta International Airport at 4pm on Fridays. The airline currently has two existing weekly flights that are available on Wednesdays and Sundays.