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adventure travel trip to Tunisia
Get to know the people and culture of this fascinating, but little-explored country
  • Sep 6-21, 2014
  • Privately on Request
  • Duration 16 days
    Group Size 2-12
    Land Cost $5,595 Details
    Single Supplement $775
    Lodging 1 star-2 stars
    Grade I-II
    Best Time

    Timely and Timeless Tunisia

    Tunis, the desert, Berber villages, and Djerba Island with Mohamed Halouani

    Day 1      USA / Tunis

    Upon arrival at Tunis, you will be met at the airport and transferred to your boutique hotel to check in and get settled. Later in the day, gather for orientation, followed by dinner at the hotel and overnight.

    Meals: Dinner
    Lodging: Hotel Tunisia Palace, a 4-star accommodation over 100 years old, or similar

    Day 2      Tunis / Carthage / Sidi-Bou-Said / Tunis

    After breakfast at the hotel, set out to visit the archaeological site of the great ancient city of Carthage, including the Roman theater and baths, Phoenician sanctuary, the ingenious interconnected Punic harbors and houses, and Carthage's fine archaeological museum on Byrsa Hill. After getting a quick lunch en route, visit the picturesque clifftop village of Sidi-Bou-Said in the afternoon, one of the prettiest sights in all of Tunisia. Stroll its white and blue streets, take in the mosque and other distinctive Ottoman/Andalusian buildings and architecture, and admire the stunning glimpses of the coast. Afterward, head back to Tunis for dinner and overnight.

    Meals: Breakfast, Dinner
    Lodging: Hotel Tunisia Palace or similar

    Explore well-preserved ruins
    Day 3      Tunis / Medina Walking Tour

    Today, you will take a walking tour through the intriguingly tangled old medina of Tunis. Founded by the Arabs in the 7th century, Tunis existed within the medina walls for more than a thousand years. Visit the oldest religious monuments, the Grand Mosque, the mausoleums, and the souqs of this amazing UNESCO World Heritage site. We will have lunch in one of the old homes within the medina, prepared by a family that has lived there for generations. Continue on in the afternoon, enjoying the medina's maze of tunnels and alleys dotted with hidden treasures. Visit the country's oldest madrasas (religious schools for the study of the Quran) and some handicraft workshops where you can observe artisans at work. Return to your hotel, have dinner in town, and spend your last night in the city before heading out in the morning.

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging: Hotel Tunisia Palace or similar

    Visit the many small shops in Tunis' medina
    Day 4      Tunis / Dougga / Kairouan

    Today, we will drive southwest of Tunis across the valley of the Medjerda River and head toward Dougga, the best-preserved archaeological site in Tunis. Visit the old Roman monuments, considered by many to be the best in all of Africa, startlingly complete, and allowing easy insight into how well-heeled Romans lived. After getting lunch en route, head to Kairouan in the afternoon, check in at your hotel, have dinner, and settle in for a couple of nights.

    Meals: Breakfast, Dinner
    Lodging: Hotel La Kasbah or similar

    Explore ancient cliffside ruins
    Day 5      Kairouan

    Spend a full day in Tunisia's holy city of Kairouan, once the Arab capital of all North Africa and one of Islam's most sacred cities. Explore the city's most significant monuments, such as the great mosque Sidi Oqba (the oldest in North Africa), the Aghlabite water tanks, the Barber Mausoleum with its superb Andalusian details, and the new Islamic art museum. Find lunch in town, then stroll in the old souqs and visit the handicraft workshops in the afternoon. Kairouan's medina is an interesting and beautiful place to wander, especially in the late afternoon when the sun creates shadows that highlight its colors and architectural details. In the evening, have dinner at the hotel and overnight.

    Meals: Breakfast, Dinner
    Lodging: Hotel La Kasbah or similar

    Search for intriguing Andalusian details in the village
    Day 6      Kairouan / Tozeur

    Today, we head out to the southern part of the country and the desert, driving first to the southern oasis of Tozeur. Visit the old town, inhabited since about 8,000 BC, bounded on one side by an enormous forest of palm trees and on the other by the desolate Chott el-Jerid, an immense salt lake. Explore the old quarter and its various architectural aspects, then visit Dar Cherait Museum, an extravagant reproduction of an old palace, famous for its collection of Tunisian art. Have lunch en route. In the afternoon, drive to Dar Horchani Guest House, a lovely and comfortable desert inn set amid a seven-acre date palm farm, and your home for the next couple of nights. Check in, explore the grounds, enjoy a relaxing dinner, and settle in for the night.

    Meals: Breakfast, Dinner
    Lodging: Dar Horchani Guest House or similar

    Take an oasis break
    Day 7      Tozeur / Mountain Oases / Tozeur

    After breakfast, we board 4WD vehicles for a drive northward through bizarre and barren landscape to explore Tunisia’s mountain oases. These beautiful, ancient Berber villages near the Algerian border were once part of a Roman defensive line built to keep out marauding Saharan tribes but today are little more than picturesque ruins clinging to the cliff faces. Begin at Chebika oasis, its great slash of green visible for miles against the barren mountains. Climb up through the village ruins to a great view and a pretty little canyon fed by a spring with a tiny waterfall. Next, stop in Mides oasis, less than a mile from the Algerian border and perched high above a dramatic gorge that was once part of the town's fortifications. Marvel at the gorge, used as a setting for many movies, including The English Patient, and the ruined houses built with adobe, then make the short drive to Tamerza oasis for lunch on a private date palm farm. In the afternoon, cross the salt lake of Gharsa and drive back to our guest house amid stark and spectacular views of salt pans and sand dunes. Back at the guest house, enjoy dinner and the evening.

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging: Dar Horchani Guest House or similar

    Investigate another lush oasis
    Day 8      Tozeur / Douz / Grand Erg deluxe camp

    Today, you will cross the famous Chott el-Jerid, a huge salt lake leading to the very edge of the immense, shifting sand seas of the Sahara, bound for the fine desert oasis of Douz, the "gateway to the Sahara," largest of Tunisia's desert oases, and well-known for its dates. Your visit here is timed to allow a visit to the weekly cattle market, and we will also explore the various shops where craftsmen will demonstrate their skills in making Saharan shoes and garments. Have lunch en route. In the afternoon, head toward the Grand Erg, the "real" Sahara, where you will spend the night at a lovely tented desert camp, perhaps one of the highlights of the trip, recently featured in Conde Nast Traveler magazine, This camp offers unexpected comfort in the desert with spacious tents (private baths), a pool, a restaurant, and even an old Berber stronghold tower that affords nice views of the vast desert surrounding us. On arrival, get settled and have a look around. Dinner and overnight at the camp. 

    Meals: Breakfast, Dinner
    Lodging: Yadis Ksar Ghilane

    Visit another local market
    Day 9      Ksar Ghilane / deluxe camp

    After breakfast, set off via 4WD vehicle to explore the remote and atmospheric oasis of Ksar Ghilane amid the vast desert. Walk among the impressive sand dunes, around the ancient fortified village of Ksar Ghilane, and to hot springs and a shady swimming hole about 1.5 miles outside the village. Return to camp for lunch, then spend the afternoon at leisure. Options include hiking the oasis, riding a camel or horse around the vicinity, or simply relaxing by the pool. Dinner and overnight in camp.

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging: Yadis Ksar Ghilane

    Enjoy your stay at a comfortable desert camp
    Day 10      Chenini / Tataouine / Djerba

    Leaving camp after breakfast, head eastward to explore the area of Tataouine with its distinctive fortified ksour (Berber fortified granaries/adobe villages) and below-ground cave dwellings of the native Berber population. Designed for coolness and security, the dwellings and surrounding area attract both tourists and film makers. (Several scenes from Star Wars movies were filmed here.) Visit Chenini, a picturesque ruined 12th century Berber village perched on top of the mountain, then some granaries in the area, crossing through the town of Tataouine and getting lunch en route. In the afternoon, continue north to the idyllic small Mediterranean island of Djerba, where we will check in at our hotel in the village of Erriadh, have dinner, and spend the next couple of nights.

    Meals: Breakfast, Dinner
    Lodging: Hotel Dar Dhiafa or similar

    Explore the fortified ksour, or granaries
    Day 11      Djerba Island / Erriadh

    When Phoenicians arrived on Djerba about 2700 years ago, Berber tribes were already well established on the island. Later, Djerba became home base for some of the most infamous pirates of the day. Also, according to legend, Djerba is the Land of the Lotus-Eaters, where Ulysses paused in the course of his odyssey and had a lot of trouble getting his crew back on board! (You might consider bringing Homer as part of your travel reading.) Our island visit begins with a morning visit to the El-Ghriba synagogue in Erriadh, with an early 20th century building on a site dating back to the 6th century BC, the oldest synagogue in North Africa, and one of the holiest of all Jewish places, hosting an annual pilgrimage of Jews from all over the world. The synagogue also houses one of the world's oldest surviving Torahs. Also visit the village of Houmt Souq, the island's capital, for a chance to experience souqs, local markets, crafts, and foods in a charming atmosphere that seems to blend the Middle East with a bit of European village charm. Also visit the south coast village of Guellala and its interesting museum of arts and popular traditions, stopping for lunch en route. Return to Erriadh, where the afternoon is yours at leisure, followed by dinner and your last night on the island.

    Meals: Breakfast, Dinner
    Lodging: Hotel Dar Dhiafa or similar

    Meet local people
    Day 12      Djerba / Matmata / El Jem / Mahdia

    Leaving the island after breakfast, drive north to the Berber village of Matmata and its unique troglodyte dwellings, home to around 500 people living in a very unusual environment, then continue toward the coast with a stop in El Jem to see its huge old Roman amphitheater (with a capacity of 30,000 people, it is smaller than the Coliseum in Rome but better preserved) and visit the archaeological museum. Eat lunch en route. In the afternoon, continue north to Mahdia, once the capital of the Fatimid dynasty, and check in at your hotel. Enjoy a special evening with the Debbech family and several women from the local area, with dinner, stimulating conversation, and a rich cultural exchange. Return to your hotel for the night.

    Meals: Breakfast, Dinner
    Lodging: Residence Dar Sidi or similar

    Visit the distinct amphitheater
    Day 13      Mahdia / Sousse / Zaghouan

    In the morning, continue your drive through Tunisia's heartland to Sousse, where we will stop to explore the medina with its Arab fort and enticing warren of cobblestone streets and souqs. Afterward, drive northward to Zaghouan and the night's lodging, the delightful farm guest house Dar Zaghouan. Check in and enjoy the location, with breathtaking views of Mount Zaghouan and the plains in an area along which Romans built a massive aqueduct to bring fresh water to Carthage. The owner will show you around the property and invite you to taste some of the farm's offerings such as olive oil, honey, pastries, and wine. Explore the grounds and pool on your own if you wish, then have a typical farm dinner before retiring for the night.

    Meals: Breakfast, Dinner
    Lodging: Guest House Dar Zaghouan or similar

    Explore fortified villages
    Day 14      Zaghouan / Thuburbo Majus / Tunis

    After breakfast, continue north toward Tunis, stopping along the way to explore the archaeological site of Thuburbo Majus, among the best preserved Roman cities in North Africa among wheat fields and olive groves, with its 5th century BC temples, baths, and various mosaics still in place. Only a small portion of the extensive site has been excavated to date. Afterward, continue on toward Tunis via the Hadrian-era aqueduct, one of the best-preserved in the Mediterranean, with lunch en route. In the afternoon, you will have the very special opportunity to visit the workshop of the first woman glass-blowing specialist in Tunisia, Ms. Sadika Keskes, who will host your visit and explain her craft. Afterward, check in at your Tunis hotel, enjoy dinner, and settle in for the next couple of nights.

    Meals: Breakfast, Dinner
    Lodging: Hotel Tunisia Palace or similar

    Learn about local crafts and traditions
    Day 15      Tunis / Bardo Museum

    This morning following breakfast at the hotel, visit the Bardo National Museum, one of the best archaeological museums of the Mediterranean, located in an old 18th century palace that once belonged to the Beys, former Turkish rulers of Tunisia. The Bardo Museum is particularly known for its beautiful collection of Roman-Byzantine mosaics, the world's largest. Afterward, lunch is on your own and the afternoon, your last in this fine country, is yours at leisure. Attend a memorable farewell dinner tonight within the walls of the atmospheric old medina of Tunis and return to your hotel for your last night in Tunisia.

    Meals: Breakfast, Dinner
    Lodging: Hotel Tunisia Palace or similar

    Day 16      Tunis / Onward

    After breakfast, you will be transferred to the airport for your flight home. Or, if this taste of North Africa has piqued your interest and you have the time, allow us to extend your time with a visit to Egypt or Jordan.

    Meals: Breakfast

    Leave this fine country with fond memories

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