Tunisia is becoming increasingly popular as a destination for beach holidays, both in the summer and for those looking for some winter sunshine; and rightly so. But what are the attractions of this North African country? Why are Tunisia holidays such a compelling prospect for more and more people?
First and foremost, of course, Tunisia is a Mediterranean country – with over 800 miles of glorious coastline. It is no exaggeration to suggest that some of Tunisia’s beaches could be considered amongst the best in the Mediterranean. Indeed, in September 2008 the beach at Hammamet, overlooked by rugged rocks and a spectacular Genoese castle, was included as one of the world’s best beaches in the Daily Telegraph.
With such a splendid stretch of coast, the varieties of beach found in the country mean that Tunisian holidays can appeal to all kinds of holidaymakers. Whether you’re interested in lounging in the sun all day, keeping your adrenalin pumping with all-action water sports or having a lively family holiday, Tunisia will have exactly what you’re searching for. From secluded, picturesque spots on the northern coasts with beguiling names such as Raf Raf and Sidi Ali El, all the way round to the delightful Isle of Djerba, known as the Polynesia of the Mediterranean with more than 10,000 palms circling the superb sandy beaches, Tunisia has it all.
Tunisia has, for many years, had excellent relations with the European Union but, with the Tunisian Dinar the local currency, it is outside the ‘Euro zone’ and represents excellent value for tourists. It also has a more western outlook than many neighbouring countries – women enjoy equal rights here, for example, and alcohol is generally freely available. It is still an Arab country, however, and so it is best to dress accordingly in the souks and kasbahs, but the atmosphere in the country is always relaxed and friendly.
Traditional markets are still an essential aspect of Tunisian society and will entice visitors to wander through – stopping for the occasional mint tea, of course, and the opportunity to ‘haggle’ for the locally produced crafts. As well as the historic capital city of Tunis – containing the World heritage site of the Medina, the old walled quarter, as well as the remains of the great city of Carthage – it’s also possible to venture on a fascinating Star Wars journey. Many of the films in the series were filmed in Tunisia and the sets remain out in the desert areas where tours regularly take film aficionados.
It is the beaches that attracts most visitors to Tunisia, however. Beach holidays to places such as Tabarka are some of the few in the country with a predominantly southern aspect. Set around an elegant marina, these smooth, child-friendly, immaculately clean sands are also popular with divers who explore the reef just off the shore. Or there is Kelibia, acknowledged as the country’s cleanest town, with a recently restored fortress and some wonderful views. El Haouaria is a ribbon of perfect golden sand beaches, surrounded by sleepy villages next to the crystal clear waters of the Med. There will be opportunities to snorkel, sail, scuba dive and ride a camel along nearly all of Tunisia’s coastline. And, of course, there are now many resort hotels, with wonderful private beaches, that offer the very highest standard of modern amenities.
With a summer season from May through to October, with temperatures nudging 40° generally mitigated by the sea breezes, Tunisia holidays should be high on the agenda of all those people searching for the very best beach holidays, at the very best value.
Well over 350,000 British holiday makers now visit Tunisia every year, and that number looks set to increase as more and more people come to realise the value for money and the variety that is on offer. Tunisia holidays can provide some of the best beaches in the Mediterranean as well as giving visitors the opportunity of seeing an historic, fascinating country that is a beguiling mixture of cultures.
For many years, it has been the wonderful beaches along the 800 miles of Mediterranean coast that have been Tunisia’s major fascination for tourists. The major resort areas of Sousse-Monastir-Mahdia, Nabeul-Hammamet and Djerba-Zarzis have capitalised on the superb sandy beaches, the crystal clear southern Mediterranean waters and, more recently, their added affordability by being outside the Euro zone. With family-friendly beaches, excellent water sports facilities and the added bonus of camel rides, Tunisia holidays have provided wonderful breaks for couples and families, whether they have been searching for peace and quiet or a chance to try out a multitude of new and exciting activities.
Wonderful though Tunisian beaches are, though, there is so much more to this country. Situated on the north coast of Africa, but heavily influenced by Europe and the east, Tunisia is one of the most culturally and historically diverse of countries. Although predominantly Arab, it is a country of complete religious tolerance – the Jewish quarter of Jerba, for example, is long established. With nearly a quarter of its politicians being female, women here have a higher status than in most comparable Arab countries. And, although Arabic is the official language, the long relationship with France means that many people speak that language fluently as well. In the tourist areas, it is also common for English to be used.
The capital, Tunis, is truly one of Africa’s great cities, originally developed around the ancient city of Carthage, of which there are some wonderful ruins to the north east of the current site. The Roman amphitheatre, which still hosts concerts, especially during the Carthage Festival, is just one of the fascinating places to explore. The Médina, the historical heart of Tunis, has some incredible mosques, palaces and monuments and tourists can spend hours wandering around the incredible souks such as the 17th century Souk El Birka, with its amazing jewellery and embroidery.
Visitors to Tunis, as well as absorbing the wealth of cultural diversity – reflected in the sumptuous food you can find here – are also helped by the modern transport system that is being developed in the city, especially with the above ground light rail network, Le Metro.
Tunisia, of course, is also a Saharan country, with that mighty desert occupying large parts of the southern territory. This gives visitors ample opportunity to get glimpses of the Berber lifestyle, and to have the opportunity of paragliding, hot air ballooning, camel and horse trekking as well as going for four-wheel drive adventures over the sands. Two of the favourite days out for tourists are an exhilarating journey on the Red Lizard train through some of the country’s weirdest rock formations along the Seldja Gorge and also Star Wars tours. Many famous scenes from these iconic films were shot on location in Tunisia and fans can visit the actual sets of ‘Tatooine’ in the oasis town of Tozeur and also Matmata, where you can re-enact scenes in Luke Skywalker’s home village!
As you can see, Tunisia holidays are not just for beach lovers; history buffs, film fanatics, archaeologists, foodies. Just about the size of England and Wales, Tunisia is a country well worth a holiday, whatever your interest.