Tunisia is a super beautiful country in North Africa. This nation is located between Algeria and Libya and is home to a lot of incredible tourist attractions. Most people think of Tunisia as a place of beautiful beaches, mesmerizing Saharan scenery, and UNESCO-listed historical buildings. But to be honest, apart from the famous places of Hammamet’s huge beaches and Tunis’s busy medinas, though, are lesser-known locations that each provide a different perspective on the nation’s rich history and scenic beauty.
From ancient Berber villages tucked away in the mountains to serene coastal towns, mesmerizing cave dwellings to unspoiled nature reserves, these destinations promise authentic experiences and captivating tales of history, culture, and tradition. But let’s not make this introduction any longer. Here are the best off-the-beaten-path destinations in Tunisia.
In the heart of southern Tunisia, the unique town of Matmata cradles an uncommon charm. Famous for its troglodyte or cave dwellings, this lesser-known destination offers a glimpse into the traditional lifestyle of the local Berber community, away from the usual tourist trails.
Matmata’s claim to international fame is the Hotel Sidi Driss. This iconic establishment played the role of the Lars Homestead, Luke Skywalker’s childhood home in the Star Wars movies.
Beyond pop culture references, the real allure of Matmata lies in its underground houses. At first glance, you might just notice a hillside with a hole. But venture through that hole, down a short tunnel, and you’re welcomed into a hidden world. The entrance leads to an interior courtyard, off which tidy rooms unfold. These living quarters are simple, clean, and functional, a testament to a life lived in tune with nature.
A visit here might also offer an authentic taste of Berber hospitality. You might be greeted with a traditional breakfast of freshly baked bread served with honey and olive oil. Remember, this place is not just a tourist destination, is the real home to many people. These are real homes, and some locals still reside here, maintaining their traditions in the heart of this unique landscape.
Tucked away in the southern part of Tunisia is the captivating Berber village of Tamezret. Steeped in ancient history and culture, this small village offers a taste of a Tunisia that seems to have stood still in time. The journey off the beaten track to Tamezret is a rewarding one, providing insights into the life of the indigenous Berber people, their traditions, and their relationship with the surrounding environment.
A key highlight of Tamezret is the Ghriba Synagogue, an architectural gem that showcases the diversity and unity of Tunisia’s cultural and religious heritage. Despite being a predominantly Muslim village, Tamezret has a Jewish past, and the synagogue stands as a testament to the coexistence of these two religions.
In the heart of the village, you will find the Tamezret Eco-Museum, an initiative by local artist Monji Bouras. The museum, located in a traditional home, takes you on a journey through Berber history, culture, and daily life. Here, you will discover ancient artifacts, traditional clothing, and fascinating tales of Berber legends and rituals.
Read more: How To Travel Around Tunisia By Train?
If you find yourself in Tunis and harbor a passion for history and architecture, a visit to the ancient city of Dougga should top your list of off-the-beaten-path adventures. This site, brimming with well-preserved Roman and Berber ruins, paints a vivid picture of a bygone era.
Covering an extensive area, Dougga unveils a mesmerizing array of ruins – from grand temples, houses, and communal toilets to the bustling forum, the resplendent capitol, grand arches, baths, shops, and water reservoirs. Notably, the intricate wind gauge carved on a stone, known as a “rose de vent,” and the beautifully maintained paved streets with diagonally placed stones for animal traction stand as testimonials of meticulous Roman engineering.
Despite its remarkable collection of ruins, Dougga still manages to elude the throngs of tourists. This lack of crowds enhances the sense of stepping back in time as you walk through the deserted streets of what was once a vibrant Roman city.
4. Ksar Ouled Soltane
Stepping into the enchanting realm of Ksar Ouled Soltane, tucked away in southern Tunisia, is akin to unfolding the pages of a fairy tale. This ancient Berber granary, standing majestically over a quaint town, provides an authentic and non-touristy glimpse into Tunisia’s rich heritage.
Ksar Ouled Soltane provides a fascinating look at the life of the Berbers who survived in this tough environment by peeling back the layers of time. This four-story building produces a captivating sight with its maze-like staircases and rounded doors. A touch of cinematic appeal was added to its aura by the fact that the Star Wars prequel trilogy was filmed there, demonstrating how profoundly beautiful its architecture is.
The site seems to bask in a timeless tranquility, with only a handful of locals breaking the silence with their artful renditions of the ksar painted on rocks. Among these artists, we met a resident talent, huddled in one of the ‘Gorfa’ or grain silos, whose captivating paintings reflect the splendor of this historical edifice.
Nestled in the heart of Tunisia, the historical village of Chenini offers an unparalleled journey through time. It is an open-air museum that perfectly encapsulates the centuries-old way of life of the local people.
The local artisans who maintain the charming coffee shops, quaint stores, and the modest hotel at the top, are the heart of Chenini. They shower you with their kindness and ensure that your journey here is truly memorable. The whimsical desert roses, available as souvenirs, make for an inexpensive and charming memento of your visit.
Chenini is far from being a tourist trap. With free entry, reasonably priced coffee shops, and affordable local dining options such as the ‘Restaurant Mabrouk,’ it offers an immersive cultural experience without a hefty price tag.
Kairouan, the cradle of Islamic civilization in Africa, is a destination steeped in history and spirituality. It was from this city that the spread of Islam across the continent began. Its massive mosque, constructed with bricks believed to be bestowed by the Romans, stands as a testament to Kairouan’s rich past.
Upon entering the mosque, you are greeted by the Star of David and the Cross of Christians engraved on the doorway. These symbols signify the deep respect and belief in the early religions as the true words of Allah, thus epitomizing the essence of religious harmony.
An interesting sight within the courtyard is the ancient sundial. It provides a fascinating glimpse into how prayer times were determined before the invention of clocks. Despite the hustle and bustle associated with any North African Medina, Kairouan exudes a warm and safe atmosphere.
Tabarka is a super incredible place located on the northern coast of Tunisia. This off-the-beaten-path destination offers visitors a unique combination of spectacular landscapes and rich cultural heritage. It even has some of the most distinctive red coral reefs in the world.
The town’s defining landmark is the imposing Genoese Fort, a structure from the 16th century perched majestically atop a cliff. This astonishing landmark offers stunning panoramic views of the azure Mediterranean Sea. This historical fort, with its battle-worn walls whispering tales from the past, captivates visitors and transports them back to the time of Genoese seafarers.
Zaghouan’s Water Temple is one of the best off-the-beaten-path destinations in Tunisia. It stands as a testament to Roman architectural prowess. This awe-inspiring site reveals the complex methods Romans used to draw water and convey it over a distance of 139 kilometers to Carthage through an intricate aqueduct system. The location itself is a visual treat, surrounded by stunning landscapes.
The temple, amazingly well-preserved, is sure to astonish visitors with its remarkable condition. History enthusiasts, particularly those fascinated by Roman history, will find this site highly rewarding.
In addition, the site offers a unique cultural experience. While saris are provided for those wishing to partake in the water cleansing ritual, visitors are encouraged to bring their own.
Tucked away in the northernmost tip of Tunisia, Bizerte is a charming coastal city that offers an authentic and less trodden Tunisian experience. With its dual character as a relaxed seaside resort and a bustling commercial hub, Bizerte is a delightful blend of tradition and modernity.
The city’s Old Port, with its vibrant fishing boats and tranquil azure waters, is a feast for the eyes. Stroll along the waterfront promenade, indulge in some fresh seafood at a local eatery, and soak in the serene maritime ambiance. The nearby Kasbah, with its narrow winding streets, historic buildings, and lively market, is a testament to Bizerte’s rich heritage.
Read more: 6 Best Places To Visit In Tunisia For Beach
10. Beni Mtir
A few kilometers from Ain Draham, in the mountainous region of Kourmrine, lies the unusual village of Beni Mtir. This northwest village is known for its exceptional greenery and diverse vegetation. In every season, the beauty of these landscapes will leave you amazed. During winter, you’ll have the chance to enjoy the snow and witness the entire landscape transform into a white wonderland.
Maktaris is a history enthusiast’s dream. Here, in one location, you can witness remnants of different civilizations – from Namibian and Phoenician to Roman, Vandal, and Islamic – layered over each other. It’s a fascinating testament to the many societies that have thrived here over centuries.
Particularly well-preserved locations are those around the juvenile school and the public baths, which give the impression that you are strolling gently through a piece of history. For individuals who have a strong interest in history, visiting these old routes and ruins is a unique delight.
It’s easily accessible from Tunis, with direct louage (shared taxi), and services from Bab Alouia to Maktar. Once there, you can comfortably explore the reasonably-sized site at your own pace. The ‘Grands Thermes’ with their in-situ mosaics are a must-see.
In the northern reaches of Tunisia, perched on the stunning Cap Bon Peninsula, the ancient ruins of Kerkouane offer a tantalizing glimpse into the country’s fascinating past. This place started as a Phoenician colony in the 6th century BCE and was later abandoned during the Roman invasion. The most incredible thing is that Kerkouane remains one of the best-preserved examples of Phoenician-Punic civilization in the Mediterranean.
Kerkouane, a UNESCO World Heritage site, has survived the ages while maintaining its unique city plan. The well-thought-out rectangular arrangement of the homes, streets, and public areas speaks loudly about the sophisticated urban planning of the period. Kerkouane differs from other historical sites because of its distinctive building style, which is characterized by dwellings with private courtyards and perfectly maintained mosaics.
Mides Valley, often overlooked, is a remarkable destination in Tunisia. Often combined with day trips to Chebica and Tamerza from Tozeur, Mides never fails to impress visitors. On arrival, you’re greeted by affable local guides who volunteer their services for a modest fee of 8 dinars. These guides, despite sometimes being an unexpected addition to your trip, often enrich your experience with their wealth of local knowledge.
The ancient village of Mides is a sight to behold. As you navigate towards its farther reaches, the village reveals its strategic location, perched on the brink of a precipitous cliff. The panoramic view of the canyon from this point is truly breathtaking. Movie enthusiasts would find the landscape familiar, as it served as the backdrop for the famous pod race in Star Wars.
In the southwest of Tunisia, right at the doorstep of the Sahara desert, lies the enchanting city of Tozeur. Known for its unique architecture, lush palm groves, and ties to the Star Wars universe, Tozeur is an exceptional off-the-beaten-path destination for any traveler seeking an experience beyond the usual tourist traps.
Tozeur’s old town, Ouled el Hadef, is a marvel of traditional desert architecture. The centuries-old brickwork designs that adorn the city’s buildings are an intricate tapestry of geometrical patterns, making the city’s streets feel like a walkable gallery of art. This is a place where architecture enthusiasts can spend hours exploring and photographing the distinctive facades.
15. Eden Palm Oasis
One of the best off-the-beaten-path destinations in Tunisia. Nestled amidst the Tozeur Oasis, Eden Palm is a serene escape that leaves every visitor in awe. Unbeknownst to many, including some local guides, this little-known gem is well worth your time and offers a unique experience.
Whether you want to enjoy a meal amidst the date forest, pre-arranged of course, or wish to set up camp under the night sky, Eden Palm is incredibly accommodating. Alternatively, a simple stroll through the property after paying a modest entry fee of around 6 TD can also be quite rewarding.
Here, you can immerse yourself in the fascinating world of dates. Detailed information about the history of dates is presented in French, Arabic, and English. Take a tour around the date palms with a guide and discover intriguing aspects such as distinguishing male from female trees and the labor-intensive process of pollination and harvesting dates. The engaging and knowledgeable staff certainly add to the charm of the place.
Before you leave, don’t miss out on sampling a variety of date spreads, with the nut/date spreads being particularly noteworthy. These make for delicious souvenirs that you can take home.
So, there you have it. These are just a handful of the lesser-known spots in Tunisia that are absolutely worth a visit. Each one is unique in its own way and offers something special. From Roman ruins and desert towns to hidden beaches and unique museums, these destinations have got it all.
Remember, there’s more to Tunisia than the popular tourist spots. So why not take the path less traveled on your next trip? You never know what amazing places you might discover.
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