Q The FCO is no longer advising against travel to the Tunisian coast. What can I expect from a trip there now?
Emma Thomson, travel writer: The ban on all but essential travel to Tunisia, implemented following the shooting at Sousse in June 2015, was lifted in July. Now, travellers can benefit from affordable adventure that includes world-famous UNESCO-listed sites without the crowds.
Sites such as the Roman ruins of Carthage and El Djem mustn’t be missed, but venturing further afield yields rewards aplenty. Slightly off the beaten track, Dougga is quoted as the best-preserved Roman town in North Africa and receives few visitors, as does the Berber village of Maktar, home to Roman baths and the impressive Arch of Trajan. While further south is the 1,300-year-old Great Mosque of Kairouan, one of Islam’s oldest places of worship.
If you prefer more action, you can ride the century-old Lézard Rouge train — complete with original fixtures — deep into the Selja Gorges, wallow in the same hot springs Romans used at Korbous, and even escape to Ichkeul National Park, where the lake is a major stopover point for thousands of migrating birds, including pink flamingos.
Be aware that the western and southern fringes of Tunisia, on the border with Algeria and Libya, are still out of bounds (a state of emergency is still in effect following an attack on a police bus in 2015) and that the FCO continues to warn that ‘terrorists are still very likely to try to carry out attacks in Tunisia’.
However, German and French visitors have already been returning because their governments didn’t hold restrictions in place for as long as British authorities did. I’d follow their lead and explore one of the most exciting countries in the Maghreb.
Peter Kirk, managing director, Tunisia First: Tunisia has a wealth of history. Culture aficionados should stay in the capital, Tunis and get lost amid the medinas, madrasas, mosques, mausoleums, palaces and souks. Alternatively, for stunning sea views stay on the Carthage Coast at Gammarth, or the pretty Spanish-style hilltop village of Sidi Bou Said, with its cobbled streets, blue-and-white architecture and charming cafes.
Wander among the ancient columns of Carthage, admire the world’s largest collection of mosaics at the Bardo National Museum, and marvel at the Roman amphitheatre of El Djem — second only in size to Rome’s. If you’ve got any time left, travel south and visit some of the desert locations, perhaps crossing the Chott El Jerid en route to Tozeur and the mountain oases of Chebika, Tamerza and Midès.
Published in the December 2017 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)