My next holiday destination is...Tunisia
My first time to Africa
I have been planning to book a family holiday for some time and have been searching every night on the internet for a good deal that would suit our budget. I knew that we could only afford anything European that was close to home so it came as a surprise when I stumbled across this great deal that was actually recommended to me by my sister. Tunisia it was. I was a little apprehensive at first because of the recent events in the country particularly because we would be travelling with my 1 year old son but having done my research, I was relieved to know that the country was safe enough to venture to. Here I want to share our trip to which may be helpful if you're thinking of choosing Tunisia as your next holiday destination.
This picture shows the Tunisian flag carved out of a watermelon!
Where we stayed - We stayed in the Sahel Region of Tunisia
This is the view from the balcony of our hotel room.
We stayed in the Ramada Liberty Resort which is only 150m from the beach. It is located in Skanes which in between the town of Sousse and Monastir. Although the location of the hotel was quite isolated, the neighbouring towns are easily accessible either by bus or by taxi with just under half an hour travel time. By bus it only cost 1 dinar per person each way and buses came around every 15 minutes so we chose to travel this way rather than taking a taxi. If you have a buggy, I recommend you have it folded before you board as we found it difficult to carry it up the stairs and through the bus doors as they were quite high. When using the taxi, make sure you and the driver come to a price agreement before you travel.
We visited both towns and so I will go into more depth of what there is to see and do in Sousse and Monastir in my next lens: Sights in Sousse and Monastir, Tunisia
Which part of Tunisia to go?
Tourism is a major part of Tunisia now and although you may be expecting just a whole load of beach resorts, there is still a lot of culture and heritage found behind the bustling resort scene. In the north of the country you can find the landscape filled with olive groves, lush date gardens and forest covered hills whereas the desert regions offer salt lakes and sand as far as the eye can see.
I think people are still hesitant to visit the country following the Tunisian Revolution that began in December 2010 but when we went in July 2011, Tunisia had already recovered from recent unrest.
Tunisia is divided into regions and I will go through a quick overview of what there is to see in each one.
Picture shows Tunisia from the sky.
Tunisian guide books
Tunisia by region
What to see in each region
Ancient Medina - Tunis is a compact city centred around the medina filled with narrow alleys, mosques, souks (markets) as well as homes and important buildings
The Great Mosque - constructed in the 8th century, it is the largest in Tunis
Bardo Museum - (shown right) holds Roman, Greek and Islamic art
GREATER TUNIS AND CAP BON PENINSULA
Sidi Bou Said - (shown left) picturesque coastal village with whitewashed hoses with blue doors and shutters
Carthage- was once a powerful city in the ancient world, now with scattered remains and ruins such as the ampitheatre and baths
Hammamet - the country's biggest beach resort boasts some of Tunisia's best beaches
Bulla Regia - (shown right) archaelogical Roman site famous for its underground villas, also
has a temple, baths, fort and market square
Ichkeul National Park - houses migrating birds like geese and flamingoes and a variety of wildlife
Khroumirie Mountains - ideal for hiking
Habib Bourguiba Mausoleum -(shown left) ex-president Habib Bourguiba and his family have their remains in this marble mausoleum situated in Monastir
Matmata - this troglodyte town is known for its appearance in Star Wars
El Jem - a magnificent Roman amphitheatre
JERBA AND THE MEDENINE AREA
Houmt Souk - translates to "market quarter". This is the capital of the island, Jerba and is filled with narrow streets
and ancient souks.
Medenine - this area was once an important stopping point for travellers on caravans and is a good base from where you can explore outlying villages such as the ancient Berber villages
around the area
Camel trekking in the Sahara - the world's largest desert is most easily accessible from Tunisia. Douz is ideal place to start as it is nicknamed "the gateway to the Sahara".
Chott el-Jerid - one of Tunisia's several salt lakes has sparkling salt crystals and a shimmering landscape
Kairouan - (shown right) Considered a Holy city, an important pilgrimage destination. Has several attractions like the Great Mosque.
Dougga - This is the best preserved Roman city in Northern Africa
Jugurtha's Table - a flat topped mountain that rises above the landscape that
surrounds it. Around an hour and a half climb, its refreshing to enjoy the view when reaching the summit
Ramada Liberty Resort Hotel - Skanes Beach, Monastir, Tunisia
The above is a picture taken by the poolside
Food at the Ramada Liberty Resort
The main restaurant is called "Al Maeeda" where you go for buffet breakfast, lunch and dinner.
I think everyone has a different view of what was offered at meal times. In my opinion, the hotel did its best to provide variety but there were also some consistency in some of the dishes there.
This picture shows a large cake with the England flag, welcoming their English guests to the hotel.
At breakfast, expect the usual: bread, butter, cereal etc. There are usually two chefs present. One chef cooks omelettes - choose from ingredients such as onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, green and red peppers and the chef will cook you the omelette while you wait. Further down the line, there is another chef who is cooking crepes from prepared batter. The crepes were extremely popular amongst the guests!
Every mealtime had a selection of salads
and bread. There would always be a chef cooking somehting special for the meal.
When we were there, we had sausages,
fish, pasta, 'brik Ã l'oeuf' which is a Tunisan speciality that is made with egg and potato
in a crispy pastry and a few others. This picture shows a few of the main dishes that were served: aubergine in tomato sauce,
fried fish and beans in sauce.
This picture shows the array of sweets that were for guests during a Tunisian themed night. There were some like biscuits and others had marzipan and nuts.
Some were very sweet as they were made with honey and spices.
This shows more of the selection of desserts that the hotel offered.
Lots of lovely layered cake, mini eclairs and cream and fruit topped biscuits. Yum!
There were always a lot of fresh fruit available. This picture shows the more popular fruit of Tunisia: figs, dates, plums, apricots and peaches. There were always melon available too which my son thoroughly enjoyed - lovely refreshing watermelons and sweet tasting honeydew melons were always in abundance.
There were three other restaurants at the hotel which we could only visit once each during our stay. The menu is simple with about three choices for each course.
There was a restaurant by the
poolside where you have a "barbeque lunch". I would have rather gone to the buffet as the choices we had were basically fish and chips, chicken or a burger. I felt that the portions were not enough (as they were served) but maybe it was because I was already
accustommed to the copious amounts
we were getting at the buffet!
The other restaurant we had lunch at was by the beach which was roughly 150m away from the hotel. This one overlooks the beach so its nice as a change of scenery but again the menu was basic and I think catered for the English. I had a pasta carbonara whilst my husband had a burger - we didn't enjoy it.
The last restaurant which we dined at on the second to last night of our stay was a contrast to the buffet restaurant. It was in a more intimate and more cultured setting as it was a much smaller room with drapes from the ceiling.
The menu again was basic but had a choice of more traditional Tunisian cuisine which we were after. The above right shows the 'brik Ã l'oeuf' served fancily in a sliced lemon and right shows chicken, meatballs and sausage laid on a bed of cous cous. This dish was tasty and so filling that I felt the bulge through my dress. It was worth it though!
Read more on North African Cuisine - Recreate the Tunisan tastes
Travelling to Tunisia
Flights to Tunisia from the UK take about 3 hours.
There are seven international airports:
Jerba - Zarzis International Airport
Enfidha - Hammamet International Airport
Monastir - Habib Bourguiba International Airport
Sfax - Thyna International Airport
Tabarka - 7 Novembre International Airport
Tozeur - Nefta International AirportTozeur - Nefta International Airport
Tunis - Carthage International Airport
Things you need to know
The Tunisian Dinar is a closed currency meaning it can only be bought and sold in the country. It is illegal to import and export Tunisian Dinars.
You can have your money changed either at the airport or at your hotel. If your transfer from the airport to the hotel has already been organised, for convenience, it is easier just to change your money at the hotel. We went to Tunisia in July 2011 and the rate offered at the hotel was 2.17 TND for every 1 GBP.
WHEN TO GO
The warm climate means Tunisia can be visited at anytime of year. The summer is usually from May until the beginning of October. As it is located near the coast, the heat also welcomes the occasional sea breeze. The hottest summer months may become unbearable in the the mountain valleys. During the autumn, the country may experience some cold currents from the Atlantic and some rain too but the weather is still generally quite warm. The winter weather is unpredictable sothe best times to visit is during summer, spring and autumn.
Citizens of the EU do not need a visa but need a valid passport for at least 6 months from the date of arrival.
If in doubt, contact the Tunisian Embassy:
The main language of Tunisia is Arabic but French is still commonly used and you will find educated Tunisians bilingual. You will find some English is spoken in the tourist zones as well as in markets when vendors are trying to sell you their wares.
29 Prince's Gate
London SW7 1QG
TEL: 020 7584 8117
DVDs from the Global Treasures series - Places to visit in Tunisia
DVDs to help you decide on what places in Tunis to visit
This is my first lens and is still a work in progress.
If there are more topics you would like me to write about, please feel free to let me know.