Join us to discover the wonders of Tunisia. Forged out of the North African coastline, Tunisia is a country of tremendous variety. In the North are found lush green mountains, lakes and rivers, and in the south, the desert of the Sahara overwhelms with powerful scenery broken only by sporadic oases. Tunisia’s position beside the narrow straits of Sicily has kept it constantly at the center of the tumultuous history of the Mediterranean. For millennia, army after army has swept through this country, always leaving fascinating evidence of their passing. The Phoenicians, Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, Spanish, Turks, and French have all stamped their imprint, and we will witness the visible remains of their passing. During the excursion, see all seven of Tunisia’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites – Dougga, Kairouan, the medinas of Sousse and Tunis, the Punic remains of Kerkouane, magnificent Carthage, and El Jem, the largest Roman amphitheater in North Africa.
Join Far Horizons on this very special 16-day trip to Tunisia. Explore Phoenician remains, Roman amphitheaters and aqueducts, Byzantine fortresses, desert oases, thousand-year old mosques, and vibrant Berber (Amazigh) fortified villages as we travel from the fertile northern mountains to the deserts of the south and the Mediterranean Sea coast of the east. Don’t miss this in-depth journey of the Wonders of Tunisia!
Depart for Tunisia
Arrive Tunis with the afternoon free for rest. Overnight for two nights in the five-star boutique Hotel Dar el Jeld, a beautifully restored traditional house ideally located next to the main government square in the heart of the Tunis medina, or historic section of the city. In the evening, gather for a welcome drink and dinner in the hotel’s renowned restaurant. (D)
The ancient city of Carthage, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is our morning destination where our explorations will take us to several sections of the city. Within the ancient cemetery, urns containing the ashes and milk teeth of 8th-century BC children were found in the Salammbo Tophet. There is archaeological evidence that suggests that child sacrifice was part of the veneration of the Punic and Phoenician goddess, Tanit, the chief deity of Carthage. The monumental Baths of Antoninus, that were supplied with water by the great Zaghouan aqueduct, is the largest thermae complex built on the African continent and one of three largest built in the Roman Empire. We will stop for lunch in the dazzling, whitewashed village of Sidi Bou Said and stroll through the winding streets of the old city. Return to Tunis in the late afternoon with dinner on our own to search for the perfect Tunisian cuisine. (B/L)
Begin today in Chemtou, ancient Simitthus, a city belonging to the Berber Kingdom in ancient times. Famous for its prized veined marble in orange, red, yellow and pink, it was transformed by the Romans into a quarry town in the 2nd century BC – the largest in ancient North Africa. The quarries can still be seen including the military and prison barracks for the slave workers. See the remains of an almost intact Roman bridge and visit the fascinating museum holding unique treasures. Continue to Maktar, the ancient Mactaris, one of the most important archaeological sites in Tunisia. Overnight in the five-star La Kasbah Hotel in Kairouan. (B/L/D)
Kairouan, the first capitol of Islamic North Africa, was founded as a stop on an ancient caravan route by a disciple of Mohammed. This UNESCO World Heritage city remains purely Arab in style with outstanding examples of the finest Islamic architecture in Tunisia. Our explorations take us to the Great Mosque, the oldest place of worship in North Africa, and the zaouia, or tomb complex, of Sidi Sahab, a companion of the Prophet. Finally, we will examine the impressive pools at Aghlabid Basins, built in the 9th century to collect and store winter rainwater. Then it’s on to Sbeitla, Roman Sufetula, one of Tunisia’s most alluring sites. A stroll along the city streets takes us to the forum, the baths, the remains of early Christian basilicas with mosaic lined baptismal pools, and the impressive triple Temples of Jupiter, Minerva and Juno. After the afternoon onsite, continue to the fascinating oasis town of Tozeur, the main market and administrative center for the surrounding desert communities. Overnight for two nights at the Anatara Sahara Resort near the oasis town of Tozeur, a 5-star luxury hotel in the heart of the desert. (B/L/D)
Board 4-wheel drive vehicles to ride to nearby mountain oases. Overlooking a colorful gorge created by a now dry river, Tamerza is the largest mountain oasis in Tunisia. Known as Ad Turres by the Romans, the oasis was populated until 1969 and the picturesque remains of the old town perch on a bluff overlooking the canyon. Further along the dramatic ravine, the old village of Midés once served as an outpost on the Roman frontier, and was where many of the scenes of the movie The English Patient were filmed. Our afternoon will be spent in Tozeur, the main market and administrative center for the surrounding villages, The old town is little changed since the 14th century when it was first established. This quarter is famous for the unique decorative architecture in brick with exuberant towering facades patterned in bas-relief zigzags, lozenges and chevrons. In the late afternoon, our excursion takes us to the beautiful oasis village of Nefta to watch the sun drop below the horizon. (B/L/D)
Drive across the great salt lake of Chott El Jerid, through the oases towns and barren mountains to Tamezret where we will enter the Berber Museum to learn about the Amazigh, the indigenous people of northern Africa. Drive on to Matmata, best known for its underground troglodyte houses where the movie Star Wars was filmed in 1976. Continue on to Tataouine and overnight for one night at the Ksar Ouled Debbab Hotel, a traditional fortified granary that has been converted in to an eye-catching ‘hotel de charme.’ (B/L/D)
Our morning excursion takes us to the area around Tataouine, filled with Berber ksars, or fortified villages, and one of the most beguiling areas to explore in Tunisia. As we pass fortress after fortress, stop to examine Chenini, one of these citadel villages. Like other ksars created by North African Amazigh communities, Chenini was built on a hilltop to give protection from raiding parties. The oldest structures on the hillside date back to the 12th century, and some are still used to store grain for the villagers living in the valley below. Move on along El Kantara Roman road with a stop in Gigthis (time permitting) to walk among the Roman ruins by the sea. Our end point this evening is Djerba, an island off the east coast of Tunisia renowned for its white sand beaches edged with the azure waters of the Mediterranean. Dinner and overnight at the delightful Dar Dhiafa, housed within traditional Tunisian houses in the vibrant village of Erriadh. In 2014, artists from several countries covered the walls of the village’s traditional whitewashed buildings with charming painted street art. Although faded with time, the ‘djerbahood’ graffiti adds to the town’s appeal. (B/L/D)
Myths proclaim that the glorious island of Djerba was the fabled Land of the Lotus Easters in Homer’s Odyssey. Whitewashed desert towns and vibrant souks have been influenced by Berber, Arab, Jewish and African cultures. Today we will explore this lovely island visiting Ghriba Synagogue to see one of the oldest Torahs in the world, and Borj el Kebir, built in the 14th century over the Roman city of Griba. We will stop by two museums. The Popular Arts Museum, housed in an old zaouïa, a monumental complex built around a tomb, displays regional costumes and jewelry, and the Lalla Hadria Museum with presentations of over 13 centuries of Arab-Islamic art and culture. In the afternoon, depart Djerba and cross to the mainland by ferry. Continue on to Sfax and overnight at the 5-star Hotel Les Oliviers. (B/L/D)
Begin today with a walking tour of Sfax. Our next destination is El Jem, North Africa’s greatest Roman Monument. The 2nd century amphitheater towering over the town is designated UNESCO World Heritage and is one of the best-preserved Roman stone edifices in the world. The site museum showcases an outstanding collection of Roman mosaics. Overnight in the 5-star The Pearl Resort & Spa overlooking the Mediterranean Sea in Sousse. (B/L/D)
Sousse was built by the Arabs as part of a coastal defense system and is an exceptional example of an early fortified Islamic city dating from the first centuries of Islam. One of the best examples of seaward-facing fortifications, twenty-five foot high walls encircle the old town and protect the many fine examples of historic architecture inside. We will spend the morning exploring this UNESCO World Heritage Site. The oldest monument in Sousse’s medina is the Ribat, a citadel built in the 8th century to protect the frontier during the Muslim conquest of the Maghreb. It also housed devout Islamic fighters who spent their time, when not in battle, studying the Quran. Dating back to 851 during the rule of the Aghlabid Dynasty, the Great Mosque is adjacent to the fort and was adapted from an earlier fortress that explains the sanctuary’s turrets and crenellated wall. The city’s archaeological museum has the largest collection of antiquities in the country after the Bardo Museum, and the exquisite mosaic panels displayed constitute one of the most important collections of the Mediterranean. Drive on to the pretty coastal town of Hammamet and overnight for two nights in lovely La Badira, one of the Leading Hotels of the World. (B/L/D)
Drive east along the Cap Bon Peninsula to explore the Punic city of Kerkouane, the only purely Carthaginian town yet found and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Abandoned in 250 BCE during the First Punic War, it was never rebuilt by the Romans. At the tip of the Peninsula we will see the sandstone quarries of El Haouaria, already in use during Punic times in the 6th and 5th centuries BC. During Roman times, this stone was used in the construction of the coastal towns, in particular the capital, Carthage. Return to Hammamet in the afternoon and, time permitting, we will tour the stunning fortress. Dinner in on our own. (B/L)
Today’s outing takes us along the Great Aqueduct built by Hadrian to three beguiling Roman sites. First is Uthina, or Oudna, where eleven Roman villas have been unearthed here, many with colorful mosaics still intact. Dominating the city is one of North Africa’s largest Roman amphitheaters, dating from the reign of Hadrian. Continue to Thuburbo Majus, where wealthy inhabitants built impressive public buildings with wonderful mosaics, many now in the Bardo Museum in Tunis. Its appealing Capitolium, with four full-length fluted Corinthian columns, is particularly interesting. Our final visit will be to the site of Zaghouan on the slope of the Atlas Mountains, where the springs that supplied the Great Aqueduct burst from the ground. The immense water works was a masterpiece of engineering, the longest aqueduct in the Roman world. A monumental sacred water temple was constructed in the 2nd century that filtered the spring water before it entered the channel for its 35-mile journey to Carthage. The water moved along the route by the force of gravity alone. The springs still produce today, and travel the same course to supply water to Tunis. Dinner is on our own this evening. In the late afternoon, return to the luxurious Hotel Dar el Jeld in Tunis, our home for our last three nights. (B/L/D)
West of Tunis lies the sleepy town of Testour. During the Spanish re-conquest of al-Andalus, waves of exiled Muslims and Jews moved to North Africa, and beginning in the 11th century, many settled in Tunisia. The blending of Arab and Andalusian architectural styles in Testour bear testimony of this migration. The minaret of the 17th century Grand Mosque is reminiscent of a Spanish bell tower with characteristics originating in the medieval buildings of Toledo, Spain. In contrast to its unadorned square base, the upper octagonal section is ornamented with tiles in gleaming colors of emerald and cobalt. And interestingly, just below the two windows at the top are twin images of the Star of David because the Jews in Testour helped the Moors fleeing Andalusia to build their place of worship. If on site, we will meet with the president of the Association of the Protection of the Medina of Testour, who will tell us about the unique architecture in this town. Continue to Dougga, the capital of an important state that flourished under Roman and Byzantine rule. At this UNESCO World Heritage Site, we meet with the project director, Mohamed Ali Chehidi (if available), who will give us a private tour of the most complete Roman theatre in Tunisia, the Capitoline temple, and the Plaza of Winds, with an elegant circle carved into its paved floor recording the names of the twelve winds. Return to Tunis and gather this evening for our final dinner party in an elegant local restaurant. (B/L/D)
This morning we visit Bulla Regia, noted for the elegant Hadrian-era villas built with cool underground courtyards. The Romans learned from the Berber’s use of troglodyte houses that living underground is cooler and built their homes below ground arranged around colonnaded atria open to the air so the wealthy could escape the summer heat. Many of the magnificent mosaic floors of these luxuriant homes still remain intact and in situ. We return to Tunis in the afternoon, where we will stroll through the winding streets of the old city. From the 12th to the 16th century, Tunis was considered one of the greatest and wealthiest cities in the Islamic world. The cornucopia of monuments still standing in the historic section – royal palaces, mosques, mausoleums, madrasas and fountains – bear witness to this remarkable past. The 9th-century Zitouna Mosque is the physical and spiritual heart of Tunis. Around it spreads the souk, designated with UNESCO World Heritage status and one of the world’s great marketplaces. Dinner is on our own. (B/L/D)
An early morning transfer takes us to the Tunis airport for your flight home.
Price is based on double occupancy and includes:
Trip prices are based on a minimum number of participants. If this minimum number is not met, trip prices are subject to change. Should the prices need to change, Far Horizons will reach out to registered guests to discuss directly.
Should a roommate be requested and one not be available, the single supplement must be charged.
As a tour company that benefits from the cultural and natural riches of our destinations, we have a policy of donating to the scientific and cultural sites and projects which we visit. This has created a bond between Far Horizons and the academic and local communities that has helped us establish an extensive list of lecturers and contacts in each of our destinations. We ask that each participant donate to the noteworthy project we designate. The donation amount is $150.00 per person. Note that the donation is required as part of your registration for the trip and that it is non-refundable.
Prices are based on currency exchange rates keeping below a projected level. While it is unlikely, if the exchange rates should change substantially, Far Horizons reserves the right to charge an additional amount to the trip cost.
A deposit of $1000 per person is required along with your registration & health forms, which will be linked in the email confirmation you receive once you pay your deposit on our booking platform. Final payment is due 120 days before departure. Prior to departure, you will be sent a reading list and a tour bulletin containing travel information.
Cancellations received in writing at least 120 days before departure will receive a refund less a $500 per person administrative fee. Cancellations received less than 120 days before the departure date will not receive a refund. If for any reason you are unable to complete the trip, Far Horizons will not reimburse any fees. Upon registering for the tour, the purchase of travel protection with both trip cancellation and emergency evacuation is strongly advised. Links to recommended insurance policies will be included in the email you receive confirming receipt of your deposit.
International round trip flights are not included in the cost of the trip. If Far Horizons must change the trip dates or cancel the trip for any reason, Far Horizons is not responsible for any air ticket you may have purchased. Please send your complete air schedule as soon as you have it. NOTE: Please contact Far Horizons if you would like for us to handle your air ticketing.
The private tours of archaeological sites and talks by specialists are scheduled in advance and include a donation to each. Specialists working at these sites are excited about showing their work to interested enthusiasts. However, please be aware that there may be times when the director or a member of the staff may not be on site when our groups arrive due to other commitments.
Far Horizons expects all participants to be physically active and able to walk and climb independently throughout the full touring days. This includes walking over uneven terrain (uphill and downhill) for 2 miles or more at each site. You should expect to be on your feet for much of each day, averaging as much as 5 miles of walking per day. As such, each participant should be able to walk unaided at a pace of 3 miles per hour for at least an hour at a time, and to stand unsupported for at least 60 minutes. Bearing this in mind, we suggest that, if you have not already done so, you begin walking several miles every day, ideally including stairs and hills. If you have questions about your ability to keep up with the group or the strenuous nature of this trip, please contact the Far Horizons staff.
This tour is designed for flexible, energetic people who like to be active, have a spirit of adventure and a positive attitude. We have designed this trip to be as comfortable as possible, while also aiming to visit some remote or unique sites that other companies do not attempt to include in their itineraries. There may be days where we have very long drives and the conditions of the roads may vary. Hotels and transportation in some remote areas may not be up to western standards. There may be times when no bellhops are available; please pack with the understanding that you need to be able to handle your own luggage at times. At times we may be walking over uneven trails for a mile or more; hiking boots are strongly recommended. Not every meal will not be haute cuisine and several lunches may be picnics or box lunches. By maintaining a flexible attitude we will soon be captivated by the beauty of the natural scenery, the hospitality of the local people, and the fascinating sites we will see. Your flexibility and patience will be appreciated.
Changes in our itinerary, accommodations, and transportation schedules may occur. While we are committed to keeping as close to the published details as possible, sometimes it is simply not possible. Weather events, government affairs, or other factors out of our control sometimes come into play. A good book to read as well as patience, flexible attitude, and a sense of humor are essential.