I’ve been postponing this post forever, even though it seems like one of the most obvious blogging topics for me. Why hesitate? Partially probably because I’m such a chicken! 😀 So many friends of mine are Tunisian and I’m afraid of writing something they won’t approve of. Also, there’s so much to write about that I don’t even know where to begin.
I’ll try to start with a general post about spending time in Tunisia, from a foreigner’s perspective. Detailed posts about specific aspects of this destination will follow.
Let me begin by stating that in time I grew really fond of Tunisia, and not only because that’s where my amazing hubby was born and grew up. 😉 I consider it a beautiful and diverse country, worthy of much more attention than it currently gets.
WHEN TO GO?
For me personally, late spring or early autumn are the best times to visit Tunisia. It tends to get really hot in the summer, so unless you’re staying in a fancy hotel, you have a good chance of suffering from the heat (many houses come without air conditioning). I haven’t been to Tunisia in the middle of winter, but my wedding there took place at the very beginning of March and I have to say that IT WAS COLD. It could be a good enough weather to go around, but definitely not warm enough for relaxing beach holidays! If you plan to travel to Tunisia with small kids, you can’t possibly expect to be sightseeing all the time. 😉
Flying would be the most convenient (and popular) option. Tunis airport is definitely not a 5-star facility, but many major airlines fly there, so you won’t have any issues booking your tickets. There are 8 international airports in total in Tunisia. If you feel particularly adventurous, you can also take a ferry. The quickest crossing is Palermo, Italy – the journey takes approximately 10h.
MY FAVORITE PLACES TO SEE.
Too many to possibly list them all! Tunisia is a beautiful country, bursting in seams with extraordinary places to visit! I’m going to list some of my favorites. You will notice that I’m not very much into the very touristy spots. It’s not that I don’t like them, more that I would love to endorse lesser-known places, which are equally (or more!) amazing.
Forget Djerba, Kerkennah is the spot that shouldn’t be missed! Located a short ferry ride away from Sfax, this group of small islands is a hidden gem. Never crawling with tourists, with wonderful beaches and a calm, laid-back vibe. Many foreigners buy their summer houses on the main island, and for a good reason. It is an amazing, relaxing place to spend your holidays. You can also find a couple of small, family-owned restaurants serving amazingly good and super fresh seafood. Word of warning: if you plan to make it a day trip, be sure to set on your way back to the ferry way in advance – evening ferries tend to get really crowded!
In my humble opinion, one of the most amazing beach fronts in Tunisia. Lesser known than places like Monastir or Hammamet, but that has to be part of its charm! I fell in love with Mahdia at the very first sight, back in 2011 and I keep on insisting to come back there whenever possible. Unlike the bigger resorts, this place has a very authentic feel to it. Aside from the beaches, there’s a great rocky coastline to explore, too! And for those of you who like a bit of an upscale experience, there are some high-class hotels nearby. My personal recommendation goes to Iberostar Selection Royal El Mansour.
A popular seaside summer retreat for Tunisians. Tourists, again, don’t seem to be aware of it. It’s a shame as the place would definitely benefit from some extra funding brought by the tourism activity. It’s a diamond in the rough. The beaches are mostly small and cozy, usually full of locals enjoying their summer. If you want to spend some time among vacationing Tunisians – visit Kelibia during summer months. 🙂 There are not many hotels, but Airbnb will provide you with plenty of accommodation options to choose from. The town itself is small but busy, with a holiday feel to it (think: shops with beach toys wherever you go, souvenir sellers, open-air cafes).
A must-see if you’re after something other than beautiful beaches. Ok, it does have one of supposedly the most beautiful beaches in Tunisia, but I’ll (for once) focus on something else. Curious what it might be? A mountain! Granted, maybe it’s a big word for what it really is – an approx. 400m peak with MAGNIFICENT views over the surrounding area, and the sea. I climbed it (actually, mostly drove there) when I was 7 months pregnant, spending an unreasonable amount of time and energy, but it was so worth it! The views were breathtaking and we were just in time for the sunset (possibly the most beautiful sunset I’ve ever seen).
What else is there to visit in the neighborhood? Les grottes! A series of caves, originating in the Roman Empire times. I wish I knew more about them, other than how awesome they look. Unfortunately, we only spoke to one guide, and the single thing he seemed to be able to say in English was “slaves in the caves!”. 😀
HOW TO MOVE AROUND?
As a tourist, I found renting a car the most convenient option. Out of many companies we’ve used, the one I would definitely recommend is Avis in Tunis Airport. We’ve rented from them last year and were extremely happy with both the car (brand new!) and the customer service. You can check out their fleet online and book in advance. If you plan to travel to Tunisia with kids, adding car seats for them is an option. The only drawback of renting a car in Tunisia is the price. I was shocked to see that it is actually more expensive than in Qatar! The way around it could be renting from a person, but that’s risky as you don’t really know the history of the car. Heck, it might not even be legal, not sure about that. 😀
I’ve used a taxi a couple of times while in Sfax and don’t really recommend it. It’s super cheap, but you usually have to share a cab with strangers and the taxi drivers are the craziest drivers I’ve encountered in Tunisia! Not very safe, especially with children in tow!
Public transport does exist, but I never got to use it. Hubby says it’s not an ideal way to travel for a tourist, so not really motivated to try.
WHAT TO EAT?
Oh, the food, the glorious, carb-loaded Tunisian food! I consider their local cuisine to be the Ultimate Comfort Food Selection, and with a good reason. It’s warm, full of flavors and usually oozes with carbs (who cares, it’s damn delicious!). I absolutely love the mix of spices that you can find in most dishes: turmeric, caraway and coriander mix, plus my favorite one – cumin. And let’s not forget red pepper for the extra kick in basically everything savory. 😀
I have a couple of my all-time favorite savory dishes. I’ll selfishly point them out for you so that you can fall in love with the same ones, haha. They also happen to be Tunisian classics, so don’t worry about missing out.
I got introduced to brick during Ramadan, hubby’s family usually prepares it as a starter. In short, it’s a deep-fried pastry (similar to the spring roll kind) filled with stuff. 😀 The one I like the most is filled with a mix of potatoes, onion, tuna, capers, spices, and an egg. It has probably 1000 kcal a piece, I can eat three in one go and I REGRET NOTHING.
Also known as “grilled salad”. Take tomatoes, onions and hot green pepper, and grill the hell out of them, till they burn. 😀 Then, peel & grind, add salt and olive oil. Voila! Yum factor: 10/10. Warning: usually extremely spicy (for a fragile European gal like me 😉 ).
This one you either love or hate, there’s no middle ground! I happen to love it, hubby does too. Adam absolutely hates it, says that it stinks and usually refuses to even look at it (ok, it doesn’t look very appealing, to be honest). Molokhia is a dish present in many Arab countries, but each nation prepares it differently. The name itself refers to a plant with edible leaves. Tunisians make a stew using dried and powdered molokhia and some sort of meat (usually lamb). It cooks foreeeever and the awesome (or terrible, for Adam) smell fills up the house.
Similarly to brick, there are many versions of this dish. Do not confuse it with Moroccan tagine (which is, in my humble opinion, equally delicious!). Tunisian one resembles a frittata. The one I like the most has similar content to brick – potatoes, tuna, capers or olives, spices and LOTS of eggs. It’s baked in the oven, which makes it a bit less of a guilty pleasure. 😀
Heaven for the taste buds and my ultimate favorite comfort food. It’s a freshly prepared deep-fried bun, cut open and filled with harissa, potatoes, eggs, and olives (see the pattern here, do you? 😉 ). It resembles a savory donut (interested now? 🙂 ), and it is a typical example of Tunisian street food. Hint to all my readers in Qatar: you can find them locally in some Tunisian restaurants, Gourmandize makes the best ones in my opinion.
WHY IS TUNISIA FAMILY FRIENDLY?
It’s not about the country itself as much as it is about the people. Tunisians love kids, and it shows! Wherever we went, Adam was quickly becoming a center of attention.
Bad thing: constant sugar rush thanks to all the treats he’s getting when we’re there!
Good thing: free babysitters everywhere we go. 😀
I say the good outweighs the bad, that’s just my opinion though. 😉
“Mama, remember when we went to Tunisia to the beach and auntie Hounaida got stung by a jellyfish? Can we go there again please?”
OUR RATING – DESTINATION
Family friendliness (general feeling) –
Variety of activities for families ———
Overall experience —————————–
Note: the whole post was consulted with hubby before publishing, I wouldn’t dare to let you read it otherwise! 😀