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christophertravels Jan 4th, 2008 10:30 AM

Tunisia Itinerary Help
Hello everyone! I posted this over at TripAdvisor, but it seems like the boards over here are a bit more active for Tunisia, so I'm going to put it here too. Kindest thanks for any help!

My wife and I are planning to visit Tunisia this spring, and we're trying to sort out a good itinerary. I'd love any feedback/help. We can't make heads or tails of what we should do, but we're very excited!
We're thinking this:
-2 days in Tunis, possibly staying at Dar El Medina. This would give us time to get a feel for the capitol.
-2 days in Carthage, possibly at Villa Didot, OR 2 days in Sidi Bou Said, maybe at Hotel Dar Said.
-2 days at a beach...and this part is the hardest, because I've been told to avoid "tourist zones" and I've been told to avoid areas that are not "tourist zones" (I'm so confused). We'd love to be able to leave the beach and see a town/medina and eat some seafood at a place where it isn't just tourists. We'd also like to stay in a really nice hotel, as this is a sort of anniversary trip for us.

Does it sound reasonable to do three 2-day jaunts like this? And what beach would be reachable from Tunis that is nice, sandy, and maybe not far from some sights?
Thanks for any and all help.

thit_cho Jan 4th, 2008 11:20 AM

I spent several days in Tunisia in December 2006, but I based myself in Tunis, and did trips to Carthage, Sidi Bou Said, El Jem, Sousse and Dougga.

I believe Dar El Medina opened after my visit -- I would definitely stay within the medina, one of the nicest and friendliest I have visited. The Bardo museum is also excellent, and about 20 minutes by tram from the city center.

I had dinner at Villa Didon (is that the same as Didot), right in Carthage -- looked like a very nice hotel (very sleek and modern). Sidi Bou Said is very charming, but can be overrun with tourists -- I enjoyed it much more later at night after the masses returned en masse to their ship.

But, my primary interest was seeing the ruins, the UNESCO sites, and I took the train to El Jem, and shared taxis to Dougga and Sousse.

I didn't make it to the beach since I tend not to spend a lot of time on the beach on vacation (notwithstanding that I'm writing this from Rarotonga).

I think there is a beach hotel that's a member of Leading Hotels of the World, so that may be a place to look.


christophertravels Jan 4th, 2008 12:21 PM

Wow, Michael, thanks so much. Rarotonga? I feel terrible that I'm bothering you. Rarotonga is definitely the way to do the beach thing.

I DID mean Villa Didon, not Didot.

El Jem sounds amazing. It looks to be about 3 hours by train from Tunis. We're trying to find a good balance between getting a feel for the country and also not running site to site, spending hour upon hour between sites. Would you (or anyone else) feel like there are things not to miss within a reasonable distance from Tunis?

Again, I really appreciate it. Enjoy Rarotonga.

SicilianSailor Jan 5th, 2008 06:22 PM

Tunisia is fantastic, a very unique country that doesn't feel overrun with tourists. Here's my suggestions based on my week long trip there in which I was based out of Tunis:
1 day Tunis-sightseeing and souks
1 day Tunis-Bardo Museum
1 day-Carthage
1 day-Sidi-Bou-Said
1 day Hammamet (has beaches and seafood, you can also ride camels here if you like)
1 day El Jem and Sousse-it is really worth it to go to El Jem and see the colosseum, you'll have to get up early as it is a 3 hour train ride down there but DEFINITELY worth it, on the way back from El Jem, stop in Sousse
1 day-other cities, I went to Bizerte which was interesting and on the water, hadn't planned on Bizerte but missed the train to another destination and decided to get on the next leaving one which happened to be Bizerte

Your schedule is definitely feasible, especially if you are looking to move around hotels. I found Carthage, Hammamet, SidiBouSaid, and Bizerte to all be great day trips from Tunis and again El Jem was worth it even though it came with a long train ride.

I'd be happy to help with any other questions you have.

jjmb Jan 5th, 2008 06:29 PM

My husband and I spent our honeymoon in Tunisia, choosing to book a package at a beach hotel in Hammamet. From there, we took a day trip to Tunis (guided tour), which included Carthage, and a 2 day guided tour which took us down to the Sahara for a night at a hotel in an oasis (riding camels in the desert!), and back, with interesting stops in El Jem, Sidi Bou Said, Sfax, and we visited a Troglodite family and dwelling in the area where they filmed some of Star Wars (the name escapes me). I think there were a couple of other great stops along the way and it was a lot of fun. Our group was very small, only 6 tourists, an excellent guide and a driver. We thoroughly enjoyed it.

If you are planning to have time on the beach, the time of year is important. You mentioned the spring. Depending on when exactly, it may not be quite beach weather yet.

Even when we were at the resort, we would go for walks and try local restaurants and found everything very affordable and the people great. If you speak French, you are golden. I do, and many of the shop keepers just wanted to talk with me since they don't often get many Canadians there. As far as it being a tourist zone, I didn't find it overwhelming at all. Again, your timing will determine how busy it will be. If you go "off strip" in the off season you may not find too much open.

We loved all the history and cultural and the people. Have a wonderful time!

christophertravels Jan 6th, 2008 03:15 PM

Wow, EXCELLENT help all around. I really appreciate it.

siciliansailor, I really appreciate the breakdown you provided. I think the approach you mentioned sounds like a really reasonable one. jjmb, I do speak some French (was fairly fluent back in my college days, which are 15 years in the past). I'm in need of a refresher, but I'll be fine, I think.

You both mentioned either of you (or anyone) have a recommendation for a nice hotel there? I saw the Residence (which looks really great, and this is our anniversary), but wondering if that beach is worth it, or if we're better off in Hammamet, since there the medina is nearby. We live in NYC, and just want to fit just a bit of the sea into the visit, if at all possible. Otherwise, we're focusing on seeing other things.

Also, sounds good to put Sousse into the picture, during a trip to El Jem. It seems El Jem is unmissable, as all of the posters on this thread have said.

jjimb--Is there a good time for beach weather before the tourists (and high prices) are everywhere?

Thanks again, all.

vnouman Jan 11th, 2008 10:40 AM

Hi Christopher...

I actually traveled to Tunisia several times and love it so much my husband and I are starting up a tunisian travel agency. So I hope I'll be able to help you some more.

So you know, Carthage and Sidi Bou Said are only about 10 minutes from center Tunis. So switching hotels may not really be necessary, especially since you can take a taxi for max 10dinars or the metro/train for less than a dollar from Tunis to Carthage and Sidi Bou. Your hotel may offer a shuttle as well.

All three hotels you mentioned are terrific. If you want more of a nightlife than I would recommend staying in Tunis at the Dar el medina.

There are several great hotels in Gammarth, like the Residence which would be a great choice for staying at the beach. If you have exactly 6 days in Tunisia, you could always do a day excursion to Sousse (only 1.5hrs from Tunis). You could rent a car for a day and go to Hammamet, Sousse or visit the Bulla Regia, which is a beautiful region not too far away.

Just a note: Resort hotels in Hammamet are actually in Yasmine Hammamet, which is about 5 miles from the medina, so you'll need a taxi anyway if you stay in a hotel.

El Jem is a bit of a distance from Tunis and trains do not run often. I would just stick to visiting Carthage if you want to see ruins.

You should probably come end of April-May if you'd like to enjoy the beach. No matter what you'll be around tourists since you'll be in a hotel, but if you go and discover the cities on your own you'll find the traditional Tunisia.

Email me if you'd like any other advice!


thit_cho Jan 11th, 2008 01:01 PM

christophertravels, I just found, and topped, the link with my photos from Tunisia. I had thought it had dropped so far as to prove unfindable.


thit_cho Jan 12th, 2008 07:30 AM

topping for Tom

cary999 Jan 12th, 2008 08:26 AM

thit-cho , ok, but you could have linked to it rather than topping it. You also could have mentined in your topping why you were topping it. Whatever, no biggy, no problem, no harm done. Peace.

regards - tom

christophertravels Jan 15th, 2008 07:08 AM

Many thanks, everyone. Okay, so after discussing with my wife our options, we've settled on four hotels, for a total of 8 nights. Dar El Medina for 3 nights, Dar Said for 3 nights (we really wanted to enjoy a pool and possibly do some excursions from there (Bizerte possibly?), and the Residence for the pure beach experience for 2 nights.

If El Jem is (possibly) too much to bite off, would you recommend Bizerte for a day trip? Sfax? Sousse? We're envisioning train travel for convenience's sake (we like the train), so that might factor in slightly.

Also, we'll be in Tunis on Sunday--my guidebook mentions that things are mostly closed on Sunday. Does that include restaurants? Museums? Maybe that would be a good day for an excursion if so.

I'm encouraged by everyone's posts (really getting excited), but vnouman really made me excited. A travel agency? Wow--how interesting. I wish you already were set up, because we are going with an agency now for our accommodations.

Thanks again. Looking forward to hearing more, everyone!

christophertravels Jan 15th, 2008 07:08 AM

Correction: We've settled on THREE hotels (not four).

SicilianSailor Jan 15th, 2008 07:45 PM

My first full day in Tunis was a Sunday, I spent the morning wandering around the souks and the afternoon at the Bardo Museum. I seem to recall that things were open, not as busy as other days (I went back to the souks again later in the week for the most chaotic experience). The Bardo Museum is neat, and it was a good orientation to Tunisia, also nice to see some of the artifacts before venturing out to Carthage.

El Jem tops Bizerte by far, but I did enjoy a very relaxing day trip from Tunis to Bizerte. There's not a whole lot to do there but wander, not very many tourists either. Sousse is a good stop on the way back from El Jem. I believe it was 3 hours by train from Tunis to El Jem. I took the earliest train to El Jem, spent the morning there and then it is about an hour north to Sousse and about 2 more hours to Tunis. El Jem can definitely be done in a half day or day. Sousse could be done in a half day or a few days, up to you. Hope this helps.

vnouman Jan 19th, 2008 04:11 AM

Hi Christophertravels--

Well we're all set up legally, we are working with travel agencies in Tunisia right now to set up itineraries and pricing. Since my husband is actually Tunisian, we decided to work as a link between tunisian tour agencies and American travel agencies. We only specialize in Tunisia so our company finds and offers the best prices. If you still need to book your hotels please feel free to email me, or have your travel agent contact me: [email protected].

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