A Guide to Tunisia’s Archaeological Wonders
A trip to Tunisia may be notable for many things – fantastic beaches, luxurious resorts and, increasingly, great golf courses. But there’s one more ingredient in its heady holiday destination mix which is arguably its strongest and most unique: its awesome array of archaeological remains.
Where to start
Most tourists tend to stay in one of the big resort towns that line the Tunisian coast. In many ways the resort town of Hammamet is the perfect place to be based when it comes to accessing the country’s historical sites. Hire a car, hit the road, and then return for an evening’s cooling dip in the sea; it’s the ideal setup.
Heading out from Hammamet
For those holiday-makers whose Tunisia trip is based in Hammamet, once you’ve settled into you hotel and got your bearings, the first point of call should be probably be Kerkouane. A little to the north of the resort, it nevertheless has an out of the way feel that’s either exciting or disconcerting depending on your point of view.
Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site back in 1985, it’s a stunning collection of extensive Punic ruins. The city itself was deserted in the wake of the first Punic War sometime in the middle of the third century BC, but excavations have uncovered remains stretching back to the fourth.
Being only a couple of hours’ drive from the capital Tunis, Hammamet is the perfect jump-off point for the most famous of Tunisia’s attractions: Carthage. A city whose origins stretch back to the sixth century BC and was home to legendary general Hannibal (amongst half a million other inhabitants at its peak), Carthage was at the center of a vast Mediterranean trading power, and is now one of the most important archaeological sites in the world.
For the more adventurous, two other Roman sites lie inland. The wonderfully preserved remains of the town of Dougga are not far from the town of Terboursouk, while a little further to the west, lie the hot springs of Hamman Mellegue.
Dougga in particular is outstanding. Another of Tunisia’s World Heritage Sites (the country’s practically littered with them!) the site contains a mausoleum, a couple of fascinating temples and a wonderful amphitheater stretched out over a site of some 3km squared.
Both Dougga and Hamman Mellegue are fairly considerable distances away from the coastal resorts – but that’s part of their appeal. Bumping along the country’s dusty roads, admiring its dramatically arid and stark landscapes, is the stuff of adventures… the stuff of romance… the stuff of travel!