Tunisia overview: Beaches, history, desert, spa and golf

Tunisia overview: Beaches, history, desert, spa and golf

Tunisia is so now. Not only does it offer a heady cocktail of year-round sun, picture-perfect beaches and exotic culture, it's got this season's must-have - a non-euro currency.

While Tunisia is popular with the French market, it's not yet been fully discovered by the Brits. Best known in the UK for its beaches - justifiably, as there's more than 700 miles of them - its profile as a destination offering cultural, adventure, spa and golfing options is growing, too.

Olympic Holidays commercial director Photis Lambrianides said: "While Tunisia is an Arab country, its resorts are very European in style. It blends these familiar aspects with the exotic - palm trees, medinas and bazaars, plus desert activities in the south."

Travel to Tunisia is set to get even easier - the country has just entered the open skies agreement, allowing European, US and Arabic airlines to operate freely within its airspace.

Already served by British Airways, Tunisair and numerous charter airlines such as Monarch Airlines and First Choice, this agreement paves the way for further airlines and low-cost carriers to fly to the country.

Ready for this predicted increase in flights, a new airport is set to open late this year. Enfidha is situated between the popular beach resort Hammamet and Sousse, and is initially expected to have capacity for seven million passengers per year.

 

Beaches

The northern east coast is best known for its beaches, with the popular resorts of Hammamet, Yasmine Hammamet, Sousse, Port El Kantaoui and Mahdia. Hammamet combines a fantastic beach and great resort facilities with a picturesque medina and low-key, hotel-based nightlife.

Yasmine Hammamet is a new, elegant resort with a very European feel and a glitzy marina. Sousse is perfect for those who want to combine a traditional Tunisian city with the beach.

It's bustling and compact with historical sights aplenty. Cosmopolitan and elegant, Port El Kantaoui also has a marina and shopping area set around the waterfront, and is great for water sports and golf. Mahdia is a fishing port with a fort and archaeological museum as well as a beach.

 

History

Tunisia was the Roman base in Africa, so there are fabulous remains to be seen. On the outskirts of modern-day Tunis, visitors can see what remains of the ancient city of Carthage, from pre-Roman Punic era ruins on Byrsa Hill to a Roman amphitheatre and baths and a museum.

Nearby is the picturesque village of Sidi Bu Said, full of traditional blue-and-white houses. Sousse, Kairouan and Monastir have beautiful mosques and the latter is home to a museum of Islamic art, and there are more Roman ruins in these cities and in Kairouan, El Jem and Sbeitla.

 

Desert

The Sahara Desert covers 40% of Tunisia, and there are plenty of opportunities for tourists to explore. They can visit the medieval trading oasis town of Tozeur, and take the colonial-style Red Lizard train through the dramatic Selja Canyon.

Visitors can enjoy beautiful views of the rocky Atlas peaks from the mountain oases of Tamerza and Chebika and see salt lakes at Chott El Jerid. From Douz, or take camel rides into the desert and see vast sand dunes at Nefta and Ong Jemel, which provided a backdrop for the Star Wars movies - as did the underground houses at Matmata.

 

Spa

Tunisia has many spa options and is particularly renowned for its thalassotherapy, with many treatments using seawater, mineral-rich muds and seaweed.

The island of Djerba is considered to be the country's spa capital, but there are options throughout the country, including the newly opened 'Berber Baths' at the Hotel Tamerza Palace in the middle of the desert at Tozeur. Even if guests don't want to stay in a spa hotel, they can use a local public hammam for just a few pounds.

 

Golf

Now promoting itself as a golfing destination, visitors can tee off on numerous courses around the country. Near Tunis, The Residence is a luxury hotel with an 18-hole course, and nearby is the country's oldest course, Golf De Carthage.

There are courses all down the coast from Hammamet to Monastir, one on Tunisia's scenic northern Coral Coast at Tabarka and one in the desert at Tozeur.


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Photos from flickr

 

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Sample packages

Thomson offers seven nights' all-inclusive at the Hotel Thalassa Sousse from £651 per adult twin-share, departing from Gatwick on June 28. (0871 2311 3234)

Olympic Holidays offers seven nights' half-board at the five-star Vincci Taj Sultan Hotel in Hammamet for £505 per person twin-share, departing between May 26 and June 19 and including flights from Gatwick to Monastir and transfers. (0844 499 4449, olympicholidays.com/agents/signon.asp)

Thomas Cook has a seven-night package departing from Manchester on June 3 and staying at the four-star Royal Kenz Hotel in Port El Kantaoui for £489 per person twin-share on a half-board basis. The price includes flights. (0871 230 2399, thomascookworld.com)

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