We went to Monastir, Tunisia in May and spent an incredible week lounging on the beach or swimming in a pool.
Monastir is a popular seaside resort with Skanes, zone for toursits and luxurious hotels next to the sands. It’s said to be one of the cleanest cities in Tunisia. Its beautiful Medina, old quarter of town and impressive Ribat attract not only travelers, but also filmmakers, who use it as a natural scenery for their movies (,,The life of Jesus Christ’’, ,,Life of Brian’’, ,,In desert and wilderness’’) and theater productions. It’s worth it to climb at its highest and admire the uncanny views. Ribat is indirectly linked with a mosque known as the Great Mosque of Monastir.
Monastir is also famous for being the birth place of the first president of independent Tunisia – Habib Burgiba. Burgiba’s Mausoleum stands nearby Ribat and discloses his sarcophagus as well as personal items (pictures, clothes or furniture). It’s really worth seeing, especially that you can do it for free.
One day during our trip, we decided to go to the neighboring town, Sousse. We had a train – or subway, like Tunisians call it – station right in front of our hotel and although the vehicle we got into was pretty old, it still took us to the right place relatively quickly. Looking through the windows while traveling, we couldn’t help but notice piles of trash lying alongside tracks all the way to Sousse…
Once there, we went to see a small, surrounded by fortifications Medina, which was listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Inside of it you can find architectural treasures, amazing museum of mosaics and colorful labyrinth of alleys with booths that sell fake counterparts of almost every expensive brand, from Armani to Gucci, in the world. If you decide to buy something, remember to bargain over the price, as it’s usually exorbitant.
Make a little time for ribat too – the one in Sousse belongs to the best examples of Islamic architecture in Tunisia. To get to the lookout tower you have to climb spiral, narrow stairs, but when you reach its roof, you can marvel at divine view of the city.
Even back home we had known that the most relevant part of our excursion would be a 2-day trip to Sahara, that we purchased from local travel agent, whose prices and journey plan were much better than the ones holiday representative had offered.
We were picked up early in the morning by a bus with a tour operator. Our first stop was at Kairouan, which is one of four holiest sites in Islam.
That great mosque is the oldest place of worship for Muslims from North Africa and the most hallowed building in Tunisia. Next to the mosque, there’s a gift shop that sells – along other souvenirs – rugs and has a viewing terrace at its roof. It’s really worth climbing, as it displays stunning view of mosque’s courtyard. The mosque itself can be visited by Muslims only.
Later on, we reached Tamerza Oasis, where you can find waterfalls and cove, as well as Chebika Oasis, which was one of the highlights of the trip. To get there, you have to walk across abandoned rock-solid remains of old colonies and then continue down to the lying at the top of the mountain, surrounded by date palm trees lake. This place has an undeniable charm.
From Chebika Oasis we headed south through dunes and sandy roads towards Nefta. The journey itself was pretty exhilarating, as we were driving jeeps and following the exact same path, that Dakar Rally participants had couple years before. Moreover, right in the middle of the desert, we could find built in the 70s ,,Star Wars’’ township.
Our last stop was at Nefta Oazis, where we spent time climbing palm trees and savoring delicious dactyls.
Later we were taken to the hotel and after a very short night, welcomed sunrise by Chott el Jerid lake. This enormous salt lake crosscuts almost entire Tunisia and stays dry under thick layer of salt and mud for most of the year.
That day we visited Fatnassa dunes sanctuary. Very charming place, where we had an opportunity to see a fennec fox 🙂
From Fatnassa we set off to known as a ,,getaway to Sahara’’ Douz, typical oasis that leads to the biggest desert in the world. We had been anticipated by camels, on hump of which we would, dressed in special uniforms – admire the vibe of the desert. As much of an interesting experience as it was, the wind combined with sand made it a little difficult, so we did the right thing by wearing suitable clothes and protecting our cameras.
After compassing the desert we relocated to completely different landscapes of Matmata, village inhabited by Berbers. Members of this tribe are famous for building their houses in the ground. Those facilities have a very peculiar construction. Their central and biggest point is usually a backyard, from where occupants can get to actual rooms, which are built in its walls.
Leaving Matmata, we had to stop at beauty spot, that revealed an incredible view of mountain side and terraces.
The final element of our trip was visiting the Colosseum in El Jem. It’s the third in terms of magnitude amphitheater in the world, right behind the Colosseum in Rome and – very well preserved – makes an amazing impression.
We personally consider excursion to Sahara the most interesting part of our journey. It definitely increased Tunisia’s attractiveness in our eyes. During those two days, we had the pleasure to visit holy places of Islam, walk through the majestic Colosseum, ride on jeeps alongside Sahara, marvel at wonderful landscapes of waterfalls and palm trees, feel a little out of this world in the ,,Star Wars’’ township and consort with natural wonder that Sahara is. It was an incredible trip, which enabled us to discover a bit of the desert’s mystery. We certainly don’t regret giving up two days of lounging by the pool in favor of that excursion.
– Currency: Tunisian Dinar (TND)
– Vaccination: not required
– Electricity: 230 V/50 Hz, power sockets of C and E type
– Trip to Sahara is a must, it’s recommended to sacrifice at least 2 days to really appreciate its charm
– Bargain as much as you can! Original prices are always increased, sometimes even by 100%.