This year, when I started writing my travel resolutions, I forgot (again) to write down Tunisia. It was not because of fear or money, that I didn’t write “travel to Tunisia” on the list. But because I kept finding some other destinations that my friends or family felt more comfortable with.
Yes, shame on me! For years I’ve been telling people that you can’t travel where others want you to go. That you should go where you want to go. And I found myself doing just that. So, when the team at the Spanish Federation of Travel Journalists invited me to their congress in Tunisia, I chose better. I had been postponing my trip to Tunisia for too long.
And it feels like it’s been a lot of us who’ve done just that. So, if you are still wondering if it’s right or wrong to visit Tunisia now, I’ve made a list of reasons why you should travel to Tunisia (now).
Because you need sun and desert and everything in between…
Don’t lie to yourself, as much as you love the rush and the cultural vibe of big cities like London, Barcelona, New York or Tokyo, sometimes you just need a good portion of sun, beach, desert and palm trees.
Definitely, I do.
Now imagine a place where you can spend the day exploring the desert and the Berber towns that inspired George Lucas to build the far, far away land of Tatooine; and have dinner by the Mediterranean sea. Well, that’s Tunisia!
And right now that’s Tunisia without the crowds that fill every single corner of Spain or Italy. And for less, less, less money.
Yes, we can talk about why there are no crowds in Tunisia now. About what happened in 2015 or how close they are to areas of conflict like Libya. That’s what has taken all the people away from Tunisia in the last couple of years.
But lets talk about how much they are working on security too and how open and welcoming is the people of Tunisia.
Or how many european countries (like Spain, Belgium, Germany or France) have lifted their ban on travel to Tunisia. And, being honest, not going to Tunisia is not going to help Tunisians improve their economy, consolidate their democracy or strengthen their security. Traveling is a way to give back too, to contribute to something you believe in. Just think about it.
…and an exotic destination that is only a couple of hours away (from Europe)…
We all want to travel somewhere that defies our daily routine. We want nature when we live in a big city and desert when it’s been raining nonstop for the last 3 months. But it’s not only that, we want new spices in our dishes and different colors on our camera lens. We want to feel in a world that’s one world apart.
And Tunisia now is a nice, easy and comfortable way to do that: It’s a muslim country where you don’t have to wear a veil or hijab. Where people are open to other religions, having the oldest synagogue in the world and a catholic cathedral both working (and worth a visit.) With a gastronomy that is easy for vegetarians, pescetarians, and food allergies, spicy but not too spicy and with a fresh Mediterranean and arabic mix.
All of it only 2 hours away from Spain, France, Italy…
And not only close in terms of distance, but also culturally closer than you would expect. Many of the great civilizations you’ve studied at school were in Tunisia: Phoenicians, Romans, Vandals, Byzantines… and that leads to many cultural connections.
Have you read Homero’s Odyssey (Ulises’ Odyssey)? The lotophagi (lotus-eaters) island where travelers forgot their past lives and problems is here in Tunisia. It’s called Djerba and is a beautiful island the size of Ibiza.
Have you heard of Hannibal? Not the movie, or the TV series, but the man who defied the Roman empire and crossed the Alps with an army of elephants… Well, he was from Tunisia.
And it doesn’t stop there. There’s more at the museums, like at amazing Bardo and the ruins of Carthage, and on the streets of many cities and towns. You just need to know where to look at.
…which is a paradise for alternative travelers.
Yes, Tunisia might be the paradise for sun and beach travelers. But you and me, we’re not resort bound, we want to explore, we want to deeply explore our destination. And there’s a lot of room for that in Tunisia too.
There are 8 Unesco Heritage Sites in Tunisia, one of them Tunis Medina, another the Carthage ruins, both of them really close to each other. Another two: Kairouan and Sousse are only one hour away from each other (and two hours away from Tunis city.) So cultural travel is fairly easy even if you don’t have much time.
There is also religious travel, including a big pilgrimage to the Island of Djerba, where the oldest synagogue of the world is located. And several routes if you are interested in the lives of saints and martyrs, like St. Felicitas and Perpetua (Happiness and Perpetuity, who died during the Roman empire in Carthage.)
And several routes for Star Wars fans, which can be easily transformed in George Lucas tours, as he also filmed Indiana Jones and the lost ark here (remember Cairo? well it was Kairouan). Other movie locations include Life of Brian and The English Patient.
And if you’re interested in celebrities, Claudia Cardinale was born (and raised) here. Paul Klee confirmed his place in Art with his tunisian paintings (they say he became a real artist after visiting Tunisia.) Simone de Beauvoir, Henri Matisse… They might not be the standard celebrity list, but we’re talking about ‘alternative’ here ;-)
Don’t you think it is about time you start (re)considering Tunisia?
I do. Just let me know your questions and doubts about traveling there. I just came back and would love to help you discover this beautiful destination.