Tunis, Sfax, El Jem and Matmata
Duration: 8 days, 7 nights
Location: Tunis, Tunisia
Miles Travelled: 1,200
Departed Ireland for Tunis via London on the first day. Tour around the Medina – old town – followed by a visit to Carthage in the afternoon. Next we head to Monastir – Life of Brian – and the moloseum of Bour ge habib. On to Sousse and then Kairouan.
Highlights today was El Jem followed by Sfax. On the road then to Matmata to see the troglodyte homes. Next day we saw Lars homestead from the Star Wars movie – Hotel Sidi Idriss – and then on to Tozeur. After Tozeur we head to Moss Eisly or Tatouine from the Star Wars movies. Then it was on the road to Nafta and around 10km outside there is Lukes hut from the Star Wars movies.
The last section sees us take in Chebiki, Gafsa and back to Kairouan . Dougga settlement is the last big stop before heading back to Tunis for the night and heading home again.
Please click on the sections below to look over a brief report of where to went each day and the stops involved. Be sure to check out the gallery for the images for each part of the trip.
Located just outside the town of Naftah (Nefta) in the Eastern part of the country, the small dome represents the entrance to a below-ground-level home.
First constructed in 1976 when the film crew for Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope arrived in Tunisia, after serving its purpose Lars Homestead was left to decay in the middle of the desert.
Chott el Djerid (also known as Chott El-Jerid, and several other variations of spelling) is a great salt lake located in the Tunisian part of the Sahara desert. It’s known to be the largest salt lake in the Sahara, and depending on your sources, it’s also the largest salt lake on the African continent. With a surface area of more than 2,700 square miles, Chott el Djerid is over 1.5 times larger than the Great Salt Lake of Utah.
Before the Roman annexation of Numidia, the town of Thugga, built on an elevated site overlooking a fertile plain, was the capital of an important Libyco-Punic state. It flourished under Roman and Byzantine rule, but declined in the Islamic period. The impressive ruins that are visible today give some idea of the resources of a small Roman town on the fringes of the empire.
The impressive ruins of the largest colosseum in North Africa, a huge amphitheatre which could hold up to 35,000 spectators, are found in the small village of El Jem. This 3rd-century monument illustrates the grandeur and extent of Imperial Rome.
Founded in 670, Kairouan flourished under the Aghlabid dynasty in the 9th century. Despite the transfer of the political capital to Tunis in the 12th century, Kairouan remained the Maghreb’s principal holy city. Its rich architectural heritage includes the Great Mosque, with its marble and porphyry columns, and the 9th-century Mosque of the Three Gates.
Saturday 29th February - Day 01
So this trip came about because the Tokyo marathon and Japan excursion was cancelled due to the Covid-19 or Corona Virus pandemic. We got notice approximately two weeks before we were due to travel that the marathon was cancelled so we set about looking planning an alternative destination – and that destination was Tunisia.
I got up at 04:00 and left home around 05:00 and collect Mike and Pa is Abbeyleix and we were back on the road for 06:30. We got to the car park for 07:30 and dropped off the car. Then we headed to Terminal 2 for our Aer Lingus flight to London at 09:50. Checkin was fine and the security was quick and easy. We met Derek and got some breakfast. Then boarded and headed off to London to meet up with Masai McNulty and grab an onward flight to Tunisia with Tunis Air at 17:00. The cost of the flights was around 500 euro total – with a checked bag on each leg. 90 minutes flight time to London and 3 hours to Tunis- Carthage International Airport with Tunis Air.
Arrived at the airport, got through security ok and without any delays and transferred to the hotel in around 20 minutes. Grabbed some food and went to bed.
Sunday 1st March - Day 02
Up at 08:00 and got some breakfast – plain affair of eggs and bread, tea and coffee. We met out guide at 09:00 and headed to the Bardo museum and looked at all the different mosaics here from all over Tunisia. Then we walked through the old town – Medina – at the shops and stalls before exiting at another gate. Then we headed to the coast for some lunch before heading out towards Carthage and the ancient ruins here. We spent some time walking around the area and then headed back to Tunis for dinner and bed.
Monday 2nd March - Day 03
We got up, packed up and checked out of the hotel . Then we were on the road towards the coast towards Monastir- Life of Brian was shot here – as well as the moloseum of Bour ge habib- president that changed everything for Tunisia back in the 1960s. Then we got some lunch and headed onto Sousse. From here we changed some money and then we drove over to Kairouan- 4th holy city in the world. It started to rain once we got into the hotel. We checked in after a short walking tour around the city. Dinner and bed. Stayed in the Kasbah hotel tonight.
Tuesday 3rd March - Day 04
Today we headed to El Jem – roman structure. We looked around the area in the morning and did a short walking tour in and around the ruins. Then we headed Sfax for an hour – money capital of Tunisia . Short walking tour here and then we were on the road to Matmata – to see the homestead of the troglodytes- houses built into the rock/caves. We stayed in a troglodyte hotel here tonight and got some local Tunisian cuisine for dinner – soup, brik and then chicken cooked in rosemary herb and thyme/sage.
Wednesday 4th March - Day 05
Got up and headed to Lars homestead – hotel Sidi Idriss. Sidi means saint. It was only 5 minutes down the road from where we stayed the night before. Looked around and checked in online before heading on towards Tozeur. We headed off down the road to the Salt Flats – 90km long – on the way in to Tozeur. We got into there around 14:30 and got collected by a 4×4 and headed out to Camel Mountain – location in the desert where the English Patient was filmed.
We stopped here for a pano view and then we were on the way again mobbing the sand dunes on the way to Moss Eisly- Tatouine in the Star Wars movies. We looked around the set here and then headed out of Nafta and on the Lukes hut from the movies. The original was destroyed over the years but a petition was launched online that raised 10,000$ to restore the homestead and in 2011 it was rebuilt. We stopped here and got some photos – it is around 10km outside of Nafta. We headed back to our hotel in Tozeur – had dinner and walked back to the hotel and went to sleep.
Thursday 5th March - Day 06
Up and had breakfast and then headed to Chebiki. Did a short tour around the mountain loops and came back through the oasis. Then we went to a pano view point overlooking the vista and the Algerian border – only 20km away. We then headed to Gafsa for some lunch and then we got some ice cream and headed North to Kairouan for another nights sleep.
Friday 7th March - Day 08
Up for some breakfast and then we checked out of the hotel . On today to see the 160 acre area that is the ancient Roman settlement of Dougga. We did a walk around the ruins – saw the temple of Jupiter and other gods and explored the amphitheatre before departing. Place was very quiet. Then we headed to get some lunch before heading back to Tunis. We got in there around 16:00. We got some water at the shopping centre before it closed, got some dinner and watched a movie and went to bed.
Saturday 8th March - Day 09
Today was the last day. We chilled out around the hotel and repacked the bags. Then headed to the airport at 11:00. Took around 20 minutes. Check in was easy enough and we got some food and spent the rest of our Dinar. Once you go through the security checkin they only accept euro and dollars. We ate outside and then headed in.
Flight was delayed from taking off by nearly 2 hours. Got to London around 17:05 local time – made up some time in the air. Got the bags and went to get the train back to T2. Train broke down on the track kept us in place for nearly 30 minutes. We decided to get a cab over to T2 and got there around 18:30. Checked in really quick – dropped the bags – and legged it through Security to get to our gate just as they were starting to board.Just about made it home that night.