Land of Berbers, Carthaginians and Romans: Tunisia
Venture into the heart of Tunisia to explore ancient Roman and Carthaginian sites, Berber villages and the distinctive Islamic architecture of its key cities.
Starting in Tunis, discover both the ancient and modern history of this vibrant city, which has been continually inhabited since the 4th Century BC. Visit key archaeological sites such as Carthage, and explore the Roman sites of Bulla Regia, and El Djem, which boasts the largest amphitheatre in North Africa.
Travel to the coastal village of Sidi Bou Said with its striking blue and white architecture and its quaint streets. Immerse yourself in the lively hubbub of the Islamic city of Kairouan and visit the troglodyte villages of Tataouine and Chenini, the living history of Tunisia.
Note: This tour is designed to connect with Into the Sahara: Algeria with Julian Droogan from 04 to 20 November 2019.
This tour is part of the World Art Tours program organised by the Art Gallery Society of NSW in partnership with Renaissance Tours.
Depart Australia or New Zealand on suggested Emirates flights to Tunis via Dubai. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements.
Arrive in Tunis in the early afternoon and transfer to the hotel.
In the evening, join Iain and fellow travellers for a welcome briefing followed by dinner in a local restaurant.
Discover the lively city of Tunis with a guided coach tour of the city. First established as a Berber colony, Tunis fell under the rule of Carthage until it was destroyed by the Romans in 146BC. When it was rebuilt, Tunis became an important city in the Roman province of North Africa. Visit the Cathedral of St Vincent de Paul, built in 1893 prior to Tunisia gaining independence from France, the Mosque of Zitouna, the oldest in Tunis, and Bab Bahr gate, which marks the separation of the European city from the old medina.
Enjoy lunch close to the medina and after, visit Dar Ben Abdallah, a palace built in the 8th Century and most recently the residence of a rich Tunisian silk trader. The palace was then purchased by the Office of Tunisian Arts and gives an excellent insight into life of Tunisian nobility.
Visit Tourbat el-Bey, standing on the southwest side of the medina, which is the royal mausoleum and is the last resting place of the Husainid dynasty rulers of Tunisia. After, there will be some free time in the souqs before returning to the hotel.
Dinner tonight will be in a local restaurant.
This morning enjoy a talk by Iain before a private guided tour of the Bardo National Museum. One of the most important museums in the Mediterranean region and housed in a palace dating back to the Beys of Tunisia, the museum contains an outstanding archaeological collection. View Roman mosaics, artefacts from Carthage and finds recovered from the ancient Mahdia shipwreck, a trade vessel which sank having likely set out from Athens, dating to approximately 80BC.
After lunch, explore the archaeological site of Carthage. Starting out as a Phoenician colony, Carthage rose to power as the capital of the Punic Empire. In its prime, Carthage was able to mount a challenge to the Romans which culminated in the general Hannibal’s crossing of the Alps. Carthage was eventually razed to the ground by Roman general Scipio Africanus in 146BC. Hannibal’s defeat became an event commonly re-enacted in amphitheatres during gladiatorial combat. Enjoy a private guided tour, taking in the largest Roman bath house outside Italy, the theatre and circus, as well as vestiges of Punic, Vandal and Paleo-Christian civilisations.
Return to Tunis in the late afternoon.
In the morning, check out of the hotel and travel to Dougga, enjoying a talk by Iain en route.
Arrive in Dougga to explore the UNESCO World Heritage-listed archaeological site, which represents the best preserved small town of Roman North Africa. Dougga was originally settled by Berbers and contains elements from other civilisations, including the Punic-Libyan Mausoleum, which is a rare example of Numidian architecture, a Roman forum and temples, as well as a 5th Century Christian church.
In the afternoon, travel to the archaeological site of Bulla Regia to discover the Hadrianic era, semi-subterranean housing built to protect the residents from the intense heat. Many of the structures contain in situ mosaic floors, the finest of which are unsurpassed by any in North Africa. Bulla Regia was once the capital of the Numidian Kingdom and did not fully submit to the Roman Empire until 46BC during the reign of Julius Caesar.
Check into the hotel in the late afternoon in the small city of Ain Darahim. Dinner tonight is in a local restaurant.
Check out of the hotel and travel to the small coastal town of Sidi Bou Said.
Arrive in the early afternoon, and after lunch, enjoy a walking tour of the town’s idyllic streets, lined with blue and white buildings. Walk through the lively D’Art Lella Salha and Des Metiers, a marketplace selling traditional Tunisian goods. Then, discover the Palace of Dar Nejma Ezzahra, originally built by Baron Rodolphe d’Erlanger. The palace was looted and occupied by German forces in WWII. After the death of the owner’s descendants it was sold to the Tunisian government and is now preserved as a museum.
Check into the hotel in the late afternoon. The remainder of the day is at leisure.
Spend the day exploring archaeological sites to the south of Sidi Bou Said, visiting first the Roman site of Thurburbo Majus. Originally a Punic town, Thurburbo Majus or Colonia Julia Aurelia Commoda, as it was named by the Romans, was founded as a settlement for veterans, who were given land on which to start their post-military lives. The city had an impressive capitolium, the ruins of which are well preserved, as well as remains of intricate mosaics depicting scenes of daily life.
Continue to Zaghouan, situated in the Dorsale Mountains. Cold water from the spring located within the Roman temple was taken via an aqueduct to Carthage. Measuring 132km, this was one of the longest aqueducts in the Roman Empire.
In the afternoon, visit the archaeological site of Uthina near modern Oudhna. Like Thurburbo Majus, Uthina was a colony of military veterans and was established under the rule of the Emperor Hadrian. Of particular interest is the site’s unusual amphitheatre which is set into the ground, along with the remains of a fortress, cisterns and a triumphal arch.
Return to the hotel in the late afternoon. Dinner tonight is at a local restaurant.
In the morning, travel along the Mediterranean coast to the Punic site of Kerkouane, enjoying a talk by Iain en route. Kerkouane was settled by the Phoenicians and then abandoned during the First Punic War. Consequentially it was never colonised or conquered by the Romans, and unlike other originally Punic cities, it presents a more complete time capsule of this civilisation. Archaeologists have unearthed the remains of walls, mosaics, as well as houses and streets which provide a rare insight into the lives of the people who once called this city home.
Enjoy lunch at picturesque Cape Bon, followed by some free time to enjoy the panoramic vistas from this spectacular vantage point, before arriving back at the hotel in the early evening.
Check out of the hotel in the morning and travel to the Islamic city of Kairouan. On arrival, enjoy lunch in a local restaurant.
Then, discover the Islamic architecture and history of this UNESCO World Heritage–listed city with a private guided tour. Established in 670AD during the Arab invasion, Kairouan was first established as a military base. Later it became an important centre for Sunni Islamic scholarship and Koranic learning, attracting Muslims from all over the world, second only to Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia.
Visit the Great Mosque of Kairouan, established upon the founding of the city. It is one of the oldest places of worship in the Islamic world, as well as a model for all later mosques in the Maghreb. View the elaborate façade of the Mosque of the Three Doors, with its strong Andalusian influence. The three arched doors are topped with friezes, two of which name the mosque’s founder, interspersed with floral reliefs and crowned with a carved cornice. Conclude the tour of Kairouan with a visit to one of the city’s many madrassas before checking into the hotel in the late afternoon.
The remainder of the afternoon is at leisure. Dinner tonight is in a local restaurant.
This morning, travel to the interior of Tunisia to visit the site of Sbeitla, enjoying a talk by Iain en route.
Arrive in the town of Subaytilah in the early afternoon, and after lunch, explore the archaeological site of Sbeitla, the site of the most well preserved Roman forum and temples in Tunisia. While the oldest traces of civilisation at the site are Punic, the city proper was settled by the Roman Emperor Vespasian and his sons around 67 – 69 AD. The city reached great prosperity through the olive trade, owing to the excellent climatic conditions of the region. In later history, the emperor Diocletian furnished the site with a spectacular triumphal arch to mark the entrance to the city.
Return to Kairouan in the late afternoon.
Check out of the hotel in the morning and transfer to El Djem. Arrive mid-morning and enjoy a guided tour of the El Djem Archaeological Museum. The museum contains large mosaics recovered from the nearby site of Thysdrus. Originally found in the villas of wealthy Roman citizens, the mosaics are well preserved and have retained their original colours.
Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant, before visiting the jewel in Tunisia’s archaeological crown: the Amphitheatre of El Djem. The Amphitheatre was once the scene of sporting events, gladiatorial combat and the slaughter of criminals by wild animals, providing entertainment for a crowd of up to 30,000 spectators. The Amphitheatre is the best preserved in North Africa and is occasionally used for performances and concerts, notably the annual Festival International de Musique Symphonique.
Check into the hotel in the late afternoon. Dinner tonight is at a local restaurant.
Check out of the hotel in the early morning and travel to Sfax, Tunisia’s second city.
On arrival, visit the Sfax Archaeological Museum with a private guided tour. The museum is home to a collection of artefacts from all periods of Tunisian history. It contains finds from the Roman sites of Thyna, Louza, Mahres and ancient Sfax, and also objects from the prehistory of the distant western steppe, and the more modern Islamic history of the local area. Enjoy a stroll through the local kasbah before lunch in a local restaurant.
Then, continue to the troglodyte city of Tataouine, enjoying a talk by Iain en route.
Arrive at the hotel in the evening. A light dinner will be provided at the hotel.
Start the day in the mid-morning with a guided tour of the town of Tataouine. The name tataouine means “water source” and originally the town was once an oasis for Berber caravans travelling south to Gabes, Fezzan and Sudan. In the 1800s it was the site of a French penal colony, which has now been replaced by a military barracks located just outside the town. The citizens of the modern town still speak the Berber dialect and live in underground cave dwellings designed for protection from the harsh desert sun.
After lunch in Tataouine, explore the ruined Berber village of Chenini, which dates back to the 12th Century. Built on a hilltop to assist in protecting it from raiding parties, the town is home to unique sights including cave houses (a few of which are still inhabited) carved from the mountainside, a fortified granary and a small mosque.
Return to the hotel in the late afternoon; the remainder of the day is at leisure.
Check out of the hotel in the morning and transfer to the island of Djerba. On arrival, enjoy lunch in a local restaurant before some free time to explore the lively souq.
In the afternoon, transfer to Djerba airport for a flight back to Tunis (flight included in the tour price).
Arrive in Tunis in the late afternoon and transfer to the hotel.
This evening, enjoy a special farewell dinner with Iain and fellow travellers.
Check out of the hotel and transfer to Tunis Carthage Airport.
Tour arrangements conclude on arrival at the airport. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements, including any additional nights’ accommodation, either before or after the tour.
*Single travellers may request to share.
Please advise at time of booking.
Final payment due
22 August 2019
Please see Terms & Conditions for fitness level definitions.
Please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for current airfares and flight reservations.
Australian passport holders do not require a visa to visit Tunisia.
Tour price includes
- Accommodation in centrally-located 4-star hotels (or best available) with breakfast daily (B)
- Meals as per itinerary (L = Lunch, D = Dinner)
- Local wines and beer with dinner where available
- Airport/hotel transfers on arrival and departure
- Lectures and talks throughout with your tour leader, Iain Shearer
- One-way Economy Class flight from Djerba to Tunis
- Comprehensive sightseeing including local guides and entrance fees as per itinerary
- Transportation throughout on comfortable air-conditioned coaches
- Gratuities for local guides and drivers
- Hotel porterage (one piece per person)
Tour price does not include
- International airfares (please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
- Airport porterage
- Items of a personal nature including telephone, laundry, taxis, minibar, room service etc.
- Travel insurance (a condition of travel; please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
** Please note: This tour is designed to be combined with Algeria: Into the Sahara tour from 04–20 November 2019 with archaeologist Julian Droogan. Please contact Renaissance Tours if you are interested in combining these tours into one grand archaeological adventure of North Africa!
Tunis – Palais Bayram ****
Ain Darahim – Hotel Royal Rihana ***
Sidi Bou Said – Hotel Dar Said ****
Kairouan – La Kasbah *****
Sousse – Movenpick *****
Tataouine – Sangho***
N.B. Hotels of a similar standard may be substituted.