Tunisia ultimate itinerary: things to do and see within 10 days in gay Tunisia

Something of a sand-buried secret in North Africa is the nation of Tunisia, benefitting from both Mediterranean beaches and Saharan dunes that enclose much in the way of unique national culture. Bump Tunisia up a few ranks in your bucket list because this is a country keen to please, merging straightforward beach vacations with rather more intriguing journeys to the ruins of various empires – Phoenician, Roman and Islamic included. Unsure of the best things to do in Tunisia? Follow us over the dunes for our ultimate 10-day Tunisia itinerary.

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Discover exotic Morocco, from the timeless walled city of Fez to the bustling medina in Marrakech, viewing local Berber life in the ruggedly beautiful High Atlas Mountains and staying at an exclusive desert tented camp nestled among the towering dunes of the Sahara.

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LGBTQ situation in Tunisia

Is Tunisia safe for gay travellers? A complex question. This is Northern Africa and as such will never be the best place to be openly queer. In reality, homosexuality is a criminal offence in Tunisia (punishable by up to 3 years imprisonment), meaning that being open is not advisable while travelling in the country. Despite this, increased local LGBTQ+ activism and acceptance has risen up since the 2011 revolution, making Tunisia one of the better places in the Arab world to be gay.

The Tunisia gay scene is not easy to define but, thanks to the internet, it’s become ever easier to tap into its varying levels. From ‘straight’ unhappy husbands to ‘same-sex-not-gay’ liaisons between friends, the gay network certainly exists, allowing for discreet (yet cruisy) connections at any time. The lack of organisation and outward institutions however means it’s hard to form a legitimate gay community, but ongoing work from organisations like ‘Association Shams’ and ‘Mawjoudin’ helps present a proud face for gay Tunisia. Of the handful of queer events usually hosted in Tunis, the Mawjoudin Queer Film Festival was the biggest, as the country’s first public LGBTQ film festival held back in 2018.

Photo: Ece Ak

Photo: Sergio Gómez

Best time to visit Tunisia

To the north, Tunisia offers wet and mild European winters which shift into long hot summers, while down south around Douz and Tozeur, the weather remains hot and crispy all year long. The best time to visit Tunisia would be in the spring or fall, avoiding the worst of the summer heat, though the hardiest sunseekers may feel July and August is just perfect (i.e. sizzling). The crowds arrive in late spring and stay until late summer, with September coming cooler and offering far fewer tourists.

Travelling around Tunisia

Blissfully straightforward, your Tunisia trip is best started towards the north arriving at the main international airport between Carthage and Tunis. Djerba is another fly-in option, but for our itinerary landing north near the capital is best to launch straight in. Consider hiring a car for easiest access to all Tunisia’s top spots, either braving the hectic traffic of Tunis yourself or hiring a driver (remember to negotiate). If self-driving in the countryside, fill up whenever you see a gas station to be safe and don’t drive at night as animals roam the roads and street lights are few and far between. An alternative option is to take the train, following along the coast all the way to Gabés in the west. Louages (local minivans) are also on hand for when you want to get from the rail station to those hard to reach places.

Tunis | Photo: Alex Sky

Days 1 - 3: Tunis

Plunge into Tunisian city life with a three-day stay in the capital, immersing yourself in the rich living history that stretches through the medieval medina quarter and the ruins of Carthage, areas now buzzing with boutique hotels and arty cafés catering to multigenerational Tunisians and evermore internationals. The city’s population is split three ways equally between the Mediterranean, European and North African heritage, with each neighbourhood showcasing a different side of the city. The European side is Carthage (actually 15 kilometres north of central Tunis), a UNESCO Heritage Site lined with boulangeries in Parisian styles and Westernised ways, while Maghrebi medina is all African, of a world not too dissimilar from what you’d find in Morocco. Then, just northeast of Carthage on the coast, Sidi Bou Said comes cobbled on the coast in Santorini colours, hosting al fresco dining and stucco palaces in true Mediterranean style.

Besides checking out the diverse districts, Tunis is also a top spot for shopping and museum moseying, with the Bardo National Museum and Bulla Regia Archaeological Museum championing centuries of national history, art and culture. Those looking for a day trip can consider Dougga, one of the best preserved Roman towns in Africa, featuring temples and an epic theatre backgrounded by hilly countryside.

Tunis | Photo: Filip Strážnický

Sidi Bou Said, Tunis | Photo: Adrian Dascal

Day 4: Bizerte & Ichkeul National Park

Shifting the rental into gear, we get out of the busy capital on a 2-hour drive northwest to Ichkeul National Park. Based near the northern tip of the country, Ichkeul comes blessed with balmier weather, feeding the central lake and marshlands and turning the whole place green. As well as being a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Ichkeul National Park is also a key stop on bird migration paths where the view comes evermore spectacular atop the hill, where you can visit the local museum and have a picnic. Just 30 or so minutes’ drive from Ichkeul, Bizerte is an off-the-beaten-track choice offering some amazing ocean views over the northern tip of the continent, as well as an enjoyable stroll around the town’s kasbah, fort and harbour area.

Days 5 & 6: Hammamet

Translating as ‘the baths’ in Arabic, Hammamet is the southeast coast’s answer to paradise. Laid out along the Cap Bon peninsula shoreline, Hammamet is a former fishing village turned resort town, now keeping things classy with low-rise hotel developments building on the wealthy boulevards of Yasmine Hammamet all the way up to the heritage bastions of Hammamet Nord. In amongst it all, you’ll find a quaint medina centre filled with restaurants and shops, all complimented by the old school fort and ocean views. Though the resorts take over a large chunk of town, go north of the bastions to get access to more rugged and wild beaches.

Hammamet | Photo: Adrian Dascal

Photo: Ameer Basheer

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The small city of Sousse unfolds in a maze of blue and yellow houses all lying along winding alleyways which merge at the central Kasbah

Days 7 & 8: Sousse

Another of Tunisia’s walled ancient cities is the Medina of Sousse, accessible via the curved coastal road south of Hammamet in just one hour. The small city of Sousse unfolds in a maze of blue and yellow houses all lying along winding alleyways which merge at the central Kasbah. Here you’ll find the Archaeological Museum of Sousse, a small yet important museum hosting a mosaic of Medusa’s head. Towards the souks meanwhile, the El Kobba Museum and the Dar Essid Museum are available on days when the souks are closed (every Friday), passing by the Ribat and Grand Mosque before getting lost in a maze of photogenic alleys. With more time to spare, unwind on the beach or laze by your hotel’s pool before hitting the road one last time.

Photo: Bedis Elacheche

Days 9 & 10: El Djem & Sfax

Day nine takes us one hour south to the city of El Djem, a site made famous for its Roman Amphitheatre and the perfect half-day trip from Sousse. Visit for the Roman ruins and its semi-intact theatre, wandering slowly through the city to soak up centuries of history in just a few hours. From there you can either head back to Sousse for more lazing or venture an additional hour south to Sfax, an understated city founded in 849 AD on the ruins of a Roman town. Take it easy on your route through the Kasbah, stopping to snack and shop at the authentic shops and stands dotted around. Though the archaeological museum just out of town sadly lies deserted, the Jallouli Museum and the Kasbah Museum in the centre can fill your afternoon before it’s time to head back to Sousse early evening.

Photo: Realist

El Jem, Tunisia | Photo: Sergio Gómez

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One can travel ever further to Tozeur, via the vast salt flats of the Chott El Jerid, passing through the alien landscapes of Ong Jemal which were used as the set of Star Wars’ desert planet, Tatooine

Back home or extend your trip to the South

Travellers not needing to skedaddle can extend the 10-day itinerary to two weeks or more, to better explore the south in more depth. As well as having extra time to relax your schedule in both Tunis and Sousse, you can move south of Sfax to hit the nation’s desert beaches and sandscapes featured in the Star Wars movies. From Hammamet, you can hop south to desert island Djerba, known as the island of the lotus-eaters where Greek hero Odysseus became stranded on his Mediterranean voyage. In addition to great beaches like Plage Sidi Mahrès on the east coast, Djerba will mesmerise you with its whitewashed main town, Houmt Souk, where good accommodation and restaurants lie among lively souqs and vine-shaded squares.

After Djerba, the south then stretches into Arab-Berber Ksour Country, a region hosting the fortified village and underground Berber houses at Matmata. From there, the short journey to Ksar Ghilane and Douz is an easy sell, lying close to the Grand Erg Oriental, an immense ‘field of sand dunes’ serving as the gateway to the Sahara Desert. Tour the dunes in all their majesty from the hump of your camel, bedding down for the night in a traditional Berber tent. Last but not least, one can travel ever further to Tozeur, via the vast salt flats of the Chott El Jerid, passing through the alien landscapes of Ong Jemal which were used as the set of Star Wars’ desert planet, Tatooine.

Sahara | Photo: Massimo Sanna

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