Tunisia might not have snake charmers, but you do get the fairy tale, Aladdin vibe in this beautiful, historical land. Fusing French history with Arabian culture, it offers one of the most exotic civilisations in the world, and has a fascinating background of mysticism and spiritual contemplation for many in this holy land.
With eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites, a stunning coastline complete with white sandy beaches, and the Sahara Desert, it is no wonder it is a destination which appeals to all type of holidaymakers.
Thankfully tourism has not eradicated the ‘real’ Tunisia, and even though tourists are very welcome, the villages and resorts retain the country’s tradition elements and architecture, which is one of its attractions.
Whether you are looking for an adult only romantic break, or want something that is all-inclusive and where you can take the kids; the options of accommodation are endless- from large complexes to boutique Riads. Most of the resorts are on the coast, with a private beach and outdoor pools. But thankfully for a fidget like me, you don’t have to stay on a sun lounger, as there are many day trips you can easily do to soak up the glorious desert oasis- either by hiring a driver, or using the train from the bustling capital Tunis.
For a tranquil afternoon, with arguably the best views across the Mediterranean, head to market town of Sidi Bou Said; With its picture postcard blue and white houses, this market town is regarded as an exclusive area in Tunisia. It is worth spending an afternoon enjoying a mint tea, bottle of wine or ice cream at one of the many cafes and restaurants and people watch, whilst marvelling at the pretty white houses with contrasting blue doors; The small hilly town has amazing views, and it is easy to potter around the local galleries and mingle with the hoi polloi.
If you can’t resist a bargain, head to Tunis, the country’s capital. Sashay down the Tunisian version of Champs Elyse, where the number of coffee shops is impressive, and you will end up at the medina. This makes up the old town where the city used to be centred around the Great Mosque. Confusing streets zigzag through the enticing souks where you haggle to within an inch of your life with the stallholders. Crammed with traditional wares which include leather slippers, poufee covers and ornamental bird cages, there is something for everyone. The local characters have excellent English and remember to go under your last price, as they like to barter! With several stalls selling original Tunisian antiques from the last century, I was in my element, I just wish I had more fingers to wear all the heavy silver bejewelled rings.!
Having just returned from the Southern coast, I can confirm this bewitching land with its superb sunsets and mid twenty degree temperatures, has a lot to offer. Partly with the influx of spa and thalassotherapy centres which are becoming an increasing influence on tourism. And who doesn’t love a spa break?
Being only 2.5 hours from London, Tunisia is the ideal place to take time out and get pampered. Every year, thousands of guests who are looking for a quick fix of sun, spa and luxury, make a special trip to enjoy a memorable break, and I put myself into that bracket, after I experienced my first session of ‘Thalassotherapy’.
Thalassotherapy is an ancient wellness tradition, which uses cleaned seawater (heated to 33 degrees) for alternative treatments. and is the optimum temperature for absorbing the mineral salts in the water.
After a consultation with a doctor, a three-hour programme was designed specifically for me to aid my achy bones! A teeny bit sceptical, I was also quite excited to see how I would feel after an afternoon, voluntarily getting covered in algae, mud and sand!
Using the traditional practice of Ayurveda (the Hindu art of health and medicine) it said to relieve stress, insomnia and aches and pains; I can vouch that I certainly felt relaxed and a little more bendy- but I don’t know if that’s just the normal effect a massage has on me! My other treatments included a seaweed wrap (to eliminate toxins, aid metabolism and cleanse the skin), an individual salt water Jacuzzi bath for stress relief and relaxation, a sea salt body scrub to remove dead skin, and a deep cleanse seaweed facial (to make me look young and shiny!)
However, many people use thalassotherapy to treat circulatory problems, respiratory conditions and issues with the immune and digestive system as an alternative to traditional remedies, and I could see how using natural products from the sea could potentially help- and with over 45 centres across the country, you can be sure to find what you are looking for.
Ideally you would enjoy a treatment every day of your vacation, and most hotels offer seven nights, six day packages, which sounds like heaven! The spas are equally popular with men and women, and many clients return for a sea/spa break year on year.
We all know Tunisia has had some problems in the past, but the country is so beautiful, and the facilities and people second to none, it deserves another look.
Tunisian National Tourist Office : Tel : 020 7224 5598 ; Website : www.discovertunisia.com ; Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
Tunisair : Tel : 020 7868 1500 ; Webster : www.tunisair.com.tn ; Email : email@example.com
Sara stayed at the 4* Royal Kenz hotel, Port El Kantaoui : Thalasso Centre Tel : +216 73 246 100
Website : www.magichotelsandresorts.tn ; Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
and 5* Scheherazade Hotel, Sousse : Tel : +216 73 241 433
Website : www.magichotelsandresorts.tn ; Email : email@example.com