Northern Tunisia is like rural Italy from the 1970s – a rolling, green, magnificently lush region, little explored by foreign visitors. With endless views of hazy valleys from its hills and wonderfully preserved Roman cities of Dougga and Bulla Regia, this is an area well worth visiting.
Once you’ve passed the mesmerising landscape of the salt lake Chott el-Jerid, you start getting the glimpse of the enormous palmeraie that shields Tozeur. The salt lake is a snowy-white sheet, stretching for miles. If you step on the crackling surface, the salt sticks to your shoes, and the lake’s water can still be seen underneath.
Sousse is Tunisia’s liveliest town, full of the daily bustle of visitors, students and locals who fill the streets all day long. The huge medina draws people in, spitting them out hours later sweaty and laden with shopping, but mostly happy. The medina stands in the centre, cordoned off from the rest of town by high, medieval fortifications that look like a sandcastle cake.
Jerba is an island with a harmonious mixture of Mediterranean brightness and sandy beaches, strong desert heat and lack of vegetation, and peculiar, beautiful, whitewashed domed-hut architecture. This extends to the island’s ethnic mix: Berber culture is dominant here and local women are wrapped in cream-striped textiles, topped with straw hats.
Douz, an oasis at the edge of the Grand Erg Oriental, is best for its tours into the desert. The dunes are tall and smooth, fulfilling all fantasies of the mysterious and silent desert space. The town itself is not too exciting, with a busy central square, and fruit and carpets on sale.