The island of Jerba has an intoxicating mixture of sandy beaches, desert heat and wonderfully idiosyncratic architecture. Berber culture is dominant – as the women wrapped in cream-striped textiles, topped with straw hats attest – while a Jewish community, once integral to the island's ethnic make-up, retains a small presence. To the classically inclined, the mere mention of the island's name conjures images of Homer's Land of the Lotus Eaters, a place so seductive that it's impossible to leave; 'drugged by the legendary honeyed fruit' as they were, poor Ulysses had a lot of trouble prising his crew away. The visitors that flock to the luxury hotels along beautiful Sidi Mahres beach appear to understand. While the appeal of a beach resort speaks for itself, rest assured there's a whole lot more to discover here.
Houmt Souq is the island's capital, situated in the middle of the north coast. It's a charming small town, chock-a-block with outdoor cafes, shops and a handful of ancient funduqs (converted Ottoman-era camel caravan inns – also known as caravansérail), the town's architectural trademark.
Other places of note include the Jewish village of Erriadh (Hara Seghira/small ghetto); Midoun, the functional but pleasant big town servicing the east coast; and the southern potters' town of Guellella.
The nicest, most accessible public beach is near the lighthouse on the east coast, just along from Club Med. It's scenic, clean and there's a buvette (kiosk) for drinks and casual seafood meals.
A causeway built in Roman times links the east of the island to the mainland. In addition, 24-hour car ferries ply between western Ajim (where Obi-Wan Kenobi had his house) and El-Jorf.