Verdant Cap Bon devotes most of its efforts to cultivating citrus trees and vineyards. The tourist action centres on Hammamet, the country's first resort town, which has attracted visitors since the 1920s. Then a jet-set playground, it’s now mostly a package-holiday destination.
Venture beyond Hammamet and the busy craft centre of Nabeul, and you’ll find Cap Bon a surprising adventure. Its towns have a nothing-much-to-do feel, and if you have your own transport and want to find a deserted beach, you've come to the right place.
Kelibia has a mighty fortress and a splendid beach. El Haouaria, a northern town at the end of the peninsula, is home to the 2500-year-old quarries that supplied stone for Rome’s Colosseum.
Cap Bon's wild west is rugged and difficult to get around. A dramatic road clinging to the rocky coast leads to faded spa-town Korbous, where a scalding hot spring spills directly into the sea.
These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Cap Bon.
Built by Romanian millionaire George Sebastian in the 1920s, Hammamet’s International Cultural Centre used to be the ultimate party house. The whitewashed villa and lush landscaped gardens caught the eye of architect Frank Lloyd Wright, who supposedly said it was one of the most beautiful places he knew, but he'd be disappointed today, as the mansion has an air of neglect. The lack of signage means you'll be tipping a caretaker if you want to learn anything. The main hall of the now state-owned manor is used as a temporary gallery for contemporary artworks and leads out to a huge black marble dining table next to a colonnaded swimming pool. Hidden in one of the back rooms is the odd baptistery-font-style four-seater bath surrounded by mirrored cupboards. Nazi commander Erwin Rommel got to enjoy the bath when he used the house as Axis headquarters during WWII, as did British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who stayed here after the war to write his memoirs. The 14-acre grounds also include a Greek-style amphitheatre, built in 1962, used every July and August to stage the Festival International de Hammamet, with entertainment ranging from classical theatre to Arab music. A raised boardwalk ambles past a grove of citrus and olive trees and ends at an 'eco museum' dedicated to Cap Bon's traditional farming techniques and irrigation methods. You can find the olive oil from these trees bottled and for sale at a few spots around the premises. Though the Cultural Centre is mainly used for conferences and events, you can still wander through on any day.
Pupput looks like a barren field sandwiched between two hotels, but it once had more prestige as a staging post on the Roman road from Carthage to Hadrumètum (Sousse). The ruins aren't extensive, signage is minimal and the site is wholly unloved; however, you can see some decent examples of quotidian mosaic work, especially in the House of Figured Peristyle and the thermal baths. Monochrome swastikas cover the ground in the dining room at the House of the Black and White Triclinium. The ruins of Pupput were discovered during a hotel construction project, so it's likely that the remains of the town's capitole and amphitheatre, written about in ancient sources, are buried under the neighbouring buildings.
This square fortress, constructed of rammed earth and masonry, dates back to the 9th century, but it was heavily modified in the 1400s to become the city governor’s residence. Adapted for firearms in the 16th century, it was in military use right up to the 1800s. Stroll the ramparts for sweeping views over the tangled lanes of the medina or watch the waves roll in from the small (and overpriced) cafe.
The first theme park in North Africa, CarthageLand is made up of five incongruous worlds where you can battle out the Punic Wars in bumper cars, shoot a laser gun from Aladdin's lamp, circle King Kong on a roller coaster or catch up on 3000 years of Mediterranean history in a sound-and-light show. The Ali Baba area and Aqualand water park are specifically designed for young kids, making this a good stop when they're bored of the beach.