Northern Tunisia may just be the country’s most underappreciated region. Not only does it have some of Tunisia’s finest and most secluded beaches, but it’s also home to extensive forests, rugged hills that drop precipitously into the glinting blue Mediterranean, and rolling farmland that’s lush in winter, golden in summer and studded with wildflowers in between.
Heading south from Tabarka along narrow, winding roads takes you into the Kroumirie Mountains, thick with cork oak and potential for hiking. The main town is Ain Draham, a one-time colonial hill station that’s high enough to get snow in winter.
The region is also home to Tunisia’s most intriguing Roman sites: the subterranean villas of Bulla Regia; the ancient Chemtou quarries, renowned for their unique yellow marble; and the ancient port of Utica (Utique), all bearing testimony to the ingenuity of these illustrious ancestors.
Check travel advice before travelling to Chemtou; the British Foreign Office currently advises against nonessential travel to the area.
These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Northern Tunisia.
Built from 1570 to 1573 by Ulj Ali, the military ruler of Algiers, and named for a military victory over the Spanish, this fortress overlooks the medina from the north. All that remains are two long wall sections and one citadel. The views across the town, over the modern cement amphitheatre, are stupendous. Note the entrance is on the northern side of the fort – you have to walk the long way around if coming from the medina.
This squat little fort, facing the kasbah, was modified by the Aghlabids in the 9th century, who added the attractive arched skifa (gate) and a courtyard with a set of cells – not for prisoners, but for silent study of the Quran. Also known as Fort Sidi Henni, it now has a pleasant cafe for people watching over the old port, and a rather dull aquarium.
Remel Plage, a long stretch of sand with a backdrop of pine groves, is a popular beach with locals, and it even has its own dramatically wrecked ship in the shallows. It begins about 3km southeast of the centre of town, across the drawbridge over the canal. There are no facilities. A cab from Bizerte centre costs about 3DT one way.
Built in 1652, this mosque has an octagonal, stone-built minaret decorated with blue-and-white tiling. Non-Muslims are not permitted to enter, though at prayer times it might be possible to get a peek of the courtyard, with its slender marble columns and delicate stone arches.
The richly decorated, lavishly tiled Zaouia of Sidi Mokhtar, is home to the Association de Sauvegarde de la Medina de Bizerte, the group responsible for Medina conservation.
The deconsecrated French-built cathedral, a grey concrete modernist structure with vertical stripes of stained glass, is now a cultural centre.