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Tunis to Sahara: 2-day private tour

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Tour from Tunis to Sahara

Embark on an unforgettable 2-day safari from Tunis into the Sahara’s heart. Marvel at Tunisia’s stunning landscapes, from El Jem’s ancient coliseum to Matmata’s intriguing troglodyte homes. Traverse the dazzling Chott el Djerid and delve into the Star Wars universe at Ong El Jmal and Mos Espa. This journey offers a perfect mix of natural wonders, architectural feats, and pop culture landmarks.

Two-day itinerary of the tour

This tour offers exciting sights and activities over two days – 

Plan for Day 1

  • Pick up from your place of residence and departure to El Jem.
  • Visit the Coliseum of El Jem, one of the largest amphitheaters in the world.
  • Continue to Matmata, a Berber village known for its troglodyte houses. Explore the village’s unique underground dwellings designed to offer natural cooling against the summer heat. These homes are built into the ground with courtyards that sometimes feature sheer drops.
  • Enjoy a typical Tunisian lunch in Matmata.
  • Depart for Douz, also known as the gateway to the desert. Discover the city, and check into your hotel for dinner and accommodation.

Plan for Day 2

  • Early breakfast followed by departure for Chott El Djerid to witness the sunrise over this vast salt lake. Experience the unique landscape of Chotts, desert areas covered with salt deposits, and the frequent mirages that occur here.
  • Depart for Chebika via Dgueche, a picturesque village in the south of Tunisia. Explore the mountain oasis, once a Berber village.
  • Visit Ong Jmal, famous as a filming location for the ‘Star Wars’ saga, admired for its timeless and otherworldly beauty.
  • Visit “Mos Espa”, another notable ‘Star Wars’ site.
  • Proceed to Gafsa for lunch.
  • On the way back to Tunis, enjoy a panoramic visit to Kairouan. Explore this UNESCO World Heritage site, one of Islam’s holy cities and the first capital of the Maghreb, known for its historical significance and traditional handmade carpets.
  • Return to your hotel.

Attractions to see on the Sahara desert tour

Let’s explain in more detail all the landmarks and attractions you will see on your exclusive tour of the Sahara desert from the capital of Tunisia. 

Coliseum of El Jem

The Coliseum of El Jem, an architectural marvel in Tunisia, is a testament to Roman grandeur and engineering prowess. This UNESCO World Heritage site, one of the largest amphitheaters in the world, once hosted gladiator battles and could accommodate up to 35,000 spectators. Situated en route to the Sahara from Tunis, it offers a glimpse into ancient history amidst the desert landscape.

Matmata, a Berber village

Matmata, a unique Berber village in southern Tunisia, is renowned for its distinctive troglodyte dwellings. These underground homes, carved into the soft rock, offer a fascinating insight into traditional Berber architecture and way of life, providing natural insulation against the harsh desert climate. Matmata gained international fame as a filming location for the Star Wars saga, attracting fans and curious travelers alike.

Douz (Gateway to the Sahara)

Douz, often hailed as the “Gateway to the Sahara,” is a town in Tunisia that marks the transition from the verdant landscape of the north to the endless dunes of the Sahara Desert. This oasis town is famous for its annual International Festival of the Sahara, a celebration of desert culture, featuring camel racing, traditional music, and dance. Douz serves as a starting point for many adventurers looking to explore the vastness of the Sahara.

Chott el Djerid (Salt Lake)

Chott el Djerid, North Africa’s largest salt lake, spans Tunisia’s arid landscape, creating a mesmerizing mirage-like spectacle. This vast, predominantly dry, ephemeral lake transforms into a shallow winter pool, showcasing a stunning palette of blues and whites. It is famous for its ethereal beauty and the optical illusions it casts. It has also served as a backdrop for iconic scenes in the Star Wars saga, adding to its allure for visitors.

Chebika via Dgueche

Chebika, accessed via the picturesque route of Dgueche, is a hidden gem nestled in the mountainous regions at the edge of the Tunisian Sahara. Once a Roman outpost, this oasis village is famed for its stunning natural springs and palm groves, emerging like a mirage against the stark desert backdrop. The allure of Chebika lies in its dramatic transformation from an ancient Berber village into a serene oasis, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding desert landscape.

Ong Jmal

Ong Jmal, known as “The Neck of the Camel,” is a distinctive rock formation in the Tunisian Sahara, celebrated for its unique shape and cinematic fame as a Star Wars filming location. This geological wonder, situated amidst vast desert landscapes, draws both movie enthusiasts and nature lovers. Its appearance in the iconic saga has transformed it into a pilgrimage site, offering a surreal experience that blends the allure of Hollywood with the raw beauty of the Sahara.

Mos Espa

Mos Espa, a fictional spaceport from the Star Wars universe, is brought to life in the Tunisian desert near Tozeur. This meticulously constructed set was designed for the Star Wars prequels, capturing the imagination of fans worldwide. The desert’s arid climate has preserved much of the set, allowing visitors to step into the cinematic world of Tatooine. Mos Espa is a dream destination for fans and adventurers alike.

Gafsa

Gafsa is an oasis city in Tunisia, rich in history and natural beauty, serving as a gateway to the Sahara Desert. Gafsa is a blend of historical depth and cultural richness, known for its ancient Roman pools, with archaeological sites that narrate tales from bygone eras. Surrounded by lush palm groves and serene natural springs, Gafsa offers a peaceful retreat amidst the rugged landscapes, showcasing a harmonious blend of nature and history.

Cultural experiences to expect

Here are three of the most important cultural experiences to enjoy on your trip to the Sahara.

Berber village visits

Visiting a Berber village in the Sahara Desert immerses you in the rich traditions and lifestyle of the indigenous Amazigh people. Expect warm hospitality, with welcomes often marked by the sharing of mint tea and traditional meals like couscous. You’ll observe unique architectural styles, including homes adapted to the desert’s harsh climate. Artisanal crafts, especially intricate weavings, showcase the community’s artistic heritage. Traditional music and dance may enliven your evenings, offering a glimpse into the Berbers’ deep cultural pride.

Tunisian cuisine

Traditional Tunisian cuisine is a vibrant fusion of flavors, blending Mediterranean, Berber, and Middle Eastern influences into a rich culinary tapestry. Tasting Tunisian food is an adventure in spices, with dishes like couscous, brik (a crispy pastry), and harissa (a fiery chili paste) taking center stage. Seafood is prominent along the coast, while the interior offers hearty tagines and lamb-based specialties. Tunisian meals often start with mezze, small dishes to whet the appetite, followed by succulent mains, and conclude with sweet mint tea and pastries.

Handicraft markets

Exploring the handicraft markets on a tour from Tunis to the Sahara offers a captivating cultural experience, immersing travelers in Tunisia’s rich artisan traditions. Brimming with handmade treasures, these markets provide a colorful window into local craftsmanship. Each piece tells a story of heritage and skill, from intricately woven carpets and textiles to finely crafted ceramics and silver jewelry. While exploring the souks, you can learn about the artisans and their art and take home a piece of Tunisia’s cultural legacy.

Weather to expect on your trip to the Sahara

Embarking on a trip from Tunis to the Sahara, travelers should be prepared for a dramatic range of weather conditions. 

The journey starts in the Mediterranean climate of Tunis, where temperatures are moderate. 

However, as you venture deeper into the Sahara, the climate shifts dramatically. 

Expect extreme daytime heat, with temperatures soaring well above 30°C (86°F), especially in summer. 

The desert sun is relentless, making protective clothing and ample hydration essential.

Contrastingly, nights in the Sahara can be surprisingly cold, even in summer, with temperatures sometimes dropping to near 10°C (50°F). 

This stark drop requires travelers to pack light and warm clothing for the drastic change from day to night.

Planning your visit in the spring or autumn is advisable to enjoy the most comfortable weather conditions. 

These seasons offer milder temperatures, making the journey through diverse landscapes from Tunis to the expansive dunes of the Sahara not only bearable but genuinely enjoyable. 

During these times, the days are pleasantly warm, allowing for exploration and activities in the desert, while nights remain cool, providing a comfortable rest under the starlit Sahara sky.

How to Prepare for a Tunis to Sahara Trip

A journey from Tunis to the Sahara Desert is an adventure of a lifetime, but remember that the extreme conditions of the Sahara require thorough preparation. 

To ensure a safe and enjoyable trip, check out some essential tips on how to prepare:

Sun Protection

The Sahara sun is intense, making sun protection crucial. Pack a wide-brimmed hat to shield your face and neck, and use a high-SPF sunscreen to protect your skin from harmful UV rays. Sunglasses with UV protection are also essential to guard your eyes against bright sunlight and reflective sand.

Warm Clothing

Temperatures in the Sahara can drop significantly at night. Pack warm clothing, including a heavy jacket, thermal layers, and a hat and gloves to stay comfortable. A good quality sleeping bag rated for the cooler temperatures you’ll encounter is also a wise investment if you’re camping.

Adequate Hydration

Staying hydrated is critical in the desert’s dry climate. Bring a durable water bottle, and consider packing a hydration backpack for easy access to water without having to stop and unpack. Plan your water supply carefully, aiming for at least 3-4 liters per person daily, and remember that physical activity under the sun increases your hydration needs.

Additional Recommendations

Durable, comfortable footwear is essential. Consider lightweight, breathable hiking boots for walking in the sand and over rocky terrain. Pack modest clothing to respect local customs, especially when visiting Berber villages or mosques. A lightweight scarf or shawl can be versatile for sun protection and modesty.

Preparing for a Tunis to Sahara trip means planning for extreme conditions while respecting the local culture and environment. 

With the right preparation, you can ensure a memorable and safe desert adventure, embracing the vast beauty and tranquility of the Sahara.

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