By Mike Joy, A travel enthusiast, A1 French speaker, and Couchsurfing Community Manager.
For many of us, our first backpacking trip is to somewhere we perceive as safe, accessible, and beautiful. Europe ends up being the go-to destination for many travelers but there are many destinations around the world that rival Europe and they should definitely be considered when planning your next trip. Rome is incredible, and if you’ve been and fallen in love – then we propose Tunisia for your next trip.
If you like the Colosseum…
I’m sorry Rome, but El DJem has you beat in the Colosseum department. Sure, it is slightly smaller (it is technically the 3rd largest in the world but the 2nd largest that is still standing) but it is also about 5,000 times less popular than Rome. I easily took photos with no one else in the frame.
If you like the Roman Forum…
Dougga is like having the complete Roman Forum to yourself. I mean. I was there for 2 hours and saw exactly 6 other people, one of whom was a guide offering his services for $10. It is much smaller than the Forum, so you can explore it in a couple hours, but the photos you will get are incredible.
If you like the beach:
Rome is not known for its beaches, but Tunisia is. Hammamet is an hour drive from Tunis. Bizerte is 1.5. Sousse is 2. Djerba is an hour flight. Each of these is a completely manageable weekend trip from Tunis and will give you medinas (old city), ribats (fortresses), museums, and of course – beaches!
If you like to get lost in neighborhoods…
Sidi Bou Said is a neighborhood in Tunis that will make you think that you have been transported to Santorini. The white and blue buildings will have you forget that you are still in Tunis. The stone streets are pedestrian only and it curves up a hill giving most buildings a view of the sea. Plus, this neighborhood is only a 30 minute walk from the Roman ruins of Carthage. Do I need to say more?
If you like to visit movie sets…
Rome may have Roman Holiday but Tunisia has Star Wars. Yes, Tatooine was filmed (and named) after a real place! And I promise you it is much easier to get to than Han Solo made it appear. Tataouine is a city in the southern governorate of Tunisia, set squarely in the Sahara Desert, and whether you want to visit the actual locations (and villages) of Star Wars or just escape the world and sleep under the stars – Tataouine is the place to go.
If you like Rome (and can’t decide why!)
To compare Rome and Tunis would be to make a very very weak comparison. They are not at all similar and liking one does not mean you will enjoy the other, however, any trip to Tunisia would be incomplete (if not logistically impossible) without a stop in Tunis. Carthage was the largest Roman city in North Africa and its ruins still stand amongst the apt named neighborhood of Tunis, Carthage. The Medina, Zaytuna Mosque, La Marsa, and many other areas of Tunis are well worth a visit as well. The city is massive and chaotic but extremely charming and a great jumping off point to see the rest of the country. I strongly recommend staying in La Marsa or Sidi Bou Said and using the efficient metro to explore the rest of Tunis.