Years ago, I (rightly) predicted that Morocco would become the next "Iceland".
Iceland - a country no one bothered about previously, but is now top of everyone's bucket list because it started trending on Instagram and people started to want to be seen there or perhaps even because their peers had been there.
Today, Morocco is exactly that (Iceland). Suddenly everyone wants a "desert camp experience", or to have their photo taken in Morocco's "Blue City", Chefchaouen. What changed?
Greece on the other hand, has long been a typical tourist hotspot, with Santorini leading the charge of course; blue seas, great beaches, white & blue houses, and most of all, instant Instagram recognition.
Vacations don't come cheap though. Many people take just one big trip a year, it's a tough choice; Where to next?
Greece? The typical romantic "semi exotic" travel destination? Or the newest kid on the block and current "Like Generator", Morocco?
Well, you can thank me later, but THIS recommendation of mine just solved that dilemma of yours;
(Probably among the most Instagram-able travel destinations most will likely never visit)
Café Des Delices, the most photographed place in Sidi Bou Said, Tunisia
Tunisia, like Morocco, is a country in North Africa which has the usual interesting souks (markets), offers an experience of the Sahara, desert camping, camels, and the like.
And just like Greece, Tunisia also has a sort of Mediterranean vibe to it, boasts some great beaches and many spectacular archaeological sites.
Both Morocco & Greece would certainly be considered among the most popular exotic destinations to visit. And Tunisia? Well, let's just say it offers vacationers a good mix of both countries. To top it off, Tunisia is also home to key film locations of one of cinema's greatest wonders; Star Wars.
Where Is Tunisia? / Route Overview
Tunisia is the northernmost country on the African Continent, and is bordered by Algeria, Libya, and the Mediterranean Sea. It's pretty close to Italy and Malta, so if you'd like to combine another country to visit along with Tunisia, it would be those two.
The most comfortable way to tour Tunisia would probably be to rent a car as the overnight trains don't have sleeping berths (unlike those in Europe), and buses aren't the most efficient or comfortable way to get around.
Renting a car cost $30 USD a day ($15 each!), and here (below) is the route we took.
Tunis - Sidi Bou Said - Carthage - El Jem Amphitheatre - Matmata - Douz - Tozeur - Kairouan - Sousse - Tunis.
7 full days would be perfect for Tunisia, and you could probably add in a couple more Star Wars destinations than we did. We aren't fans, so we didn't bother visiting every site.
What Is There To Do?
Archaeological Tourism (Basically Ancient Ruins)
The Baths of Antoninus, Carthage Ruins
If Athens has the Acropolis, Tunis has Carthage.
Carthage was one of the Roman Empire's most important cities and was the centre of Roman influence in Africa.
I have visited both archaeological sites and admittedly, the ruins of Carthage aren't as impressive as the Greek Acropolis because they haven't been maintained as well over the years and it has well, fallen in a pretty bad state of ruin; as far as ruins are concerned. The best preserved site would be the "Roman Baths". Standing there, I could imagine how it was back in those times, and admittedly, it felt pretty amazing.
For very impressive ruins in Tunisia able to rival any in Greece, visit Dougga and El Jem.
"The Girl" overlooking the arena at El Jem
The El Jem amphitheatre is the best preserved ancient roman site in all of Africa.
I have been to Rome's colosseum and I must say El Jem is just as impressive. In fact the entrance fee for El Jem is 3 times cheaper at $4 USD and allows access to more parts of the colosseum than the one in Rome does.
The gladiators would enter the arena and face death or freedom from here
The Tunisian's like to market El Jem as the inspiration for Russell Crowe's Gladiator.
This "fact" is debatable, but I must say, it looks very similar to the one in the movie. Even the sections where the gladiators wait to enter the arena and the parts where the animals are kept looks the same!
Imagining ourselves watching a gladiator fight from the stands
From the stands, we could imagine ourselves watching the gladiator fights. We turned on the gladiator soundtrack and wow, the "feel" was there!
View of El Jem from the centre of the arena
Doesn't this scene look very familiar?
Even if you aren't a "history" sort of guy, we're certain you'll be impressed by the ruins in Tunisia. Just stick to the 3 main archeological sites, Dougga, Carthage, and El Jem.
So yes, if Greece has impressive ruins, so does Tunisia; at even lower prices.
Desert Camping In The Sahara (Feel Like A Nomad)
The "Star Wars" spaceport of Mos Espa in the Sahara Desert
Desert Camping is fun, trust us.
We've recommended "Desert Camps" so often in our blog for a reason, they're really great.
You can have this "Nomadic desert experience" in many countries. But for the actual "Sahara experience", most people choose to visit Morocco. What people don't know is Tunisia offers this experience as well.
The difference? Well, it's easier to get to the Sahara in Tunisia than Morocco. In short, that means less driving to get to the Sahara, resulting in an even more "convenient" desert experience than the one you get in Morocco
Camel riding across the dunes of the Sahara. Witness the beauty of the desert, absolutely spectacular.
So there you go, the most "hassle free" Sahara desert experience is found in Tunisia, not Morocco.
Accommodation in the desert doesn't equal shitty conditions. We stayed in a 4 star desert hotel for $80 SGD a night ($40 each)! Admittedly, as much as we do enjoy camping in the desert, walking on dunes, and watching the stars above us, camel riding isn't exactly enjoyable and gets silly after 1 hour. So if anyone approaches you for a 2 hour camel ride? Don't waste your money, go for just 1 hour.
Enjoy The Postcard Perfectness (It's Instagram Time)
"The Girl" loves this door near Café Delices, Sidi Bou Said.
Many people live (or die in some unfortunate cases) for the pursuit of the "perfect picture".
It's normal to feel a tinge of jealousy (knowing you don't have the budget or time to visit both places) when you see your friends visit Morocco & Greece, especially when the usual pictures of "white and blue" houses, beaches or camel rides in the desert pop up on your news feed. I know, you want those "perfect pictures" too.
In Tunisia, you can create for yourself similar memories and pictures, all in one place, and with little effort too. It's so beautiful that every photo you take turns out perfect. It's just so hard to take a bad picture!
Check out some Greece & Morocco lookalikes in the pictures below!
Sidi Bou Said - decked out in white and blue, just like in Santorini and the Flag of Greece.
Similar to Morocco's Chefchaouen too isn't it? On 2nd thought, Sidi Bou Said is even more beautiful!
Same picture, but sunset view this time...
This surely looks like Greece!
As does this picture...
The Great Mosque of Kairouan looks a little like what you can get in Morocco, but more impressive. This is one of Africa's largest mosques after all.
The Great Mosque of Kairouan
Even as I type this post, I'm still amazed at the diversity and beauty on offer in Tunisia. It's not often where a single destination offers so much.
On the contrary in Europe, many countries look so similar and on many occassions, I've even heard a particular saying; "In Europe, you see one, you see all". (I've travelled to more of Europe than most and seen some pretty spectacular differences though).
The Mountain Oasis
For me (The Bald Guy), exploring the mountain oasis of Chebika, Tamerza, and Mides in the Tozeur region was the highlight of my trip. Tozeur is the westernmost province of Tunisia and around 1 hours drive away from the Algerian border.