Africa’s northernmost country of Tunisia is home to one of the world’s most iconic destinations: the Sahara Desert. Sprawling across 3,600,000 square miles and blanketing most of North Africa, the Sahara is both the hottest and third largest desert in the world. Thanks to its northern location and distance from the Sahara’s centre, Tunisia is one of the best countries to explore the desert.
If you’re looking for the perfect place to get acquainted with the desert, Douz is it. Known as the Gateway to the Sahara, this quiet, palm-covered town 300 miles south of Tunis is where most tours into the Sahara are booked and begun.
There’s no experience in the world quite like riding a camel into the sprawling sands of the Sahara. By day, the heat, quiet & solitude of the desert is eerie yet calming, and by night, the cool, starry skies make for a truly unforgettable evening. Dress in traditional Bedouin attire to stay cool and end every day camping out in Berber tents and eating delicious Tunisian meals- a truly unique experience. Most tours are all-inclusive, so you don’t have to worry about food, water and direction; just trust your Tunisian guide, your camel and soak in the Sahara!
More Douz Adventures
If you’ve already had the camel trek experience or are looking for something a bit more adventurous, Douz also offers 4x4 desert journeys, dune cart excursions and hot air balloon rides over the Sahara.
Culture in Douz
To learn about the region’s traditional nomadic people, pay a visit to the Museum of the Sahara, dedicated to Douz’s Mrazig tribe. Also home to the International Festival of the Sahara, Douz celebrates the end of every year with a four-day celebration of song, dance, activity and performances, all based around its traditional desert culture.
A historic travel hub for caravans journeying through the Sahara, Tozeur is a city and oasis in the midst of southwest Tunisia. Home to a beautiful old quarter (Medina), visitors will find traditional architecture, Berber clothing and picturesque brick-lined streets throughout this Saharan oasis. From Tozeur, tourists can book trips into the Sahara or visit the amazing Chott el-Djerid (salt lake) where a Fata Morgana, or complex superior mirage, can often be seen.
Local Tip: Don’t forget to try Tozeur’s world famous dates- their biggest international export!
Matmata - Underground Houses and Star Wars
A relatively small, Berber-speaking town located in southern Tunisia, Matmata has a few major attractions that keep tourists pouring in. Most of Matmata’s residents still live in traditional underground troglodyte homes, which are comprised of manmade caves connected by trenched passageways. Many of these traditional homes are open to the public, helping to draw in tourists from all over the world. Another major reason this town is so well known is its place in popular culture. Multiple Star Wars movies were filmed in Matmata, which featured the town’s iconic underground houses.
Saharan Tunisia tours from Matmata often bring visitors towards the city of Tataouine, where more underground dwellings are the main attraction. Home to traditional ghorfas (stacked, vaulted rooms where locals once stored grains) these otherworldly, picturesque fortifications are a unique, practical creation of the Berber people. Some of the most famous ghorfas in Tataouine are the Ksar Ouled Soltane and Ksar Hadada, which were also made famous in the Star Wars films.
Whether you want to learn about traditional Saharan culture or are looking to ride camels and jeeps into the world’s hottest desert, southern Tunisia is one of the best destinations to do so. Seeing as it’s the hottest destination in the world, the best time to visit Saharan Tunisia would be winter. Just make sure you find a reputable Tunisian guide to safely navigate you through the iconic Saharan sands.
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