8 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Tabarka
While foreign visitors flock to Djerba, Hammamet and Sousse for their sand-and-sea vacations, Tabarka is many local Tunisian's beach resort of choice. The rocky coast with its sandy beaches, the crystal-clear water (a paradise for underwater anglers), and the stunning, densely forested hilly hinterland make this a popular tourist centre. As well as the many sandy delights in the area, Tabarka is a well-placed base to delve into North Tunisia's many star attractions with the Roman sites of Dougga and Bulla Regia both within easy day-trip distance.
1 Genoese Fort
Mostly worth visiting simply for the stunning views of Tabarka town and across the bay, the Genoese Fort sits on an island just offshore. It is linked to the mainland by a 400 m causeway. And though the sightseeing views are spectacular, there are only scanty remains of the fort itself.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Tabarka
2 Bulla Regia
Bulla Regia is one of Tunisia's most important Roman sites and makes an excellent day trip from Tabarka. The site contains the remains of baths, cisterns, temples, a theatre, a forum and a series of 3rd and 4th century handsome villas. Most of the ancient villa rooms are buried underground, a unique method of construction that provided the inhabitants with protection from the summer heat. And due to this underground architecture, the floor mosaics of Bulla Regia have been remarkably well preserved. Many of the best mosaics have been taken to the Bardo Museum in Tunis, but some are still in situ.
Location: 65 km south of Tabarka
Dougga is commonly regarded as one of the best-preserved Roman cities in Africa. The site, amid olive groves and pastureland, is beautifully located and the dramatic ruins cover an area of about 25 ha. In contrast to most Roman cities, Dougga was not laid out on a regular grid pattern. Instead, the streets here formed a winding labyrinth. Don't miss the beautiful theatre, built into the hillside in AD 161 with the Temple of Saturn just to its north, and the remarkable and highly impressive Capitol Temple, dedicated to a triad of gods: Jupiter, Juno and Minerva.
Location: 128 km south of Tabarka
The ancient city of Simitthus (modern Chemtou) lay at the intersection of two important roads between Carthage and Hippo Regius (in Algeria) and between Sicca Veneria (Le Kef) and Thabraca (Tabarka). The most important tourist attraction here is the hilltop Sanctuary on the summit of Djebel Chemtou, dedicated to the Punic god Baal-Ammon. Although only remnants of the monumental marble altar remain, many richly decorated architectural elements from the Sanctuary were unearthed during excavations and can now be seen in the site museum.
The archaeology area covers the actual town site (at the base of the hill) where only partial excavations have been carried out, a work camp dating from AD 154 where large numbers of slaves and unfortunate workers were condemned to forced labour in the nearby marble quarries, and the quarries themselves. To the south of the site are the mammoth remnants of a Roman bridge lying along the banks of the Medjerda River. It collapsed during a flood in the 4th century.
Location: 91 km south of Tabarka
5 Bordj Messaoud
Merchants from Marseilles and Padua converted this ancient cistern complex into a fortress during the 12th century. In the 18th century it was again enlarged and strengthened by the ruling Ottomans. Further southwest is the Ottoman fortress of Bordj el Djedid.
Tabarka is a very popular local beach resort destination that has yet to be discovered by foreign tourists, who usually flock to Hammamet, Sousse and Djerba for their beach breaks. To the west of town - heading towards the Algerian border - are many small shingle beaches. To the east are gorgeous, long strips of sandy shore as good as anything else the other Tunisian resorts can offer.
7 La Galite Islands
About 60 km off the coast northeast of Tabarka, the rocky La Galite Islands are uninhabited except for the principal island of the group, where local people make a living by catching crayfish. In antiquity, the main island was known as Galathea and the Phoenicians had an anchorage here. Scattered about the island plains are Punic tombs, Roman remains, abandoned quarries and caves, which are an adventure to explore. There is no regular boat service to the island group, but boat passage can usually be arranged upon a fishing boat from Tabarka or from Bizerte.
8 Les Aiguilles
To the west of Tabarka's bustling fishing harbour are the Les Aiguilles rock pinnacles. These needles of ochre-coloured rock soar up to 25 m high. They have been worn into these bizarre shapes by wind and water action across the millennia.
Other Notable Attractions
Surrounded by dense forests of cork oak, this hill resort is a charmingly old fashioned place with plenty of trekking and hiking activities on offer. Situated at an altitude of 823 m, the resort and its clear mountain air is a fresh respite from the sticky heat of the coast during the summer months.
Location: 25 km south of Tabarka
Hotel de France
The historic Hotel de France was where Habib Bourguiba (the founder of modern Tunisia), Mongi Slim and Habib Acour were interned in 1952. Mementos of these three important figures in Tunisian history are now displayed in the rooms they occupied.
Location: Avenue Habib Bourguiba, Tabarka
Just 100 m southwest of the Hotel de France is the Basilica - actually the remains of a 3rd or 4th century Roman cistern. The Pères Blancs (White Fathers) converted the Roman structure into a three-aisled church.
Location: Avenue Habib Bourguiba, Tabarka