8 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Tabarka
While foreign tourists 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 and crystal-clear water (a paradise for anglers), and the densely-forested, hilly hinterland make this a popular tourist center. As well as the many sandy delights in the area, Tabarka is a well-placed base to delve into North Tunisia's many star tourist attractions with the Roman sites of Dougga and Bulla Regia both within easy day trip distance.
1 Genoese Fort
Within Tabarka town itself, the major landmark and point of interest is the Genoese Fort, which sits on an island just offshore from the center. The remains of the fort are scanty, but a trip here - across the 400-meter causeway that links it to the mainland - is worthwhile for the excellent coastal views. The fort dates back to the mid-16th century, when Tabarka came under the rule of the Genoese, but also incorporates some later fortifications built by the Ottomans.
For more things to do in town after viewing the fort, stroll into the center to see the historic Hotel de France on Avenue Habib Bourguiba, where Habib Bourguiba (the founder of modern Tunisia), Mongi Slim, and Habib Achour were interned in 1952. Mementos of these three important figures in Tunisian history are now displayed in the rooms they occupied. Then walk another 100 meters to the basilica, which is actually the remains of a 3rd- or 4th-century Roman cistern that the Pères Blancs (White Fathers) converted into a three-aisled church.
Location: Tabarka shorefront
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 theater, 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. 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 kilometers south of Tabarka
The UNESCO World Heritage Site ruins of Dougga are commonly regarded as one of the best-preserved Roman cities in Africa. The site, amid olive groves and pasture land, is beautifully located, and the dramatic ruins cover an area of about 25 hectares. 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 theater, 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 kilometers 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 labor 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 kilometers south of Tabarka
Tabarka is a popular local beach resort destination with Tunisian families and unlike at the resorts of Hammamet, Sousse and Djerba, you'd be unlikely to encounter any foreign tourists here. During the summer months, the sandy strip fronting town itself fills up with locals enjoying a beach break. For a quieter day on the beach head out of Tabarka. To the west of town - heading towards the Algerian border - are many small shingle beaches, which are often empty even during mid-summer weekend. To the east are gorgeous, long strips of sandy shore as good as anything else the other Tunisian resorts can offer.
6 La Galite Islands
About 60 kilometers 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. But for many visitors to these islands, the main sightseeing attractions are underwater - excellent wreck diving awaits just off the islands' coasts. There is no regular boat service to the island group, but passage can usually be arranged upon a fishing boat from Tabarka or Bizerte.
7 Les Aiguilles
To the west of Tabarka's bustling fishing harbor are Les Aiguilles rock pinnacles sitting right on the coast. These needles of ochre-colored sandstone soar out of the sea up to 25 meters high. They have been worn into these bizarre shapes by the weathering effects of erosion; the stone whittled away by wind and water action across the millennia. It's an easy 10-minute stroll from the harbor to the rocks along the coastal road, and this is a great place for sunset photos.
8 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 and cistern complex of Bordj el Djedid, which French engineers put back into work in the late 1880s. Both are now in ruinous states, and although the cisterns are an impressive feat of engineering, only the most enthusiastic history lover or archaeologist would probably enjoy a visit.