Tunisia is the smallest country in North Africa, yet is one of its most popular holiday destinations – and rightly so, as it has some of the best beaches along the southern shores of the Mediterranean. It is warm and sunny almost all the time (though nights can be cold), and has some very fertile regions in the north and the centre of the country, in contrast to many people’s expectations. It does have desert too, as the south of Tunisia includes the northern part of the Sahara Desert, giving visitors chance to see the rugged desert scenery, which can be both barren and beautiful. Riding a camel in the desert really does make you feel like Lawrence of Arabia for a short while.
Tunisia covers 163,610 sq km, slightly less than the size of Britain. Its coastline stretches for 1,300 km along the Mediterranean Sea, forming the country’s northern and eastern boundary. It is bordered by Algeria to the west and Libya to the south-east.
The capital Tunis lies in a sheltered notch of the rugged northern coast, with Lac Tunis separating the city from the Gulf. The lake was created in the 9C by the Arabs, who dug a 10km-long canal to connect the city with the sea. The medina, or old town, lies in the heart of the city. Around it stretches the new town built by the French, with the hill of Belvedere Park to the north. Along the gulf shore, north and south of the lake, are a string of suburbs which include the remains of ancient Carthage.
To the southeast of Tunis the hilly Cap Bon peninsula juts into the sea, covered with citrus fruit orchards. From Hammamet running south along the coastal plain are some of the country’s finest beaches. This region, the Sahel, has vast olive groves.
The coast north of Tunis is generally rocky, though there are sandy coves and less developed beaches near the old town of Bizerte. The Medjerda river flows inland north and west of Tunis, its valley a rich agricultural region since ancient times. It leads to the Tell, a more rugged, mountainous landscape with magnificent Roman ruins, such as at Dougga.