C. Northern Tunisia

Map of Northern Tunisia

SUMMARY

Northern Tunisia offers some great daytrips from Tunis, in particular to the Raf Raf and the Bizerte area. Venturing further it is worthwhile to spend the night in Tabarka, Ain Draham or Le Kef.

Only locations highlighted in BOLD are described in detail:

1. Shortcut from La Marsa to Bizerte Motorway
2. Raf Raf Ridge – Hikes: Our favourite hiking area close to Tunis; and great beaches in particular during the off season.
3. Cap Zebib – Hike & Mountain Bike Ride
4. Bizerte – Shipwrecks
5. Ras ben Sekka: Cap Blanc, Caps Angela & Hmem (Mountain Bike)
6. Lake Ishkeul: National Park; great bird watching place.
7. Sejenane: Stork nests at the old train station. Pottery is sold along road north of town on the way to Cap Serrat.
8. Cap Serrat to Cap Negro
9. Tabarka: Nice town at the coast; several hotels to choose from; for the sunset drive the road towards the Algerian border for views of Tabarka, the Atlas Mountains and the coast.
10. Ain Draham – Kroumirie Mountains
11. Bulla Regia : Great Roman Site with underground villas and mosaics.
12. Chemtou Marble Quarry: This Roman site is a bit out of the way but worthwhile to visit; in particular for old rock hounds. The small museum is excellent.
13. High Road to Le Kef.
14. Le Kef: Nice town; the Kasbah has been renovated and is worth a visit.
15. Dougga: A must see if interested in Roman sites; the best preserved Roman town in North Africa.
16. Beja: The local market is worth a visit.

PLACES to STAY

Tabarka: There are a number of hotels in the ‘zone touristique’.

Another interesting hotel in Tabarka is the Les Mimosas, phone 216 78 673 028/018, fax 216 78 673 276 (stayed here several times; cheap; funky; overlooking town)

Le Kef: Hotel Leklil, phone 216 78 204 747, web http://www.hotelleklil.com/ (have not stayed there yet, but looks ok). Another possibility is the ‘Les Pins’; basic but not too bad.

Ain Draham: Royal Rihana Hotel, phone 216 78 655 391/392, fax 216 78 655 396/578, web http://www.royalrihana-hotel.com/ (have not stayed there yet)

Hotel la Foret, phone 216 78 655 302, fax 216 78 655 335, web www.hotellaforet.com.tn (have not stayed there yet)

The Dar Ismail Hotel in Ain Draham got renovated in 2008/2009, phone 216 78 655 000, fax 216 78 655 185, website www.darismailhotels.com (have not stayed there yet, but location and views are great)


OFF THE BEATEN TRACK

1. Shortcut from La Marsa / Gammarth to Geant Mall & Bizerte Motorway

Go on the motorway from Tunis and then head north towards Bizerte.

As an alternative it is possible to take a ‘back road’ from the La Marsa / Gammarth area. It’s only a 25 minute drive from Gammarth to the Geant shopping mall and the motorway to Bizerte.

Directions: From the ‘sailing boat’ roundabout in Gammarth head northeast past the hotel zone and along the lagoon (great bird watching in winter and spring).
Once you get to the next roundabout turn right (left turn brings you to Ariana).
After a few hundred meters turn left; there is a sign for ‘Borj Touil’. The road leads to the Geant mall and the motorway to Bizerte.

Gammarth to Geant

2. Raf Raf Ridge Hikes

It’s just over 1 hour drive from Tunis to Raf Raf. Hikes along the ridge are great and can be combined with stops at the beaches of Raf Raf or Sidi Ali El Mekki and the forts at Ghar el Melh.

Take the motorway to Bizerte. Take the exit Ghar el Melh / Utique and follow signs for Raf Raf. As always it may take a bit of intuition to find the way . . . . .

In Raf Raf follow signs for ‘La Plage’. Before the road winds down to the beach, still inside the village, the road is lined with trees on the right side. Once the trees stop turn right up the hill. Across from the turn off there is a big blue door with ‘mechanique generale’ written on it. Less than 100m further on is the km marker ‘2 km La Plage’. The road leading up the hill looks like a driveway and is mostly gravel.

The road up the hill is a bit rough but eventually leads to the radio towers on top. Views of Raf Raf to the north and Ghar el Melh to the south are spectacular.

Just before reaching the radio towers a dirt road heads off to the right. Eventually, you will need a 4x4 car to make it down the hill to Ghar el Melh. Views from this road in all directions are absolutely stunning, especially on a clear day. To the east you can see Ile Zembra; to the south the lagoon with the old Mejerda river delta; in the distance Sidi bou Said, Jebel Ressas and even Jebel Zaghouan.

From the radio towers it’s approximately 3.5 km along a 4x4 dirt road which takes about 1 hour to hike. From the end of the dirt road it is possible to continue hiking along the ridge. Make sure to bring enough water on a hot day. On a windy day you may get blown off the ridge.

Another hike is on the southern side of the Raf Raf ridge. This time follow signs to Ghar el Melh. After passing through Ghar el Melh and parking at the Ras Sidi Ali el Mekki beach (very busy in summer) it’s an easy path along the beach to the tip of the peninsula. From the tip it is easy to scramble up the hill to the Raf Raf Ridge and then hike along the ridge. There are several possibilities to hike back down towards Rass Sidi Ali el Mekki.


Raf Raf & Sidi Ali el Mekki

Raf Raf Ridge

Raf Raf Ridge

3. Cap Zebib: Hike & Mountain Bike Roundtrip

It’s just over 1 hour drive from Tunis to Metline and Cap Zebib. There are possibilities for hikes and mountain bike rides. Views of the coast line towards Raf Raf and Bizerte are very nice. On a clear day you even see Ile Zembra and Cap Bon in the distance.

Take the motorway to Bizerte. Take exit El Alia and follow signs for Metline.

Hike:
Park either at Port Cap Zebib or in the Metline village at the end of the paved road. From here there are several ways down to Cap Zebib. Then follow the coast. The old roadcut up the slope is an obvious way up from the coast to the top of the cliff. At the top head back to the paved road. The roundtrip is about 6 km.

Mountain Bike Ride:
From Port Cap Zebib follow the coast for about 5km; this track is not maintained after the first 2 km and is pretty rough and can be sandy in some places . After about 5 km there is a small archaeological site. Here, the track up the hill leads back to the paved road. The elevation gain back to Metline is about 200m. From Metline head down the hill back towards Port Cap Zebib. Doing this ride clockwise from Cap Zebib you climb the hill into Metline on the paved road. This may be the easier way. Total round trip is about 14 km.

Cap Zebib Views

Cap Zebib Hike

Cap Zebib Mountain Bike

4. Bizerte – Shipwrecks east of town

A nice day trip from Tunis. The trip can be combined with visits of beaches at Raf Raf or Ras Sidi Ali el Mekki.

Take the motorway from Tunis to Bizerte, about a 1 hour drive. At the end of the motorway there is a large roundabout. Turn back here on the road in the direction of Tunis parallel to the motorway. After less than 1 km there is a turn-off to the left with a ‘camping’ sign. Turn left here and continue. Eventually, the road crosses the motorway and then runs through a nice pine forest. From this bridge continue on the blacktop road for about 1km and then turn left (just before the big Arabic sign) down towards the beach on a dirt road.
One of the wrecks is about 100m off the beach. The other wreck sits on the beach. In early 2010 this wreck was being dismantled.


August 2008
Shipwreck

February 2010
Shipwreck

Bizerte Shipwrecks

5. Ras ben Sekka: Caps Angela & Hmem, Cap Blanc

A nice day trip from Tunis for hiking, biking or laying on the beach. Ras ben Sakka with its lighthouse is the northernmost point of the African continent.

Cap Blanc
Follow ‘Corniche’ signs north of Bizerte. The road swings around; then take the right turn towards Cap Blanc.

Cap Angela (Enjelas) (or Ras ben Sekka) and Cap Hmem
In Bizerte there are signs for Bechateur along the road to Mateur. When coming from Mateur to Bizerte turn left at the small roundabout at the entrance to the military base.

In this area there are some very nice beaches and opportunities for different mountain bike rides.

The roundtrip from Bechateur to Cap Angelas is all on paved road and is about 17 km long. This roundtrip can be extended by riding to Cap Hmem or Ain Damous.

The Cap Hmem loop consists almost entirely of a ‘cobblestone road’. On the mountain bike it is easier to do the trip clockwise and go down the ‘cobblestone track’ to the sea.

The dirt road to Ain Damous is in pretty bad shape and washed out in places. But from Bani Aouf it is probably possible to reach the great beaches at Ain Damous with a regular car.


Cap Blanc & Angela

Cap Angela - Bachatir Roundtrip



Ain Damous & Bani Aouf

8. Cap Serrat & Cap Negro

We never made it to Cap Serrat but heard from friends that it is a worthwhile trip. For the road from Cap Serrat to Cap Negro you need a 4x4 car.

Cap Serrat - Mechrig - Cap Negro

10. Ain Draham, Kroumirie Mountains – Col des Ruines Hike

Ain Draham is a nice village high in the Atlas Mountains. Local carpets are made in town by ’Les tapis de Kroumirie’, phone 78 655 198 or 78 655 226.

There is an easy hike just outside Ain Draham. Take the road towards Tabarka. Just outside Ain Draham take the first left signposted ‘Col de Ruines’. Pass the Dar Ismail Hotel. Follow the road from hotel for less than 1 km. Stop at a fountain with a couple of benches. The trail starts just above this fountain. On a rock someone has painted ‘piste tourist’. The path through the pine and cork oak forest follows more or less a contour line for a while. There are some scenic views of the surrounding countryside. The path may bring you into the town but we did not hike it.


Ain Draham

Ain Draham

13. High Road to Le Kef

This is a very scenic drive high up into the hills above Le Kef with great views of the entire area.

Coming from Jendouba there is no sign for this road yet. Just turn right about 25 km before Le Kef at ’25 km marker’. The road climbs up the hill and follows the main ridge before dropping down into Le Kef.

In Le Kef it is a bit of a challenge to find the road. Go to the eastern side of town uphill from ‘Les Pins’ hotel. At the big tiled wall take the road up the hill. There is a sign for ‘Museum’; and then look for the ‘Jendouba’ sign.


High Road to Le Kef

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