Africa · Travel

What to Do in Tozeur – Star Wars, Streams & The Sahara

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On the northern edge of the vast Sahara desert lies Tozeur, one of south Tunisia’s main cities. It sits in a huge palm oasis rich with dates and provides a welcome respite from the desert and salt lakes that surround it. Many visitors to the area arrive or leave from the airport here and if that’s your plan, make sure to give yourself at least a day in Tozeur to explore. Wondering what to do in Tozeur? Check out these 8 things to do in Tozeur for the best experience.

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1.) Explore Mos Espa

Start your trip by heading into the desert (or is that a galaxy far, far away)? Between two large salt lakes you’ll find an original Star Wars set strewn across a small section of desert. If you’ve seen Episode I, II & III then you might recognise it as the port city of Tatooine (not to be confused with the real life village of Tataouine which is nearby). It is best to hit this spot earlier in the day before it really heats up as there is almost no shade here.

The domed houses look pretty convincing as an alien world from far away, but once you are truly close up and can poke your head into the dwellings, you’ll see that they are held up by a little more than papier-mâché and sticks. Still, it’s such fun to run around and play it being Jedi. There isn’t a lot of information boards so I would recommend watching (or re-watching) the first three movies (in the new order) before you go for the full immersive experience.

Even if you aren’t that into the franchise, there are camel rides and quad bikes that you can enjoy.

2.) Try Tunisian Fare

Most restaurants in town serve Tunisian cuisine and there is little to choose between many of them but here are two that come highly recommended. (Just remember that no meal in Tunisia is quick, allow an hour or two for a slow feast). Restaurant le Soleil, Le Petit Prince and Restaurant Dar Deda are all top spots.

  • Couscous – A small wheat grain that plumps up with some hot water. That’s how we all know couscous but Tunisia does things a little differently, For a start, it’s called kosksi here. Full of flavour, topped with perfectly soft veggies and meat (if you like) the Tunisian cous cous is filling, super savoury and seriously moreish (or is that moorish?) The meat and vegetables are cooked in a pot and the steam rises to cook the couscous in a steamer above so it absorbs every last bit of aromatic steam.
  • Lamb – The most popular meat in Tunisia is lamb. The strong flavour makes meals pop with deliciousness and its slow cooking usually means a divine lusciousness. Keep your eye out for Koucha, lamb shoulder cooked with turmeric and smoky cayenne pepper.
  • Tajine – If you have been to other North African nations you might think you know what tajine is. Well, if you order one, what arrives at your table is going to be very different from the Moroccan stew you might be expecting. In Tunisia, tajine refers to a crustless quiche, similar to a spanish omelette or frittata. Lots of yummy ingredients, surrounded by a cheesy egg mixture and baked until solid but fluffy. This is a staple in the Flying Fluskey household and makes an excellent lunch.
  • Camel – You are in camel country so it is no wonder you’ll see it on menus. The meat is rich, red meat with a flavour that is somewhere between lamb and beef. If you are keen to try it, look out for camel steak or camel burgers on the menus of the more expensive restaurants in the city.
  • Brik – Brik is not as heavy as it sounds. Crispy malsouka pastry (similar to filo) is stuffed with a combo of these fillings: potato, tuna, chicken, anchovies, harissa, onion and if you are lucky, a nice runny egg. We had a fantastic version at Palm Beach Palace Hotel but cheap street food versions are abundant.

But when it comes to Tozeur, brik isn’t only about food…

3.) Check Out the Bricks

As you travel through Tozeur, you can’t help but notice the intricate building designs. These are created by the local bricks, baked in the Saharan sun and fired by the wood of the palm trees. In summer traditional brickmakers can whip up hundreds every day, hence the abundance. The geometric patterns, hiding airy courtyards behind, are not just for decoration. The method of moving bricks forward and backward throughout the pattern not only looks good but also creates little shadows. The shadows both cool the houses by adding more dimensions for the sun to miss but also create little convection currents to cool them further. It is VERY smart (and pretty) desert engineering.

4.) Relax (or Don’t) at Sahara Lounge

Tucked away in Tozeur’s date palm-landed oasis, Sahara Lounge has two faces. If you just want a nice place to sip a mint tea, then claim a day bed and relax. However, if you like your tea with a side of adventure then ask about their ropes course.

Sahara Lounge has a zipwire course which extends around the edge of the property and is surprisingly fabulous. The whole thing takes around 40 minutes and is thrilling. You’ll need some basic fitness to climb the nets between the lines but if we can do it, you can too!

5.) Do a Little Shopping

A wander through the Bazar or Medina is the best way to see a slice of life whilst doing some souvenir shopping. Displayed along the main Avenue Abdul Kacem Chebbi you will find a line of shops selling handicrafts, furniture and pretty homewares. However, if you venture further into the twisting medina, you will see people buying their everyday goods. Keep an eye out for basket shops. Palm leaves are woven into beautiful bags, baskets and lampshades and make wonderful reminders of your time in the oasis.

If you want to pick up some fresh fruit, dates or just want to wander around somewhere people are doing their daily food shop, then pop into the Central Market. There are fruit and vegetable stalls in the front and & protein stalls in the cooler back section.

6.) Take Yourself for the Perfect Date

Nestled within the Palmeraie is Eden Palm, the date museum. You will get a guided tour of the date palm garden, explaining the date palms and other fruit trees as well as the irrigation practices. Tunisia’s history with dates is long and interesting, and the passionate guides bring it to life as you stroll through the greenery.

Then, when you are a little warm and in need to sustenance you are taken inside. There is a tasting of all kinds of delicious date products; chutneys, syrups and preserves that you can also purchase. If you fancy sticking around and doing some more exploring, horse and carts wait outside and take tourists through the palm trees.

7.) Hike Chebika Oasis

Chebika desert oasis is known as a Berber village, and it once was but it severely flooded in 1969 so now, nobody lives there. However, it doesn’t make it any less wonderful to visit. When you first drive up, it could be hard to tell that you’ve arrived at an oasis, with only a steep rock face, rising from the sand. But trust me, there is water here.

Start by heading through the buildings and up towards the goat statue you can see high on the rock. It is quite steep so make sure you have good walking shoes. Stop to catch your breath and take in the view across the desert halfway up. At the top of the hill, there is a small gap between the rocks which you should make your way through. On the other side you will see the small cluster of palms, denoting the spring.

Head down towards the water source and if it is really hot you can pop your feet in to cool down. (Well, you can actually swim if the water is high enough and the day hot enough). The scenery is spectacular with the green pool backed by sheer rock and the lush palm trees overhanging it. It’s a lovely spot for a dip. Traversing from the pool, through the gorge gives a striking aspect that you would miss approaching from the other direction, Follow the water back towards the palm trees and up to the cafe where you can grab a quick drink.

8.) Get Your Feet Wet at Tamerza Canyon

Wind your way up the highway, curving around the hillsides until you come to another rush of water in the desert. In fact, this is the largest oasis in Tunisia. Tamerza Canyon is home to a river and waterfall fed by the surrounding hills.

Make your way past the souvenir stalls selling t-shirts, camel trinkets and tea until you can see the waterfall. It is remarkable to see the contrast of bare rock, yellow sand and flowing water.

Even at low water, it’s a beautiful spot to visit. You can walk down into the valley and right up to the falls. In fact, you can nip behind the water as long as you don’t mind getting wet feet. (All hail the JuJu Jellies).

How to Get to Tozeur

Tozeur is an eight hour drive from Tunis on well paved roads. It is possible to do in a day but rather hard going. The better way to reach Tozeur is to fly. Domestic flights from Tunis take just over an hour. Tozeur-Nefta Airport is only 3 miles from the centre of Tozeur so takes just 10-15 minutes in a taxi, just bear in mind that TunisAir has been known to cancel and delay flights so a plan B is handy.

Where to Stay in Tozeur

Tozeur doesn’t offer much in the way of nightlife so picking a great hotel is a must. The Palm Beach Palace Hotel‘s stunning lobby and fully stocked bar is a great option. There is a large outdoor pool for sunny days and summer nights and a beautifully heated indoor option for those chillier winter evenings. The cocktails are reasonably priced and the blue lagoon is top notch but they also have some local spirits which are fun to try as you sit by the waterfall.

Check out our full Palm Beach Palace Tozeur Review

When it’s time to sleep, the large bedrooms with their huge double beds and beautifully tiled bathrooms are modern, calming and comfortable.

For another really cool experience, check out nearby desert camps. Sleeping under canvas, with a sky full of stars above and the golden sand below is a magical experience. Saharansky offers great packages which include food, accommodation and a camel ride too.

How to Get Around Tozeur

To see and do this list of things to do in Tozeur, you are going to need a driver. You could spend the whole day in town but to make the most of the surrounding area, get a 4×4 and driver. Most hotels can help arrange a private driver for a very reasonable rate. You could also opt for a tour that takes you out to these sights.

If you plan to stay in town then you can walk between some of these sights easily. Or you could hop in one of the many horse and carts that can be found near most tourist spots.

Check out all our travels in Tunisia

Final Thoughts on What to Do in Tozeur

Tozeur may not be on the normal tourist itinerary for Tunisia…but it should be! It is a world away from Hammamet & Sousse with unique desert landscapes and cool film moments. Tunisia’s beautiful oasis should be part of every Tunisian trip.

Rosie xx

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