Tunisia

With 45 countries under my belt, I often get questions from people about how I choose my destinations. And that, my friend, is a complicated answer. Sometimes it is at the recommendation of a friend, sometimes a recommendation from a stranger. Maybe I saw an image in magazine or heard about it on the Travel Channel. Regardless, most of my adventures have an interesting reason or influence:

Where I have been:
Antarctica: I had this goal to go to all seven continents by age 30. I beat it by nine years. Coincidentally enough, just as I started engaging with tour companies about booking a trip to finish off my continent list, I won a trip to Antarctica from Adventure Center. Talk about good timing.
Panama: In 8th grade, my teacher used to reward us with these silver pins that had the school’s mascot on it (a bronco). Often it was for doing an exceptional job on an assignment but sometimes it would be for answering a tough question. I got mine when the question was “How do ships get through the Panama Canal?” I rushed home and asked my father, who had worked for Holland-America cruise lines in his younger years, how and he explained to me how the series of locks worked. Ever since then, I had wanted to go to experience it for myself. When I booked my flight to Ecuador in 2006, it turns out my plane was going to stop in Panama City anyways so I made a long weekend of it and took the official tour of the Panama Canal.
Tunisia: And sometimes, a trip looks interesting, the flight is priced right, and the dates work perfectly. That’s what happened with Tunisia, a trip I ended up really enjoying partially because it was “off the beaten path”.


On my list:

Fernando de Noronha, Brazil: Since I won the trip to Antarctica, I thought that I would indulge in business class airfare between my hometown and Argentina. On the way home, I was seated next to an executive from Coca-Cola. He told me about Fernando de Noronha and, ever since, I have wanted to visit.
Jordan: I have a giant map in my cubicle at work with pins in all the places I have been. One day, my colleagues discovered I had been to six of the New Seven Wonders of the World. The one that was missing? Petra. So, naturally, a week or so later, I booked a trip to Jordan.
Namibia: I have seen so many pictures in books and on websites of the many wonders of Namibia like the Skeleton Coast and the beautiful sand dunes. It was my little secret until Angelina Jolie had to go have her baby there. Luckily, it still hasn’t lost its magic and I am eager to make the journey.
Madagascar: DIWYY co-founder, Jerri, my brother, and I have this odd fascination with lemurs. Enough said.

Written by Kristina Wegscheider

How do you decide where to go? Post a comment here so we can learn how you find your travel inspiration!

Need some inspiration for your next trip? Look no further than your favorite TV shows and movies.

Girlfriend Getaways: Do you love Sex and the City or Gossip Girl? Head to New York City to see the locations of your favorite shows.

On Location Tours offers guided tours of the locations made famous by both TV and movies. Love SATC? Check out the daily 3.5 hour tour that hits all the hot spots from Midtown to the Meatpacking District. Excited for the movie premiere? Why not take advantage of the SATC2 movie package? On May 28, 2010, you will be treated to a tour, dinner, movie admission, and entrance to a nightclub after the screening. Package is only $179 and tickets can be purchased here.

Is Gossip Girl more your style? On Location Tours also offers a half day tour that peruses all the hot spots on the Upper East Side.

Sci-Fi: For the geek chic girl or to appease your male travel partners, why not venture to the filming locations of Stars Wars or Lord of the Rings?

Many scenes in Star Wars were filmed in the southern part of Tunisia, a small country in North Africa. If the epicenter of your trip is visiting filming location, check out this resourceful website with information on planning your adventure. Prefer to see more of the country with a bit of Star Wars here and there? Visit Peregrine Adventures’ website and review the itinerary for their Highlights of Tunisia trip. If you opt to venture solo, be sure to add a stay at the Sidi Driss Hotel in Matmata to your itinerary (while the hotel doesn’t have an official website, you can book through most hotel booking sites). It is very simple in terms of accommodations but you can pretend to be Luke Skywalker for the night.

If you prefer  to venture to Middle Earth, get on the next plane to New Zealand to begin your journey. Southern Lakes Sightseeing offers an array of experiences and adventures that any Lord of the Rings fan would appreciate. And while you explore the beautiful South Island of New Zealand, don’t forget to enjoy all the other spectacular things you can do in Queenstown like jet-boating, bungee jumping, and skydiving. After all, it is a city that loves adrenaline! Need some more tips to start your planning? Read DIWYY guest writer Kylie’s post on the location.

Island Fever: Want a location that will suit everyone’s interest? Visit the Hawaiian destination where Lost and many other famous movies like Jurassic Park were filmed. The sunny island of Oahu will be a great place for you to see where the scenes of Lost have been filmed while also enjoying the many other cultural and adventure options the island has to offer. KOS Tours, Inc. offers tours ranging in length from 2-8 hours covering the many filming locations on the island.

Written by DIWYY co-founder, Kristina Wegscheider. Email her at kristina@diwyy.com.

Tunisia Paris 09-10 110 As told by DIWYY co-founder, Kristina, who traveled to Tunisia in December 2009.

Tour Operator: Peregrine Adventures

Trip Name: Highlights of Tunisia

Starting/Ending Point: This trip started and ended in Tunis, the capital of Tunisia. A complimentary arrival transfer from the airport was included.

Number of Days: 10 days

When I went: I left on a late December 2009 departure of this tour. Even though it was winter, it was beautiful. The days were mild, sunny and full of blue skies but the nights did get a little chilly. I would much rather have these conditions then the 45 degree celcius summer days the locals were telling me about!

Highlights of trip: Tunis is a modern capital city rich in both French and Middle Eastern influences. You can spend a few days exploring The Medina, the historical site of Carthage and the beautiful ocean-front city of Sidi Bou Said, known for its blue and white color scheme. While in Tunis, we also explored the Bardo Museum, housing numerous mosaics and other relics. During my free time, I would walk around the main strip, Avenue Bourguiba, and also ventured to the local parks.

The trip continued to the holy city of Kairouan but not before a day excursion to the city of Dougga. It is beautiful and, if you didn’t tell me, I would have sworn I was in Tuscany. The landscape is lush and green, full of immaculate rows of olive trees. The site of Dougga is also impressive and the tour allots a few hours here to explore the ruins and take photographs.

Throughout the next few days, as your head south, you will see the landscape transform for greenery to the desert terrain. Most of the towns you encounter along the way, either for rest breaks, lunch or overnights, will be an oasis of the Sahara Desert. You will overnight in Tozeur, a small oasis primarily centered around tourism, and Ksar Ghilane, a beautiful spot where you will overnight camp in luxury tents.

Venturing north again, you will visit Matmata, a popular stop for any Star Wars fans, as that is where they have shot many of the scenes for the movies. On the way back to Tunis, a brief stint in Mahdia, a seaside town, will complete your journey. My favorite things here were a day trip to El Jem, home of the famous coliseum, and walking alongside the ocean on the nice, paved pathway.

Tips for future travelers:

-Be prepared to bargain when shopping in the markets. Never accept a first offer! Same thing goes for cab fares. Ask your guide or someone at the hotel if you need a realistic idea about prices.

-Speaking of shopping, most items will be available throughout the country so you can get things at the end of the trip in most cases. Only some items are region-specific and your guide will point those out. Also, the Monoprix grocery store in Tunis is a great shopping zone. While you can’t bargain, you can get Tunisian-made goodies like sea salt and olive oil which make great gifts (just remember to put the olive oil in your checked bag since it is a liquid over 3 ounces).

-98% of Tunisian residents are Muslim so conservative dress is a must, especially if you’ll be visiting a mosque. Choose lightweight fabrics that are breathable and try to layer with scarves and a jacket for the varying temperatures. In Tunis, I opted for jeans and a hoodie but, in the desert, I lived in my Lululemon pants, long-sleeve shirts with built in SPF, and a tighter fitting hoodie with a wind-breaker style jacket over. Sunglasses and hats are essential as well.

-Most dishes contain meat in this country so, if you are vegetarian, bring extra snacks in your bag and plan on meals of couscous and pasta. Fruit is readily available here so you’ll always be able to grab a banana, oranges or some dates for a quick bite. If you have a food allergy or want to ensure you truly get a vegetarian dish, use Google Translate to make a card in Arabic and French that says no fish/no meat or the specific items you cannot have.

-Smoking is very common in Tunisia. In most tourist restaurants, there will be a non-smoking section so be sure to ask for that. As much as you try to avoid it, you will still find yourself smelling like it. Bring Febreeze to refresh your clothing at the end of the day and perfume or essential oils to mask the odor.

-Surprisingly, hair dryers were not available at all hotels (and if they were, there was sometimes a fee). If you use one daily, you may consider bringing a small travel-size one with.

Would you like to write a review of a trip you have taken? Email kristina@diwyy.com.

Been on Peregrine’s Highlights of Tunisia? Add your tips and suggestions in the comments field.