Depart Auckland on Qatar Airlines for Doha. We are met on arrival and transferred to our overnight accommodation in Doha.
Up early and transfer back to the airport for our departure to Tunis, Tunisia. Arrive into Tunis-Carthage International Airport and head over to our historical hotel nestled in the heart of the nation’s capital. We’ll ease into the day with a guided walking tour, exploring the city’s sunny squares, maze-like alleyways, and well-preserved historical district. We’ll weave through the Tunis Medina, a city-within-a-city home to thousands of market stalls, restaurants, and mosques, and get the lowdown on what makes Tunis tick, pausing to sample some snacks—perhaps a steaming deep-fried, and yolk-filled brik à l'oeuf. However, you’ll want to save some room since we’ll be stopping by one of the best restaurants in Tunis for our welcome dinner this evening! Accommodation at a hotel, Tunis (D)
This morning, we’ll hurtle back in time a few thousand years as we explore the relics of Carthage, once the most powerful trading city in the Western Mediterranean. Dating back to the ninth century BC, the city was a longstanding foe to the Romans and the birthplace of the formidable warlord Hannibal, who allegedly marched his massive army complete with war elephants through the Alps to invade Rome. Step by step, we’ll trace the history of the ancient city from the enormous Roman-era cisterns of La Malga to enigmatic Carthaginian sites of sacrifice. In the afternoon, we’ll head to a favourite local spot: the beachside town of La Goulette, where we’ll slurp down fresh fish and grilled seafood, and look out over the shimmering Mediterranean. Once we get back to Tunis, take some time to explore the bustling markets and Brutalist architecture of the city before dinner. Overnight Tunis. (B/L/D)
After an early breakfast, we’ll hit the road, briefly stopping over in Sousse, a busy port city that lies on the Gulf of Hammamet. We’ll wander through its narrow, millennia-old streets; explore its architectural diversity; and glimpse some of its massive, Roman-era mosaics. After pausing for lunch, we’ll arrive in Kairouan, one of the holy cities of Islam and an important pilgrimage site.
We’ll visit the Grand Mosque, a spectacular structure complete with an elaborate mihrab, intricately carved columns, and what’s believed to be the oldest surviving mihrab in the world. Later, we’ll visit a few lesser-known spots, such as the alleged burial site of Muhammad’s barber. Tonight, we’ll relax a bit before settling into our hotel in Kairouan (B/L/D)
Today we’ll visit El Jem, a massive, Roman-era colosseum that hosted gladiatorial battles as early as the third century. With an estimated capacity of 35,000, it’s one of the largest Roman amphitheatres in the world. From there, it’s off to the Aghlabid Basins, giant hydraulic structures erected in the ninth century that provided water for the people of Kairouan for over a millennium. After learning about the architectural feat, we’ll catch a ferry to Djerba, also known as “the Island of Dreams.”
With a rich history and renowned contemporary art scene, the island is home to a vibrant, longstanding Jewish community—and one of the oldest synagogues in Africa—as well as an open air art museum, where artists from all around the world have painted mythical beasts, Arabic calligraphy graffiti, and more on the city walls and rooftops. Overnight at a boutique guest house, Djerba (B/L/D)
We’ll spend the morning exploring Djerba by foot, visiting the El Ghriba Synagogue before delving into the larger-than-life Djerbahood murals splashed across city walls. Later, we’ll explore an abandoned beach resort and learn about the Jasmine Revolution, a 2011 civil protest against decades of corruption that sparked the Arab Spring. For lunch, we’ll head to the medina, where fishermen string up fresh fish to display their catch. After selecting what we need, we’ll ask a local restaurant to grill up our fish. Once we’re satiated, it’s time for our journey into the Sahara. We’ll cross the first of the desert’s massive salt lakes before arriving at our destination, a stone house at the base of mountains in Tataouine. After a long day full of adventure, we’ll fire up the grill for BBQ by the pool before calling it a night. Overnight at a guest house, Tataouine (B/L/D)
Today we’ll be exploring Tataouine from various vantage points, from its hilltop caves to its underground dugouts—and even taking an intergalactic perspective. Made famous by its Star Wars namesake, Tatooine, the town still hosts a smattering of otherworldly relics from the film set. Whether you’re a Star Wars fan or not, you’ll likely discover this area to be one of the most visually stunning places you’ve ever seen. We’ll share a traditional Berber meal with a few friends, and drop into a cave for a cup of tea! Then, we’ll head to Chenini, an ancient Berber village tucked into the cliffs, which served as inspiration for the name of a moon orbiting Luke Skywalker’s home planet. After a full day of exploring, we’ll return to our hotel and rest up before tomorrow’s adventure into the desert. Overnight at a guest house, Tataouine (B/L/D)
We’ll set out early this morning, driving up into the mountains, where we’ll stop for a coffee break with panoramic views. We’ll pass innumerable natural wonders, including a hot-water desert spring, often thronged by thirsty camels. Once we reach the desert, we’ll switch over to all-terrain vehicles and journey 60 miles from the nearest human settlement until we reach our campsite. We’ll set up camp, enjoy a traditional Berber dinner by the campfire, and, once the sun sets, turn our gaze to the sky. With the closest source of electricity about a two-hour drive from our camp, we’ll enjoy the glittering mosaic of stars and planets in the night sky with unparalleled lucidity. Tonight, we’ll have comfortable tents to sleep in, though you’re also welcome to bring a blanket outside and drift off underneath the stars. Overnight in Desert Tents (B/L/D)
After breakfast in the desert, we’ll climb back into our jeeps and cross the vast, multi-coloured Chott el Djerid Salt Lake. Appearing in shades of green, red, and white, the (mostly dry) lake will give us lots to look at as we drive through it. We’ll pause in the middle, getting out to examine its brilliant pink hue before continuing to Douz. We’ll stop here, just a stone’s throw from the Algerian border, to break for lunch and stretch our legs. Later, we’ll visit Les Refroidisseurs d’Eau, a gargantuan, concrete facility built to process, cool, and store the hot water that bubbles up from beneath the desert sand.
A hidden gem not often frequented by outsiders, it’s the perfect place to enjoy a free, hot mineral shower. Our final destination today will be Tozeur, a tropical oasis deep in the desert, where we’ll taste the city’s world-renowned lamb before retiring to our treehouse-style apartments lodged between towering, leafy palms. Enjoy a hot, mineral water shower. Accommodation in tree-house style apartments, Tozeur. (B/L/D)
We’ll start the day off-roading and, with the help of our trusty (four-wheel-drive) steeds, we’ll cruise back across the Saharan sands, passing oases and bountiful date farms as we go. Along the way, we’ll stop at another abandoned Star Wars film set, the town of Mos Espa. Though the set is slowly being overtaken by sand, you can still spot “Moisture Evaporators,” among other space structures, lining the streets. We’ll break for lunch in Tozeur and check out the local medina and souk. For those interested, there’s an optional excursion at own expense to yet another Star Wars relic—the Lars Homestead, home to Luke Skywalker, himself! Overnight in tree-house style apartments, Tozeur (B/L/D)
This morning we’ll head north along the Algerian border, from Tozeur to the ancient city of Sbeitla. Also known as “Sufetula,” Sbeitla is believed to have been the point of entry for the Islamic conquest of Africa. We’ll explore local Roman ruins and sample some wild boar, a contemporary delicacy with ancient roots. After a day of walking, exploring, and feasting, enjoy some rest before our final full day together. Accommodation in Hotel Sbeitla (B/D)
Dougga is the best-preserved Roman town in North Africa, and arguably anywhere on the planet. An archaeologist’s paradise, its ancient temples, bathhouses, mosaics, and original Roman streets still stand as if frozen in time.
We’ll aim to visit its massive theatre, chariot racing arena, and the remains of the ancient temple known as the Capitol. Then, we’ll embark upon the final leg of our overland journey, looping back to Tunis. Upon returning to the capital, we’ll celebrate our time together with a farewell dinner. Our last night in Hotel Tunis (B/L/D)
After a final breakfast together, the day is free until mid-afternoon we head to the airport and depart for Doha on Qatar Airlines (B)
Reconnect with Qatar Airlines for our overnight flight to Auckland