More than a prestigious compilation, the UNESCO World Heritage Site list aims to recognize and preserve cultural, natural, and mixed sites of outstanding universal value. Every site on the list has its own uniqueness and significance. For the benefit of present and future generations, these sites are giving global significance and benefiting from international collaboration to safeguard and promote diversity and richness. 

 

Tunisia is home to nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites, which make for a spectacular tour for archaeologists and history lovers. Explore the maze of La Medina of Tunis and discover the Roman ruins of Carthage before heading north to Dougga or Ichkeul Park. Then it’s more into the coast where you find Kerkouane in the Cap Bon and La Medina of Sousse. 

 

Curious to know the comprehensive list and dig deeper in each site’s uniqueness? Keep reading to know more about them and decide which ones to include in your itinerary when you explore Tunisia. 

 

 

Archaeological Site of Carthage

 

Regardless to how knowledgeable you are on history, there are a few names that would ring a bell to anyone. These names include Carthage, Hannibal and Dido (aka Elyssa). Due to its historical significance and its deeply rooted story in ancient civilization, the reputation of Carthage transcends its limited location in the heart of Tunis, capital of Tunisian. 

 

Known in Greek mythology as the legendary home of Dido, whose compelling tale inspired various artistic works throughout history, Carthage stood as the original Mediterranean superpower, dominating trade routes and ports across North Africa. Serving as a crucial nexus, Carthage assimilated diverse influences from Greek, Phoenician, Italian, Iberian Peninsula, Nubian, and Libyan cultures, crafting a unique amalgamation.

 

carthage ruins unesco heritage site

 

The UNESCO listed the archaeological site of Carthage, now located in the present-day city of Carthage (Tunisia), as a World Heritage site in 1979.  Painting a vivid picture of Carthage's historical tapestry, important landmarks are scattered across the landscape, including the Punic Ports, Tophet with its ritualistic style, and the well-preserved Roman Antonine Baths. 

 

The Roman Amphitheater, once a hub of public spectacles, is an unmissable place especially in summer nights during the Festival of Carthage, where concerts of national and international artists are held. 

 

If you’re a history buff, or you simply want to grasp as many details as possible about the site, we highly recommend exploring it with a local guide. 

 

Also Read: Your Ultimate Guide to Carthage Archeological Site : A local's Guide

 

Medina of Tunis

 

Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979, La Medina of Tunis is the beating heart of Tunis. Located at the heart of the North African capital, it serves as a major destination for people looking to grasp Tunisia’s rich history, heritage and artisan savoir-faire. With its bustling marketplaces, important palaces and mosques and unique buildings, it offers a glimpse of the local life while importing you in a journey through long centuries of history. 

 

medina tunis

 

The history of La Medina of Tunis is traced back to the Arab Muslim invasion in the 7th century. The tribes and families settled in La Medina and made it one of the wealthiest city in the world between 12th and 16th centuries. This explains the number of Muslim monuments that exceed the 700 ones according to the UNESCO. 

 

 

From Beb Bhar, the Gate and main entrance of the Medina, the smells and sounds entice you to get lost in the narrow streets, explore the different shops and stumble upon unexpected monuments in the most random place. 

 

Thinking of these centuries of existence triggers the curiosity to know more about what life looked like in these streets and all the kinds of stories and myths that were conceived behind walls.  

 

 

Ichkeul National Park

 

 

 Located in the plain of Mateur, 75 km north of Tunis, Ichkeul National Park, encompassing the lake and marshes, is integral for the wintering of Western Palaearctic birds, hosting over 300,000 ducks, geese, and coots. Notably, the park shelters globally significant species like the white-headed duck, ferruginous duck, and marbled duck. 

 

ichkeul national park unesco heritage tunisia

 

The importance of Lake Ichkeul transcends the borders of this small North African country to be the last significant freshwater lake in a North African chain and one of the four main wetlands in the western basin of the Mediterranean (along with Donana in Spain, the Camargue in France and El Kala in Algeria). Its distinct hydrological pattern, marked by seasonal water level and salinity changes, serves as a crucial migratory stopover for hundreds of thousands of birds.

 

 

As a captivating destination for nature lovers, it offers a myriad of things to do, including hiking, and birdwatching. Needless to say, you need to adhere to the rules and instructions mentioned in the site.

 

Also Read : Tunisia's Stunning National Parks

 

Dougga / Thugga

 

 

Encompassing 75 hectares, Dougga stands as an exceptional incarnation of the synthesis between Numidian, Punic, Hellenistic, and Roman cultures. The history of this North-west region of Tunisia spans over 17 centuries, from the moment it served as a capital of the Numidian kingdom, then an important city for the Romans, until today as a preserved site. 

 

In this remote archaeological site, travelers have the opportunity to relive the daily life in antiquity by exploring the monumental center, entertainment buildings, and public baths that reflect the evolution of this city during the Roman period.

 

dougga tunisia heritage site

 

Listed in 1997, the site is celebrated for its outstanding integrity and authenticity, with minimal restoration impact and for its indigenous city layout adapted to Roman planning. A visit to this archeological site is a must for history, anthropology and architecture buffs. 

 

The archaeological site of Dougga, also known as Thugga, contains well-preserved Roman ruins, including a theater, temples, and other structures.

 

Also Read : Dougga Ruins Visit: A Full Traveler's Guide & All You Need to Know

 

Medina of Sousse

 

 

A coastal town in the north of Tunisia, Sousse was a crucial port during the Aghlabid period (800–909). It epitomizes a town from the early centuries of Islam and showcases Arabo-Muslim urbanism. Marked by its kasbah, ramparts, medina with the Great Mosque and ribat, it was an integral part of a coastal defense system. 

 

sousse medina

 

In the heart of the bustling this coastal city, the Medina of Sousse is nestled, as a harmonious archaeological complex reflecting Arabo-Muslim urbanism adapted to a coastal town exposed to piracy. It stands as a prototype of military coastal architecture from the first centuries of Islam (which is also the case of Medina of Monastir). Architecture and history lovers can get many insights about this when they visit the landmarks, like the Ribat and the Great Mosque. 

 

The mix of the Arabo-Muslim and Mediterranean architecture makes of La Medina of Sousse a historical witness to the civilization of the early Hegira centuries.  This significance made the medina listed by the UNESCO in 1988. 

 

Also Read: Sousse Travel Guide: Exploring Tunisia's Enchanting Coastal City

 

 The Amphitheatre of El Jem

 

 

One of the first sites to be included in this renowned list, the Amphitheatre of El Jem, stands as a testament to the grandeur of Imperial Rome. It boasts the ruins of North Africa's largest colosseum as it could accommodate up to 35,000 spectators.

 

Stretching back to the 3rd century, this colossal amphitheatre was modeled on the Colosseum of Rome. This is to say, it is an exceptional example of Roman architecture, unique in Africa for being freestanding and not built against a hillside. 

 

El Jem Tunisia

 

With a vast size and capacity, the amphitheatre's facade showcases three levels of Corinthian or composite style arcades. Internally, it preserves much of the supporting infrastructure for tiered seating. A milestone in understanding the history of Roman Africa, the Amphitheatre of El Jem also reflects the prosperity of the ancient city of Thysdrus (modern-day El Jem) during the Roman Empire. 

 

Recognized for its rarity and architectural prowess, it remains virtually intact, emphasizing its significance in Roman imperial propaganda. The site is easily accessible via train. 

 

 

Kairouan 

 

 

Serving as the capital of Tunisia until the 12th century, Kairouan has its history deeply rooted in Arab Muslim history. From its inception, the city was founded by the Arab Umayyad general Uqba ibn Nafi as a military base and flourished under the Aghlabid dynasty. Throughout different dynasties, be it Fatimid, Zirid, or others, Kairouan's role grew as an intellectual and religious center of Islam. Nowadays, Kairouan holds tremendous significance as the fourth holiest city of Islam and the spiritual capital of the Maghreb area. 

 

medina kairouan

 

Thanks to all these influences, UNESCO listed the city in 1988 as a World Heritage Site. The Great Mosque, the Mosque of the Three Gates, and the Medina of Kairouan are a must-see if you ever decide to visit Tunisia and include Kairouan in your itinerary.

 

Good to know: The old Medina of Kairouan is also renowned as a filming location for the iconic Indiana Jones series.

 

Also Read: Kairouan Travel Guide: Things to Do

 

Punic Town of Kerkouane and its Necropolis

 

 

The Phoenician city of Kerkuane, likely abandoned during the First Punic War around 250 B.C., stands as the sole surviving example of a Phoenicio-Punic city. Situated on Cape Bon, its well-preserved remains provide exceptional insights into Phoenician-Punic town planning, distinct from Roman influence seen in Carthage, Tyre, or Byblos. 

 

Tunisia: Ancient Punic Site of Kerkouane

 

Discovered in 1952, The site showcases a sophisticated layout that includes a port, ramparts, residential areas, shops, temples, and a necropolis—all of them maintaining their 3rd-century B.C. configuration. Located  less than a kilometer away, the Necropolis of Arg el Ghazouani offers invaluable glimpses into Punic funerary architecture. 

 

Abandoned since the 3rd century B.C., Kerkuane's unique state of preservation aids in understanding Punic town planning and architecture during the 6th to mid-3rd century B.C. For all the above-mentioned details, the town was added to the official UNESCO list of Heritage Sites in 1985. 

 

Djerba 

 

The fresh addition to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Site, Djerba is an island located in the south of Tunisia and encapsulating a unique blend of culture, history, and natural beauty. This Mediterranean island carries the influences of Phoenician, Roman, and Arab civilizations, showcased in its ancient ruins, mosques, and synagogues. 

 

The island's unique architectural charm, characterized by white buildings known as "Houch," reflects the challenges of building a civilization in an island environment with unpredictable weather and a distinct ecosystem.

 

djerba unesco

 

Boasting  one of the world's oldest synagogues, The Synagogue of El Ghriba in Djerba serves as a major pilgrimage site for Jews and stands as witness for the coexistence reigning the island. From the Gallela pottery to the Djerbian dress and the Djerbian hat, there are many cultural symbols to explore, understand and embrace. 

 

As an island, Djerba offers pristine Mediterranean beaches with crystal-clear waters, making it a perfect destination for sunbathers and water sports enthusiasts. Be it diving, surfing, paddling or kayaking, Djerba has something for every adventurer. 

 

Also Read: 13 Amazing Things to Do in Djerba

 

 

F&Q About UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Tunisia

 

How many UNESCO World Heritage Sites are there in Tunisia? 

 

As of 2023, there are nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Tunisia. 

 

In which category UNESCO World Heritage Sites are listed? 

 

 All of these eight sites are listed under the Cultural category.

 

How many sites there are in the tentative list? 

 

There are 15 sites on the tentative list. If you're interested in learning more about them, here is the list: 

 

bouhedma national park

 

- National Park of El Feija

- National Park of Bouhedma

- Chott El Jerid

- Oasis of Gabès

- The Royal Mausoleums of Numidia, Mauretania, and Pre-Islamic Funerary Monuments

- The Roman Hydraulic Complex of Zaghouan-Carthage

- The Ancient Quarries of Numidian Marble in Chimtou

- Borders of the Roman Empire: Southern Tunisian Limes

- Medina of Sfax

- Marine Permian of Jebel Tebaga

- The Stratotype of the Cretaceous-Tertiary Boundary (K-T Boundary)

- The Table of Jugurtha in Kalaat-Senen

- Troglodytic Habitat and the World of Ksour in Southern Tunisia

- Rammadiya of El Magtaa (El Mekta), the Princeps Site of Capsian Culture

- The Archaeological Site of Sbeïtla

 

 

Is Tunisia the country with the most Unesco sites in Africa?

 

No. Tunisia is the third country with the biggest number of sites officially listed in the UNESCO Ethiopia leads with eleven sites, followed by South Africa with ten, while Morocco and Tunisia each have nine. Algeria, Egypt, Senegal, and Tanzania each boast seven sites. 

 

 

Make sure to include some of these sites in your itinerary 

 

From the ancient ruins of Carthage to the punic town of Kerkuane and the bustling Medina of Sousse, each site caters a unique experience for travelers to enjoy their time and explore the new destination. Consider adding a few of these extraordinary locations to your itinerary to embark on a journey full of historical insights and immersive experiences.