18 best sights of Djerba – description and photos
The fortress of Ghazi Mustafa, the most monumental landmark of Djerba, is located on the waterfront of the island’s capital, the city of Houmt Souk. Its long and glorious battle history goes back to the 9th century, when the Arab conquerors of North Africa erected a fortified citadel on the coast to protect it against pirates.
La Griba Synagogue
Tunisia’s “main” synagogue and one of the oldest in North Africa, La Griba, which means “amazing” in Arabic, is located in the small village of Hara Segira, which has had a majority Jewish population since the 6th century BC.
Djerba Lagoon is one of the few places in Tunisia where pink flamingos like to hang out. These spectacular birds are addicted to the salty shallow water on the northeast coast of the island, which is literally teeming with all kinds of necessary (and apparently tasty) sea creatures.
Gellala Folk Museum
The Folk Traditions Museum in Gellala is the perfect place to try to figure out what the unique, ancient and slightly strange life of the people of Djerba is like, so different from the rest of Tunisia’s way of life.
Djerba Explore Park
All fun in a bottle – that’s how you can describe the entertainment and educational park “Djerba Explore”. Occupying a part of the east coast of the island, close to the tourist zone of hotels, restaurants and stores, the park is by right considered the most interesting attraction of Djerba.
Enchanting, inscrutable and slightly alien, Djerba is a kind of world in the world: this small island is very different from the rest of Tunisia. Despite the fact that Djerba and the mainland are separated by a strait only 2 km wide, most of the local customs and traditions are not found anywhere else in Tunisia. It includes mosques of different directions of Islam, the ancient synagogue La Griba and the only crocodile nursery of Tunisia. Most tourists in Djerba resemble the mythical Odysseus and divide their time between swimming and sunbathing on the magnificent beaches and visits to thalassotherapy centers – and this is fundamentally wrong: Djerba attractions are guaranteed to charm even the most inveterate “relaxer”.
The history of Djerba begins in the times of the legendary Odysseus – once the hero languished here for seven years in captivity of the beautiful nymph Calypso, who stupefied him with a decoction of lotus flowers.
Curiosities of Djerba
The first place tourists who decide to get out of the fragrant bowels of the hotel are the Djerba Explore amusement park, which has a lot of activities for children and adults as well as several interesting museums. Djerba Explore is the only crocodile farm in the country where you can see many African wildlife species like the giant Nile crocodiles and alligators. Visitors are invited to view the predators from above, as well as to be present while they feed. There is also the Lella Hadria Museum of Folk Traditions and History with exhibits of everyday life of Djerba residents, national costumes and handicrafts.
La Griba (“the amazing”) is another iconic landmark of Djerba. According to legend, the synagogue was founded in the 6th century B.C. by a miraculous sign from heaven. Since then, the site of Hara-Segira, where the synagogue is located, has been home to the oldest Jewish diaspora outside of Israel, and a large pilgrimage takes place here every May in memory of Talmud sage Shimon bar Yohai.
History and Archaeology
The history of Djerba begins from the times of the legendary Odysseus – once the hero languished for seven years in captivity of the beautiful nymph Calypso, who stupefied him with decoction of lotus flowers and it happened in Djerba. More realistic facts from the rich history of the island are the ancient Roman causeway, which connects the island with the continent. It is still active today, though already as a modern highway with an asphalt surface. The ruins of the Roman settlement Meninx “are responsible” for the archaeology on Djerba. But most of the local architectural monuments belong to later eras: the Spanish fort Gazi Mustafa (or Borj el-Kebir) and mosques: Jemaah el-Ghorba (for the followers of Malekism), El-Sheikh (the main mosque of the Ibadi) and Jamaa-Ettrouk (Turkish mosque). Another must-see is the ancient Gellala Mosque and the Museum of Folk Traditions of the same name next door.
Nature and wildlife
“The wildlife of Djerba is the pink flamingos that fill the Lagoon, a natural bay on the northern coast of the island, in winter and early spring. From the air the bay looks as if it is covered with delicate pink lotuses. To get close to the birds, however, is almost impossible – at the slightest approach they begin to move away from the shore.
Djerba is the only place in the country where there is an interchange of olive trees and date palms. The soil is very fertile and saturated with moisture so that even these different species feel very well together.
18 Sites in Djerba Worth Visiting
You’ve probably heard a little bit about a place like Djerba. The sights of this North African island are familiar to few residents of our country, although there is a lot to see here. Djerba is a quiet resort, from which you can expect all the delights of a classic “island vacation”.
The island is located just five kilometers from the southern coast of Tunisia, and its gentle sandy beaches and perfect Mediterranean climate make this place ideal for those who want to bask in the sun in the winter vacations. It is a great place to relax and to discover the culture of the region, visiting old villages that have preserved their original form and spirit.
Humt Suk Old Town
Humt Suk Old Town area.| Photo: Daniel PERRIES / Flickr.
Take a look at these quaint mazes of alleyways with their picturesque white houses and stores selling all sorts of ceramics, and you’ll understand why the old town neighborhood of Humt Suk (the capital of Djerba) was literally made for hiking.
There are all the traditional products of the local peoples, including Berber jewelry, textiles, homemade shoes, copper and silverware, leather accessories, and tons of hand-painted ceramics. It’s a dream come true for shopaholics, who simply can’t leave here without shopping.
After shopping in Humt Suk during the day, head to its small harbor in the evening to watch the fishing boats sway serenely on the waves of the Mediterranean and enjoy the atmosphere of an old African fishing village.
Address: Houmt Souk, Tunisia.
Museum of Folk Art
Folk Art Museum | Photo: Christopher Wilton-Steer / Flickr.
This modestly sized folk art museum is located in a beautiful 18th century building called Zaouia Sidi Zitouni with unusual vaults on the ceiling. In the former prayer hall today you can see an exhibition of colorful traditional costumes. Connoisseurs of traditional folk cultures should come here to immerse themselves in the history of Djerba Island.
Here you will get to know the cultural traditions of the island, look at ancient jewelry, ceramics, and even see traditional wedding chests. And in one small room is a mini-museum devoted entirely to ancient editions of the Koran.
Address: Djerba Traditional Heritage Museum, Houmt Souk, Tunisia.
The Borj el-Kebir Fortress
Borj el-Kebir fortress.| Photo: wikimedia.
This fort by the harbor has graced the face of Khumt Souk since the 13th century. In the XV century, the original building was strengthened, and a little later, in the XVI century, it was rebuilt – that’s when the famous corsair Turgut ordered to build on its place a huge fortress Borj el-Kebir. In the 1960s, the authorities began extensive restoration work designed to prevent the destruction of the complex.
This is one of the best views of the harbor of Khumt Souk. There is a small obelisk between the fort and the harbor, dedicated to the pyramid of skulls which Turgut ordered made after the capture of Jebrahim.
The address is Ghazi Mustapha Tower, Humt Souk, Tunisia.
Jerbahoud Street Art
Jerbahud Street Art | Photo: BTOY / Flickr.
In 2014, 150 artists from 30 countries gathered in Herriadha to work together on an ambitious street art project. As a result, 250 brightly colored paintings and graffiti adorned the walls of buildings in a local village. Although in the following years many of them have disappeared, a walk through the area can still be a great aesthetic pleasure.
Address: Djerbahood, Hara Sghira Er Riadh, Tunisia.
Ancient Analogues of Fondouka Hotels
Ancient analogues of Fondouka Hotels’. | Photo: Baptiste Flageul / Flickr.
Even today, well-preserved fondouks (in other words, caravanserais) can be seen in the vicinity of Humt Souk. These ancient analogues of hotels combined the functions of lodges, stables, and storage facilities for traders who traveled through North Africa buying and selling salt, spices, and textiles.
The typical structure of fondouks usually took the form of a series of rooms several stories high, built around a single courtyard. Today, many of the Khumt Souk fondouks house boutique hotels or restaurants. Needless to say, the buildings themselves have been carefully restored before.
Address: Arischa, Humt Souk, Tunisia.
El Grib Synagogue
El-Griba Synagogue | Photo: wikimedia.
El Griba is the most striking reminder of the island’s once thriving Jewish community, which no longer exists. Although the building is not particularly impressive in terms of appearance, and it is not technically that old (the synagogue was built in the 1920s), the history of the place itself goes back many centuries.
A local legend says that a sacred stone (possibly a meteorite) once fell on this site, which marked its special status. The interior of the synagogue is decorated with wonderful panels, and it is also home to priceless ancient Torah scrolls. Every year, 33 days after Passover, El Ghiba hosts the most important Jewish pilgrimage in North Africa.
The address is Synagogue de la Ghriba, Hara Sghira Er Riadh, Tunisia.
Gelalah district. | Photo: wikimedia.
The village of Gelala is the main pottery center of Djerba, and on its main street there are numerous workshops ready to offer tourists products of any shape and complexity. It is said that more than 450 of the most skillful potters live here. The traditional ceramic products of Gelala are vessels modelled on the ancient amphorae, while today local craftsmen like to paint them brightly.
The clay used by the potters is extracted from mines up to 80 meters deep. It is dried for two or three days and then broken down and mixed with water (fresh water is used to create traditional earthenware and salt water is used for porcelain). The earthenware is left to dry for 60 days, after which it is fired for four days in semi-subterranean ovens. In short, you can’t leave here without shopping.
Address: Gelala, Tunisia
Beach de Sidi Mare
Beach de Sidi Mare.
Beach de Sidi Mare is the most popular beach of Djerba. It is the perfect place to relax and sunbathe a bit after shopping. It is the oldest resort beach on the island and therefore the most developed – there are restaurants and cafes all over it, and you can always rent sun loungers and beach umbrellas here.
The sandy shore of Sidi Mehrez extends for about 13 kilometers to the promontory of Ras Turgunes, where the old lighthouse is located.
Address: Beach de Sidi Mare, Tunisia.
Djerba Explore Park
Djerba Crocodile Farm.
There are three very different attractions in this wonderful park near the Turgounes Lighthouse – an Islamic art museum, a historical village, and a reptile park. The most popular of these is the third attraction, namely Crocodile Island. As the name suggests, you can see the huge crocodiles that are fed fresh meat from time to time for the enjoyment of the public.
There’s also the Lalla Adria Museum, which has a large collection of calligraphy, costumes, ceramics, bronzes and first-rate carpets from various Islamic countries. The historic village is a pretty nice place, although many people expect more of it.
It consists of a khacha (a fort-shaped house for a large family) with a mahzen dhiaf (guest house), a khanut al fah’har (pottery workshop), a matbah (outside kitchen), a h’owanet ensiya (weaving hut) and a maassra (oil mill).
Address: Djerba Explore Park, Djerba Midoun, Tunisia.
Midoun Merchant City
The trading town of Midoun. | Photo: wikimedia.
Midoun is the largest commercial town of Djerba, surrounded by orchards and date groves. Everyone who comes here just has to try to get to the lively Friday market. The old medina will surprise you with the splendor of the old buildings, narrow alleys and high white walls.
The city’s population is largely made up of the descendants of slaves originally brought here from Sudan. If you come to Midoun in summer, you can surely catch one of the cultural shows with folk dances and camel parades.
Address: Midoun, Tunisia.
This five-kilometer stretch of crystal-clear white sand is located between Agir and Ras Lalla Adria. It is a beautiful place for a serene holiday, although it does not have as many facilities as Sidi Mehres Beach.
Umbrellas and sun loungers can be rented from specialized outlets. There are many restaurants and cafes near the shore where you can try the local food. It is a good choice for tourists looking for a quieter place to relax.
Address: Beach de la Segia, Tunisia.
Schott el Jerid Lake
Schott El Jerid Lake.
What natural wonders is Djerba famous for? What to see for those who come here for the unusual scenery? The answer is simple: you have to go to Chott el Jerid, one of the main natural attractions of Tunisia. It will take you a whole day to get here from Djerba, but trust me, it’s worth it!
This gigantic salt lake covers an area of 5 to 7 thousand square kilometers, its edge is framed with a shimmering blue-white strip of salt. Come here in spring and you will find flocks of flamingos building their nests, raising their young and migrating to other areas in July.
Address: Chott el Djerid, Tunisia.
Zarzis is the second most popular tourist center in southern Tunisia (after Djerba). It is located on the Akkara Peninsula, and its coastline is adorned with snow-white beaches. This coastal oasis city is surrounded by olive and date groves and lush gardens.
If you don’t have time to visit the beautiful and tranquil oasis of Tozeur, you must do so in Zarzis. Many people come here just for the beaches, though the town itself also has a unique, timeless atmosphere. This is the perfect place to get to know the real provincial culture of Tunisia.
Address: Zarzis, Tunisia.
City of Nefta
Nefta Oasis. | Photo: wikimedia.
For many people, a trip to Tunisia would not be complete without a walk on the sands of the mighty Sahara (at least a short one). The most obvious place to do this is the town of Nefta. This oasis is the local center for the cultivation of dates and has a wonderfully preserved spirit of antiquity – its cozy houses decorated with brick facades, the domes and minarets of mosques are sure to impress you.
However, most tourists do not come to the city itself, but to its suburbs. About 15 kilometers west of Nefta is a vast strip of dunes (part of the famous Great Eastern Era), where you can feel the true spirit of desert life. From here you can also quickly reach the picturesque canyons of the Seljian Gorge.
The address is Nefta, Tunisia.
City of Médenine
City of Medenine | Photo: Carlos Octavio Uranga / Flickr.
Rejoice, Star Wars fans! Medenin “ksuras” (fortified granaries) managed to make an appearance in one of your favorite movie parts (to be exact, it was Star Wars Episode One: The Hidden Menace).
Originally, Medenin was an important staging post located on the caravan routes leading deep into Africa, and these granaries were used as warehouses for semi-nomadic families in which they stored their possessions.
These vaulted chambers were built one above the other in the shape of a honeycomb, and sometimes the total structure had up to six stories. Most of these buildings were demolished in the 1960s to make way for a more modern city, but one of the most striking ksur, Ksur Medenin, still survives. It is its status as the local “movie star” that attracts many tourists wishing to see the legendary sets of their favorite movie with their own eyes.
Address: Médenine, Tunisia.
Roman Town of Ghigtis
Roman town of Ghigtis. | Photo: wikimedia.
This Roman city was founded in the 6th century BC by the Phoenicians, but its heyday began with the arrival of the Romans in 48 AD. The surviving ruins mainly date from the second century AD. Some of the ruins are the Roman thermae, forum, temples of Apollo, Concord and Hercules, and the temple of Dionysus. Although the ruins themselves are not particularly impressive (the city was completely destroyed by vandals), this place will certainly be of interest to anyone interested in the ancient history of Tunisia.
If you are planning a trip from Djerba to Medenine, you should definitely stop here. By the way, some of the finds found here can be seen today in the Bardo Museum in Tunis.
The address is Gightis, Tunisia.
Marché Central Bazaar
Marché Central Bazaar.
Every morning at the northeastern end of the Marché Central fish market the bidding for fresh fish begins. Sitting on high “thrones”, the traders put on a real show and promote all the merits of the fish, which the local fishermen pass on for sale. Everyone from restaurant owners to local housewives is among the sellers. Fishing is the second biggest source of income in Djerba and as such the passions are not in short supply.
Address: Marché Central Houmt Houmt Souk, Tunisia.
Port | Photo: Passion Leica / Flickr.
The small but very busy fishing port of Houmt Souk is located at the northern end of Avenue Habib Bourguiba, about a 25-minute walk from the city. The best time to visit this place is early morning. There is a shopping complex of apartments, tourist stores, and cafes not far from the port.