Desert Island where wellness and nature walk hand in hand
Not many Brits would have heard of Djerba prior to Tunisair’s
inaugural flight from London Gatwick to Djerba on Thursday
27th May 2010. Lyssiemay Annoh was aboard the one-class
maiden flight and shares her experience here with us.
first discovery - "the biggest secret of the
Island of Djerba, the gateway to the Sahara, is its
Tunisair flight from London Gatwick to Saharan Djerba in
the Gulf of Gabes will land you onto this very unique island
destination. Djerba, the largest island in North Africa
is already very popular with French, German, Italian and
Czech tourists. The island’s uniqueness prompted French
philosopher, novelist, and essayist, Simone de Beauvoir,
the lifelong companion of Jean-Paul Sartre to describe it
as “one of the silent places in the world with an
air so mild that it prevents you from dying.” I’ll
second that, but for me, it is not simply the silence of
the air that prevents you from dying on this desert island.
I made my first discovery - the biggest secret of the Island
of Djerba, gateway to the Sahara, is its divine Thalassotherapy
island offers miles of sandy beach opportunities and
is twinned to Zarzis by the Roman causeway where an
array of luxury hotels have taken advantage of its
beautiful long sandy beaches to offer deluxe wellness
hospitality to visitors. Almost every five star resort
on the island offers some sort of comprehensive thalasso
The main town
of Djerba is Houmt Souk which unsurprisingly, also harbours
the fishing port and its fishing activities. The authorities
are so keen to receive visitors that they have especially
created a tourist zone in Houmt Souk so that tourists feel
special on arrival. Houmt Souk is where the major trading
takes place; it is also the place to find mosques and churches.
The 10 million population country bordering Algeria,
Lybia and the Mediterranean Sea speak Arabic officially
but you can move about freely if you speak French.
English is about the least language spoken on the
island of Djerba but it is likely that this will
change now that Tunisair operates direct flights
from London Gatwick to Djerba.
- The country’s capital is Tunis
- Climate is Mediterranean
- Currency is dinar but credit cards are widely
accepted and there are cash dispensing machines
- EU citizens do not require visa and no vaccinations
Tunisians are warm, friendly and very welcoming to
visitors but please ask people nicely first if you
wish to photograph them. In Djerba, there did not
appear to be any clothing restrictions for visitors
but obviously, it advisable to dress appropriately
outside tourist spots.
Unless your idea
of a holiday is limited to soaking up some sun in a deckchair,
beach or pool, then there is a lot to see and do in Djerba
plays a big role in the lives of the people
of Djerba and the quarries of Guellala have
been the main source of clay for the craftsmen.
Many of them use clay to make the beautiful
jars, plates and pots which are sold all over
the markets, souks and quarries. All the souks
(markets) display an array of colourful pottery
and decorated plates for sale.
Other place of
interest include Gightis, a roman archaeological site, Mareth
– a former military site (the Mareth Line) and home
to the Second World War Museum.
trip to the Berber villages (indigenous population
of Djerba and the South East Region of Tunisia) should
definitely be on the cards. Matmata, for example is
famous for its Troglodyte underground houses. These
houses have central courtyard and bedrooms carved
out of soft rock. In fact the desert choices are numerous;
there is also Toujane, Tamezeret, Gabes where you
can visit the palm oasis in a horse drawn carriage,
the shrine of Sidi Boulbaba and the Museum of Popular
Arts and Crafts, the Vieux Menzel quarter.
mountains, desert plateaux and impressive landscapes
are your cup of tea, then do not hasten to include
Tataouine and the mesmerising architecture of Ksour
(desert castles) and their superimposed cells called
the ghorfas. Pass through the village of Chenini and
Douiret to admire this spectacular mountain market
town whose houses are carved into the mountainside
providing a safe refuge for the Berbers should invaders
attack. The inhabitants of Chenini still speak the
Berber dialect passed on from generations.
to eat in Chenini
Relais Chenini whips up an excellent lunch – if you
get the chance of dropping by do not miss the couscous on
the menu. Relais Yadis Chenini comes highly recommended.
to travel through the Djerbian Desert
Your best bet is
to pre-arrange this with a tour operator or your hotel. Travelling
through Djerba and Zarzis in a good four-wheel drive will
take you through Matmata, a desert village with dwellings
dug out of pits, Toujane famous for its Ghorfas, Ksar Haddada,
Médenine, Tataouine, Chenini and Ksar Ghilane, an oasis
in the middle of the desert because of this thermal spring.
can also enjoy an overnight desert transfer to the
linen tents in Ksar Ghilene Pansea. Overnights start
from 95 dinars per person per night on bed and breakfast
basis. An oasis with thermal springs and a swimming
pool in the desert. This is where guests are entertained
by traditional Bedouin dancers around a big camp
fire while enjoying classic Berber dinners together
with quad biking, camel and horse riding in the
Tel: +216 7562 1870
If you want
to stick to western sports, or take the trophy of being
the beach bum of the year, Djerba and Zarsis are ideal locations
for family beach holidays. The climate is mild, and most
of the hotels have programmes for water sports, golf, strolling
and exploring the island. The island does not lack in quad
biking activities and thrives on crafts and artefacts. The
Souks are flooded with rugs, pottery, traditional gold,
places to visit include:
Midoun: For a weekly street market, souks
and ancient olive groves
Mahboudine: Home to the Turkish-style mosque
with multiple cupolas, gardens and orchards;
Erriadh and Essouani: with its historic
villages, houses and synagogues for Djerban jews;
El May: Fortified mosques (remains of machicolations
Guellala: For pottery workshops and markets
Ajim: For the Port, market,
There are quite a few on the island but include Djerba Explore
in your visit. The multipurpose which is not far from the
Midoun tourist district has a theme park with a museum,
recreational activities, shops and a crocodile farm.
Most of the hotels provide interesting entertainment for
nightlife but there are also clubs and casinos for those
who like to live on the wild side.
Conferences, events and incentives
Most of the resorts have facilities and large floor spaces
to host conferences and events and in Djerba, it is not
unusual to host events in some of the large open spaces
available for such purposes.
WiFi is however
available but not free in any of the hotels.
can be forgiven and understood if you chose to visit
Djerba simply to enjoy its Spas. With almost every
resort on the island boasting to be the one offering
the best thalasso spa facilities, well-being fanatics
are spoilt for choice. Djerbian hoteliers see space
as a necessary luxury and thalassotherapy as something
that no visitor to the island should be deprived of.
The therapeutic use of seawater and marine products
is regulated by strict law in Tunisia so you can be
assured to be in safe hands. The treatments vary but
judging from the luxury of the some of the centres
we saw, the vast spaces in which they operate, you
can expect some VIP treatment at the hands of their
caring staff. In addition the extensive wellness and
fitness facilities, most of the hotels have hairdressing
and beauty salons.
Djerba Golf, Thalasso & Spa Hotel
about wanting everything in a sun-sea destination
in one place. The Yadis Djerba Golf Thalasso &
Spa hotel is ideally located between a Golf course
and the sea. The 330 room hotel stretches of 14 hectares
of oasis and offers everything you will seek in resort
destination. The hotel is fully equipped with
everything from Conference and banqueting
facilities to bars, restaurants, golf, many leisure
activities and a children’s club.
The most valuable
asset of the hotel apart from its ample space is the Thalasso
& Spa which is right in the centre of the hotel, next
to the lobby. The Spa has the capacity to serve 150 persons
per day and this is where it all happens with all sorts
of cures, from beauty, to stress relief, slimness to hydrotherapy
massage read more
Rooms start from 130 dinars per person per night
on bed and breakfast basis. Location: 20km from
Houmt Souk, a 25 minute drive from Djerba Zarzis airport
Tel; +216 75 747 410/ Tel: +216 75 745 115
Hasdrubal Prestige Thalasso & Spa Hotel
all suite affordable luxury hotel lives to its name
with spacious prestigious surroundings. It is well
spread over a long sandy beach and is home to one
of the best chefs
on the island. The spa menu is exhaustive with almost
every type of massage and treatment including a
slimming massage which involves a body wrap of some
sort. As if the treatments and massages are not
enough, the hotel also offers hamman rituals including
a Berber ritual.
(216)75 759 259
twin five star resort following a rebranding by the Rezidor
group Athenee Thalasso at the Radisson Blu and Park
Inn Ulysse Resort & Thalasso.
242 standard bedroom and 17 suite hotel, Park Inn
Ulysse Resort & Thalasso is a luxurious hotel
rejoicing in the rebranding by the Rezidor Group.
The suites comprise of 2 Présidential suites(100
m²), 7 Ambassador suites (48 à 54 m²)
and 8 junior suites (40 à 45 m²). and
three minutes away from the main Casino. It is beautifully
equipped with a long sandy beach, three restaurants,
a gigantic thalasso spa, with direct access to many
indoor and outdoor sporting activities.
20-minutes drive from airport, 10 minutes from
the town centre and 3 minutes from the Grand Casino.
The Park Inn
Ulysse Resort & Thalasso
B.P.239 - 4128 Djerba - TUNISIE
Tel: +216 126.96.36.199 - Fax : +216 188.8.131.52
Blu Resort & Thalasso, Djerba has 296 freshly
renovated room including 14 junior suites and 6
Ambassador suites. Guests can choose between smoking
and non-smoking rooms or 38 adjoining rooms. It
has 4 restaurants and 5 bars together with a 3000m2
Thalasso spa with direct access from the hotel.
The hotel which leads onto a long sandy beach is
Wi-Fi enabled. The hotel also has 7 meeting rooms
and caters for up to 350 delegates.
+216 75 75 76 00, Fax: +216 75 75 76 01
to travel on the island
The only way around the Island of Djerba is by renting a
car or hiring a taxi. They also operate a share taxi system
called “louage” whereby up to five passengers
can share a taxi.
to get there
Tunisair operate two flights per week from London Gatwick
to Djerba, via Monastir. Prices start from £220. For
reservations call 020 7734 7644 or go to www.tunisair.com.
For all your travel needs and for information on what's
happening in Tunisia go to www.cometotunisia.co.uk