TUNISIA – Kerkouane Punic town day trip from Tunis or Sousse (and Kelibia Fort)

Kerkouane (or Kerkuane) is one of the best-preserved cities of the Phoenician Empire. It’s inscribed as Punic Town of Kerkuane and its Necropolis as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A day trip to Kerkouane from Tunis or Sousse is a great way to visit this historical site on the tip of Cape Bon. I however suggest adding it as a detour when driving from Tunis to Sousse. Also, include a Kelibia Fort visit if you’re in the area. See my two-week Tunisia itinerary for my actual planning. I had a great time visiting this old Punic city and I’m sure my experience will help you plan a visit efficiently.

Kerkouane day trip planning

Kerkouane isn’t on most traditional Tunisia itineraries but I did include it on my 2-week Tunisia itinerary as I never saw a complete Punic city before. The site can be visited from either Tunis or Sousse as a day trip but if you are driving around the country I recommend visiting when driving from Tunis to Sousse or the other way around. That way you don’t see the same area twice. Cape Bon is a beautiful area to drive through with beautiful nature and small Tunisian villages. You will be welcomed with a smile.

Driving in Tunisia outside of Tunis is quite straightforward and I highly recommend hiring a car and drive to Kerkouane yourself. If this is not something you are up to then most car rental companies offer cars with driver too. Count on a 2.5-hour drive from Tunis or a 3-hour drive from Sousse. A visit takes up to 2 hours but if you visit Fort Kelibia too add 1 hour more which is highly recommended.

 

Depart early morning preferred before 8AM and go to Kerkouane first as it normally closes at 4PM and mondays all day. Have lunch in Kelibia which has lots of restaurants for a local lunch. Alternatively take lunch for a picnick at the old main square of Kerkouane. Visit Kelibia Fort after lunch and you’ll back at the hotel for dinner!

Kerkouane Punic city history

Phoenicia was a seafaring civilization that flourished between 1500 and 300BC and had its base on the cost which is now Israel (see more in the 10 days Israel itinerary) and Lebanon. Trade routes went to most parts of the African Mediterranean coastline and the Mediterranean islands. Two important Punic cities in current Tunisia were Carthage (more on that in another article) and Kerkouane. All these cities were independent city states but shared culture and the Phoenician alphabet.

Kerkouane wasn’t more important as Carthage per se but today it is in my opinion. It’s the best-preserved Punic City in the world. This is because it already got abandoned during the First Punic War. The Romans never destroyed it, nor built their own city on top so all the foundations of the complete city are still intact. That’s one reason it’s now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Visiting Kerkouane Unesco site

Many guidebooks say an hour is enough to visit Kerkouane Punic Town, but I think 2 hours will give a much better impression. I even spend there close to 3 hours as I wanted to see the site in depth. Make sure to bring some refreshment and water as the small shop at the entrance was closed probably due to the fact the site sees just a handful of visitors daily.

Start walking along the coastal path where you’ll see various houses where bathrooms and mosaics floors are intact. The temple is located on the left side after several hundred meters. Continue walking, through the small paths through the bushes until you end up at the old Punic city wall. Turn right along the wall about 200-300 meters where the Necropolis is but you won’t see much there though. Then turn right again over one of the main roads of Kerkouane. Over 2000 years ago Phoenicians walked on those same stones; isn’t that amazing?

 

There are several houses which explanations which include the house of the priest, house of the Sphinx, public baths, and plenty of regular houses. Now, make your way back and check out the very special, yet simple, mosaic of the Punic God Tanit (see photo below). Continue to the kiln and a small church before going to the Kerkouane Archeological Museum.

The museum has a large collection of items recovered from the city and its necropolis. Including a mummy, coins, jewelry, statues, ceramics and much more. I always enjoy visiting the local museum too as there you’ll see the gems unearthed at the site.  

Not to miss: Kelibia Fort on Cape Bon

If you made it al the way to Kerkouane on Cape Bon I recommend stopping at Kelibia Fort for an hour. This 16th century fort towers 150 meters above modern Kelibia and is a great place to wander around. Although the fort is from the 16th century there are older remains inside from Roman, Byzantine (church) and Ottoman times. A visit takes not more than an hour and was a great distraction for my kids as Kerkouane was a bit more difficult for them to understand.  

Although the remains of Kerkouane are mostly not more as a meter of foundations it is still a great place to visit as it’s very complete. The town is well preserved, and you really get a good impression how Phoenicians planned and build their cities. You walk over the same roads during the time the city was a thriving Phoenician city. I really enjoyed looking at the temple, baths, houses, and mosaic floors. The museum complemented the site perfectly.

Kelibia Fort was a great distraction especially for the kids. I highly recommend visiting it too if you are planning a visit to Cape Bon on your Tunisia itinerary. I came from Tunis and continued to Sousse which made it a long day. It was worth it as I learned a lot about the Phoenician Empire.

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Did you visit Kerkouane and Kelibia Fort too or do you have questions? Please leave a comment at the bottom of the page. Love to hear from you!

Gallery Kerkouane and Kelibia Fort

Check the gallery for more photos taken during this trip. If you like to use any photo for commercial, private or editorial use please contact first for permission and/or pricing.

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