If you’re looking an incredible destination in Tunisia that boasts amazing historical sights, traditional town architecture, delicious authentic food and a good dose of outdoor adventure, then look no further than Zaghouan!
One of my favourite spots in Tunisia, I spent 2 nights in this beautiful place, but honestly could have enjoyed it for a lot longer.
Quaint cobbled streets, adorned with beautiful traditional buildings and stunning historic doorways, Zaghouan is a lovely town to explore in and of itself, as well as base yourself for adventures in the unique landscape around which, from abandoned Berber villages to national parks, lake kayaking to Roman water temples, certainly delivers!
So here to bring you all you need to know about visiting, is my full travel guide to Zaghouan in Tunisia…
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My trip to Tunisia was sponsored by the Authentic Tunisia campaign but, as always, all views are my own.
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Where is Zaghouan?
Located in the central northern Tunisia, Zaghouan is an inland town with a rich history.
Only 60km, or a 1.5 hour drive, from the country’s capital Tunis, Zaghouan makes a great addition to any north Tunisia itinerary,
Found on the lower ridges of Dorsale Mountains and long populated thanks to the abundant source of fresh water here, Zaghouan’s pleasant climate has attracted Berber, Roman, Jewish and Moorish communities to settle here, among many others.
Indeed, during Roman times, water from Zaghouan was transported through one of the first aqueduct structures all the way to the African provincial capital at that time, Carthage, which is over 100km away.
Zaghoun was then developed further by Muslim communities who came here after fleeing Andalusia in southern Spain when this region was taken from the Moorish by the Catholic kings.
These Arab-Andalusian families developed much of the current architecture of Zaghouan, as well as established the floral industry here, including the production of rose water which the town is still famous for.
Why Visit Zaghouan?
As you can tell from the brief history above, Zaghouan is filled with fascinating heritage sites.
Settled by waves and waves of different communities, the town has a rich, layered narrative that can be felt from walking its streets and nearby sites even today.
This makes Zaghouan a very diverse destination – you can stroll Arab-Andalusian streets from the 17th century, Roman temples from the 2nd century and ancient Berber villages all ij hte same day!
On top of this, the nearby Djebel Zaghouan National Park and its famous Sidi Madyen Lake are also great spots to get out and explore the natural surrounds of this stunning town too.
Here you can enjoy kayaking, climbing, hiking and zip-lining, so plenty to keep you entertained for at least a few days!
When to Visit?
As with most of northern Tunisia, I recommend visiting Zaghouan in the late spring and early autumn months of May, June or September.
These are the best months for enjoying good temperatures with blue sky days, with the least chance of rain and wind dampening your plans.
Visiting outside of the summer will also help you avoid the super hot temperatures that usually fall across Tunisia in July and August.
Learn more here about the best time to visit Tunisia more widely.
Top Things to Do in Zaghouan
Taking a walking tour of the city of Zaghouan is a fantastic half day option that will fill your ears, eyes, nose and mouth with the incredible history and stories of this town and its people.
Learn about the Berber inhabitants, as well as the role the refugee Arab-Andalusian families played in developing this town and its mosques, along with its rose water, pomegranate dye and flower industries.
Find the cute umbrella street, taste local street food (Patisserie Malak is famous for its rose water donuts – a Zaghouan speciality!) and snap the one remaining ancient city gate.
After this, head to the nearby Water Temple, which is just a short drive from the centre of Zaghouan.
Many city walking tours include a trip here and it’s definitely worth exploring with a guide, so that you can learn more about the importance of this monumental fresh water supply and how the Romans established a sophisticated water aqueduct system that carried this precious resource all the way to Carthage – the then capital.
You can actually see remains of these huge aqueducts on the drive to Zaghouan too along the C133 road from Tunis.
Dating back to the 2nd century, this aqueduct system is the longest in the world and begins from the Water Temple.
This large site is well worth exploring for a couple of hours to understand the importance it played and to wander the ancient ruins, which are still incredibly well preserved.
After this, finish off your sightseeing day with a trip to Zriba El Alia.
This deserted Berber village, about a half an hour drive from Zaghouan, lies in a remote arid area.
The village is something of a ghost town; well-preserved, you can still wander the ancient streets here and take in the amazing views other the other worldly landscape.
There’s also a nice café here – the perfect place to enjoy a refreshing late afternoon tea or coffee at the end of your visit.
Allow an hour or 2 for your visit to Zriba El Alia, and bring a guide if you can, so you can learn more about the history here.
After all these historical sites, it’s then time to discover the top outdoor things to do in and around Zaghouan.
Kayaking on Lake Sidi Madyen is a gorgeous afternoon activity and I then, at golden hour, enjoyed a beautiful picnic on the lake shores afterwards.
This whole activity was wonderfully provided by the lcoal company Defouli.
You can also zipline and hike in the famous Djebel Zaghouan National Park landscape and learn more about the important mountain here that is responsible for Zaghouan’s strong fresh water supply.
But my pick would actually to be to try your hand at rock climbing.
My first ever experience, I absolutely loved this activity and felt really safe and looked after in the capable hands of Defouli, who provided all the equipment and instructions.
They can also arrange transport from Zaghouan itself to the national park, which you’ll need without a car as it’s about 20 minute drive away from town.
How Long to Spend There?
With all these things to explore, see and do, I’d suggest a stay of at least 2-3 nights in Zaghouan.
If you’re short on time in Tunisia, then a day trip to Zaghouan is also possible from Tunis or Sidi Bou Said.
In this instance, you’ll just need to choose your activities wisely – I suggest a morning outdoor activity in the national park, followed by a city walking tour of Zaghouan, the Water Temple and Zriba El Ali in the afternoon.
It’s best to catch the last of these especially in the golden light of late afternoon.
Where to Stay in Zaghouan?
As always in Tunisia, I recommend staying in a traditional guesthouse, where historic dwellings are fitted with modern comforts.
Usually these places are independently owned by local people and offer amazing hospitality, comfort and great authentic, homecooked food.
In Zaghouan, Dar Aida is situated right in the heart of town.
Owned by a local lady who has fantastic stories about her family heritage here, Dar Aida, is comfy, cosy and safe.
Enjoy amazing breakfasts and dinners here as part of your stay.
Thankfully the host speaks English, French and Arabic!
Book your stay here.
How to Get There?
You can get a local train from Tunis to Depienne and from here grab a taxi to Zaghouan.
Otherwise, local bus #300 from Tunis can also be caught to Djebal Oust and then, again, you’ll have to grab a taxi to Zaghouan.
Otherwise, and probably the best option, is to drive to Zaghouan from anywhere across the north of Tunisia.
I actually recommend this as the best way to get around this part of the country anyway, as it will give you the most flexibility, especially in the many areas where public transport here can be patchy.
Check out Discover Cars for some great vehicle rental deals in Tunisia.
How to Get Around?
Zaghouan has a small centre that’s easy to navigate on foot – in fact, cars aren’t allowed in many of the central streets here as they are so small and thin!
For trips out of Zaghouan to the National Park, Water Temple and Zriba El Alia, I recommend either using local taxis, your own rental car or taking a tour with the excellent Defouli – a small local start up company that offer great adventures in the Zaghouan region.
Recommended Tunisia Tours
Alternatively, if you’d rather not travel Tunisia independently, these top Tunisia tours are another great way to experience an adventure here.
You may also want to check out Widly.ness who offer customised itineraries in Tunisia with many options specifically focused on outdoorsy and active adventures.
Top Packing Items for Zaghouan
For a full list of what I recommend you pack for Tunisia and what to wear in this country, especially as a female traveller, check out this article I write.
Otherwise, here’s a list of my top 5 packing items for Zaghouan in particular…Good Camera– You’ll definitely want to do some snapping here! Decent Daypack – Needed to carry everything with you on day trips Water To Go Bottle – Ideal for drinking the tap water safely Comfy Walking Shoes – Key for exploring in comfort Portable Charger – A must for ensuring your phone and camera stay charged all day
Travel Insurance for Tunisia
World Nomads offers simple and flexible travel insurance. Buy at home or while travelling and claim online from anywhere in the world.
Alternatively, if you’re a long-term traveller, digital nomad or frequent remote worker seeking travel health cover, check out Safetywing’s Nomad Insurance policies.
Travel Money for Tunisia
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So there you have it, my full travel guide to Zaghouan and exactly why you should visit this stunning Tunisian destination.
Full of outdoor adventure and high on the history vibes, it’s a must visit in my opinion!
Are you planning to travel to Zaghouan?
Have any more questions about it?
Just drop them into the comments box below and I’ll get back to you…