Ichkeul National Park

Ichkeul National Park
Photo by Els Slots.

Ichkeul National Park is an important stopping-over point for hundreds of thousands of migrating birds each year.

The park comprises a shallow freshwater lake, temporarily flooded marshes and a mountain. It is located in northern Tunisia near the shore of the Mediterranean Sea and was once part of a chain of lakes. Among the lake's wintering birds are ducks, geese, storks, and pink flamingoes.

Community Perspective: Dam construction has led to a sharp reduction in migratory bird populations. The park seems to have been closed for years, although entering to hike the trails is still possible as described by Stanislaw (who has also provided public transport info).

Map of Ichkeul National Park

Load map

Community Reviews

Write a review

Stanislaw Warwas

Poland - 05-Jan-24 -

Ichkeul National Park by Stanislaw Warwas

Visited December 2023

O! I see I was lucky enough to see some birds. And lucky enough to get inside the park when it was officially closed because of the reason that I was not able to understand although the man at the gate did his best to explain it to me in French when I was leaving the park… yes, when I was leaving the park after spending inside of the park many hours…

How to get to the park from Tunis? It seems to be a bit complicated, but it is not. From the northern bus station in Tunis (close to Bab Saadoun) take a louage (minibus share taxi) to Mateur (12 km from the entrance to the park) or to Manzel Bourguiba (14 km from the entrance to the park); from each of the cities you can take a taxi to the park (around 15 TD; the road from Mateur is in a very bad condition) or catch another louage that goes between these two cities and ask the driver to stop in Zarour; from Zarour you can walk to the gate of the park (6 km) but don’t forget that from the entrance to the lake and the ‘ecological museum’ (permanently closed) it is still more than 4 km. It is much better to take a taxi, it is faster, it is more comfortable, and you can benefit from the fact that the driver is a local guy and can convince the man at the gate that ‘we are going to hammam only’. (BTW, there are still some families living in the park with their animals, and they cultivate vegetables.) Yes, there is a hot spring in the park and many local people are going there to spend some time in the pretty warm water. So I am in… We drove to the end of the road inside the park – there are some buildings and huts, but all closed, and a parking lot. The driver left me there and – he went to the hot spring ///

From here you can follow two natural trails: 1. Around the peninsula to the closed museum, watch tower and some info boards about the park, but you can hardly read what’s on them, its content faded away because of the sun; this trail is ok, but nothing special or breath-taking; some birds can be seen from afar; silent and still surface of the lake looked nice, and when you reach the most northern tip of the peninsula, you can follow the unmarked path down to the lake where the ruins of the Roman outpost are lost among bushes; from here the view is nicer and you note that most trees bend from the lakeside due to strong winds. 2. The second trail starts at the so-called museum and the picnics place that you can reach straight from the parking using stairways; from here there are some signs showing the direction of the view point, hot spring Hammam El Atrous and the grotte; this trail is more challenging but wearing good shoes and allowing more time for ascents would make you do it in three/four hours there and back; the views on the lake and on the mountains (you see the highest summit, Mount Ichkeul) are more rewarding, you see more birds, some beach, and finally you can descent to the hammam, stone structure looking like a tent – my taxi driver was about to leave when I got there; indeed, many local people inside; this is the place where I got as close as possible to the birds – while walking by the shore of the lake (I am not a bird-watcher, and that means I am not able to name these birds); the I fallowed the way to the grotte/cave which is not marked anymore, and what was my surprise when I finally found, instead of a nice cave or rock shelter, a vertical hole in the ground.

I came back to the museum the same way and then started walking towards the park gate. A man I’ve met in the hammam gave me a ride to the gate where I learned the park is officially closed…

On the southern slopes of the mountain there are some remains of the stone quarries. These are part of the core zone, but officially it is not possible to visit them. To get to the nearest bus/louage stop, just wave when you see a car going in either direction.

I really enjoyed this day out of town – I started from my hotel in Tunis at 6 am and came back to it around 5 pm. I love walking and both trails satisfied my need of walking. I read that end of December is good for seeing different birds, I have not seen a lot, but it was ok.

Els Slots

The Netherlands - 24-May-22 -

Ichkeul National Park by Els Slots

Ichkeul National Park is currently (May 2022) "closed" for unknown reasons – maybe they haven’t yet bothered to open up after Covid, or it’s because of domestic politics. It means that the official entrance with the ecomuseum is closed and access with a guide is only possible on prior request. But it is a large lake with all shorelands included in the core zone, so therefore never really inaccessible. Others visited it a few weeks ago by driving past the entrance and taking a walk from there.

I myself had come up with an even easier solution: I had seen on the map that road P11 to Bizerte runs partly along the lake. And I had to drive that P11 anyway on my move between the WHS of Dougga and my overnight stay Bizerte! In the town of Tinjah, you come closest to the shore. But a little earlier you have a good view from the road of the lake and the mountain, both called Ichkeul. It looked glittering at sunset.

Unfortunately, you don't get as close as I had thought: Tinjah is a reasonably large town, and its buildings block the view of the lake. At a bridge over a canal that connects Lake Ichkeul with that of Bizerte, I could have turned left – there the waterfront seems a bit more accessible. But because it was getting late and I wanted to be in Bizerte before dark, I just drove on.

The site was already inscribed in 1980 and has UNESCO ID #8 so it is one of the very early ones (it had been deferred at its first tries in 1978 and 1979). Still, it can be questioned whether it should have been inscribed at all and even more so if it is still worthy of it today. Ichkeul, Doñana in Spain, the Camargue in France and the El Kala region in Algeria are seen as the four major wetland areas in the western basin of the Mediterranean. Doñana certainly seems to trump Ichkeul by numbers: it is four times the size, and has twice the number of bird species and also twice the number of wintering waterfowl (according to the comparative analysis by IUCN).

The Ichkeul site furthermore was altered forever when dams were placed upstream around the lake in the 1990s. The lake became less freshwater and more salty. It led to endangered status, but that was already removed by 2006 (RAMSAR did so much later). This positive turn seems to have been a reward for Tunisian authorities that cooperated well with international organizations. They made amendments to limit the impact, but it still seems to be too early to say whether it had enough effect. I think more monitoring should have been brought in place.

The site’s OUV lies in the “exceptional density of water fowl”. I searched around for how the bird numbers have been doing in the past couple of years. There has been no Status of Conservation report to the WHC since 2010. The park’s own Facebook page shows that birds still manage to find it. The more independent "Les Amis des Oiseaux", a very serious group of local bird conservationists, reported in January 2020: “Nothing is going well for the wintering waterbirds in Ichkeul National Park… their numbers have been plummeting again for a few years! This year is downright catastrophic: less than 6,000 waterbirds were counted in this wetland of international importance during the international winter census. Compared to the maximum of almost 300,000 waterbirds counted in 2008 and an average of 141,000 individuals for the years 2008-2017, this is quite negligible and above all very worrying.”

Philipp Peterer

Switzerland - 03-May-18 -

Ichkeul National Park by Philipp Peterer

Ichkeul is easy to reach from Tunis. Take the motorway to El Alia and then drive below Lake Bizerte on a 4 lane street almost till the park entrance. The entrance is marked on google maps as “l’entrée de park national de l’ichkeul”. From there it’s about 15mins on a semi paved road to reach the parking lot. There was a lot of construction work going on at the time of my visit (Mai 2018).

The park itself will not take your breath away. There is a nice road to walk around a small peninsula with a tiny and free eco museum on the top of the hill and a wooden bird observatory closer to the lake. I saw some ducks far away but not much else. Even if you are lucky enough to see some birds, for all Europeans this would be rather boring. Despite the flamingoes, the birds there are exactly those you can probably spot in your nearest lake all summer long. The landscape itself is also nothing special, but still nice enough to enjoy a little hiking and nature.

To my surprise, there were many other visitors, including a bus full of scholars and other locals.

Jarek Pokrzywnicki

Polska - 16-Dec-10 -

Well, the place was visited by me in 1999 but I guess that most of the information is actual. The easiest way to get there is by car (I haven't even checked the possibility of local transportation there), from Tunis take road P7 to Mateur and then P11 to Tinia, after a while turn left on a non-sealed but stable road you can reach the gate of the park (there is an entrance fee for the car). Just around 2 km from the place there is an eco-museum (at the time of my visit it was free of charge) with local exhibitions. From that point you can take an easy by-the-lake walk on a local road (unsealed) round the lake. All that area together with a nearby Jabal (Mointain) Ichkeul and the marchlands with bulls (on a way to the park) are inscribed as World Heritage Site. More info:


Site Info

Full Name
Ichkeul National Park
Unesco ID
Natural landscape - Rivers, Wetlands and Lakes

Site History

2006 Removed from Danger list

1996 In Danger

construction of two dams had limited freshwater flow and devastated the wetland values

1980 Inscribed

1979 Deferred

Until Tunisia has contacted other States to ensure adequate protection of summering and wintering areas of major migratory species found in Ichkeul

1978 Deferred

Lack of documentation


The site has 1 locations

Ichkeul National Park


The site has

WHS Hotspots
WHS on Other Lists
World Heritage Process