The Punic city of Kerkuane and its necropolis show the urban planning and architecture of the Phoenician-Punic Empire.
The city was never rebuilt after its destruction in 255 BC and therefore (unlike Carthage) has no mixing with later Roman construction. Excavations have revealed ruins from the 4th and 3rd centuries BC. The harbor, the street plan, residential areas, squares, temples and the remains of the large cemetery have been uncovered. Many houses still show their walls, and the coloured clay on the facades is often still visible. The houses were built to a standard plan in accordance with a sophisticated notion of town planning.
Map of KerkuaneLoad map
Kerkuane lies in the ‘far’ northeast of Tunisia. I went there by rental car from Bizerte, which turned out to be an ‘interesting’ drive of about 200km. It is slow going, as you have to cross numerous towns and there is a lot of slow traffic on the road including horse carts and flocks of sheep. The landscape isn’t as pretty as near Dougga, but the numerous olive groves easily outdo the ones in Andalusia. Near Erritiba, there was a nasty surprise – the road was blocked for some reason, with police around and many onlookers. I had to make a large detour to finally arrive at Kerkuane after 5(!) hours.
The archaeological site has a pleasant setting right at the sea and I welcomed the breeze that comes with it. It takes about an hour to explore. It needs a bit of TLC (or more funds), as several of the excavated parts are now overgrown with weeds. The information panels were barely readable. Under a protective shelter lies its most precious treasure: the House of Tanit, with the sign of the goddess Tanit placed in front of its entrance for good luck (pictured).
There is a 2nd location as well, a Necropolis from the 6th-3rd centuries B.C., about 5km away from the main site. It is a bit hard to find when you don’t know what you’re looking for. I made it by car to where Google Maps has it marked but saw nothing. Fortunately, Svein came to the rescue in our whatsapp group. You have to go uphill on the unpaved road for some 20 meters, and then there’s a broken fence that you have to step through. This location has no security at all and seems to have been forgotten about. It’s a far cry from Tunisia’s other WHS locations which usually are organized neatly with a parking lot, a kiosk to buy your ticket with pricing displayed, friendly and helpful staff, clean toilets, and a prominent UNESCO sign.
Read more from Els Slots here.
I visit Kerkouane as part of my 2 week road trip in the northern half of Tunisia. (I ticked of all the WHS/TWHS there). Kerkouane is a 2.5 hour drive from Tunis or 3 hours from Sousse. I recommend visiting it on the way from Tunis to Sousse or the other way around. Saves you driving the same road twice and Cape Bon is nice to drive around too.
It's a beautiful site and I really enjoyed walking around the site. It's only foundations left, which are in general from almost nothing up to over a meter high. The grid layout is good visitble and you get a good idea how the city must have looked like. Lots of plaster is in tact, mosaic floors (simple ones), and some houses have good signs with explanations and a 3D model how they must have looked like. Great way to explore.
I recommend walking along the coast to the back, walk the small part through the bushes too, until the wall. Then turn right along that road that went to the sea. Then again right over the main road to the main square. This way you see all. The museum on the site is beautiful too.
A small extra, go also to Kelibia Fort. It's nearby and you can manage it the same day. It's nice especially with kids.
Read more from Christravelblog here.
Kerkuane is one for the true collectors. The landscape is very nice in this part of Tunisia and I even saw some flamingo colonies on the way. Nevertheless, it is a bit hard to justify the combined around 5h drive to get there and back for what you see. The highlights are the bathrooms and a rather primitive mosaic. The rest are very low-level ground walls and a nice sea view. Opening times are very limited, closing at 4pm and closed on Mondays, so plan ahead. Just follow google maps to find the site. There is not much else around and very limited accommodation offers so I would not suggest staying overnight in this area. There are no motorways in this part of the country and many trucks. You will pass several cities, which further challenge your driving skills.
This is a really nice site to visit, it is out of the way and situated on a great piece of coastline. There is not much left (everything is less that a metre in height!) but it provides a great example of Punic towns especially good if you have seen other sites in the country which did not fair so well under the Romans! The site is right next to the sea and contains some features which you would not see at other archaeological sites such as the minimalist mosaics and almost fully intact bathrooms in every house.
The site is best reached from pleasant fishing town of Kelibia where local buses can drop you of at the turn off then it is a 1.5km walk to the site, or alternatively you could get a taxi there which should cost about 4-10TD (€2.5-7)
To include Necropolis of Arg al-Ghazwani
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