Tourists by the thousands flock to Santorini for the classic pic of whitewashed houses with blue trim and bougainvillea, but an overlooked town in Tunisia also has the goods.
“I think a mental health trip to North Africa wouldn’t be the worst thing for you right now,” my father told me, as I booked my flight to Tunisia.
The trip was on a whim, in the wake of a break up, and though I’m unsure my mental health improved, my Instagram feed certainly sparkled.
We picked the country on a map. My sister was living in Jordan, and we decided to meet halfway—or what seemed like halfway: The Maghreb is far closer to the deserts of Jordan than the skyscrapers of New York. But the moment I landed in the Tunis airport, I was grateful for my geographical shortcomings. Less popular than Morocco or Egypt, Tunisia is a hidden gem for most Americans in North Africa—and a quick ride on the TGM train revealed the country’s biggest surprise of all.
Only 12 miles north of the nation’s capital, Sidi Bou Said is an ancient blue and white town overlooking the Gulf of Tunis. Perched atop a steep cliff, the town, aptly nicknamed “Ville Bleue,” sparkles above the Mediterranean. As everyone with a social media account knows, this two-toned ambiance is most famously found in Santorini. Although travelers are obsessed with blue and white architecture, Sidi Bou Said has yet to be swarmed by Yacht Week castaways or selfie-stick wielding families of six.
The town’s lack of social media exposure is sure to appeal to the discerning traveler, as will its mixture of North African influences, Arabic hospitality, and Mediterranean ambiance that is unique to the Maghreb. The village by the sea remains relatively untouched by mass tourism influences, astounding in this age of digital globalization when it feels like no corner of the world has yet to be geotagged.