MOTORCYCLE On the Road: Tunisia

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MOTORCYCLE On the Road: Tunisia

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MOTORCYCLE On the Road: Tunisia

On the way: Tunisia
Wind, sand and stars

Tunisia attracts with beach and sun. Those who only go on vacation on the coast or enduro sandpit games in the extreme south will learn too little about the fascinating desert state. Three MOTORRAD readers went on a research trip to find the true essence of the country.

Jorg Hau


Please show me where we are! Yet again. The Toyota of the Garde Nationale has been following us on this runway for over two hours, and every time we stop the officer gets out and asks where we are. I read it from the GPS receiver. He picks up the phone and informs his manager. Then we all wait for his answer. The whole theater is actually harmless, because the car just follows us to make sure that we don’t get lost in Algeria under any circumstances, because two Austrian travelers have been missing in the border area for weeks. It goes without saying that you don’t want to lose any more tourists. The soldiers always remain friendly and look forward to a chat. In general, the enormous friendliness of the people accompanies us from the first day of the trip. Florian, Petra and I are on three motorcycles and have almost a month to spare.

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MOTORCYCLE On the Road: Tunisia


The camel has a much higher payload than our three motorcycles combined.

It’s been four days since we arrived. After clearing customs in the port of Tunis, we drove right into the center to the Grand Hotel de France. The gentleman at the front desk had rooms for us and smilingly allowed us to park the motorbikes in the front desk. A great service, unknown in Germany. The next morning we started the engines under a clear blue sky. The landscape in the north is green, gentle and hilly, we almost felt like we were in southern Germany, but here there are significantly more donkeys and goats in front of the motorcycle. After a night in Tabarka, a small town in the north-western corner of Tunisia, rain accompanied us south. It is a shame that the Michelin desert tires require a cautious driving style in the wet, because the mountain roads to Jendouba invite you to scrape corners. The Romans already had a special kind of settlement in Bulla Regia: Because of the hot summers, the houses were built underground, and they were built on several floors. The young woman who took us through the complex for two hours showed us the most beautiful frescoes and mosaics. There is a pleasant climate five meters below ground, and a sophisticated clay pipe system brings cool fresh air into the rooms. In El-Kef we stocked up on petrol, water and supplies, because we wanted to drive south near the Algerian border for the next few days: via Haidra, Moulares, Redeyef and Tozeur, then along the legendary Schott El-Jerid salt lake. That meant enduro hiking on paths littered with potholes and stones. We stopped at the mighty Table de Jugurtha, the view is spectacular. The next few days the military checks increase, one of which is our Toyota, which we use as “The watchdog follows a hundred kilometers through the desert and only says goodbye when we hit the asphalt again. We are passed from one post to the next, because when we arrive shortly afterwards in Sidi Bou Baker and drive to the cafe of this small garrison, the next police car appears promptly. But I really think it was a coincidence that a military jet is flying low over our heads at this very moment … We stay at the campsite in Tamerza for a few days, hike through the gorges in the area and drive to the surrounding mountain oases in Chebika and Mides. The souvenir sellers are happy to have a chat, even if we don’t buy anything from them.

Douz is the largest and most famous oasis in western Tunisia. That “Gateway to the Sahara was an important post on the caravan routes through the desert and has kept its traditional market from this period. If you want to visit it, you should get up early because it will be over by noon. The range of goods is overwhelming: from incense to wrenches, from oranges to dromedaries. We’ll stay on that for a few days “Camping Desert Club”. One of our excursions should lead to Mount Tembain. It takes a while to get used to the feeling of driving in the sand, but then it’s quickly addicting again. The condition of the piste demands concentration, because it offers everything between a rocky highway and narrow deep sand passages in dune valleys. When we came across a section with narrow, deep tracks of sand in the late afternoon, I first tossed the GS several times in the sand and then also the towel for today: That was a lot more exhausting than I thought! We look for a sheltered place away from the slopes and set up the tent. The starry night we had hoped for will not work, because shortly after dinner there is a storm and we have to go into the tent. At sunrise the wind has decreased, but the air is hazy and the sky is overcast. According to GPS, we are only 15 kilometers away from the Tembain, but the mountain cannot be guessed at with a visibility of maybe one or two kilometers. With a heavy heart we decide to go back. The Cafe du Parc shows that we made the right decision, because while we are drinking tea, big drops fall outside.

Tataouine is an administrative city, and a very lively one too: Numerous people are out and about late into the night. We find cheap and good accommodation in the Hotel Hamza. When looking for a restaurant, we noticed a shop with the locals jostling in front of it. We do the same and are surprised: “La Mediterrane” would be a snack in Germany, but here we enjoy the best roast chicken between Tataouine and Bremen! In the vicinity of Tataouine there are so-called ksours, which were built by the Berbers as a refuge and storage facility. Today these facilities are mostly left to decay, but are worth a visit. For example, Ksar Tounkett sits like a crown on the top of a mountain, and his four-story ghorfas give an impression of Berber architecture. The loneliness is over in Ksar Ouled Soltane, because thanks to the bold markings on the Michelin map you can hardly miss the place. For a few dinars we learn a lot about the construction, the meaning of the hand and footprints in the vaults of the Ghorfas and the construction of the “Keys to the storage rooms, which were unique for every family here. Under a deep blue morning sky we pack the motorcycles and leave Tatauoine to the west. For the route towards Grand Erg, behind Chenini, we choose the southern of the two slopes, which is more challenging to ski, but also offers more variety. The lanes have been silted up by the wind of the past few days, and often only full throttle helps to avoid getting stuck.

MOTORCYCLE On the Road: Tunisia


Wonderful, relaxed motorcycling.

Ksar Ghilane is exactly what you imagine an oasis as a child: a green palm garden with a small lake. The place became famous for a hot spring, discovered by chance by oil explorers. Of the three campsites, our motorcycles automatically choose the southernmost place, as the main fuse on Florian’s X-Challenge blows right in front of the entrance gate, Petras DRZ tips over almost at the same time when turning in the soft sand, and my GS loses fork oil due to a loose screw. Ksar Ghilane is expensive: The night in “Berber tents cost more than a hotel room in the north, and even water, bread and tea are many times more expensive than in Douz or Matmata. It may be that the remote location of the place justifies higher prices, but we consider this level to be completely excessive and after a night we look away. Days later we are in the mountains north of the Chott El Fejaj. The lonely, barren landscape is covered with dry bushes and shrubs, simply built huts dominate, and the few people wear colored clothes with long, brightly colored woolen coats. Together with the intense blue tones of the sky, the whole thing reminds us of pictures from the plateaus of South America. As we drive through this deserted area, my thoughts are briefly on the beach holidaymakers in the east of the country – whether this is the case there “something else Tunisia can imagine? We arrive at Col Hadej in the late afternoon, and the low sun bathes the landscape in intense, warm colors. We have to concentrate to keep our eyes on the slopes and not wander, because a slip could have bad consequences in this loneliness. We reach Sidi Bouzid just in time for sunset. The city is an important economic center, but without any tourist claim: Almost all signs are written in Arabic. There are two hotels in the city; the “Horchani has a beautiful facade, but it turns out to be a shabby building. The only reason the hotel still exists: the license to serve alcohol. A few locals meet here in the evening and empty several bottles of beer. After a noisy night in beds that are far too soft, we leave early. The Djebel Cherahil is the last mountain range before the coast. On the descent from the pass, there is a seemingly endless view of the plain, which extends to the east. The slopes are turned into well-groomed roads, the speed of travel here is faster than in the western parts of the country: wrecked cars line the edges of the road.

The Roman Coliseum of El Jem can be seen from afar, because with its 35 meters it towers over the city. The huge oval is said to have seated over 35,000 spectators. The arena even had a movable floor for “Special effects, the abutments of which can still be seen in the basement corridors. The Colosseum has been a World Heritage Site since 1979.

MOTORCYCLE On the Road: Tunisia


Green palm garden in the oasis of Mides.

We come to Kairouan the same evening. The city is beautiful and offers endless opportunities to study the history of Islam, but it almost causes us a culture shock: After two weeks of solitude, it is not easy to be back in a densely populated city. In addition, in the course of the evening we are constantly approached by people who want to give us a guided tour of the city without being asked – and always so nicely that we hardly ever need to “non merci” bring it to the lips. We watch the craftsmen, from the shoemaker to the cloth weaver, from the goldsmith to the barber, everyone goes about their work here in tiny workshops. We are also threatened with regular livelihoods again, which is why we drive the enduros via Enridaville, Nabeul, and Hamman-Lif to Tunis and onto the ferry. Goodbye Africa, your attraction will enrich our lives!

map & Info

MOTORCYCLE On the Road: Tunisia


2800 kilometers through Tunisia.

For many it is a dream to experience the magic of Tunisia and the desert. The country is considered to be relatively safe, but you should still find out about the current situation

The Tunisian Republic is the northernmost country in Africa. With a length of around 800 km and a width of 400 km, it borders the Mediterranean Sea to the north and east, Algeria to the west and Libya to the south. Tunisia is one of the wealthier countries in Africa; In addition to Arabic, French is spoken. In the north there is a Mediterranean climate, which turns into a desert climate in the south. The best travel times are spring and autumn. Current safety information is available at

The most famous ferry connection is the one from Genoa to Tunis. Bookings can be made at A return trip costs around 350 euros for one person and motorcycle, including all ancillary costs. The motorcycle is entered in the passport upon entry; Anyone who does not enter the country with their own motorcycle must also present a power of attorney. The green insurance card is required and must be written to be valid for Tunisia. To prepare for customs clearance, you will already receive a stack of papers on the ferry, all of which have to be filled out and which have to be presented again when entering and leaving the country. Customs clearance is not necessarily quick, but it is always very friendly. Whether or not GPS receivers have to be registered seems to depend on how customs are doing on the day.

In all major cities there are hotels in a wide variety of categories. Campsites are rather rare and can only be found near the tourist centers. Off the main routes, accommodations are rare, so you should have a tent and sleeping bag with you. In our experience, wild camping is not a problem as long as you behave inconspicuously and stay far enough away from towns.

The currency is the Tunisian Dinar (TD) at 1000 millimes. Currently you get 1.9 TD for one euro. Money can be exchanged at any bank; In addition, there are numerous ATMs where you can withdraw money with an EC card. Credit cards are only available at “better hotels and the big gas stations in the north.

Large parts of Tunisia can be traveled with road machines without any problems, but only a motorcycle with enough ground clearance allows relaxed hiking on slopes and side roads. A solid engine protection is useful for driving on the slopes. Coarse-tread tires are generally recommended, and absolutely necessary when driving on sand. 95 octane unleaded gasoline is widely available. The prices are apparently regulated by the state; At the time of the present trip, a liter of petrol cost 1.25 Tunisian dinars. If the motorcycle tank allows a range of at least 250 kilometers, you can usually get by without an additional canister.

Literature, maps
Probably the best travel guide with a lot of background information is “Tunisia by Ursula Eckert and Ingrid Retterath (Verlag Reise Know-How, price 25 euros). The Michelin 744 map with a scale of 1: 800000 is suitable as an overview map and is also not particularly accurate. For more precise orientation, especially in the hinterland, it is therefore advantageous to use a GPS receiver. The free Tunisia maps from have proven themselves on the present trip.

Travel time: 23 days

Distance covered: 2800 kilometers

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