Visiting the Archeological Site of Carthage

Visiting the Archeological Site of Carthage

The number of tourists in Tunisia has been growing in recent years. In 2019 Tunisia welcomed a record 9 million visitors, many of whom were drawn to the North African country by world-class archaeological sites such as Carthage,  as well as its extensive coastline.

Travelers can find information below about some of the points of interest in Carthage as well as practical advice on how to get there and when to go.

The History of Carthage

What is now an affluent suburb of Tunis, full of private villas, was once a mighty city.

Carthage was first founded by the Phoenicians in the 9th Century B.C. and was to become a powerful seat in the Punic Empire.

The city fell to the Romans in 146 B.C. who went on to rebuild a new Carthage on the site; the remains of ancient baths, theaters, and villas, amongst others, can still be found here today.

The Archaeological Site of Carthage was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979 and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Tunisia.

Antonine Baths, Roman Baths by the Sea

Construction of the Antonine Baths began under Hadrian and was completed in the second century AD. The largest bath complex outside of Rome, the scale of the Antonine Baths is impressive.

In 439 AD the Antoine baths were destroyed by the Vandals and the stone was utilized in the construction of Tunis.

Although only ruins remain, a map of the bath complex helps visitors to visualize the site in its former glory. The old site was comprised of:

  • An octagonal caldarium or hot room
  • A small tepidarium or warm room
  • 22m-by-42m frigidarium or cold room
  • 17.5m-by-13.5m seaside swimming pool (this has now completely vanished)
  • Palaestras or gymnasiums
  • Communal latrines

Other interesting artifacts can be found in the gardens, including Punic tombs and a small early Christian chapel.

Byrsa Hill, an Early Second Century Neighborhood

Byrsa Hill has been a place of significance throughout history.

During Punic times, Byrsa Hill was the site of a temple to the Carthaginian god Eschmoun. The Romans besieged the city in 146BC but went on to rebuild it as an administrative center, home to several important buildings.

Most tourists go to Byrsa Hill to visit the Carthage Museum. Not only does the museum offer the chance to see a 3rd-century marble sarcophagus, masks and jewelry, and Roman mosaics, but its elevated position means it also offers fantastic views of the Punic Ports and Gulf of Tunis.

La Malga Roman Cisterns

La Malaga Cisterns are some of the most visible features of the Carthage archaeological site and some of the best-preserved Roman cisterns.

The cisterns had a capacity of between 50,000 and 60,000 m3 and were supplied by water from a branch of the Zaghouan Aqueduct.

Designed to provide water to the city of Carthage, they also catered to the Antonine Baths.

Sanctuary of Tophet Sacrificial Site

Tophet means ‘place of burning’ in Hindu, coming from Biblical references to child sacrifice.

This site can be a stirring experience: it was excavated in 1921 to uncover over 20,000 urns containing the ashes of children, all no older than 4 years.

Visitors to the Sanctuary of Tophet will come across a series of stelae with geometric engravings.

Later, the Romans were to build workshops, warehouses and a temple on the site.

How to Get to Carthage from Tunis

Carthage is 10 miles (16.5 km) from Tunis and can be reached by car in around 20 minutes.

A taxi to Carthage from Tunis costs between 5 to 10 DT (2 to 4 USD).

The most economical way to get to Carthage from Tunis city center is by using Tunisia local transport. The TMG light railway is very convenient, with different stations serving different areas of the site:

  • Carthage-Hannibal for most destinations including Antonine Baths and Carthage Museum
  • Carthage-Présidence for the Basilica of Saint Cyprien and to see the President’s Palace
  • Carthage-Amilcar for the American cemetery
  • Carthage-Byrsa for Punic Tophet and the oceanographic museum.

There is a frequent daily service running from the early hours of the morning until after midnight. The fare is around 0.7 dinars (0.25 USD).

The Best Time of Year to Visit Carthage

Carthage is in the North of Tunisia which experiences hot summers and mild rainy winters.

July and August are the hottest months and should be avoided, with average maximum temperatures of 93 ºF (32ºC).

There is a rainy season from October through to May. December sees the heaviest rainfall with an average precipitation of 66.8 mm.

The best time of year to visit Carthage is considered to be in the Spring, between March and June, and in the Autumn, from September to October.

Going to Carthage at these times of year is favorable as conditions are optimal for exploring, avoiding the hottest summer temperatures and heaviest rainfall.

Advice for Visiting Carthage

Tourists should read up on essential Tunisia travel information prior to their trip to find out about the culture and etiquette of the country.

Visitors to Carthage should wear long and light clothing to provide protection from the sun, especially during the warmer months. Comfortable shoes should also be worn.

Travelers should also ensure they have all the relevant documentation to visit Tunisia, including a  tourist visa if required.

A Tunisia eVisa is expected to become available in the near future which will make it possible to apply for a Tunisia visa online and eliminate the need to submit an application at an embassy or consulate.