Visiting the Sahara Desert in Tunisia

Visiting the Sahara Desert in Tunisia

A unique landscape stretching across much of North Africa, the Sahara Desert evokes images of sandy dunes and starry skies.

Visiting the Sahara Desert is an excellent opportunity for tourists in Tunisia with a great sense of adventure, providing once-in-a-lifetime experiences hard to find at any 5-star resort.

How to Get to the Sahara from Tunisia

Although the Sahara can be accessed from almost anywhere in southern Tunisia, Douz is the starting point for all worthwhile trips into the desert.

Douz, the Gateway to the Sahara

Douz is a town built around shady palm groves, beyond which lies the Sahara Desert. Fruit and nuts, in particular dates, can be purchased here before venturing into the desert, much-needed sustenance for the journey ahead.

Arriving in Douz from Other Countries

For travelers arriving in Tunisia from overseas, Tozeur-Nefta International Airport is a good option. Douz can be reached from here by ‘louage’, a shared mini-bus taxi, with the journey lasting approximately 2 hours.

Arriving in Douz from Elsewhere in Tunisia

For those visiting the Sahara from elsewhere in Tunisia, there are several local transport options available including train, bus, louage, and taxi. Tourists should check the best option depending on their departure point.

How to Travel Across the Sahara Desert

Depending on the length of the journey and the speed at which holidaymakers wish to travel, several transport options are available.

Transport Options When Visiting the Tunisian Sahara Desert

  • Four-wheel drive with an expert guide. This is the fastest solution and, with an in-depth knowledge of the dunes and trails, tourists can be assured a hassle-free trip.
  • Quad bikes. A suitable option for short dune rides.
  • Camel rides. For the full Sahara experience, nothing comes close to a camel ride.

Taking a Camel Tour across the Sahara Desert

Several agencies offer camel tours. Tourists are advised to use a reputable firm.

For a fully immersive experience, many companies offer a tour with an overnight stay.

Travelers must first master how to mount a camel and remain seated as the animal gets to its feet. Once completed, a typical day includes around 4 hours of trekking.

What to Expect on an Overnight Stay in the Tunisian Desert

Staying overnight in the Sahara is the best way to experience the desert. Suggestions on some unique desert experiences are below. Those tourists making their reservations through a tour agency should confirm that meals and camping equipment are provided by their tour operator.

Watch the Sunrise and Sunset

The sunset which awaits trekkers at the end of a long day traversing the dunes is a worthwhile reward. On the shortest winter days, the sun sets at around 17:15 whilst during the summer months the sun goes down at approximately 19:30.

Trekkers are likely to make an early start on their second day in the desert, already making their way back across the desert as the sun rises, before 6:00 in April and May.

Dining in the Sahara Desert

Once darkness falls a campfire is lit over which the evening meal is prepared. Campers will usually dine on bowls of a simple stew and bread accompanied by steaming mugs of mint tea to keep warm as temperatures drop.

Stargazing in the Sahara

Considering the absence of light pollution in the Sahara, stargazing is a recommended nighttime activity.

The inky black sky scattered with stars is a mystical scene and one of the greatest attractions the Sahara has to offer.

When is the Best Time to Visit the Sahara Desert?

For the most enjoyable experience, tourists are recommended to visit the desert from autumn through spring, avoiding the hot summer months.

Temperature Variations in the Sahara

One of the hottest and driest regions of the world, the Sahara has an average annual temperature of around 86ºF (30ºC) and an average summer high of approximately 104ºF ( 40ºC).

The lack of water in the ground and water vapor in the air means that temperatures drop drastically at night, falling close to freezing during the winter months. Travelers can expect an average temperature swing of 27ºF (-2ºC) to 36 ºF (2ºC).

The Best Months for Visiting the Sahara Desert

Given the high summer temperatures, it is recommended that tourists visit the Sahara Desert between October and May. The later in the period, the hotter it gets.

Those who arrive in December or January should be prepared for freezing evening temperatures. Warm clothes to wear at night are essential.

What do I Need to Take on a Trip to the Sahara?

Although traveling lightly is advised, certain items are essential when visiting the Sahara Desert:

  • Long-sleeved tops and trousers, plus a brimmed hat, to provide protection from the intense heat of the sun.
  • High-factor sun cream is necessary.
  • As temperatures drop significantly at night, warm clothes are required for the hours of darkness.
  • Take plenty of water to stay hydrated throughout the trip.
  • Fruit and nuts to keep energy levels up. Consider stocking up in Douz prior to travel.

Do Tourists Need a Visa to Visit the Sahara?

Foreign visitors wishing to experience the Sahara Desert firsthand must check whether they require a visa for Tunisia prior to travel.

Those from countries that require a visa to visit the Sahara will soon be able to apply for a Tunisia online visa. As applicants will no longer be required to go to an embassy or consulate, the eVisa will be the quickest and simplest way to explore everything Tunisia has to offer, the Sahara Desert included.