Tozeur, Tunisia

Photo: Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas

Tunisia might be your favorite country in North Africa. Historic towns—Tunis, Sidi Bou Saïd, Sousse—are filled with maze-like medinas, packed souks, elegant mosques, and towering minarets. Roman ruins and white-sand beaches lie outside of them. While whitewashed villages and imposing forts guard the islands, including Djerba, just offshore. But that’s only the coast. You haven’t ventured inland yet.

It feels like you’re in a different country when you step off the airplane in Tozeur. It was a quick flight, only about an hour, to southwest Tunisia. The landscape has completely changed, though. The blue horizon—that would be the Mediterranean Sea—is gone. The breeze that usually accompanies it is, too. They’ve been replaced by a hot, dry desert. It’s the northern edge of the Sahara. Chott el Djerid, the Sahara’s largest salt lake, is here. It’s completely dry most of the year. While the Algerian border is less than an hour away.

Surprisingly, Tozeur isn’t completely dusty. The city is also home to Tunisia’s largest palmeraie. The huge palm grove is covered with more than 200,000 slender date palms. Fig and pomegranate trees are interspersed, as well. Paths wind around the well-manicured grove. Pedestrians and calèches (horse-drawn carriages) frequently take advantage of them. It made Tozeur an oasis in the desert.

Photo: Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas

There’s one more surprise awaiting you in Tozeur. There’s a new resort on the southwest edge of the city. It’s Anantara’s first expansion into Africa. In less than two years, it’s become known as one of the best hotels in Tunisia. It’s one of the most luxurious options along the Sahara, as well. You certainly won’t be roughing it out here.

Anantara Sahara Tozeur Resort & Villas looks like a mirage. Its earth-toned buildings blend into the desert. You can’t see their ornate brickwork, whose distinctive patterns are famous throughout Tozeur, until you’re up close. The resort’s grand lobby feels like a different type of oasis. It features a soaring ceiling, a massive wall of windows, and marble floors and pillars. The rooms and villas fan out, in the shape of a palm, around the resort. Your villa host and a golf cart are waiting to escort you to your accommodations.

Since you upgraded to a One Bedroom Pool Villa, you’re staying at the very edge of the resort. From your terrace’s plunge pool, you have an uninterrupted view of the salt pan and the desert. Sunrise promises to be spectacular in the morning. Camel treks, hot air balloon rides, and quad bikes will keep you occupied until then. The spa’s Ottoman hammam isn’t a bad spot either. Plus Arabian Nights—a pavilion with a souk-like atmosphere, live music, and fire pits—will keep you entranced under the stars. Tunisia’s true oasis just isn’t near the water where you expected to find it.

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