One of the best adventures you can have in Tunisia is found on top of Zaghouan after completing the 10km hike to Djebel Zaghouan in central Tunisia. The 20km round-trip is sure to test your stamina although the views of the mountainous region are worth all of the effort. Rocky terrain clambering and some bouldering is the skill-level required to make it to the top although there are a number of great rock-climbing sites in the area as a separate activity.
HOW TO GET TO MOUNT ZAGHOUAN (DJEBEL ZAGHOUAN)
Before you can even start to think about tying up the laces on your hiking boots, you first need to make your way to Zaghouan. If you are in Tunis, you can take a taxi or a louage (shared car). I found the public transport a bit unreliable and often hard to figure out when and what will be coming. If you are a local, this may be easier to organize.
I was coming from the south and my louage dropped me at Enfidah, I then caught a local bus to Zaghouan and then finally a taxi to Dar Zaghouan, my hotel.
Once you are in Zaghouan, you will then need to head to the trailhead, which among many spots is generally known as the Water Temple. It really depends if you have a car or not but I have included my GPS map below and included the link for download here.
As you can see on the map below ‘Parc Temple Des Eaux’ is about where we started but the road does continue all the way to the ‘Temple’, which is a secondary, unofficial temple. You can drive here, park and cut your hike in half but let’s just see it’s not the ‘real’ hike if you do that. The bottom line is you can start the journey from the ‘Parc Temple Des Eaux’ or the ‘Water Temple’.
WHERE TO STAY NEAR MOUNT ZAGHOUAN
When you start to look at staying in Zaghouan for some adventures or hiking, you will find that there aren’t hundreds of options to book online. A local guide recommended for me to stay at Dar Zaghouan, which costs $100 USD per night for two people including breakfast and dinner.
Dar Zaghouan wasn’t cheap but the meals were quite good and it was always a three-course serving and unlimited food and coffee at breakfast. If you are looking for a comfortable base during your time in Zaghouan, I’d suggest Dar Zaghouan as you have all your meals taken care of and there aren’t too many options for restaurants in Zaghouan.
I’d suggest booking in advance especially on weekends as a lot of local tourists from Tunis make the 1-hour journey down for a countryside escape from the busy Tunis. Dar Zaghouan fills up on the weekend but also has some great live entertainment in the form of traditional music and performances during dinner.
To book a room or to check the availability you can click here: Dar Zaghouan Hotel
HOW TO ORGANIZE YOUR PERMIT AND GUIDE FOR MOUNT ZAGHOUAN
Djebel Zaghouan is actually in a National Park. There are quite a few rules that surround this region because during the Arab Spring Uprising, the mountains were seen as a dangerous place for certain orgaization to hide and get up to no good. Now it is very safe but a lot of rules still apply. The two that will impact you the most is the need to obtain a permit for your hike.
- To obtain your permit, you can do this by emailing the Zaghouan Mountain Association: Speleo.firstname.lastname@example.org The permit doesn’t cost anything but it is required and although I find it unlikley you would be checked or find any trouble without it, it’s always good to follow the local rules.
- The National Park closes at 4pm, which rules you out of being at the summit for sunset. It is very possible to get down after sunset safely so it would definitely be good to try and organize to stay later to witness the sunset at the top but if you can’t find a way around that rule, be aware that after 4 pm you are actually not allowed in the National Park. Again, I’m not sure how heavily that is enforced and what penalties are imposed.
To organie a guide for the trek, you can also email the Zaghouan Mountain Association and they will set you up with a guide. They provide this service for free at this point in time and are an incredible bunch of people who love the mountains and are truly proud to show you their local landscapes.
MOUNT ZAGHOUAN DRONE VIDEO
MY EXPERIENCE HIKING MOUNT ZAGHOUAN
It was a big journey to get to Zaghouan from the south with numerous taxi’s buses and an overpriced louage, but I think I knew the whole time we were heading somewhere worth the effort. The mountains are always worth the effort. I imagine if you are making the short 1-hour journey down from Tunis, your drive may be a little less eventful, which is a good thing!
I had been in touch with the ASEZ, who are essentially the Zaghouan Mountain/Climbing Association when translated. Basically, they are a group of legends who love the mountains and volunteer their time to show tourists like me the beauty of the mountains in Zaghouan. They organized my permit and three of the members of ASEZ came all the way from Tunis to guide us up Djebel Zaghouan, the mightiest peak in the region.
They briefed us that it would be about 10 hours in total and possible 25-29km in length depending on the route we took. In the end it was 6 hours and 20kms. Had we known it was not quite 10 hours, we might have tried to be at the summit for sunset and broke the rules a little bit but nevertheless it was great during the day.
We set off at 830 am from Dar Zaghouan, our hotel, and made it to a parking lot near the ‘Parc Temple Des Eaux’. Like I mentioned in the directions above, you can really start wherever you please as you will see the road continues. However, it does dart off up the hill on a dirt trail before reaching the Temple at the midway point. The map above will show that clearly.
The trail begins on the road and cars were passing us. It’s always an interesting way to start a hike but we were happy to be out exploring Tunisia and turing the legs over. During this part of the trail, there was a lot of trash dumped on the side of the road, which was dissapointing.
After a couple of kilometers on the road, we turned off to the left, through a gate that led us up into the wilderness. This is when the hike began and we would only see a small snippet of asphalt throughout the remainder of the journey.
The trail was a steady climb, averaging 100m of incline for the first four kilometers. It was a rocky trail with lots of switchbacks as we rounded our way up the side of the mountain, grabbing slight views every few hundred meters. On our ascent, fog filled the sky giving a sense of mystery as the hike slowly unfolded and we began to see more and more of the Zaghouan landscapes.
The halfway point of the trail is marked by a temple. While not belonging to a specific religion, families meet here on weekends for traditional ceremonies. We seemed to be walking straight through one although they didn’t mind too much. It is to be noted that you can get fresh clean water here that I drank. I didn’t take any photos here except one quick one as we were leavin as we were intruding a little bit but it is an intersting stop on the trek.
After our hang out at the top, we began the hike back down, which would eventually take us about 2.5 hours rounding out the total time of our hike to just over 6 hours. The conditions on the way down were perfectly clear and later that night thee sunset was incredible, which left me wondering what if we were at the summit but you can’t always make the logistics work.
ZAGHOUAN ADVENTURE BAG
This is an adventure bag. It is full of trash. Every time I go on an adventure I collect one adventure bag full of trash. It’s my small way of saying thanks to mother nature for allowing me to enjoy her beautiful creations. If we have time to go on an adventure we have time to collect an adventure bag on the way back out of the trail once we have enjoyed the waterfall, the hike or the beach. Adventure hard!
Tag your @adventurebagcrew on Instagram and mention @adventurebagcrew in your Instagram stories to be featured and inspire your friends, family, and followers to join the movement!