Morocco or Tunisia? Choosing between these two sun-drenched North African nations can be tricky. Both of them offer enthralling medina towns that date back centuries, glorious runs of coastline, ancient UNESCO sites, and incredible desert landscapes. But which is better for you this year?
That’s what this guide is here to find out. We’ve compared seven major features of each place – from budget and accommodation to beaches and food – to give a taste of what to expect in both. We’ll unravel where touts the most taste-bud-tingling cuisine, where boasts the top hotel choices, and where’s the cheapest overall.
The good news is that both places have plenty going for them. There’s mystical Morocco, where snake charmers dot the squares under the gaze of the snow-capped Atlas Mountains. Then there’s Tunisia, a country known for its five-star beach resorts and moving Saharan desert. It’s not going to be easy…
Morocco or Tunisia: Ease of travel
It’s likely that you’ll be arriving in both Tunisia and Morocco by the air – 99% of international travellers do, since the Sahara Desert blocks them off the south and the Med or the Atlantic is to the north. In Tunisia, the largest airport is the Tunis-Carthage International Airport, followed by the Djerba–Zarzis International Airport. Together, they combine to offer a Faily comprehensive array of largely charter and flag-carrier flights to European cities, along with a couple of options to major hubs like Dubai. Sadly, lots of links are seasonal and tickets to Tunisia are generally pricier than to Morocco on account of the absence of airlines like Ryanair.
For Morocco’s part, the country is now super well-linked to Europe by multiple budget carriers – Ryanair and easyJet especially. The major arrival points are Fez – in the east of the country – and Marrakesh – closer to the middle. But you can also fly to Agadir or Essaouria if you’re keen to explore the coast. Connections to Morocco can be tantalizingly cheap – we remember paying under $50 per person for a return in the summer of 2019.
Winner: Morocco. It’s served by far more low-cost airlines.
Morocco or Tunisia: Budget
The average cost of a seven-day trip to Morocco is likely to cost a single traveler around $1,000. That includes food and drinks, any sightseeing you may want to do, and – of course – your accommodation. It doesn’t, however, include flights or any additional transport, which we’d typically estimate be around the $200 mark if you’re traveling in from Europe but more if you’re coming long-haul from Asia or the Americas. Couples will usually spend less overall, since there are good discounts on double rooms – we’d estimate around $1,200 for a week-long trip to the home of the Atlas Mountains.
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Conversely, the average cost of a seven-day trip to Tunisia will cost a solo traveler around $800, which is considerably cheaper than Morocco. The same can be said for a couple’s vacation and for a family vacation. The average cost for a couple would be around $1,100 and for a family of four, the costs would be around $2,000. Again, that doesn’t include anything for the flights over in the first place, which will probably be a touch more than Morocco since there are fewer low-cost airlines coming in from Europe.
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Winner: Tunisia, because it’s a touch cheaper when you’re there for hotels and food.
Morocco or Tunisia: Accommodation
Morocco is famed as the home of a very tempting type of hotel: The riad. These are traditional mansion houses once used by North African traders. Built around a central courtyard with a small splash pool or fountain to keep the whole building cool, they are usually exquisite examples of arabesque architecture and design, with bedrooms fit for sultans and rooftop terraces where you can drink your mint tea. We have to say – they are downright amazing and one of the undisputed joys of staying in Morocco. Here are some of the best we’ve seen…
- Riad Fes Nass Zmane ($$$) – Wowza. Just wait for the tile displays, the intricate artwork, and the stunning interior courtyards here. It’s an Instagram dream.
- Ksar Anika Boutique Hotel & Spa ($$$) – A lux option in the thick of Marrakesh, choose this for its gorgeous pool and covered arcades.
- Riad Malaïka ($$) – In the old medina of Essouaria, this hotel has some top style and intriguing art displays.
Tunisia does have some old heritage hotels, but it simply can’t compete with Morocco on that front. Where it does excel is when it comes to large-scale coastal resorts. These are the main stomping ground of the visitors who flock to this part of North Africa. Check them out…
- Royal Tulip Korbous Bay Thalasso & Springs – Adults Only ($$$) – An adult’s only hotel that offers an infinity pool overlooking the Med. It’s honeymoon territory.
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- Dar Colibri – Maison d’hôtes à Kélibia ($$-$$$) – A gorgeous boutique lodging with a pool in a walled garden.
- Zenon Hotel Djerba ($$) – This mid-sized hotel in Djerba has all the pools you need and sits just 1km from the beach.
Winner: Morocco. Riads beat big resorts any day for us, but there’s an element of personal preference here.
Morocco or Tunisia: Beaches
Both Morocco and Tunisia make for great beach holidays. Let’s start with the latter…
All-inclusive trips to the sands were actually where Tunisia cut its teeth in the world of travel. That’s why this one’s all about big resort hotels on the Med. The best places to go hunting for sun-kissed shoreline is probably the isle of Djerba in the south. It’s a dusty rock surrounded by fantastic runs of sand, like Houmt Souk and Aghir. The city of Sousse is another one, and great for combining an old-school medina with a trip to the sands. Then there’s the resort of Hammamet, which tends to be better for families since it’s got water parks and whatnot.
Morocco manages brings almost double the amount of coastline to the table (it’s got 1,500 miles to Tunisia’s 807 miles!). What’s more, it offers shores on two seas: The Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean. The Atlantic is all about wave-washed beaches that have become a fav of the surfer crowd – places like Taghazout and Agadir. The others look more Majorca than North Africa. Head to the Tangier stretch and you’ll find the fantastic bays of Quemado and Playa Belyounech under the rocks of Jebel Musa.
Winner: It’s Morocco for us again – being able to choose between surf breaks and calm Med beaches is pretty rare!
Morocco or Tunisia: Things To Do
Whether you want rich Arab history and culture, no-holes-barred adventure, or simply the sun, Morocco has it all. It’s so much more than just the Souks of Marrakech, although you should see them for their snake charmers and shopping. Then, head up to the incredible Atlas Mountains to hike the 4,000-meter-high-plus top of Toubkal (the tallest peak in North Africa). Or, go to Taghazout or Imsouane for surf lessons. Alternatively, there’s one of the world’s most alluring old towns over in Fez, or the blue city of Chefchaouen, or even the shifting sand dunes that lie south in the Sahara.
Tunisia has ancient history woven into its fabric, from the UNESCO-protected Old Town Medina to the once-powerful Carthage. Among the African, European, and Islamic heritage is a modern way of life filled with bike tours, interesting cafes, and an annual arts festival. Film lovers should take a trip to Chebika, where they can walk the set of Star Wars Episode IV. Architecture buffs can go to the striking blue and white buildings in Sidi Bou Said. Outdoorsy folk should go to the Sahara Desert for sure. Tunisia has a more striking part of it than Morocco. It’s a place for balloon rides, camel rides, and camping under the stars.
Winner: Morocco – ocean and mountain and some of the world’s most famous old cities.
Morocco or Tunisia: Food
From refreshing mint tea to traditional tagines, Morocco has plenty of iconic dishes up its sleeve. The cooking here fuses Europe and Arabia in a taste-bud-tingling bout of cumin and saffron, cinnamon and cloves. Along the coast in old Berber fishing towns like Taghazout and Tamraght, you’ll eat seafood fish stews and bastilla pies with prawns. Inland, the focus switches to earthier dishes made with heavy meats like goat and mutton. Sadly, Morocco isn’t great for veggies – there’s usually just one or two options on the menu.
Here’s a look at a few of the most quintessential Moroccan dishes out there:
- Tagine – A tagine is a clay pot used for cooking. It has a conical lid and can be used to slow-cook multiple types of dishes. A traditional Tagine dish is made using either beef, lamb, or chicken, with a variety of vegetables.
- Couscous – The national dish of Morocco. Couscous is typically served with meat or vegetable stew.
- Briwat or briouats – A traditional Moroccan dessert, briwat is a deep-fried filo pastry in the shape of a triangle, filled with almonds.
Tunisian cooking combines French and African flavors with a spicy kick for good measure. A lot of dishes often feature fresh seafood or lamb. Foodies who visit Tunisia can sample not just local dishes but international cuisine – that’s mainly thanks to the abundance of big hotel restaurants and the colonial past. Here’s a quick look at some of the most iconic dishes…
Here are three traditional Tunisian dishes you have to try:
- Merguez – A spicy sausage that most people think is French. Includes Harissa, cumin, sumac, fennel, and garlic.
- Ojja (Shakshuka) – Ojja is traditionally served in a skillet or tagine. It’s a popular tomato and egg dish usually served at breakfast. The sauce is flavored with chili peppers, garlic, and spices and the eggs are poached.
- YoYos – Often served after a large evening meal, YoYos are a unique delight. These doughnuts combine the sweet flavors of honey with a subtle hint of orange.
- Briks – Brik is a thin pastry wrapped around an egg filling and fried. Other potential fillings include tuna, chicken, anchovies, capers, and cheese.
Winner: Draw. Each region offers its own variety of cuisine. All of which you need to try if visiting. Both places are a foodies paradise, although if you love your wine Tunisia is the place for you.
Morocco or Tunisia: Nightlife
We wouldn’t recommend either Tunisia or Morocco if you’re after no-holes-barred nightlife. There are much better destination for that – like Mykonos or Majorca. The main reason is that the Muslim heritage of both these nations means that many of the locals simple don’t drink alcohol, which has a knock-on impact on the sorts of things you’ll do at night.
That’s not to say there aren’t bars and you can’t drink. You can. In Tunisia, the capital of Tunis has a couple of bumping clubs and bars down the main Avenue Habib Bourguiba. Then there are the beach resorts, which offer more European-style aperitif joints to cater to the holiday crowd.
In Morocco, there’s not that classic party-until-dawn scene you get in Greece et al. But there are some cities that never sleep. Dive into the bazaars of Marrakesh at 8pm in the evening and you’ll see what we mean. The whole place, starting with Jemaa el-Fna Square, is a haze of snake charmers and sizzling food stalls selling curious dishes like baked sheep’s head. It’s an adventure, that’s for sure.
Winner: Morocco. It offers something a little different to anything you’ll experience anywhere else.
Morocco or Tunisia? Our conclusion
There’s no doubt that both of these places offer an immersive, historically rich intro to North African culture. However, we think that Morocco probably just about trumps Tunisia if you’ve not visited the region before. That’s because of its sheer diversity. You can start with a heady romp through the bazaars of the Marrakesh medina, then head to the soaring Atlas Mountains for hikes at 4,000 meters, then drop to the beaches to surf the Atlantic waves.
Tunisia wins out if you’ve already been to Morocco and want something a little different. We also think it’s better for full-on R&R holidays that are about lazing in a big hotel by the beaches of the Med.