The nine islands of the Kerkenna archipelago, lying 25 km from the coastline of Sfax, are an ideal place to escape from the busy world. Life here seems to have stopped back in ancient Roman times: according to one of the popular versions (survivability of which is supported primarily by the locals themselves), Odysseus was held captive by the nymph Calypso not on Djerba, and on one of the Kerken Islands. And having arrived here, you understand that this is exceptionally similar to the truth: it seems that the mythical hero right now is reclining somewhere behind a palm tree on a beautiful white sandy beach. Otherwise, everything here is also antique: the flat landscape of the islands excludes the very thoughts of any high-rise construction, and the fishermen still fish in the old fashioned way, constructing snares from palm branches. The hotel business on the islands is almost not developed: about six seasonal hotels are ready to accept not too demanding tourists. Check animalerts for overview of Africa, covering list of all countries in the continent.
How to get to the Kerkenna Islands
Sfax is the only starting point for traveling to Kerkenna. From its port, 11 ferries a day depart for the archipelago in summer and 4 in winter. The timetable is posted on the information board at the port and at the Sfax Tourist Office. The crossing takes about 1 hour 15 minutes in good weather. In summer, the last ferry from the islands leaves at 21:30. Drinks and light snacks are sold on board. Try to take a seat on the shady side, otherwise you will have to bake in the sun during the entire crossing.
It is better not to drive a rented car to Kerkenna on weekends in the summer: Sfax people go to the islands with their families for the weekend and there is a risk of missing several ferries while waiting for a free one.
Of the nine islands of the archipelago, only two are permanently inhabited: the smaller Garbi and the larger Shergi. Ferries from Sfax come to the harbor of the town of Sidi Yousef (actually, this is just a village around the ferry port) on the island of Garbi, where the road begins, leading through the entire Garbi and continuing to Shergi along an unmade road built in ancient Roman times. Most of the population of the islands lives on Shergi, and the administrative center is also located here – the tiny town of Remla.
You can move around the Kerkenna Islands by bus or fixed-route taxis. Minibuses wait for each ferry and take passengers to Remla, travel in the company of “like-minded people” costs about 2-5 TND. There are also ordinary yellow taxis, payment in them is according to the meter. Kerken buses also meet every ferry; they follow to Remla, and one route with the inscription “Hotel” on the windshield calls on the way to the resort town of Sidi Frej. Prices on the page are for July 2021.
Kerkenna is also a paradise for cyclists. The landscape is absolutely flat, without ups and downs, the roads are good, but you will have to travel in the sun – there are practically no shady roads. You can rent a two-wheeled friend at any hotel for about 15 TND per day.
In Kerkenna, everywhere there is a gentle descent into the sea with a long and gradual decrease in depth: you can walk knee-deep for a hundred meters.
The hotels of the archipelago are located exclusively on the island of Shergi in two towns: the “capital” Remla and the “resort” Sidi Frej. The most touristic of the Kerkennah hotels is the Grand Hotel Kerkennah in Sidi Frej, the main contingent of which is the Sfaxians and the British. The hotel cannot boast of novelty, but it stands on one of the most beautiful beaches of the archipelago. “Four” Dar Kerkennah – a small but high-quality private hotel, standing right on the beach in the immediate vicinity of the ruins of the Hissar fortress. You can also stay at the Kerkennah Islands Club Residence, the Cercina Hotel or the Aziz Aparthotel.
Kerkenna is one big beach: the magnificent sandy coastline and amazing sunrises/sunsets are the main local attraction and entertainment all rolled into one. Everywhere there is a gentle descent into the sea with a long and smooth decrease in depth (one hundred meters you can walk knee-deep) – for this, families with small children love Kerkenna. Hotel beaches have umbrellas and sun loungers with mattresses, but most of the coast is wild uninhabited beaches. The best (among the already best) are located on the northern coast of Shergi Island, but you can only get there by your own transport or a taxi rented for the whole day. Cape Bunuma is an absolute favorite in terms of picturesqueness and solitude.
5 things to do in Kerkenna
- Turn off your cell phone and never look at your watch.
- Enjoy “with a margin” serene sea and endless sandy beaches.
- Wander through the ancient Roman ruins forgotten by time and archaeologists in the fortress of Hissar.
- Try the chish octopus soup, having previously stocked up with the necessary amount of water to extinguish the fire in your mouth.
- Rent a bike and explore the islands.
Cuisine of Kerkenna
Fish and seafood are the hallmarks of the cuisine of the Kerkenna archipelago. Historically, there was not too much meat here – the sparse vegetation of the islands does not contribute to the breeding of fat herds – but there is more than enough seafood. You can taste freshly caught grilled fish in any of Kerkenna’s restaurants – it is guaranteed to be very tasty, albeit without gastronomic ornateness.
And on Kerkenna, you should definitely order a thick and spicy octopus soup called “chish”.
Entertainment and attractions of Kerkenna
Although the sea and beaches are the main attractions of Kerkenna, there is something to diversify the “vegetative” leisure here. For example, you can go to the Borj el Hissar fortress, built by the Spaniards in the 16th century on the ruins of an ancient Roman structure. From its peaks, a breathtaking view of the endless sea opens up, and at the foot you can still see the ancient ruins: the mosaics that have not lost their brightness are half covered with sand, and the foundations of Roman villas go straight into the sea. You can walk here along the coast from the Grand Hotel Kerkennah in 40 minutes (distance – 3 km).
In Attaya, on the east coast, there is an old fishing port – you can come here early in the morning by taking a taxi and watch the fishermen go out to sea or ask them to go fishing for a modest fee. There you can also arrange a trip to one of the smaller islands – Gremdi: you will be taken there in the morning and delivered back in the evening.