Tunisia’s southeastern coast, like many of its other regions, is full of natural and historical riches. The blue Mediterranean unfolds before you in Hammamet, a relaxing stretch of sea-kissed sand with an imposing fort and historic medina-a focal point of Hammamet, surrounded by thick stone walls that are interrupted with castle-like towers. Inside, wander through shaded, whitewashed streets and bargain for delicately-painted ceramic plates and traditional trinkets in the overflowing souks.

The Great Mosque’s white minaret soars into the impeccably blue sky, a symbol of Tunisian architecture that fuses Moorish and Turkish styles. A turquoise arched door flanks its base, while cobalt entryways are surrounded with painted tiles and pretty balconies hover above.

The sea breeze gently whispers around you as you sip on a the a la menthe—a brew infused with mint and almonds—in one of the cafes outside the medina’s walls. When the sun is preparing to set, climb to the top of the 13th-century kasbah to dig into the history of pirates and Spanish occupation. Orange, lemon, and olive trees dot the landscape and jasmine blooms perfume the air.

Beyond Hammamet, Nabeul is a picturesque town where you can buy fresh chilies and bright tomatoes plucked from the nearby fertile fields. Excavated Punic and Roman marble statues, terracotta objects, and mosaics are on display in the town’s Archaeological Museum.
Tunisia’s unique position between North Africa and southern Europe gives it a unique blend of cultures. On a clear day, spot Sicily off in the distance from the bastions of the Byzantine fortress in Kelibia. It was from this region that the Muslim conquest of Sicily set off in 829.
There are many small towns in the region, each sheltering a unique treasure from days long past. Frequented since Roman times, the hot springs in Korbous are rich in minerals believed to have healing properties. Featured in the 1981 Indiana Jones film, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Kairouan was once a center of learning and faith.

In Sousse you’ll find a blend of influences from the Arabs, Europeans, and Romans; each culture tried at one time to control the scenic area where palm trees meet the blue sea. To escape the midday heat, descend into the Great Mosque of Sousse’s old catacombs. The UNESCO-listed medina of Sousse dates back to the first centuries of Islam. Towers, striped domes, turrets, and scalloped-topped walls once used as a form of defense, now exude bygone romance. Sousse is also known for its mosaics, displayed in the Museum of Folk Art and Traditions.

There are many ways to uncover the history of Hammamet and its neighbors. The best thing to do is to explore with your Ker & Downey guide, free of time tables, until you stumble across a hidden place where you can truly admire Tunisia’s wealth of history.