Matmata, an area on the southern spurs of the Atlas Mountains, the most “otherworldly” attraction of Tunisia, the “flying Dutchman” and “kin-dza-dza” in one bottle. Either figures of people and animals appear out of nowhere on the lifeless mountain slopes, or a satellite dish sticks out of the ground – there is reason to pinch yourself more painfully and rub your eyes. The mystery of Matmata lies in the Berbers who inhabit it, the indigenous population of North Africa. Fleeing from Islamic conquests, they came to this remote area and settled right in the mountain slopes, tearing out their dwellings in pliable clay soil. Today, you can not only see these caves, but also spend the night here: there are several underground hotels in Matmata. See andyeducation for education and training in Tunisia.
One of the hotels in Matmata – Sidi Driss – lit up in the Lucas epic about star wars – where he served as the home of Luke Skywalker.
How to get to Matmata
- most tourists come here in organized groups. A stop in Matmata is an obligatory part of a two-day tour of Tunisia. In addition to visiting the Berber dwellings, tourists are fed here with lunch in the same cave restaurant. The tour is conducted by all Russian tour operators operating in Tunisia, the approximate cost is 160-200 TND.
- Renting a car is the most convenient, albeit expensive, option. From any coastal resort in Tunisia or the capital, take the country’s only paid autobahn (road A1) to Sfax. Then continue on the usual road to Gabes and inland – after 45 km there will be New Matmata (a town with a claim to civilization), and immediately after it – traditional Matmata. All roads are in good condition.
The roads in Matmata are laid on the mountain slopes, very winding, often with a large slope. Be extremely careful while driving.
- public transport is theoretically available, but this is not an easy way. The daily bus of the state company SNTRI leaves the capital at 21:30 and arrives in Matmata at 5:00. The fare is 27.50 TND. Minibuses also connect Matmata and Gabes; in this case, you will first have to get from Gabes to New Matmata – Approximately 3 TND, and then from New Matmata to get to the Berber caves – about 1.50 TND. There is no order in the circulation of minibuses.
Weather forecast for Matmata
As in the desert regions of the Tunisian South lying 100 km from Matmata, it is very hot here in summer. Be sure to take care of the appropriate clothing and headgear. In October-November, there are heavy showers, be careful while driving on mountain serpentines.
5 things to do in Matmata
- Visit the Berbers in underground dwellings.
- Overnight at Skywalker’s house.
- Buy local products – honey, thyme and aromatic herbs.
- Take a picture at the observation deck of Matmata.
- Swim in the pool of the Diar el Berber hotel and enjoy breathtaking views of the “lunar” surroundings.
There is a post office where you can exchange currency and several bank branches. They are located in New Matmata, before the cave area, or in the administrative center of the settlements, after the Berber houses.
You can dine in the only tourist restaurant located at the entrance to the territory of the Berbers, to the left of the main road. Fixed price for a set lunch of salad, shorba soup, couscous and fruit. A good restaurant in the hotel Diar el-Berber (a la carte order). Another option is to have a bite to eat in the catering establishments of New Matmata, before visiting the cave dwellings.
Matmata is the most “otherworldly” attraction in Tunisia, the “flying Dutchman” and “kin-dza-dza” in one bottle.
Yes, there are hotels here! One of them – Sidi Driss – even lit up in Lucas’s Star Wars epic – where he served as the home of Luke Skywalker. You can spend the night in such hotels only in search of exotic (feelings are really unforgettable), but you can’t count on convenience. In addition to cave hotels, there are also ordinary, more tourist-oriented hotels in Matmata, for example, Ksar Amazigh and Diar el Berber. Even a hint of chic is read in the interiors of the latter: a bar with plasma and a pool with breathtaking views of the lunar surroundings.
Attractions and attractions in Matmata
The main attraction of Matmata is the Berber burrow dwellings. To the right and left of the main road you will see numerous caves, the entrance to which is painted white. Often, fish and palms are depicted on the doorposts – protective symbols of the Berbers. Entering the “house”, you find yourself in a spacious open-air courtyard (actually, this is not yet a hole), but cave rooms have already been dug out of it in different directions – bedrooms, living rooms, children’s rooms and storage rooms. It is allowed to walk everywhere and touch everything, you can even grind grain with hand millstones for a couple with a Berber grandmother.
It is better not to enter the entrances not painted with white paint – these are ordinary private dwellings, not a tourist option, and you are not expected there.
Pay attention to the microclimate of the premises – even in the most sizzling heat, it is not hot inside the house. In winter, the walls keep the heat perfectly, and the dwelling can be heated no worse than a Moscow apartment. By the way, all Berber houses have electricity under the national electrification program, and almost all dwellings have satellite dishes.
Although visiting the caves is technically free, it is recommended to leave a dinar on a specially designated saucer as a thank you for visiting the house. In return, you can ask for something from the supplies – a garland of dried red pepper or a bunch of mountain thyme.
Leaving Matmata and following the main road, after about 7 km, a series of mountain villages begins – Khaddezh, Tamezret, Tuzhen, Zraouia. The houses here are built of stones – extremely primitive, they give an idea of how our ancestors probably lived in the early Middle Ages. Pay attention to the local grandmothers, whose faces are decorated with traditional tattoos, marking belonging to a particular tribe.