“Welcome to a little piece of paradise on the Mediterranean,” beams the Le Royal Hammamet website, “where manicured gardens, sandy beaches and Moorish architecture conspire to give you the ultimate hospitality and leisure experience.”
I’d go along with that. As a travel writer and long-time fan of Le Royal Hotels & Resorts properties, I spent a week there earlier this year and would happily go back for more.
Le Royal Hammamet lies directly on the beautiful blue beach of Yasmine Hammamet, just a short hop from the awesome marina. (Sadly I can’t yet afford the yacht yet.) Nearby you’ll find the Medina, the Casino, the cultural centre and two beautiful golf clubs. I played the championship eighteen-hole Golf Yasmine designed by award-winning Californian architect Ronald Fream. It offers deliciously large tees, dramatic bunker shapes and an imaginative use of water, and the whole course has a sophisticated irrigation and drainage system designed to keep it in pristine condition. This is a highly enjoyable par 71 that is open all year round and was easy to book through Le Royal’s helpful concierge service.
Le Royal Hammamet is part of the Le Royal Resorts & Hotels division of GMH, the group founded by British entrepreneur and philanthropist Sir Nadhmi Auchi. Like all GMH’s five-star luxury resorts, Le Royal offers guests top-class facilities throughout.
There are four outdoor swimming pools on the resort – two close to the private beach – and a covered heated pool. You can also enjoy a knockabout on one of the two floodlit tennis courts, and there are loads of other sporty activities to try such as beach volleyball, boccia, basketball, water polo, mini golf and archery. Various water sports are available too, from pedal boating to water skiing, banana boat and jet ski, and you can also organise overland tours by camel, horse or 4×4.
Kids will enjoy the Fun Club and amusement arcade, and after a hard day’s sunbathing the Shehrayar Nightclub is guaranteed to keep the adults entertained into the early hours.
The Royal Med Spa is “a great architectural success where the contemporary and baroque merge to create a wonderfully soothing atmosphere”, and where you can get first-class treatments and cures like massages, body wraps and facials; it also has a heated swimming pool, Turkish bath, fitness hall and hair salon.
If you fancy a day out, many of Tunisia’s fascinating towns and cities, including the capital Tunis, are just a short bus or car ride away.
This town is home to some of the most impressive Roman structures that still exist in Africa today. Almost as large as Rome’s Coliseum, El Djem’s amphitheatre looms dramatically over the horizon of olive trees, but contrary to popular culture it was not used in the filming of either Ridley Scott’s epic Gladiator or Monty Python’s Life of Brian.
Founded by a Phoenician princess, Carthage grew to become the capital of one of the world’s greatest ancient empires. Good places to explore are the Salammbó Tophet, the Punic Harbour and the Roman and Palaeo-Christian Museum, as well as the archaeological park and the thermal baths of Antoninus Pius, the largest outside Rome.
The Great Mosque of Uqba Ibn Nafi
Kairouan is the most sacred city in Tunisia and Islam’s fourth most important centre after Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem. Covering a total area of over 9000m2, the 9th century Mosque is a truly awe-inspiring structure. Inside it contains 414 marble, granite and porphyry columns and the Muslim world’s oldest pulpit, with over 300 individually carved wooden pieces.
Sidi Bou Said
A waterfall of pretty houses cascades steeply down Jebel Manar and beckons visitors into its web of cobbled alleyways. The village takes your breath away with its white-washed walls and blue carved stone doorways, interrupted only by bursts of magenta bougainvillea. You will find plenty of little cafes and restaurants overlooking the gulf of Tunis as well as markets selling local crafts and pastries.
International Cultural Centre/Sebastian Villa
This elegant mansion, designed and built in typical Tunisian style by Romanian millionaire George Sebastian between 1920 and 1932, was described by architect Frank Lloyd Wright as one of the most beautiful places he knew. It has a central colonnaded swimming pool, a huge black marble dining table and a baptistry font-style four-seater bath surrounded by mirrors. In the summer months it hosts Hammamet’s annual International Cultural Festival, with entertainment ranging from classical theatre to Arabic music.
The Bardo Museum
Tunisia’s National Museum is home to the country’s rich archaeological finds and is particularly renowned for its mosaics. Apart from the exhibitions of Islamic art and ceramics, the building itself is also of great architectural interest. The collections are housed in the old Beylical Palace, and its 18th and 19th century interior decorations are an intriguing combination of Hispano-Moresque and Ottoman Rococo.
The Island of Djerba
Djerba is known as “Land of the Lotus Eaters” because of its intensively cultivated farms. Dotted with palm, fig and olive trees, the island seems luxuriant in comparison to the mainland. Its traditional architecture includes a large number of white-washed mosques and renovated weaver workshops, and there are some exquisite sandy beaches. Take a picnic basket and some boukha.
Find out more on the official Tunisia tourist website