Zaghouan & Temple of Water

Page update - Mar 8, 2023

The town of Zaghouan is best known for the Temple of Water which supplied water to Carthage via an aqueduct. What is the temple? What's there to see? How to get there on your own? Or is it more convenient to come with a tour? Read the answers on this page.

The prices and other information on this page were updated in March 2023.

Brief description

The ancient Roman town of Ziqua (or Zigus) was once the site of the present-day town of Zaghouan, and its name is thought to originate from the Latin word for "aqua". Water has been the main wealth of the town since ancient times.

Local springs supplied water to Carthage via an aqueduct 132 km (82 mi) long. The aqueduct was built in 128 A.D. by order of the Emperor Hadrian after a 5-year drought in the region. A sanctuary was built on the site of the spring which is now seen by tourists on excursions.

The sanctuary is now commonly known as the "Temple of Water", although it did not have much religious significance. The French called it so during the protectorate either 'Temple de Eaux' or 'Temple des Numphes'.

The sanctuary makes a strong impression from the first moments, as visitors see it against the backdrop of Mount Zaghouan 1,295 meters (4,250 feet) high. See the photo near, click on the photo to enlarge.

The sanctuary is accessed by climbing the steps. The first thing visitors see at the top is a tank shaped like the number 8. This tank was used to collect water from the spring. The water underwent primary purification by sedimentation and then entered the aqueduct to Carthage.

Further up the steps is the sanctuary itself. It is semi-circular and has 12 niches, where statues symbolizing the 12 months once stood. There is almost nothing left of the statues, the remains are now in the Carthage Museum. There is a small structure where the stream started in the center.

Tours take tourists only to the Temple of Water, but the town of Zaghouan is interesting on its own. But we will talk about the town in detail in the second part of our review.

How to get there

Zaghouan is 50 km (31 mi) south of the capital, 50 km (31 mi) west of Hammamet, 80 km (50 mi) northwest of Sousse.

Option 1 - guided tour.

The easiest option is a guided tour. There are no separate excursions to Zaghouan, but almost all the excursions to Dugga stop in Zaghouan. The price of such an excursion is 60-80 USD and it lasts all day.

Option 2 - taxi.

You can take a taxi, but not every taxi driver will agree to drive that far. In case of the return trip, you will have more chances to deal. The ride price from Hammamet and Yasmine Hammamet is 50-60 dinars one way, 90-100 there and back. From Sousse and El Kantaoui, is 80-90 one way, 140-160 with return. For the taxi fares, see our in-depth review "Taxis in Tunisia". For the current rates, see our review "Money in Tunisia".

Option 3 - shuttle buses.

It's possible to get there by public transport, but it's difficult. There are no buses or trains to Zaghouan, only shuttles. From Hammamet bus station, there are shuttles every hour, but they go to other towns and stop in Zaghouan. This means you have to go around and ask the drivers if they stop in Zaghouan. The fare is 5-6 dinars.

From Sousse Bus Station (next to the Medina of Sousse), shuttle buses leave twice a day and again stop at Zaghouan. The fare from Sousse is 5-8 dinars. From the capital Tunis, from the bus station, the shuttles leave every hour, and again you have to look for the right one, ask the drivers. The cost for a ride from Tunis is 3-5 dinars.

The return trip is even more difficult. Catch a shuttle bus on Ave 14 Janvier. Not every minibus will have a free seat! For these reasons, we do not recommend an independent journey by shuttle bus.

Entry fee

Free of charge.

Opening hours

It is always open. During the day it's for sure. It may be closed at night, as there is a gate at the entrance.

The town of Zaghouan

The town is small, with a population of around 20,000. But despite its modest size, it is the capital of a wilayat (province) of the same name. Zaghouan is known as the 'Moorish City'.

In the 17th century, after the Reconquista, the Moors moved there from Spain. They brought their unique culture and now many of the houses in the old town are in a Moorish style. The Moors brought their plants and to this day Zaghouan is famous for the Rose of Canina (a type of rose hips) and Tunisia's finest rose hips. A big flower festival is held there in May.

The Moors have brought their culinary traditions with them. The most famous local dish is 'kaak varka', a ring-shaped biscuit richly coated in icing sugar, very nice and delicious. Over the years, the recipe has spread all over Tunisia and the biscuits have now become a national dish.

Zaghouan is Tunisia's leading caving tourism destination. There are 25 large caves in the surrounding mountains, including the country's deepest Mine Cave 425 meters (1,400 feet) deep. Hiking and mountain climbing are also popular.

Tips for tourists

- It is possible to stay in Zaghouan if you wish. There are no large hotels, but there are four guest houses;

- Zaghouan is obviously not a resort area. Dollars and euros are not accepted there. Dinars are the only currency of payment. Read our in-depth review "Money exchange in Tunisia";

- There is a Magazin General supermarket in Zaghouan, but without an alcohol department. There is nowhere to buy alcohol in Zaghouan.

Have a good tour of Zaghouan and read our interesting pages about Tunisia (see the pages list below). © 2020-2024