Ksar Ghilane Oasis

Page update - Mar 12, 2023

The oasis of Ksar Ghilane (aka 'Henchir Tebournouk') is in the south of Tunisia and is the southernmost point in the Sahara tourist excursions.

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

The oasis is small - about 700 x 1,200 meters (2,300 x 4,000 feet). It looks the same as tourists imagine the oasis to look like - date palms, Berber tents, and a reservoir in the center.

Several hundred people live there nowadays. They work as hotel staff and guides for tourists, grow dates, breed goats and sheep.

In the oasis of Ksar Ghilane, tourists stay overnight in local hotels, bathe in the local hot spring, and watch the ancient Roman fort. The best way to explore the desert is on camels, jeeps, quad bikes or buggies, as it is the Ksar Ghilane where the real desert begins!

Great Eastern Erg

The Great Eastern Erg border passes through the oasis of Ksar Ghilane. This is where the real Sahara begins.

The word "Erg" translates from Arabic as "sea of sand" and it is indeed a sea of sand with no vegetation at all. The Great Eastern Erg is the largest in the Sahara, covering 100,000 square kilometers (38,600 square miles). The dunes there are up to 300 meters (1,000 feet) high.

It really does look like the sea, only orange and yellow. See the photo near, click on the photo to enlarge.

Fans of Frank Herbert and the Dune series of books need to see this. This is exactly what the planet Arrakis should look like.

How to get there

There is no public transport to Ksar Ghilane Oasis. You can either get there by taxi, or by renting a car, or by sightseeing tour.

By taxi

Getting by taxi is expensive. No taxi driver will accept the ride by taximeter, and you'll have to negotiate a fixed sum.

The taxi from Djerba costs 150-300 dinars. You will have to haggle within these figures. From Zarzis, you may ride for 150-250 dinars. For the current exchange rates, see our page "Tunisian Dinar".

For holidaymakers in other Tunisian resorts, we recommend the train to Gabes, and from there to take a taxi for 150-250 dinars. Naturally, the train and taxi ride is long, in which case you should come to Ksar Ghilane for at least 2 days.

By car

Long gone are the days when Ksar Ghilane was only accessible by dirt roads by off-road vehicle or by camel. There is now a paved road.

From Djerba, take the Roman road southwards across the C115, turn off the C118 westwards and follow it to Medenin. Continue west on the C113 and C114 to the junction with the C211, turn left (southbound). After 25 kilometers (15.5 miles), turn onto the road to Ksar Ghilane Oasis, follow the signpost on the road.

Take a rented car from other resorts to Gabes. Continue south on the C107, turn right onto the C104, continue to the junction with the C211 and turn left onto the C211. After 25 kilometers (15.5 miles), take the road to Ksar Ghilane Oasis and follow the signpost on the road.

As part of a tour

To try all the activities in Ksar Ghilane, you need to go there on a separate tour. Now (note: this page was updated in early 2023), such tours to the oasis are offered by few tour operators and local travel agencies. The tours are for 1 full day and are available only for guests of Zarzis and Djerba. The price is USD 80-100.

Some tour groups on the Sahara Excursion tour stay and even stay overnight at Ksar Ghilane Oasis. This name hides dozens of different excursion programmes.

Important tip: If you want to get to the oasis of Ksar Ghilane, then when buying a tour to the Sahara, be sure to ask whether the tour stops there. There are cases when the oasis is passed by.

In most cases, during a stop at the oasis, tourists are only given camel rides and shown the sands of the Great Eastern Erg. There is not even time for a dip in the hot spring.

An important tip! If an overnight stay in Ksar Ghilane is part of the tour, be sure to check at which hotel you will be staying. There are few hotels and the difference in standards between them is enormous.

Where to stay - hotels, tents, camping

Campement Yadis Ksar Ghilane (Campement l' OASIS) is an excellent hotel whose rooms are spacious and beautiful tents. See the photo nearby, click on the photo to enlarge.

The tents have air conditioning and heating, TV and a private bathroom. If such a hotel could be given stars, it would be 5. Tents are set up around the thermal spring, and sun loungers and umbrellas are provided.

If you're traveling on your own, it's almost impossible to book a room in advance at Campement Yadis. The hotel is often booked by excursion groups. If you'll be lucky to find the free room, the price starts from USD 200 per night.

Residence La Source Ksar Ghilane is a mini-hotel in the north of the oasis. The reviews of tourists about it are mostly negative. The bathrooms in some of the rooms are shared, bed linen is rarely washed, and the beds are uncomfortable.

If you're traveling on your own, you can book a room at the Residence La Source through many hotel websites. The prices start at 60 USD per night.

Private tents are available by arrangement with the local owners. The prices start at 30 USD. The quality ranges from smelly to reasonable.

Entertainment - camel rides in the desert

For an additional fee of 20 dinars, you can ride a camel, buggy or quad bike through the Great Eastern Erg. Some tours include camel rides in the price.

Entertainment - thermal spring

A small pond fed by a thermal spring is located in the center of the oasis. Although it is in the grounds of the Campement Yadis, entry is free and swimming is free of charge. Hotel guests can make use of the sun loungers and umbrellas.

The water is rich with sulfur and is considered to have benefits for health.

An interesting fact is how this hot spring came into being. After World War II, oil was sought there, a well was drilled. Water, not oil, poured out.

What to see - Tisavar Fort

It is the fort that gave its name to the area and the oasis. The word 'ksar' translates from Arabic as 'fort'.

The fort was built by the Romans as part of their defensive line of Limes Tripolitanus, which protected coastal towns from the Berber tribes. The fort was built in 184. Soldiers from the III Augustus Legion protected the fort. Presumably in 314, the Romans had abandoned the fort.

After the Romans, it was used by Berbers as a fortified granary, so it is relatively well preserved.

The dimensions of the fort are 25x34 meters (82x112 feet). At first glance there is nothing special about it, but when you see it, look around. What do you see? Just sand! Just think how much stone and how far the Romans had to transport in order to build this fort! A titanic effort.

At the entrance, you'll see the inscription IOV_OPT_MAX_VIC, some of the letters have been erased. The inscription reads "Jupiter the almighty victor".

All the archaeological finds from the fort can now be viewed at the Bardo Museum in the capital.

What to see - a stele commemorating the Battle of Ksar Ghilane

The Battle of Ksar Ghilane took place here from 23 February to 10 March 1943. Force L, part of the 8th British Army (French units fought as part of the British Army), under the command of Philippe Leclerc, fought against Wehrmacht units.

The French are very proud of this campaign. On 12 April, Leclerc entered Kairouan. Later, on 7 May, the Allies entered Tunis (the capital) and the Germans and Italians capitulated at Cap Bon on 13 May.

The Battle of Ksar Ghilane is considered the starting point of that victorious campaign. A memorial stele commemorating the battle is erected near the oasis of Ksar Ghilane.

Top Tips

- Do not miss the opportunity to buy dates grown in Ksar Ghilane oasis. They are very rare and unlikely to be found anywhere else. Dates are one of our most popular gifts from Tunisia. For the full list of gifts, see our in-depth review "16 best ideas what to bring back from Tunisia";

- Ksar Ghilane is a very hot place. So don't forget about sun safety under any circumstances. Shoulders should be covered and a hat is a must. For safety precautions, see our detailed reviews "Dangers for tourists in Tunisia" and "What to bring with you for Tunisia".

We wish you interesting excursions in Tunisia and read interesting and informative pages about this country on our website (see the pages list below). © 2020-2024