The largest country in Africa can hardly be considered a hidden tourist gem but for an authentic North African experience it is unparalleled. The majority of the population live on the Mediterranean coast and there is plenty to enjoy amongst the cities and countryside of the North of the country. Roman ruins, Ottoman souks and colonial architecture are all there to be discovered. For explorers the highlight of any trip to Algeria is to dive deep into the Sahara. The sheer variety of desert landscapes in the Tadrat Rouge and Tassili N’Ajjer National Park show that there is more to the Sahara than featureless dune sea. Combine this with visits to the desert towns of Djanet, Ghardaïa or Timimoun and you will step into the traditional life of the Tuareg and Berber people.
The capital and largest city of Algeria, the turbulent history of the country is reflected in the architecture of Algiers. The districts by the Mediterranean Sea are dominated by wide boulevards, with elegant villas and apartment blocks of the colonial period. Many of these buildings are worth investigating such as the Grand Poste D’Alger and the Basilique Notre Dame D’Afrique. Alongside these are striking post-independence monuments and public buildings including the Superior National Music Institute and the Monument of the Martyr that commemorates Algerian Independence. Higher up the hill are labyrinthine streets and alleys from earlier history culminating with the ancient heart of the city, the Casbah. Steep stairs and narrow passages give access to extraordinary views of sea, sky and greenery, as well as many of the city’s oldest and most distinctive buildings. A perfect place to base an expedition, Algiers has wonders and discoveries of its own for the curious visitor.
Constantine, the City of Bridges, occupies a dramatic plateau cut in two by the deep ravine of the river Rhumel. Each of the seven bridges is spectacular. The city has had many names, including Sewa or royal city by the Carthaginians, and Cirta when it was the capital of the classical kingdom of Numidia. The old city still sits on top of the hill that held the fortress in Roman times. The ruins of a Roman aqueduct can be found here, as well as several museums and mosques. Although these are well worth your time, the main attraction here is the extraordinary situation of the city itself.
DJÉMILA AND TIMGAD
These are two of the best preserved Roman ruins in North Africa. Djémila is adapted to its mountain setting, with two fora, the later one being adorned with the arch of Caracalla and surrounded by exceptionally undamaged classical buildings. The theatre takes advantage of the local slopes allowing for glorious views of the surrounding countryside. Timgad has several points of interest, beginning with an excellent example of the Roman town grid system, a direct influence on modern town planning. In addition, and perhaps more directly impressive, highlights include the triumphal arch of Trajan and the well preserved library.
GHARDAÏA AND THE WADI M’ZAB
Gardhaia is a medieval desert town with several unchanged neighbourhoods, Simone de Beauvoir described Ghardaïa as “A Cubist painting beautifully constructed”. A fortified hilltop settlement it is divided into three walled sectors. Every house is designed to let in light, the white, pink and red homes rising in terraces and arcades. As you approach the top, narrow streets give way to an ancient arcaded square and the pyramid-style central mosque. The capital of the M’Zab region, Ghardaïa is the centre of the water distribution system that both prevents flooding and underlies the date farming of the area.
Deep in the Sahara desert, Timimoun is an oasis town. Hot, dusty and dry, it sits on the edge of an escarpment allowing views across the salt lake. An ancient stop on the desert trade routes, the enchantment of its history can be felt in a twilit walk through the market squares. Built from the local red ochre stone, the architecture evokes both Mediterranean and sub-Saharan traditions. A great place to meet and understand the Berber people.
An oasis city in the south eastern desert of Algeria, Djanet was founded by the Tuareg during medieval times and is still the centre of many Tuareg activities and festivals. Nestling in the Tassili N’Ajjer mountain range the city has many excellent views as well as being a perfect base for exploring the national park.
A remote mountain range in the far south east of Algeria near the Libyan and Niger borders, the Tadrat Rouge is pretty much dead in the middle of the largest desert on earth – the Sahara. A harsh and dry climate has created a striking landscape of orange sands and black rocks that are rarely visited. An area empty of human habitation, the immense spaces and stark vistas are as incomparable as they are unmissable.
TASSILI N’AJJER NATIONAL PARK
A vast sandstone plateau in the south east of Algeria, Tassili N’Ajjer is richer in water and life than the surrounding desert, though still extremely hot and dry. Saharan cypress and myrtle grow in favourable locations, and Barbary sheep can be found here. The sheep are one of the animals depicted in the prehistoric art in the park. Some of the rock art paintings and engravings are more than ten thousand years old, dating to when the Sahara was savannah, and depict antelope, cattle, crocodiles and humans.
Visas are required for entry into Algeria and must be obtained before travel. Speak to the Untamed Borders team for further details.
Desert climate. Hot all year round, particularly dry in summer, winters are mild.
The currency is the Algerian Dinar. ATMs are that accept international cards rare even in the cities and do not always work. Dollars or Euros can be exchanged in country and will often get a far better exchange rate than the official rate. For up to date exchange rates please have a look at www.xe.com
Two prong European style sockets (type C and F).
Guesthouses and hotels in Algeries have good Wifi. In the southern desert areas it is very patchy.
Algerian dishes many shared traits with other North African cuisines. Bread, meats (lamb, beef or poultry), oil, vegetables and fresh herbs are the staples creating salads, soups, tajines and sauce-based dishes. Not forgetting Couscous – the national dish.
Alcohol is rarely consumed in Algeria and is frowned upon by the majority of the population. It can be found in selective bars and reataurants in big cities but almost never inland. Algeria does produce it’s own beer and wine in small quantities.
Arabic and Berber are the national languages. French is widely spoken and understood. English is unlikely to be spoken outside of major cities.
Algeria is an Islamic country and as a general rule, less conservative on the coast than inland. Men should wear long trousers. Women should wear loose-fitting clothes covering their arms and legs. Women should also bring a headscarf to wear at mosques or in villages inland.
SAFTEY & SECURITY
The FCO advises all but essential travel to Algeria. Contact us for information on how we work to minimise risk for our guests and staff
Algeria:Anger of the Dispossed – Martin Evans & John Phillips
What the Day Owes the Night – Yasmina Khadra
The Stranger – Albert Camus
Fantasia – Assia Djebar
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