For the intrepid traveller, a trip to Algeria is an adventure in waiting. Its troubled reputation may put off anyone looking for the quiet life, but for those who take the time to explore, Algeria offers culture and adventure in spades.
Here, a beguiling blend of cultures spans a vast chunk of land - taking in everything from whitewashed fishing ports, verdant hillsides and olive groves to the unmatched dramatic landscapes of the Sahara Desert and the Hoggar Mountains.
As the largest country in Africa, Algeria’s terrain – from the cities of the north, to the desert of the south – is hugely varied. Many never get past the northern port cities of Algiers, or Oran, and for good reason. Colonised by the Phoenicians and the Romans and covered with fascinating ruined cities, the north is green and fertile, and the imposing capital Algiers (‘the White City’) has a fascinating medina to explore and offers and interesting perspective on modern Algerian life. Tackle the sights and sounds of the UNESCO heritage Casbah, the walled city where neglected crumbling ruins sit adjacent with renovated homes. Despite its shady reputation, it’s well worth seeing, but taking a guide is essential.
Oran’s history is similarly colourful, having been the stopping point on the trade route between Spain and Morocco, due to its convenient geographic location. That legacy is reflected in the city’s altogether European feel, with evidence of a Spanish and French colonial past never far away. Tour the soaring Sacré-Cœurcathedral – now a library – or get involved with the numerous events going on at the Palais de la Culture.
With more than four-fifths of its territory covered by the Sahara, the desert is Algeria's most striking feature and the biggest draw for travellers. It’s the territory of nomadic Berbers and the source of myriad tales, but whilst the security situation makes independent travel difficult, tourists can still make it to the country’s accessible attractions under the guidance of reputable tour operators. Stop off at oasis towns like Ghardia and Timimoun or travel deep into the heart of the desert to see the prehistoric rock art in the Hoggar Mountains and Tassili N’Ajjer National Park.
Its recent sufferings through war and political strife have no doubt turned tourists away from Algeria, towards neighbouring Morocco. But if you’re looking for something more than souks and surf, Algeria makes an excellent start.