For the intrepid traveller, adventure awaits in Algeria. A beguiling blend of cultures, landscapes and traditions, this vast chunk of land contains everything from tranquil fishing ports and bustling cities to the unmatched drama of the Sahara Desert and Hoggar Mountains.
As the largest country in Africa, Algeria’s terrain is hugely varied yet underexplored: few visitors travel beyond the country’s Mediterranean port cities (namely Oran and the capital, Algiers), which lie amidst fertile land and the scattered vestiges of Phoenician and Roman colonies.
Sometimes called ‘Algiers the White,’ the capital’s bustling showpiece is its UNESCO-listed Casbah. This whitewashed medina encompasses both crumbling ruins and newly-renovated spaces and is well worth a visit despite its shady reputation (taking a guide is recommended).
The ancient port city of Oran has a decidedly European vibe: French colonial influences are evident in everything from the soaring Sacré-Cœur Cathedral (now a library) to the richly ornamented Palais de la Culture. The city has long been a popular trading post and remains one of the busiest ports in North Africa.
The Sahara Desert is Algeria’s defining feature and one of its biggest drawing cards. It covers more than four-fifths of the country and is the source of myriad myths and legends. Nomadic Berbers still live here, eking out traditional lives in difficult conditions.
The security situation makes independent travel difficult in the Sahara, but under the guidance of reputable tour operators, travellers can visit attractions like the oasis towns of Ghardia and Timimoun, or venture deep into the heart of the desert to view the prehistoric rock art in the Hoggar Mountains and Tassili N’Ajjer National Park.
The desert is also home to the world’s most remote film festival. FiSahara takes place annually in the Wilaya of Dakhla, a Western Sahara refugee camp, to highlight the plight of the Sahrawi people.
War and tumultuous politics have deterred many from visiting Algeria – rerouting them towards Morocco instead – but if you’re looking for a North African destination with a difference, this country has much to offer.