Algeria things to see and do

Tourist offices

Office National du Tourisme (ONT)

2 rue Ismail Kerrar, Algiers, Algeria
Tel: (21) 712 981.
www.ont.dz

Things to see and do

Algiers

The capital has been a port since Roman times and although commercialised by the French in the mid 19th century, Algiers still has the feel of the Maghreb to it, with many zig-zag alleyways, mosques and a fantastic casbah. It’s also evocative of French colonialism with its whitewashed façades and blue painted balconies.

Assekrem

Camping overnight at this holy retreat with views in all directions to the spectacular surrounding mountains is a wonderful experience. But the unquestionable highlight is getting up just before dawn and ascending the hillside to watch the sun break over the beautiful peaks.

Bardo Ethnographic and Local Art Museum

Visit Algiers' Bardo Ethnographic and Local Art Museum and the National Museum of Fine Arts, which are amongst the finest museums in North Africa. Here you’ll find important artefacts and treasures from all eras such as the Roman, Carthaginian, Islamic periods.

Beni-Isguen

The holy town of Beni-Isguen, a fortified city not far from Ghardaia, is a remarkable sight. Set in the Sahara desert, behind great ramparts, the sprawl of mudbrick houses forms a dense warren of narrow streets, and not much has changed since it was first built in the 14th century. Visitors must observe a strict set of rules before entering – dress codes are strict, no photos are allowed, and everyone must be accompanied by a guide.

Camel trekking

Nothing is quite as evocative of the Sahara’s endless sand seas than the sight of a camel caravan traversing the dunes. Travel agencies in Tamanrasset can organise camel tours of the desert which allow you to camp overnight in the sands – an unforgettable experience.

Constantine

Situated in the east of Algeria, Constantine is a natural citadel lying across the River Rhumnel. Founded by the Carthaginians, who called it Cirta, it is the oldest continuously inhabited city in Algeria. Sights include the Ahmed Bey Palace (one of the most picturesque in the Maghreb) and the Djamma el-Kebir Mosque.

Cycling

Algeria may not be an obvious destination for cycling, but the activity is growing in popularity. Roads are generally in good condition throughout the north of the country. Cycling in the Sahara is spectacular, but can be tricky.

Djemila

This stunning Roman city near to the city of Sétif is incredibly well preserved but you may well find yourself the only person visiting when you get there. In a stunning setting, surrounded by verdant hills and pine forests, you’ll discover huge temples, a formally laid out forum and a superb amphitheatre.

Dune skiing

When you see the size of some of the Saharan dunes, dune skiing suddenly makes sense. You can bring your own skis (no padding needed!), otherwise quite a few tour agencies offer this unforgettable experience.

El Goléa

Deep in the Grand Erg Occidental desert region, lies the oasis town of El Goléa, which is often referred to as ‘the pearl of the desert’ or ‘the enchanted oasis’ because of its luxuriant vegetation and abundant water. The town is dominated by an old ksar (fort), whose ruins are well preserved.

 

Fishing

Fishing is a serious matter in Algeria, as you’ll witness in any restaurant where the freshness of the catch is sacrosanct. Join the locals along the coast as they catch dinner directly from the sea, or join a fishing excursion organised by a travel agency.

Ghardaia

Made up of three very different walled towns in this fertile valley surrounded by the Saharan sands, Ghardaia is a unique place. The old towns are ultra-religious and can only be visited with an official guide, but it’s well worth doing so. Don’t leave without a carpet – those on sale in the main square of Ghardaia are considered to be the best in the country and make superb souvenirs from any trip to Algeria. Haggle with the carpet sellers here to get a good price.

Hoggar Mountains

An impressive, jagged range of peaks across Algeria’s southern Sahara, the Hoggar Mountains reach as far as Libya and are surrounded by desert on all sides. The massif consists of a plateau made of volcanic rock and eroded cliffs and granite needles form fascinating shapes in pink, blue or black basalt.

Ouargla

In the east of the M'Zab region is Ouargla, referred to as 'the golden key to the desert'. This town is well worth visiting for its malekite (an Islamic sect) minaret overlooking an expansive landscape.

Rock climbing

The southern Sahara around Tamanrasset is the place to head to, if you want to ascend some amazing rock formations in the Hoggar Mountains. Most travel agencies can arrange these trips, where you’ll be the only climber for miles.

Sahara

The Sahara is the most striking and also most forbidding feature of the country. The best way to enter the south is to cross the El Kautara Gorges to the south of Constantine. The sudden glimpse of the Sahara through the El Kautara Gorges is breathtaking. These gorges are said to separate the winter areas from the land of everlasting summer and are called Fouur Es Sahra ('the Sahara's mouth') by the inhabitants.

Tamanrasset

Picturesque Tamanrasset, situated at the heart of the Hoggar Mountains, is the unofficial capital of Algeria’s Sahara region. Tourists often stay in 'Tam' (as it is sometimes called) and use it as a base for touring the mountains or hiking in the open desert to the south and west in the company of camel drivers who carry their luggage. It is also a popular winter holiday resort. It’s visited regularly by the camel caravans of les hommes bleus, blue-robed Touaregs, who are the ancient nomadic inhabitants of this region.

Tassili N'Ajjer

Tour the Tassili N'Ajjer, or 'Plateau of Chasms', a vast volcanic plateau crossed by massive gorges gouged out by rivers which have long since dried out or gone underground. The Tassili conceals a whole group of entirely unique rupestrian paintings (rock paintings), which go back at least as far as the neolithic age.

Tipasa

Within easy reach of Algiers along the coast, the fascinating ruined city of Tipaza has exceptional Roman, Punic and Christian ruins, and a Numidian mausoleum overlooking a beautiful stretch of the Mediterranean coast. It’s also easy day-tripping distance from Algiers, making it the most accessible Roman ruins in the country.

Tlemcen

Tlemcen was an important imperial city from the 12th to 16th centuries. It stands in the wooded foothills of the Tellian Atlas and is a pleasant retreat from the stifling heat of high summer. Sights include the Grand Mosque, the Mansourah Fortress and the Almohad ramparts.

Trekking

Algeria has some of the most beautiful stretches of the world’s largest desert within its borders. Experience the ethereal landscapes and extraordinary light by trekking through some of its most beguiling sand dunes and rock formations.

Watersports

Algeria’s Mediterranean coast is a playground for maritime pursuits. Take your pick of sailing, surfing, snorkelling, windsurfing and kayaking around the beautiful golden sand beaches. More demanding activities such as scuba diving and kite surfing are available too for daredevil travellers.

Zeralda

Within easy reach of Algiers, along the coast, lie some fine resorts. Zeralda is a beach resort with a holiday village and a replica nomad village. To the east of Algiers, the Turquoise Coast offers rocky coves and long beaches within easy reach of the city, equipped with sports, cruise and watersports facilities. The Sidi Fredj peninsula has a marina, an open-air theatre and complete amenities, including sporting facilities.

Edited by Jane Duru
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