Things to see and do in Algeria
Attractions in Algeria
Admire attractive Algiers
Algeria's pretty capital has been a port since Roman times and although commercialised by the French in the mid 19th century, it 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.
Buy a carpet in gorgeous 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.
Discover the ‘enchanted oasis’
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.
Escape the heat in Tlemcen
Tlemcen was an important imperial city from the 12th to the 16th century and stands in the wooded foothills of the Tellian Atlas. A pleasant retreat from the stifling heat of high summer, its sights include the Grand Mosque, the Mansourah Fortress and the Almohad ramparts.
Explore ancient 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.
Find the ‘golden key of the desert’
In the depths of the Sahara Desert, in southern Algeria, lies the ancient city of Ouargla, which is also known as 'the golden key to the desert'. This ochre-coloured town is well worth visiting for its lovely souks and lofty minarets, which overlook an expansive landscape.
Go dune skiing
When you see the size of some of the Saharan sand 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.
Have Djemila all to yourself
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.
Hike around the Tassili N'Ajjer
Tour the Tassili N'Ajjer, or 'Plateau of Chasms', a vast volcanic plateau crossed by massive gorges, formed by rivers that have long since dried up. The Tassili conceals a collection of unique rupestrian paintings (rock paintings), which go back at least as far as the neolithic age.
Hit the Turquoise Coast
Within easy reach of Algiers are some fine seaside resorts. One of the most famous is Zeralda, a beach town with a holiday vibe and replica nomad village. To the east of Algiers, the Turquoise Coast offers rocky coves and long beaches aplenty. And the Sidi Fredj peninsula has a marina, an open-air theatre and various watersports facilities.
Imbibe Algeirs’ cultural offerings
Algiers' Bardo Ethnographic Museum and the National Museum of Fine Arts are amongst the finest museums in North Africa. Here you'll find important artefacts and treasures from all eras such as the Roman, Carthaginian and Islamic periods.
Kick back in 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 desert. It is also a popular winter holiday destination for Algerians and is regularly visited by the camel caravans of les hommes bleus (the blue-robed Touaregs), who are the ancient nomadic inhabitants of this region.
Sweat it out in the Sahara
The Sahara Desert is the most striking and also most forbidding feature of Algeria. The best way to enter is to cross the El Kautara Gorges to the south of Constantine. The sudden glimpse of the Sahara through the El Kautara Gorges is breath-taking. 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 local inhabitants.
Tour the Sahara by camel
Nothing is quite as evocative of the Sahara's endless sand 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.
Traipse through the ruins of Tipasa
Within easy reach of Algiers, the fascinating ruined city of Tipaza has exceptional Roman, Punic and Christian ruins, and a Numidian mausoleum overlooking a beautiful stretch of the Mediterranean. It's also easy day-tripping distance from Algiers, making it the most accessible Roman ruins in the country.
Trek the 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.
Visit holy 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 mud brick 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 stringent, no photos are allowed and everyone must be accompanied by a guide.
Wake up in 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.
Office National du Tourisme (ONT)Address: 2 rue Ismail Kerrar, Algiers,
Telephone: (21) 712 981.