Our trips are always about seeing the world differently. Going off the main tourist trail in Africa and discovering the non-touristy countries on this continent is one of my most favorite things to do. Period. Not surprisingly, it wasn’t Tunisia or Morocco but Algeria that caught this intrepid travelers attention.
Algeria is ridiculously under the radar. A country which offers some of the friendliest people in the world in places you wouldn’t expect, amazingly diverse and breathtakingly raw landscapes that you can hardly find any pictures of on the gram. I was totally sold. Just a stone’s throw from the borders of Libya and Niger, there is, of course, absolutely no way I can show you what spending six days in the splendor of Algeria’s Tadrart Rouge in the heart of the Sahara desert was like in just a short series. Still, it’s a start.
Now the biggest country in Africa, traveling through these fascinating parts of Algeria was eye-opening. The Sahara desert occupies four-fifth of the Algerian territory but if rustic camps for days are not your thing, then you still have picturesque coastal towns, historic Roman sites, and heritage of the Ottomans, French and Spanish.
It’s also completely off the beaten track compared to the Instagram high of Morocco and Tunisia. There is influence of African, Arab and Berber cultures - reflected in the music, architecture and cuisine. If you are eyeing an enriching travel experience in North Africa, this is a beautiful one to add to the list.
Day 1 Land in Algiers, relax
Day 2 Algiers sightseeing
Day 3 Day trip to Tipaza, late night flight to Djanet
Days 4-8 Djanet - Tadrart Rouge - Djanet
Day 9 fly back home
TABLE OF CONTENTS
FLIGHTS + VISA
We flew Qatar Airways from Dubai to Algiers.
If you are going only to the North, you don’t need to do this trip with a guide BUT depending on your passport, you will need a visa ahead of time to enter. If you are going to Djanet, in the South, then you can only go with a local agency, the agency will help with the visa paperwork - takes two to three weeks. You can get it on arrival - apparently it is free. I don't like the uncertainity around our passports, so we paid and got ours stamped at the consulate in Dubai by submitting documents for the North. Got it in four days.
Most people speak only Algerian Berber or Arabic in the city and in the desert. Some people also speak French. if you don't speak either of those, then have google translate on hand.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
Like with any desert, the camping season starts mid-October and ends mid-March. If you are keen on exploring Djanet, plan to go at this time - note that people from France visit between November and December, so it can get busy in the North.
Cash is KING. No one accepts card - just carry dollars and change to local Dinars when you land.
HOW LONG TO SPEND IN ALGERIA
At the very minimum, you need 9-10 days. It is the biggest country on the continent, so you can spend months exploring this country.
WHERE WE STAYED
We stayed in camps in the Sahara in Djanet and picked a basic City Hotel for two nights in Algiers.
HOW TO GET AROUND
In Algiers, you can easily take the city bus or hop on a tour bus. If you plan to go outside the city, you can also safely rent a car and drive.
COSTS + LOCAL GUIDE FOR DJANET
You cannot go without a local guide to Djanet. The first thing the authorities do when you land in Djanet is take your passport (don't panic) - they will return it when you meet your Touareg guide.
I contacted Wassim from Algiers Tour 16, who has been doing this for quite some time and speaks so many different languages. He was quick to sort out all our paperwork, and is very reliable with information. No issues anywhere, everything was smooth sailing.
Costs for two people and four day trip to Djanet would be in the range of EUR 1500, includes all food, camping equipment, guide costs and the price of air tickets to Djanet. If you also want to hire the services of a local for the Northern cities, then these trips would be in the range of EUR 80/90 per person.
SOLO TRAVEL + SAFETY
I was surprised to get messages from people asking if Algeria is safe. Yes, it is very safe, with incredible culture, especially the Touareg people in the Sahara.
When I first posted the stories, many people wrote to me saying you couldn’t believe this was Algeria & I understand that. Strolling through the enchanting streets feels like stepping into a chapter of history where European cobblestone alleys meet the Algerian old-world charm.
If centuries-old architecture and Mediterranean breeze is your vibe, then you will love this gorgeous city. It is a historic city with roots dating back to ancient civilizations. The streets are adorned with bougainvillea covered wrought-iron balconies. The scent of fresh pastries linger in the air. The people are full of energy, affable and very respectful. LOVED it.
Marvel at the Central Post office in the middle of the city
Sablettes Promenade - perfect for sunset strolls
Upper Casbah - the most iconic place in the city, and the center of Algeria’s revolution against the French rule.
Lower Casbah - narrow streets filled with markets and energy
Ketchaoua Mosque - a stunning architectural beauty
The Great Mosque - one of the oldest mosques in the city
Basilica Notre Dame d’Afrique - I loved how to showcased the religious tolerance of this country
Djamma al Djazair - a modern mosque that is also the third largest in the world after Mecca & Madina
Martyrs Monument - to commemorate the Algerian war
Leaving the capital, we made our way to the coastal town of Tipaza. The ancient Roman ruins here, bathed in the golden Mediterranean sunlight, transported us back in time.
The well-preserved amphitheater, basilica, and the stunning mosaic floors were like whispers from an age long gone.
There are a lot of places you can venture to from the capital like Oran, Constantine or Djemila but this is the one I picked because of the proximity. It’s a lot like the Balkan cities but zero tourists, as you can see. Such an authentic experience. 10/10 from us.
Djanet - Tadrart Rouge
The main reason for this trip was to camp and hike in the untouched Tadrart Rouge region of the Sahara desert.
Called Tadrart for its unique brick red sand, this route is barren yet stunning - no other place on earth more closely resembles Mars. The extreme terrain isn’t the only draw though: scattered across this rugged landscape is one of the world’s most splendid collection of prehistoric rock art. Want to contemplate humanity’s place in the world? You may have come to the right place!
Our days were filled with thrilling hikes, discovering hidden canyons and exploring the rock structures.
One the second day of our South Sahara trip, we hikes deep into a canyon to discover a mysterious hidden oasis - literally in the middle of nowhere. The water surface mirroring the rugged canyon walls, straight out of Aladdin’s dreams.
We then hiked up a massive sand dune and camped below it for the night. This is what awaits you in the Algerian Sahara.
Ten thousand years ago, the Sahara was covered in grassy Savanna, dotted with lakes and a mix of animals that are now found in Tanzania.
The desert looks empty but in reality, there was once so much life here. Giraffes, gazelles, spotted cows, fish and more - the remnants are still visible on these thousand year old cave walls along Tadrart Rouge route in Algeria.
Exploring the geological wonders from rusty-red sandstones to the golden desert and then camping under a star-lit sky is what makes the Algerian Sahara that much more unique.
Algeria is the hidden gem in North Africa, overshadowed by Tunisia and Morocco. What we found was a place completely devoid of tourists.
Just towering sand dunes sculpted by the wind over millennia, stretched as far as the eye could see. The ever-shifting hues of the sand, from deep reds to golden oranges, created an otherworldly spectacle at sunrise and sunset. At night, the desert unveiled its true magic. We pitched a tent, just us two and slept beneath a blanket of stars, with constellations and galaxies twinkling as if they were just within reach.
If there is only one place you can do in Algeria, make it Djanet. Towering sand dunes sculpted by the wind over millennia, stretched as far as the eye could see. The ever-shifting hues of the sand, from deep reds to golden oranges, created an otherworldly spectacle at sunrise and sunset.
It is a humbling experience, feeling so small in this vast, untamed landscape, yet also intimately connected to the natural world. Though not necessarily comfortable: there were sand storms, long hot days, long slugs up sand dunes and steep canyons. Not that we ever regret these real rustic adventures. We loved and lived every bit of it. It was a mind-bending trip!
Thanks for reading. Leave your questions and comments below.
Lots of love,
To explore more destinations, be sure to check out other blogs for additional insights.