Algeria - Jewel of the Sahara

Algeria’s southern regions are home to some of Africa – and the world’s – most impressive landscapes, and a must for any desert enthusiast. South of the country’s Mediterranean coastal belt, the land gradually becomes more arid and desolate until it transforms into the Sahara, thousands of square kilometres of dunes, mountains and rocks, breathtaking in its magnificence.

This trip explores the region known as the Tassili n’Ajjer, an area around the isolated town of Djanet that contains a huge variety of different scenery, and is home to small Tuareg communities following the traditions of their ancestors. The Tasilli are a bizarre collection or eroded rock structures, eroded by wind and sand into unusual shapes, and are photographer’s dream. We spend our time driving between some of the region’s most impressive sites, from the vast dunes of the Erg Admer and Tin Merzouga to the canyons and gueltas of Essendilene.

The Sahara wasn’t always so arid, and tucked away in the rocks we find ancient engravings and paintings showing the communities and wildlife that once thrived here. This history lives on with the resilient Tuareg people, masters of the desert, that make the desert their home; we take opportunities to meet them when we can to learn about their unique lifestyle.

Saharan travel isn’t easy – but it offers incomparable rewards. Camping each night amidst dunes and rocks, watching the sun set over golden mountains, and taking paths that few tread is an utterly magical experience. The Sahara weaves a spell over all who visit….

Highlights

  • Explore the Casbah of Algiers
  • Meet the Tuareg people
  • Discover ancient rock art
  • Camp under the stars in the Sahara
  • Remote desert exploration

Day 1 - Algiers

Arrive in Algiers and transfer to the hotel. Depending on when you arrive there may be time to explore the city. Overnight Hotel Suisse or similar.

Algiers
Algiers enjoys an enviable location, located on a series of hills overlooking the Mediterranean, and is one of the most attractive cities of North Africa. Founded by the Phoenicians and conquered by Rome, it has seen its fair share of invaders over the years, all of which have left it imbued with a rich and varied cultural heritage. During the 18th and early 19th century it was a notorious haven for the pirates of Barbary, who preyed on merchant ships along the coast, prompting intervention from the French and the annexation of Algeria in an early example of European colonial involvement in Africa. Under their rule some impressive buildings were constructed, giving the city a rather European feel in places – the whitewashed buildings, blue shutters and wide avenues are more reminiscent of Marseilles than Marrakech. Most interesting of all is the Casbah, a maze of narrow winding streets, Ottoman mosques and palaces that is the heart of old Algiers. This was an area of fierce resistance against the French during the resistance of the 1960s, and for many years was considered out of bounds to visitors, but it is now accessible with a guide and one of the most enigmatic parts of the city.

Day 2 - Algiers - Djanet

A full day exploring this enigmatic city. We visit the UNESCO listed casbah area, the most traditional part of the city as well as the Museum of Antiquities and the renowned Bardo Museum, among other sites. Later transfer to the airport to fly to Djanet. Overnight simple hotel. (BD)


Day 3 - Djanet - Iherir

Transfer to Iherir village, our base for exploring the Tassili n’Ajjer National Park. Overnight camping. (BLD)

Tassili n’Ajjer
The Tassili n’Ajjer is one of the most beautiful parts of the Sahara, nestled in the south east corner of Algeria. The word ‘tassili’ refers to pinnacles of eroded sandstone, shaped by millennia of wind and abrasion, while the Ajjer are one of the twelve Tuareg tribes, who have traditionally made their home in this area.

This is a land of golden deserts, huge rocky outcrops, dramatic arches, huge pinnacles of basalt and bright blue skies. May people call this the largest open air art gallery in the world on account of the concentration of cave paintings and engravings in the region. Highlights of the region include the gorge of Essendilene, one of the most beautiful places in the Algerian Sahara; located in a strange lunar landscape of great geological interest, this site has one of the most important groupings of prehistoric cave art in the world. More than 15,000 drawings and engravings record the climatic changes, the animal migrations and the evolution of human life on the edge of the Sahara from 6000 BC to the first centuries of the present era. The geological formations are of outstanding scenic interest, with eroded sandstones forming ‘forests of rock’.

Day 4 - Idaren Gorge

Walk into the Idaren Gorge, a beautiful spot with rare patches of water and reedbeds. Here we can meet local Tuareg families and learn about their unique way of living in the deep desert. We also have time to explore some of the gueltas (waterholes) in the area. Overnight camping. (BLD)

The Tuareg
The Tuareg inhabit the Saharan regions of North Africa – Niger, Mali, Libya, Algeria and Burkina Faso. Tuareg is an Arabic term meaning abandoned by God. They call themselves Imohag, translated as free men. No one knows the true origin of the Tuareg, where they came from or when they arrived in the Sahara. Reputedly of Berber descent, the language of the Tuareg is Tamachek, with their own script known as Tifinagh, thought to have ancient Libyan roots. Their numbers are unclear, but estimates run between 300,000 and 1 million. The Tuareg were recorded by the Greek historian Herodotus in the 5th Century BC.

The most striking attribute of the Tuareg is the indigo veil, worn by the men but not the women, giving rise to the popular name the Blue Men of the Sahara, or Men of the Veil. Men begin wearing a veil at the age 25.

One of the traditional dances of the nomadic Tuareg is the ‘Tam Tam’ where the men on camel circle the women while they play drums and chant. The huts of the Tuareg nomad are easily constructed, and comprised of weaved matting and tradition fabrics on a timber frame.

Although most Tuareg now practice some degree of Islam – the Maliki sect of Islam, resulting from the teachings of the great prophet El Maghili from the early 16th century – they are not considered Arabic. They have preserved many pre-Islamic traditions and do not strictly follow many Islamic rituals. Among the Tuareg the women have a great freedom and participate in family and tribal decisions. Descent and inheritance are both through the maternal line.

Tuareg camel caravans played the primary role in trans-Saharan trade until the mid-20th century when European colonial infrastructure – railways and roads – were introduced.

Day 5 - Dider – Erg Admer

Discover the engravings of Tin-Aghrem and palace ruins in Iherir, before driving to Dider, which is home to numerous examples of ancient rock art. Continue on to the Erg Admer, an ocean of sand, where we spend time exploring its dunes. Overnight camping. (BLD)


Day 6 - Essendilene – Tikoubaouine

Drive to Essendilene and explore its canyon and gueltas, then continue to Tikoubaouine, in a breathtaking location of rocky peaks. Overnight camping. (BLD)


Day 7 - Moul Enaga

Head into the heart of the desert, driving into the Tadrart region, one of the most beautiful areas of the Tassil n’Ajjer. Overnight camping (BLD)

Tadrart
Considered to be the pearl of Tassili N’Ajjer, the Tadrart desert, with its huge canyons, sculpted cliffs and colourful sand dunes is one of the most impressive parts of the central Sahara. Traces of rock paintings and engravings date back over 12,000 years, reflecting marked changes in the flora and fauna, and the different ways of life of the populations that succeeded one another in this region of the Sahara.

 

Day 8 - In Djaren

Cross the striking dunes of Moul Enaga, enjoying spectacular views of the Tadrart on our way to In Djaren, where we explore its rock carvings on foot and by vehicle. Overnight camping. (BLD)


Day 9 - In Djaren – Tin Merzouga

Explore the beautiful valley of In Djaren, then head into the impressive sand dunes of Tin Merzouga, some of the highest in the region. Climb up the dunes for sunset, for spectacular views over the surrounding desert. Overnight camping. (BLD)


Day 10 - Tin Merzouga – In Tehaq

Visit an impressive nearby canyon with its caves, sandstone towers and valleys, before continuing onto the dunes of In Tehaq, which we explore by foot. Overnight camping. (BLD)


Day 11 - In Tehaq – The Black Dunes

Spend the morning discovering the many paintings and rock engravings of the Djaren valley, with a visit to the Tin Abbaden Canyon. Later we make our way to the Black Dunes where we will stay tonight. Overnight camping. (BLD)


Day 12 - Djanet

Today we leave the Tadrart behind and start our return journey to Djanet, visiting the renowned ‘crying cow’ en route. Overnight simple hotel. (BLD)


Day 13 - Djanet - Algiers

Transfer to the airport for departure, to connect with your onward flight home. (B)


Southern Algeria Tassili n'Ajjer tour
Southern Algeria Tassili n'Ajjer tour
Southern Algeria Tassili n'Ajjer tour

What's included?

  • Accommodation

    Accommodation as listed in the dossier. The nature of the destinations that we operate may sometimes mean that we need to change hotels, but we’ll always endeavour to keep the same standards. Please be aware that as we operate in many countries where tourism is in its infancy, hotel standards may not be the same as you’re used to elsewhere.

  • Guides

    You will be accompanied by an English speaking guide.

  • Meals

    As listed within the itinerary / dossier (B-Breakfast, L-Lunch, D-Dinner). These will vary from trip to trip – in some areas it makes sense to include all meals while in others there is a good choice of restaurants and we feel people might like to ‘do their own thing’ now and again.

  • Entrance fees

    Entrance fees are listed for those sites that we mention within the itinerary. If there are any other sites that you’d like to see, these would be at your own expense.

  • Airport transfers

    We include arrival and departure transfers regardless of whether you book flights yourself, or we book them for you. If you’re booking them yourself, then please let us know the details so that we can arrange the transfers. Please note though that if you arrive earlier than Day 1 of the tour, and leave after the final day, we may need to make an additional charge for an airport transfer.

     

  • Domestic flights

    Algiers to Djanet return.

What's not included?

  • Visas

    We don’t arrange visas for our travellers, but if an invitation letter is necessary then we will arrange this for you. If you need any advice with visas then just give us a call, or alternatively a visa agency such as Travcour (www.travcour.com) can assist.

     

  • International flights

    Many of our travellers arrive from different destinations and so we don’t include international flights in the cost of our tours. If however you would like us to book flights for you, then just give us a call and we’ll be happy to discuss your options.

     

  • Travel insurance

    If you need any assistance with this, then let us know – although we can’t arrange it ourselves we can point you in the direction of a reputable provider that can assist.

Visas

All travellers will require a visa to enter Algeria, which must be obtained before travel. Most travellers will also need an invitation letter, which we will provide if requested. You should be aware that visas for Algeria can take some time to process and so you need to allow for this when applying. Visa regulations can change however and so we recommend that you contact your nearest embassy for the most up to date information.

Health and vaccinations

We are not medically qualified and so we recommend that you speak to your doctor or nearest health professional for advice concerning recommended vaccinations. For more advice on vaccinations you can also visit www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk.

Insurance

It is a condition of joining our tours that you have suitable travel insurance in place, and we cannot accept travellers without insurance. All policies differ in terms of what they will cover, but as a minimum you need medical and health cover which will cover you for the whole time that you are away. Most policies will also include cancellation cover, which will cover you if an unforeseen circumstance obliges you to cancel your trip. We recommend that you obtain your insurance as soon as you book your trip.

Please note that government travel warnings often affect the validity of your travel insurance, and you should check this with your insurance company.

Money

The local currency in Algeria is the Algerian dinar. It is best to bring Euros for exchange purposes.

It’s not difficult to change money in Algeria, either at banks or the hotels and your guide can assist with this. Algeria is very much a cash society – credit cards are not widely accepted, and ATM machines are not especially reliable.

When to go

As the largest country in Africa, Algeria experiences a number of different climate zones. The best time to visit the Sahara is the winter, when temperatures are at their least oppressive, but at this time the Mediterranean coast will most likely be cold and wet. The best times to visit are spring and autumn, when it’s not too hot in the desert nor too cold in the north.

Local conditions

When travelling to some of the destinations we offer you need to bear in mind that things won’t always work here as we’re used to them working at home. Travelling in underdeveloped and untouristed destinations requires both patience and a sense of humour. There may be problems with infrastructure, attitudes may be different, and maintenance may not be as high a standard as we would always like, but this is very much part and parcel of travelling in such a place. We aim to resolve any issues as quickly as possible, and thank you for your patience.

Travel advice

We keep a very close eye on the travel advice issued by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office so that we can keep you up to date with any warnings. At the time of writing the FCO does not advise against travel to any of the parts of Algeria that we visit on this tour.

This relates to advice from the British government – other nationalities need to check the stance of their own governments.

Please note that the information contained above is highly susceptible to change, and while we endeavour to keep up to date we recommend that you use this as a guide only. Should you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Southern Algeria Tassili n'Ajjer tour
Southern Algeria Tassili n'Ajjer tour
Southern Algeria Tassili n'Ajjer tour
Date(s)
Price (PP) Exc. Flights
Single Supplement
Trip Status
Date -
03 October 2020
Price (PP) -
£2,299
Single Supplement -
£125
Trip Status -
Contact us
Date -
02 October 2021
Price (PP) -
£2,399
Single Supplement -
£135
Trip Status -
Available
Date -
01 October 2022
Price (PP) -
£2,399
Single Supplement -
£135
Trip Status -
Available