Niger - Into the Ténéré

The word pioneering is overused these days. As the world gets smaller and more accessible, the tourist trails have expanded into previously off-the-beaten-track regions. Yet this trip truly deserves the term. Niger has been off limits for some time now, due to general instability in the region after the fall of Libya’s ruler Gaddafi. But we’re very excited to announce it is now accessible for the intrepid traveller.

This desert expedition explores some of the most spectacular landscapes of the Sahara. We’ll traverse some of the most remote parts of our planet.

From Niamey we take a domestic flight to the almost mythical city of Agadez, the charismatic capital of the Tuareg people. This was once a seat of religious learning and an important stop for caravans on their trading route. From here our adventure really begins as we head into the deserts beyond.

We encounter the fossils of dinosaurs en route to the sublime dunes of the Grand Erg du Bilma. Then we head to the oasis of Fachi, whose population makes a living from the extraction of salt.

Venturing next into the mighty Ténéré desert, we skirt the border of the Air Mountains, home to isolated populations of Tuareg. We’ll hope to meet the convoys of camels and their caravaneers that have crossed this land for centuries.

After travelling past the Air we reach the enormous dunes of Temet, some of the highest in the world, before visiting two of the most important oases in the region, Iferouane and Timia. We then return to Agadez.

This is a trip of superlative landscapes, an adventure into the heart of the Sahara that has only just become possible again. It will not be an easy trip. Expect some long drives, dust, heat and no real facilities once we leave Agadez. But the rewards of travelling here, the sense of exploration, the feeling of venturing almost into the unknown, more than make up for challenges.


  • Travel through some of the most remote parts of the Sahara
  • Explore the Tuareg oases of Timia and Iferouane
  • Wander through the streets of Agadez
  • The enormous sand dunes of Termet
  • Look for dinosaur fossils
  • Meet traditional camel caravans

Day 1 - Niamey

Arrive in Niamey. Depending on when you arrive there may be time to explore the city. Overnight Grand Hotel du Niger or similar.

A small settlement until the French arrived in the late 19th century, Niamey today has a population of around one and a half million, making it the largest city in Niger. Bisected by the Niger River on its way south to Nigeria, Niamey is one of the more sedate African capitals, with wide boulevards and avenues betraying its French influence, while outside of the centre more informal, shanty settlements spread out into the Sahel.

Day 2 - Agadez – Tiguidit

Transfer to the airport for the domestic flight to Agadez, the gateway to Niger’s Saharan regions. On arrival we meet our Tuareg team, then drive south east to the area of Tiguidit, where we camp for the night. Overnight camping. (BLD)

Agadez has existed for over a millennium, first settled by the Hausa in the 11th century as they were pushed from the Air Mountains by the Tuareg. It rose to prominence in the 15th century and became an important stopping point for trade caravans crossing the desert, and its wealth attracted raiders, the inhabitants building strong fortified walls to repel them. As well as being important economically, it also became a centre for religious learning and scholars, but migration and conflict led to its decline over the coming centuries. In colonial times the French used it as a garrison in their efforts to subjugate the Tuareg. Agadez’s key ‘site’ is its mosque, a traditional Saharan structure with sticks jutting from its edges, and the old quarter with tis atmospheric alleyways and public squares is a fascinating place to explore.

Day 3 - Gadoufaoua

Continue to the region of Gadoufaoua, home to some of the largest collections of dinosaur fossils in the world. A hundred million years ago this was a continental swamp and an ideal environment for dinosaurs, and today huge bones emerge from the windswept sands. Overnight camping. (BLD)

Day 4-5 - Termit – Gossom Lolom Bo - Fachi

Head towards Termit, passing the first dunes of the Grand Erg (sand sea) of Bilma. We reach the volcanic area of Gossom Lolom Bo, then head into the dunes, following an ancient caravan route once travelled by the famed Saharan explorer Heinrich Barth. After a challenging crossing we reach the oasis of Fachi, an important staging post for camel caravans, in the middle of the Tenere desert. Overnight camping. (BLD)

The village of Fachi is built in the style of the Berber ‘ksar’, surrounded by walls, with mud built houses flanking a network of very narrow alleys and a fort, former residence of the sultan and refuge for the inhabitants in times of war. A few kilometres away lie the salt-pits, once the main source of income for the local population and today still providing a livelihood for many families. The salt is deposited in layers in the ground, evidence of a marine past. The salt is extracted by digging holes, which are filled with water, due to pressure from the underlying groundwater. With the strong sun and daily heat, this evaporates in a short time, leaving the salt crystallized on the surface and then collected; a system that has remained unchanged for centuries.

Days 6-7 - Adrar Madet – Arakao

Leave Fachi behind to start our crossing of the Erg du Tenere, one of the most remote parts of the Sahara. We cross dunes before reaching sandy plains that lead us to the cliffs of Adrar Madet, surrounded by the Erg du Brusset. A challenging drive takes us to the eastern flanks of the Takolokouzet massif, which is the northern backbone of the Air massif. Our destination is Arakao, a circular valley facing the Tenere with a single passage through, which the wind has shaped into a cordon of dunes more than 200 metres high. Overnight camping. (BLD)

The Tenere
The Tenere has a reputation for being one of the most difficult and inaccessible parts of the entire Saharan region, with little vegetation and water, gravel and sand plains, and enormous dunes. Roughly the size of France, this is one of the most evocative parts of the desert and includes the Grand Erg du Bilma, the serir (gravel plains) of the Tenere du Tafassasset, isolated villages and prehistoric rock art. It was once home to the famous ‘Arbre du Tenere’, a lone tree which was the only vegetation for miles around, until a truck driver managed to crash into it and knock it over. Until then, this had provided a landmark for the camel caravans and early overlanders who travelled the desert. The caravans still exist, travelling between some of the world’s most isolated outposts, although increasingly these days their role is being overtaken by trucks – quicker, and able to carry more, but without the romance of the desert.

Day 8 - Illakane – Adrar Chiriet

Cross the region of Illakane, characterized by marble outcrops, to reach the well at Faris at the foot of the Taghmert mountains, where we stop to replenish water supplies. Continue north to the Adrar Chiriet, a black granite island surrounded by sand, where we camp for the night. Overnight camping. (BLD)

Camel caravans – The Taghalamt, or Azalai
Since the dawn of humanity, caravans have crossed the continents to deliver an essential source of life: salt. Great axes of migration and exchange were born from these roads, and it has driven people to conquer territories. Caravans of dromedaries, llamas, goats, yaks and donkeys led by different men, with similar gestures, saddles and knots, have connected the shores of ancient seas, salt lakes – apparently inexhaustible sources – to the rest of the world, crossing deserts, plateaus and mountains. Today, in a world that threatens the nomadic way of life, there are still a few caravans that survive: one of these is the Taghalamt, in Niger. Colonisation gave the caravan that crosses the Ténéré the name of Azalai by analogy with the salt caravan that connects Taoudenni to Toumbouctou, in Mali. Taghalamt in the Tuareg language is the salt caravan that crosses the desert to reach the salt pits of Fachi or in the Kawar (Bilma and Seguedine).

The Kel Owei, a Tuareg tribe that inhabit the Air massif, and the Kel Gress, originally from the Madaoua region, are the largest caravaneers in the Tuareg world; caravan traffic is the backbone of the Kel Owei economy. A true Tuareg from Air must have made the caravan: the nobles are the caravaneers; it is almost a pilgrimage, a school of life with its rites of passage. On the outward journey, between Tree of Ténéré and Fachi, all the children or adolescents present for the first time must cross a straw ‘barrier’ that the adults have put down while running in front of the caravan: it is an initiatory symbol. Preparation for the caravan requires meticulous organisation that lasts a month and even more: participants must weave the mats and ropes with which the salt loaves will be packed, gather the food supply of the caravans and collect the fodder for the animals in bales of straw. Caravans are organized according to the extended family group. Each group has its guide (madugu) and each caravan (amawezlu) is responsible for about ten camels. Coming from various locations in the Air and from Damergou, they gather at the southern edge of the massif from where the crossing of the Ténéré desert begins. During the day the guide orients himself with different points of reference (orientation of the dunes, sand ripples, shadow of the dromedary’s ear) while at night he relies on the constellation of the Pleiades and that of Orion (called Amanar which means guidance) which allows him to maintain the correct course.

Days 9-10 - Izouzadene – Temet

Head north past the Erg du Breard to the region of Izouzadene and the Blue Mountains, blue-white marble reliefs reminiscent of ash. From here continue to Temet, home to some of the highest dunes in the Sahaea, where the Tenere pushes the sands against the rocks of the Greboun Mountains, the highest mountains in Niger. Overnight camping. (BLD)

Day 11 - Iferouane

Head out of the sands of the Tenere and into the mountains. We drive to Iferouane, a small oasis inhabited by the Kel Ferwan Tuareg. Partly sedentary, they grow crops here shaded by the palm trees – a green island in the heart of the desert. We spend time meeting them and getting to learn about their customs and tradtions. Overnight camping. (BLD)

Tuareg People
The Tuareg, or kel-Tamashek (speakers of Tamashek) are a nomadic group of people who are found in Algeria, Mali, Niger, Libya and Burkina Faso. Their origins are not completely known but many sources believe that they are Berbers who retreated into the desert during the Arab invasions of North Africa. Today they follow Islam but an unusual aspect of their culture is that the men wear a type of veil, known as a ‘tagelmoust’ while the women’s faces are uncovered. The Tuareg were renowned as fierce warriors and were a major impediment to French exploration of the Sahara in the late 19th and early 20th century, fiercely resisting encroachment on their lands and on occasion massacring whole expeditions. Today Tuareg groups in Mali and Niger have been involved in conflict with government in attempts to gain greater autonomy. Tuareg men can still today be seen wearing their traditional swords when out travelling.

Day 12 - Timia

Cross the volcanic massif of the Air mountains from north to south to reach the village of Timia. Home to a different group of Tuareg, the Kel Owei, Timia is rich in fruits and vegetables, located along the edges of a large oued in the mountains. Overnight camping. (BLD)

Day 13 - Agadez

Skirting the massifs of Bilet and Guisset, home to nomadic Tuareg camps, we drive south east to the capital of the Air, reaching Agadez through a series of stony plains. Overnight Auberge D’Azel or similar. (BL)

Day 14 - Niamey

Fly back to Niamey. The rest of the day is free to explore, or relax and wash off the dust after an incredible desert adventure. Overnight Grand Hotel du Niger or similar. (BL)

Day 15 - Niamey

Explore Niamey, visiting the museum, the market and the River Niger, among other sites. In the evening transfer to the airport for your flight home. (BL)

Please note: This is a pioneering trip that will be run as a ‘recce tour’ and so you must be prepared for flexibility and changes to the itinerary if necessary. We most definitely do not recommend this trip if you like rigid plans, 4 star hotels, good roads and well defined ‘tourist sites’ – this is a very adventurous trip through a remote part of the continent, where infrastructure ranges from not great to non-existent, things change frequently and you can expect a certain amount of discomfort at times. However the rewards more than balance these out – the chance to travel through lands that rarely see western visitors, experience the truly authentic and go to places that few have gone before, in one of the most interesting corners of Africa

We sell this trip in conjunction with our local partners so you can expect people of different nationalities on this trip. The maximum group size on this trip is 16 people.


What's included?

  • 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

  • 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 expert Saharan guide, as well as Tuareg local crew, including a cook.

    Please note: this trip is also accompanied by a military escort. Although the security situation in Niger is much improved from recent years, for financial reasons the Nigerien military still insist on providing an escort.

  • 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.

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 ( 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.


You will require a visa to enter Niger. You may need an invitation letter in order to obtain this, depending on the requirements of the embassy that you apply at – we can provide this for you. Visa regulations can change however and so we recommend that you contact your nearest embassy for the most up to date information.

You should ensure that your passport has at least six months’ validity after the end date of your trip. We also strongly recommend that your passport has a minimum of two blank pages next to each other – on rare occasion it may lead to problems with visas and immigration authorities if it does not.

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

A Yellow Fever vaccination certificate is required for entry to Niger and you must bring this with you.


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.


The local currency is the West African CFA, a currency that is shared with many other countries in the region. It is not however the same as the Central African CFA, and the two are not interchangeable. It is best to bring Euros for exchange purposes as the CFA is not obtainable outside of the region.

It’s not difficult to change money in Niger, either at banks or the hotels and your guide can assist with this. There are also an increasing number of ATMs in larger towns. However these are not always reliable and so it is best to think of them as a back up rather than a main means of obtaining money. You should also bear in mind that you will be travelling through many small towns where exchange facilities are limited to non-existent. It’s best to change money on arrival in Niamey.

Credit cards are accepted in larger hotels and better restaurants (usually in Niamey only) but are not commonly accepted elsewhere

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.  

In addition, roads throughout the parts of Africa that we visit are often poorly maintained (if at all!) and distances between key sites of interest can be long. Travelling in Africa can be tiring, hot and dusty at times, and inevitably it can be frustrating. While there are some issues that we are able to solve, others are intrinsic to the countries that we travel through, and you should be aware that many of the countries that we operate in cannot be compared to others on the continent that have better infrastructure – for example the popular tourist destinations of east and southern Africa. Although travelling in these countries can at times be an ‘unpolished’ experience, this is all part of the adventure. We aim to resolve any issues as quickly as possible, and putting up with a pothole (or ten) is undeniably worth it for the amazing sights and cultural experiences you will encounter along the way.

Niger is one of our most pioneering destinations. Not only is there very little tourism here but the nature of the destination means that you should be prepared for challenging conditions. Outside of the capital very few hotels or accommodation options exist – in the desert these are non-existent. There are few opportunities to buy supplies en route and so we carry the majority of these with us, stocking up on fresh vegetables and fruit in the small towns that we travel through, where possible.

There are no formal bathroom facilities on our trips in Niger, although on many nights you will be provided with water for washing, depending on how far we are from any wells and how much water we have used that day. Priority is given to drinking water which is drawn from wells and treated with a sterilizing agent to make it safe to drink.

Our trips in Niger travel to some of the most remote parts of the Sahara, and it is essential that you appreciate what this entails before booking a trip. We cannot promise home comforts or luxuries and if you expect these, then Niger probably isn’t the right destination for you. However if you are prepared for sometimes challenging conditions, then Niger offers an adventure that is difficult to match through some of the most untouched, traditional and isolated corners of Africa

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 advises against travel to all parts of Niger.

We work very closely with our local team and are fully confident that we can operate tours safely in this region. Should you have any concerns over safety please do not hesitate to contact us and we can address your concerns.

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

Updated July 2023

Price (PP) Exc. Flights
Single Supplement
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30 November 2024
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Single Supplement -
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