Algeria, it might be the biggest country in Africa but it clearly doesn’t get the love it deserves! In recent years, it has become easier to get a visa for Algeria and that is great because the country should definitely be on top of your travel bucket list. Here are five reasons why you should visit Algeria
Escape the crowds!
North Africa is a tourism hotspot! Few things are now as cliche when it comes to travelling as the sphinx and the pyramids of Giza in Egypt or the markets of Marrakesh. Most people have an aunt raving about her all-inclusive resort in Tunisia too. While those destinations are all really fun, their popularity also takes a toll and with the hordes of tourists going there with cheap flights linking North Africa to Europe comes the usual inconvenient of mass tourisms such as scams, price hikes and deterioration of the locals attitude towards foreigners.
Most of North Africa now has a massive tourism infrastructure, with all his flaws but Algeria is the one country of the region that sees the least tourists with the exception of, erm, Libya. You can get the same experiences you would get in the rest of North Africa, at a fraction of the price and be the only tourist around. You’ll find the locals still genuinely interested in foreigners and highly hospitable. If you speak a bit of French or Arabic, the languages of Algeria, you’ll make friends in no time. Don’t speak the language of Algeria? Most of the younger generation has now learned English. So if you have one place to go and experience North Africa, it should be Algeria.
Algeria is massive and diverse!
Being the biggest country of Africa, it goes without saying that Algeria is massive. Algeria has so much to offer. From the wild Sahara in the south to the Roman ruins in the North, each region of Algeria has its distinct character. It size, at the origin of Algeria’s variety, doesn’t mean that Algeria is unmanageable. In fact, Air Algerie has a great number of affordable daily flights linking the whole of the country so you should be able to experience most of it in two or three weeks. That doesn’t mean you won’t want to go again.
Traditions in Algeria are very different from one place to the other. While Algiers is very relaxed and modern, you’ll find places in Algeria with radically different customs. such as the M’zabite women of Ghardaia who wear a white burqa covering their whole face except for an eye. You’ll find traces of the french colonial era in Algiers and unchanged nomadic berber culture in the deserts of the south. Algeria is full of contrasts waiting for you to explore them!
A paradise for history buffs
If history is your thing, Algeria is sure to please you as it has a phenomenal number of well-preserved roman ruins. Guides here are expert at retelling how people were living in these abandoned cities and the sites Djemila and Tiddis, in Algeria, are comparable to Palmyra in Syria, Pompei in Italy or Leptis Magna in Libya. Contrary to Pompei, however, you are pretty sure to have the whole site to your own!
If antiquity is not so much your thing, you’ll find plenty of leftover from other eras. Algiers is full of churches and administrative buildings left by the French and places like Oran are testimonies of the Ottoman, Spaniards and Arabs influence on the continent.
If you want to go, real, real old, then you’ll get to visit some of the world’s best preserved cave paintings, dating from 3000 BC in Taghit.
Places like nowhere else in the world
Some sights of Algeria can only be seen here. One of such sights is the city of Constantine which seems to have been taken straight out of Lord of the Rings. Constantine is a city linked by massive hanging stone bridge and truly, is a sight to behold.
While the Sahara can be experienced in a couple other countries, as mentioned in our first point, here is probably one of the best places to visit it as it hasn’t been turned into a massive tourism venture yet. Exploring the Sahara here, you’ll get the meet genuine locals who have elected this arid land as their home and see a drastically different way of life than the one you are probably accustomed to.
Things get political!
Algeria is in the middle of massive changes. With the recent peaceful process, the country is seeing his leading elite being completely reconfigured. That makes it an extremely interesting time to visit the country and get firsthand impression on how the locals feel in this historic time for their country. While neighbouring countries, such as Sudan, have had nasty and destructive transitions, Algeria seems to be aiming at doing things differently.
Algeria is also the best place to learn about one of Africa’s most intriguing situation, the Western Sahara question. While most of the territory is occupied by Morocco, the leaders of the aspiring nation of the Sahrawi Democratic Arab Republic are currently in exile in Tindouf, Algeria and it is possible to visit them (which we will most certainly do on our tour of Algeria!).