Algeria holds surprises for the adventurous traveler

The largest country in Africa boasts a pristine Mediterranean coastline, fertile green highlands, snow- peaked mountains and the majestic Sahara down south.

Unlike its immediate neighbors Tunisia and Morocco, Algeria is not a busy tourist destination, yet it is a country of rare beauty. It’s a continent in itself, and worth exploring.

If you are after chic marinas, bus tours and beach resorts, this is not your kind of place. But if you can imagine yourself sleeping under the Saharan stars, roaming alone through Roman ruins and experiencing some of the most jaw-dropping landscape in North Africa, then Algeria may just be for you.

Algiers, “la Blanche”

“Never was town more nobly placed,” wrote Victorian novelist Edith Wharton of Algiers. This is a city of rare beauty and of thrilling, disorienting contrast. ”La Blanche” (the white one) is breathtaking to behold. It’s a city that never fails to impress with its bright light, sweeping bay and fragrant flowers.

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The country’s history lives in the city’s richly textured architecture: wide French-built boulevards and elegant apartments and villas, Ottoman palaces, Socialist-era monuments and an enduring Islamic heart in the steep, hillside Casbah—the city’s UNESCO-protected, pulsing heart of market squares, medieval homes and mysterious cafes.

Labyrinthine streets spill down to the big blue of the Bay of Algiers, with sea and sky and bougainvillea glimpsed at every step. More than just monuments and museums, Algiers is a place to get lost in and absorb. Sometimes frustrating, often breathtaking, for many “La Blanche” is the most captivating city in North Africa.

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Coastal cities

Half an hour’s drive west of Algiers, Tipaza is a lively resort-like town with sea-facing Roman ruins that you can have literally to yourself on any given day.

Oran possesses a charming French colonial city center and its Spanish heritage is visible in the city’s oldest monuments. It has a dramatic sea front and an excellent choice of hotels, including the luxurious Hotel Royal.

Bejaia, where candles were invented centuries ago, is a jewel town in the Kabylia region, sitting on the ultimate Mediterranean picture of blue sea, pine trees and crisp air. Stay a few days to discover the picturesque beaches, cliffs, mountain forests and hidden waterfalls of the great Kabylia.

Uncharted territory

Make it far inland into the lush green highlands and high mountain peaks, where natural reserves offer challenging trekking paths.

Biskra is the gateway to the desert, and an oasis town—an enchanted place where orientalists drew their artistic inspiration.

Beyond is the vast, mysterious Sahara that makes up 80 percent of Algerian territory. It is advisable that you fly directly from Algiers in one of the well-organized desert safaris available. El-Haggar Mountains, Tamanrasset, Ghardaia and the overwhelming desert with its omnipresent silence are in no rush to be discovered by mass tourism.

 

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