The Land of the Atlas
The Maghreb and Land of the Atlas are common nicknames for Algeria. Friendly and passionate about their culture, Algerians make up various ethnic groups that originate from the Berbers, or indigenous North Africans. Berber is spoken in varying dialects and regional , with some of the dialects, such as Tamashek, considered a separate language by academics.
Incredible natural landscapes, which span from the Sahara Desert to the Kabylia Mountains and to the Mediterranean Sea, captivate travelers of the less-traveled country of Algeria. The northern African country sits next to the Mediterranean Sea, and is bordered by Tunisia to the northeast; Niger on the southeast side; Morocco to the west, and Western Sahara Mauritania and Mali to the southwest.
Home to the largest city and capital of Algiers, Algeria features majestic , an expansive and beautiful coast, 10 world-famous national parks, and numerous religious and historical attractions and landmarks.
Are you an outdoor enthusiast? If so, remember to bring your hiking boots so you can explore the Sahara Desert, Algeria’s high mountains, and the country’s lush and green oases. Your travel itinerary should also include visits to mosques and city squares, and cultural sights as well, all which will provide you with a rich and complete cultural and historical experience.
Algeria’s Mediterranean coastline and desert interior draws travelers, as do the Ottoman landmarks in Algiers. One example is the Ketchaoua Mosque, built around 1612 and located in the Casbah quarter, a hillside area made up of narrow stairs and alleyways and a variety of unique architectural styles. For example, the Notre Dame d’Afrique, a Neo-Byzantine basilica, dates back to the time the country was ruled by French colonials.
Travel in Summer May Be Difficult
Naturally, with these kinds of landmarks and attractions, you, no doubt, may wonder when it is best to travel. As you might guess, Algeria has high summer temperatures, especially in the south, where it can also be very dry. During the summer season, road travel can be difficult. Also, air travel may be delayed due to Saharan sandstorms.
Northern Algerian cities experience high humidity in the summer while sea breezes cool cities and towns along the coast. If you fast-forward your travel plans to the fall or winter, or opt to go in April or May, you will get some relief from the desert dust, the higher temperatures, and the excess humidity.
A Desert Country
Most of Algeria, or 90% of the country, is made up of desert. The country is the largest in Africa, and the tenth largest nation in the world. Just a short distance from Europe, Algeria features snow-capped mountains, which form the ideal backdrop for the country’s stunning coastlines and Roman ruins. You can spend time in a charismatic city, such as Constantine or Algiers, or stroll through the ancient Roman sites in Djemila and Timgad, both of which are nicely preserved, with hardly another traveler in sight.
Offering a quick sightseeing adventure, Djemila, a spectacular example of a ruined and ancient Roman Town, can be visited in a day. However, if you travel at a more leisurely pace, you will want to spend a longer time here, strolling the streets, lingering in the marketplace, or sitting in the shade of the old landmarks. One of the great sites to see is the Arch of Caracalla, which displays Corinthian capitals and columns. It is close to the House of Bacchus, a circa fifth century mansion, which includes 2 gardens and a pool that once served as the home’s aquarium.
One of the most prominent landmarks of Djemila, the temple of the Severan family, features a grand staircase, fronted, again by massive Corinthian columns. Statues of the emperor and his wife, found at the temple, are displayed in the city’s museum.
Before you embark on any adventure in Algeria however, it is helpful to learn some facts about the country. Algeria not only represents the largest country in Africa, it is also the largest country in the Mediterranean basin and the Arab world. Its official name is the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria, and the country is considered a liberal Muslim nation.
Sampling Algerian Dishes
One of the special experiences about visiting the country is sampling and eating its cuisine. Known for their range of spices and flavorings, Algerian foods include popular dishes, such as chakchouka, couscous, and tajine. Algerians also love bread. Expect to have it at every meal while traveling in the country.
Algerian history is both long and interesting. For example, a succession of empires has ruled the nation – empires that include peoples, such as the Romans, French, Ottomans, Arabs, Spanish, and Berbers. This type of influence, over time, has led to Algeria’s cultural diversity. Therefore, when traveling in Algeria, it may feel more like you are traveling from one country to the next instead of visiting different regions.
A Visit to Algiers and the Casbah
When planning a trip to Algeria, you will want to spend one or two days in the capital of Algiers. The city features a contrast in architectural designs and styles. While it does not display the elegance of European cities, its buildings, with their French facades, will give you the illusion that you are traveling in Europe.
You cannot visit Algiers without seeing old town Algiers, or the Casbah, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
While the newer part of Algiers lies next to the water, the older part, or Casbah, rests on a hill behind the metropolis. Ancient Algiers dates back to the 1600s. It was founded on the ruins of Icosium, a former Berber city.
Visiting the Casbah Palace
Some of the sites to see in the Cashbah include the Ketchaoua, el Djedid, and El Kebri mosques and religious sites. The old section features the Casbah Palace as well. Also known as Dar Aziza, the Casbah Palace was constructed in 1791. It was named in honor of the Princess Aziza Bent ed-Dey. The white palace displays a grand staircase and several terraces.
Wherever you go in Algeria, you will find an unknown or unrecognized travel gem. Whether your journey extends only to the capital of Algiers or includes the whole country of Algiers, you will always find something unexpected in your travels there.
Things to Do and See
Algeria is officially known as the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria. In Arabic, the official name is Al-Jumhūriyyah al-Jazāʾiriyyah al-Dīmuqrāṭiyyah al-Shaʿbiyyah and République algérienne démocratique et populaire in French. The country’s name is derived from Algeria’s capital and largest city, Algers and from its historical name Jazāʾir Banī Mazghanna.
Algeria is a semi-presidential republic with a president and prime minister. It’s legislature consists of a Parliament with an Upper House (Council of the Nation) and a Lower House (People’s National Assembly). The country’s political boundaries consist of 48 provinces and 1,543 counties. Algeria is the largest country in Africa and the Mediterranean Basin. It is a member of the United Nations, the Arab Maghreb Union, OPEC and the Arab League.
Algeria is not only the largest country in Africa but in terms of geography (total area) it is the tenth largest in the world. Algeria has 48 regions which includes 40 cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants. The three most populous regions are Algiers (3,000,000), Setif (1,500,000), and Oran (1,140,000). Algeria’s three largest cities by population are Algiers (2,100,000), Oran (810,000), and Constantine (475,000).
Below you will find our country profile containing facts and information to familiarize you with Algeria.
- Official Name: Democratic Republic of Algeria
- Location: North Africa
- Current and Historical Nicknames: The Land of Atlas, Islands of the Mazghanna Tribe
- Country Motto: “By the People and For the People”بالشّعب وللشّعب
- Government: Unitary, Republic with a President
- Capital: Algiers
- Select Cities: Oran, Constantine, Touggourt, Ain Serfa, Bilda, El Oued
- Nationality: Algerian
- Religion: Islam
- Population: 42,000,000 (2018)
- Primary Ethnicities: Arab and Berbers; the Blida, Chaoui and Mozabites
- Ethnic Groups: Arab-Berber 99%
- Official Languages: Arabic and Berber
- National Anthem: “Kassaman” or “Qassaman” (“We Pledge”)
- Area: 9,104 km²(3,515 mi²) –
- Average Temperature: 82 °F (28 °C)
- Climate: Desert, coastal regions, mountains
- Highest Elevation: 4,390 ft (1,340 m)
- Points of Interest: Sahara Desert, the Atlas Mountains, Djebel Babor National Park, the Great Mosques, M’Zab Valley, Museum of Popular Arts and Traditions
- Calling Code: +213
- Coordinates: 28°N 2°E
- Currency: Dinar (DZD)
- Driving side: Right
- Internet TLD: . DZ(الجزائر or, in the Latin alphabet, al-Jazā’ir, pronounced as Al Dzayer)
- Time zone: Central European Time (CET) (UTC + 1)
Is Algeria safe for travelers?
Travelers to Algeria should consider all of their options before planning a visit. Generally, the larger cities are considered safe for tourists although traveling in remote areas and along shared borders must be done with extreme caution due to a number of “no go” zones. Guided tour operators are available with many reputable companies able to serve you. Be sure to do your research with your embassy as well as government resources before exploring on your own.
What languages are spoken in Algeria?
The official languages are Arabic and Berber. Other languages include French which is used for administrative, commercial and educational matters and Darja (Algerian Arabic) which is the language that is used to make communication possible between people who do not share a first language (lingua franca).
What is the temperature like in Algeria?
The weather and climate in the North, along the Mediterranean coast, is mild and pleasant. Naturally, Algeria’s desert and mountain regions have much more diverse climatic conditions that significantly contrast depending on the time of year. For example, in Algiers the temperature ranges from a minimum of 6 °C (43 °F) in January to a high of 32°C (90 °F) in the summer months of July and August. Temperatures in the Biskra (known as the Gateway to the Sahara) can range from a minimum of 6 °C (43 °F) to a high of 40 °C (104 °F) from June through August.
Is a visa required for entry?
Depending on your country of origin, a passport valid for six months is required for entry into Algeria. However, there are some exceptions for visitors from Morocco and six other countries whom can stay for 90 days without obtaining a visa. Travelers from Israel and not allowed either entry or transit. For US and Canadian citizens visas are required.