15 days

Expedition Algeria

Expedition Algeria

Algiers

Timgad

Tipaza

Trip rating
  • This 15-day expedition takes you from spectacular cities to significant Roman ruins in the Mediterranean north and into a series of desert towns on the edge of the Sahara. Algeria is the ultimate destination for experienced travellers. If you think you've seen it all, think again. 

    Why we love it

    • Ancient history, desert dwellers in faraway towns, spectacular desert landscapes and no hassle for tourists - what's not to love?

    Itinerary

    Day 1 - Algiers

    • Arrive in Algiers and transfer to your hotel. The drive from the airport into the city is 30 kms but the road is direct into the city centre where the Hotel Albert Premier is located. A five storey hotel of the French colonial period, it oozes old-world charm and holds a dominant position overlooking the Place de la General Poste and across to the port.
    • Algiers’ situation on hills surrounding a broad Mediterranean bay is quite stunning for a newly-arrived visitor. With street after street of grand French buildings in various states from freshly-renovated to advanced decay, Algiers exudes a beguiling ambience.
    • The rest of the day will be at your leisure until around 6pm when there is a group meeting in the hotel; here you will meet your tour leader and fellow travellers.
    Algiers Hotel Albert 1er

    Day 2 - Algiers

    • The Casbah of Algiers is one of the few parts of the city remaining from Ottoman times – the French demolished virtually everything else to build their own city. Although it is generally run-down and in some places nearing collapse, a walk around the labyrinthine streets of the Casbah is fascinating, with steep stairways like narrow canyons between tottering buildings.
    • Amidst the heart of the Casbah and down by the waterfront are elegant Ottoman palaces whose courtyards today house museums, mosques and mausoleums that attest the beauty of Islamic architecture. A full day tour of Algiers includes visits to the Palace des Rais, Sidi Abdelrahman Museum and others.
    • Perched high on a hilltop overlooking the port and the city is the Notre Dame d’Afrique, a striking yet sombre cathedral that remains as a paean to French imperialism and wasted endeavour. Its stunning interior exudes a peaceful ambience yet it is achingly sad as a memorial. Once again, its dominant position affords breathtaking views across the city to the east.
    • Free time can be rewardingly spent shopping in the markets at the foot of the Casbah, or strolling the streets of colonial Algiers.
    • There will be a welcome dinner tonight at a traditional local restaurant.
    Algiers Hotel Albert 1er
    Breakfast | Dinner

    Day 3 - Algiers

    • Tipaza is an ancient Roman site only 60 kms west of Algiers, and renowned for its wooded, secluded location right on the shores of the Mediterranean (those Romans knew all about location, location). While it is nowhere near as complete and as well-preserved as Algeria's other Roman cities, it does have delights of its own.
    • It’s quite pleasant to stroll amidst the ruins under the shaded canopy of trees, and of course the azure waters of the sea are impossibly clear. Highlights include the ampitheatre, basilica, forum and the old port. Beside the site itself is a small harbour where a number of seafood restaurants offer a good choice for lunch, one of them claims to be Albert Camus’ regular haunt.
    • On the way back to Algiers is a stop at an imposing structure, right beside the highway, fashioned like a circular pyramid. The Royal Tomb of Mauretania was initially thought to be the tomb of Cleopatra, while the cross on the doors led some to presume it was of Christian origin.
    • When carbon dating placed its construction some time around 400BC – that’s a few centuries before Cleopatra and well before the Christian period – it must certainly have been built by the Berber Mauretanian kingdom, but the mystery remains as to whom it was for.
    Algiers Hotel Albert 1er
    Breakfast | Lunch

    Day 4 - Setif

    • The drive out of the city to Beni Hammad takes about four hours, the first two on a highway, the last two on a regional road through undulating farming country. The 11th century site of Beni Hammad is set amidst hills overlooking a small town, the only Islamic UNESCO site in Algeria.
    • Most of the ancient town lies below the surface, but French excavations during the colonial period have exposed the main points of interest – the Palace of the Lake, the Palace of the Manar, and the mosque with its iconic 25m minaret towering over the site.
    • From Beni Hammad it is another two hours drive to Setif.
    Breakfast

    Day 5 - Constantine

    • Setif is a pleasant town with a compact French colonial centre. The highlight is not so much its modest museum, but the extraordinary Roman mosaic depicting the triumph of Dionysos that dominates the ground floor central court. With rich use of colour and incredible detail, it features a procession of all kinds of semi-human creatures and exotic animals such as tigers, an elephant and an ostrich. It is surely one of the finest Roman mosaics to be seen anywhere in the world. It was found by accident within the city of Setif itself by a team of workers digging foundations for a hospital.
    • It is a one hour drive from Setif to Djemila (“the beautiful”), and the ruins of the ancient Roman town of Cuicul, a World Heritage site. Set amidst languid, lightly forested hills, its hillside location and remarkable state of preservation offers visitors a sense and feel of a complete Roman town.
    • Your local guide, Fateh, grew up in the local village and taught himself English; his enthusiasm for the place is palpable. He will walk you around and show you the main sights; the Grand Baths, the House of Bacchus, the theatre, the forum, the photogenic arch of Caracalla and the Temple of the Severan Family, followed by a tour of the museum featuring many fine mosaics.
    • Continue on to Constantine, a drive of an hour and a half.
    Breakfast

    Day 6 - Constantine

    • Approaching Constantine from Djemila the afternoon before does not prepare you for the dramatic beauty the city holds in store. This morning you will set off on a walking tour to discover what has until now been hidden.
    • Alexandre Dumas aptly described Constantine as something like a “flying island”. Established in pre-Roman times, the city was defensively located on a dramatic rocky outcrop high above the Oued Rhumel gorge, a natural fortress surrounded by sheer 100m high cliffs on three sides (you approached via the fourth).
    • Modern Constantine has grown far beyond its original fortifications – it is now Algeria’s third-largest city – and it requires a series of spectacular bridges to link the old city with the new city across the gorge, and crossing these bridges – especially the disconcertingly wobbly yet perfectly safe Mellah Slimane walk-bridge – as well as the view of the sheer drop below, are a feature of the tour.
    • There is also the kasbah with its bustling, narrow streets lined with shops and stalls, the palace of the last Ottoman governor Ahmed Bey, and the museum. Finish the day sipping a delicious ginger honey tea on the second floor terrace of a cafe overlooking the Place de Martyrs, just near the hotel, an atmospheric colonial edifice with some rooms looking back across the gorge.
    Breakfast

    Day 7 - Batna

    • You'll drive an hour and a half to Timgad today, with a couple of fascinating detours en route, including the mysterious Mausoleum of Medracen and the Roman garrison town of Lambaesis.
    • Timgad began as a retirement town for soldiers of the Third Legion, and remains World Heritage-listed and described as “a consummate example of a Roman military colony”. Walking the ruins gives you a clear understanding of the aesthetics of Roman town planning, with its clean urban demarcations and its dominant position in a valley controlling one of the main routes from the Mediterranean to the Sahara. Follow the Cardo Maximus past the baths to the library and beyond to Timgad's most photographed image, Trajan's Arch.
    • In the afternoon, a 90-minute drive over the scenic Atlas Mountains and through quaint oasis villages takes you to Balcon Rhoufi, where ancient Berber dwellings maintain a precarious hold on ledges lining a precipitous canyon rock face. Time permitting, it’s a short hike down to the bottom of the canyon for a close up look. This evocative place deserves a special mention as it’s not even known to Lonely Planet.
    Breakfast

    Day 8 - Ghardaia

    • Settle in for an eight-hour drive to Ghardaia. It is an enjoyable drive, watching how the landscape changes as the green hills of the Atlas range give way to the arid plains just south of the mountains. The difference is quite stark, and soon it will become apparent that you have entered the region of the Saharan fringe. You will spend the next several days here.
    • Keep an eye out for the ubiquitous roadsigns warning drivers of the danger of wandering camels.
    Breakfast | Dinner

    Day 9 - Ghardaia

    • Ghardaia is the principle town of the pentapolis of the M’zab Valley, the others being Melika, Bou Noura, El-Atteuf and Beni Isguen. These towns have a distinctive, unique appearance. They were established between the 11th and 13th centuries as a refuge for the Ibadi (Mozabite) community who had fled here from persecution in the north. Perched atop a hill for defensive purposes, each town is a labyrinth of narrow lanes with a mosque at its summit and a market square at the foot of the hill.
    • While each town is fascinating to explore, there are some rules to observe. The Mozabites are a very conservative Muslim sect and photography in these towns – particularly of Mozabite women in their distinctive, ‘one-eye’ shroud – is frowned upon, if not forbidden. A local guide is required to escort visitors around each town. After a lunchtime siesta you will embark on a tour of Ghardaia’s palmeraie, where the secrets of its sophisticated irrigation system will be revealed. A highlight of the day is the visit to the marketplace of Beni Isguen, where a public auction of second-hand items is held every afternoon.
    • * The Mozabites practice a daily siesta between 1pm to 4pm. We're unable to make visits during this time as the tourist bureau is closed and we can’t visit unless accompanied by an official guide. We will check with the tourist bureau what other options we have during this time, perhaps a walking tour of El-Atteuf (for which we don't need a guide), or of the irrigation system in Ghardaia's oasis.
    Breakfast | Dinner

    Day 10 - Timimoun

    • The drive to the desert town of Timimoun will take about six hours. You will stop in El Golea, the only significant settlement en route, to visit the church of Father Charles de Foucould who is buried in its cemetery. Timimoun is a relaxed, slow-paced place with wide, sandy streets and its own style of red, Saharan architecture that greets you at the gate into town and also defines the various mausoleums and French-built hotel on the main promenade.
    • If it’s hot, you’ll appreciate that the hotel has a pool.
    Timimoun Hotel Ksar Massine or similar
    Breakfast | Dinner

    Day 11 - Timimoun

    • Timimoun itself would just be a pleasant, laid-back desert town peopled by laid-back, eye-catching desert people (the small market is the hub of activity and quite photogenic; it’s delightfully relaxed after the restrictions of Ghardaia), if it weren’t for the stunning landscapes of the surrounding region. The town straddles a low ridge parallel to a line of sand dunes across a salt lake. The 75km of road around the lake is called the Circuit de Sebka and will take you through a series of small oasis villages dominated by ruined mud-brick ksars, small citadels that protected the inhabitants in bygone times.
    • After climbing a few ksars and numerous photo stops, you’ll appreciate a picnic and lunchtime siesta in a local, shady palm garden. In the afternoon, explore the salt lake for the desert rose, a peculiar and beautiful formation of stone, sand and calcium, and climb the dunes for sunset and an unforgettable view back towards Timimoun.
    Timimoun Hotel Ksar Massine or similar
    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 12 - Taghit

    • It will be another six-hour drive to Taghit (pronounced Tareet), a town that announces itself in spectacular fashion as you approach and see the ruined, mud-brick old town clinging to rocks overlooking an oasis of palm trees and set against a backdrop of huge sand dunes.
    • Unfortuantely this hotel does not have a pool, but this is more than compensated for by its proximity to the old town and by its terrace looking out across the dunes.
    Taghit Hotel Le Bordj or similar
    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 13 - Taghit

    • There’s not much to the town of Taghit itself apart from the aforementioned old city, oasis and dunes. That should be more than enough to make up for what it lacks in traditional architecture and desert characters. But there are plenty of walks exploring the main sights, and some interesting whitewashed mausoleums – it’s one of the more photogenic towns in a photogenic country.
    • About 10kms outside of town, following a gorgeous road that skirts between the dunes on one side and a long, rocky escarpment on the other, is an outdoor gallery of ancient rock carvings. Depictions of long-gone species such as ostriches and antelopes attest to the lush, temporate environment the Sahara used to be thousands of years ago, while the more recent subject matter reflects a greater reliance on cattle as the locals became desert herdsmen as the pastures dried out and aridity crept in. Sadly, much of the work has been disfigured by modern graffiti and here and there is evidence of carvings having been cut away from the rock, but there is still enough here to see and for the remote location to make the visit well worthwhile.
    • You would not do Taghit justice if you did not partake in the obligatory climb up the sand dunes to watch the sun set serenely over town.
    Taghit Hotel Le Bordj or similar
    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 14 - Algiers

    • It’s only 90kms to Bechar and a 90-minute flight back to Algiers. The rest of the day’s activities will be determined by the timing of the flight. If it’s a daytime flight, you will be able to stop en route to the hotel at the Martyr’s Monument, a massive war memorial that dominates the skyline. This monument is sacred ground for Algerians – few families were left unaffected by the tragic eight years of war that secured their independence from the French. The monument also affords fine views across the city.
    Algiers Hotel Albert 1er or similar
    Breakfast

    Day 15 - Algiers

    • The tour will come to an end this morning after breakfast. A transfer back to the airport for your onward flight can be booked at an additional cost.
    Breakfast
  • What to Know

    What's Included

    • Peregrine tour leader
    • Arrival Airport transfer
    • Transport
    • Sightseeing and entrance fees

    Not Included

    • International flights
    • Meals unless specified
    • Drinks
    • Visas
    • Departure taxes
    • Travel insurance
    • Tips (see below)
    • Spending of a personal nature
    • Optional sightseeing

    Safety Information

    Algeria does have some areas that governments warn you not to visit, mostly in the far south and areas around the Libyan border, but this itinerary deliberately avoids those areas and focuses on areas that are safe for travellers.

  • Map Itinerary

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Trip at a glance

Trip Code PGXA
Group size 4 - 16
Start City: Algiers
End City: Algiers

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