Algeria: the next Burma?

Peregrine's new Algeria itinerary has been a talking point among travellers for a few months now. Here, Peregrine Middle East and North Africa Destination Manager, Pete Miers, elaborates on what makes this country such a unique destination.

Algeria has been off the map for mainstream tourists for 20 years or so, after a fairly destructive civil war during the 1990’s rendered it off-limits. Though peace was restored in 2003, it's taken some time for the scars in Algerian society to heal. Now, the majority of the country (the far south remains off-limits) is quite safe for travellers to return. The country is the biggest in Africa and sits at the crossroads of history, where empires and trade routes have existed for thousands of years.

Consequently, Algeria has lots to show for it and offers a huge variety of attractions for travellers. It has spectacular cities such as Algiers – its whitewashed French colonial edifice facing the Mediterranean on a curved bay – and Constantine, referred to by Alexandre Dumas as a “flying island”, its fantastical centre perched atop sheer cliffs overlooking a dramatic gorge and linked to the world by a series of incredible bridges. Boasting no less than seven UNESCO World Heritage-listed sites, three of which are well-preserved Roman cities nestled in the northern hills (the likes of which would be overrun by tourists in Europe) Algeria's sights remain relatively deserted.

In the middle of the country are a series of oasis towns nibbling at the fringe of the Sahara, their ancient mud-brick ksars set against the backdrop of huge sand dunes a photographer’s delight. The people of these marginal settlements appear to have stepped out from the pages of a National Geographic. Algeria presents a great opportunity for even the most well-travelled to get in early and see a country that has not experienced the huge tourist development and commercialisation neighbouring countries have undergone. It’s like Morocco without the hordes of tourists, and the way Algerians remain unaffected by the presence of tourists is particularly refreshing.

It's possible that Algeria has the potential to be the next Sri Lanka or, dare I say it, the next Burma - two other countries that were also off-limits to most travellers for two decades or so, and where tourism is now booming. With the huge amount of attractions and experiences the country has to offer, soon I imagine there will be dinner parties around the world where guests will talk, perhaps even boast, about being among the first to go there.

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