Your comprehensive travel guide to Algeria - All in one place!
The largest country in the continent of Africa, Algeria has a diverse landscape and lots to offer travellers. The journey from Europe is only a short one but the difference between the two continents is immediately noticeable and provides a sense of adventure and intrigue for tourists. Algeria has many charming cities with winding streets and stunning architecture, Mediterranean coast, lush landscapes, and Roman ruins to rival anywhere in the world.
The main attraction in the country, however, is the Saharan region where the never-ending sand and the mysterious and lively cities are enough to indulge even the most seasoned traveller’s imagination.
History and Government
Excavations in Algeria have indicated that as ancient Numidia, Algeria became a Roman colony, part of what was called Mauretania Caesariensis, at the close of the Punic Wars (145 B.C.). Conquered by the Vandals about A.D. 440, it fell from a high state of civilization to virtual barbarism, from which it partly recovered after an invasion by Arabs about 650. Falling under the control of the Ottoman Empire by 1536, Algiers served for three centuries as the headquarters of the Barbary pirates. Ostensibly to rid the region of the pirates, the French occupied Algeria in 1830 and made it a part of France in 1848.
Algerian independence movements led to the uprisings of 1954–1955, which developed into full-scale war. In 1962, French president Charles de Gaulle began the peace negotiations, and on July 5, 1962, Algeria was proclaimed independent. In Oct. 1963, Ahmed Ben Bella was elected president, and the country became Socialist. He began to nationalize foreign holdings and aroused opposition. He was overthrown in a military coup on June 19, 1965, by Col. Houari Boumédienne, who suspended the constitution and sought to restore economic stability. After his death, Boumédienne was succeeded by Col. Chadli Bendjedid in 1978. Berbers rioted in 1980 when Arabic was made the country's only official language. Algeria entered a major recession after world oil prices plummeted in the 1980s.
Geography and Environment
The People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria is the tenth-largest country in the world, the largest in Africa and around the Mediterranean with a land area of 2,381,741 km2. Algeria is located in northern Africa between Morocco and Tunisia and borders the Mediterranean Sea as well as Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Western Sahara. The terrain is mostly high plateau and desert with some mountains and a narrow, discontinuous coastal plain. The highest point is Tahat at 2,918 m above sea level.
Lake Chott Melrhir is an endorheic (closed basin) salt lake whose size varies throughout the year, yet is the largest lake in Algeria with its maximum area about 2,600 sq. miles. Moving north, there is a hilly and narrow coastal plain along the Mediterranean with a few minor (small) rivers.
Area and Population
Algeria has an estimated population of 43.05 million, up from the official 2013 census population of 37.9 million. Algeria is one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world with just 15.9 people per square kilometer. The capital and largest city is Algeria, which has an estimated population of 3.7 million.
Culture and Customs
Algeria's culture is strongly influenced by the country's recent history, as well as other aspects such as their literature, music, arts, crafts and religion. There are also many ethnic groups in the country that contribute to its diverse and fascinating culture.
Islam is the official religion of Algeria and the majority of Algerians are Muslims. Since the departure of the French, Christianity is a secondary religion. Approximately one percent of Algeria’s population is Jewish.
Algerian literature is split between French and Arabic and the country has produced a number of famous novelists, Mohammed Dib, Kateb Yacine and Assia Djebar, during the 20th century.
The musical genre of Algeria that is best known abroad is Rai. Rai is a pop-flavored, opinionated take on folk music.
Algeria has a thriving handicrafts industry. Part of the charm of the country is the richness of its production. From carpets to ceramics, from leather to lute making, from pottery to glass working to silverwork, the country has a tremendous variety of skills that produce goods which are sold in many other countries.
Festivals and Events
Algeria is an Islamic country and has specific holidays that are being strictly followed by all official authorities. The local population is also deeply respectful towards those dates. The public holidays that are official and have fixed dates are New Year, Labour Day, Independence Day, which is being commemorated with great festivities and multi-cultural activities in the various cities. The religious holidays are also official public holidays, but their date is not fixed and depends on the corresponding calendar.
Food and Drink
The Cuisine of Algeria shows a blend of many cultures, which include Arab, Berber, Turkish, Spanish, Roman, and French cultures. Algerians love to incorporate spices into their meals. Lamb, chicken, fish, grains, vegetables, and dried fruits are common ingredients in Algerian cuisine. Tea is Algeria’s favorite drink served with fresh mint. Coffee is also a popular beverage in Algeria.
Best Time to Visit
Average temperatures in Algeria vary greatly. Considering humidity, temperatures feel very enjoyable all year with a fair chance of precipitation about half of the year. The area is more temperate compared to tourist destinations worldwide. If you’re looking for the warmest time to visit Algeria, the hottest months are August, July, and then September. The warmest time of year is generally from mid to late August where highs are regularly around 30.8°C.
Arabic, French, and some Berber dialects are spoken in Algeria. North African Arabic may be difficult to understand if you are trained in the dialect spoken on the Arabian Peninsula, but almost everyone is bilingual and you will generally not encounter problems, especially if you can converse in French. Algeria uses the Algerian dinar as its currency. ATMs are scarce even in Algiers and Oran, and most do not accept foreign cards. Few vendors will accept credit cards, so carry cash.
You can use taxis, buses, and railways, driving alone is hazardous, owing to the unpaved roads and the risk of highway robbery in rural areas. Ferries run between the major coastal cities in the north.