From the claustrophobic Kasbah of Algiers to the Sahara Desert sands of Taghit; here are the best places to visit in Algeria.

“I don’t think Algeria is ready for mass tourism yet,” said Islam Belhada, a tour guide with Algerian company FancyYellow Travel Services. “But in Algeria, you can do anything. You have the beaches, the sunshine, the desert, the Roman ruins and in winter, you can even ski.”

For a traveller with a love for off-beat destinations, I was sold on Algeria the moment arrived in Algiers, the North African nation’s capital, and one of the oldest cities in the Mediterranean. For so long, Algeria has been off-limits to tourists, thanks to stern beauracracy and a lingering paranoia from a government that faced down Islamic insurgencies during the Algerian Civil War, even if it did come to a close over two decades ago.

Islam’s assertions that his home country isn’t yet ready for mass tourism only fuelled my desire to see the best places in Algeria before the destination becomes more mainstream. And mainstream it will one day become, with a new Visa on Arrival allowing easier entry than ever before (the visa can be obtained by anyone travelling to the Sahara Desert as part of their tour).

Home to ancient ruins, colourful coastal cities and swathes of dunes dotted with millennia-old petroglyphs, it’s an exciting time to visit. To help you plan your trip, here’s my take on the best places to visit in Algeria.

Best places to visit in Algeria

Apart from Libya, I’ve visited all of the countries in North Africa, and so far, I’d have to say that Algeria was my favourite. The very fact that tourism is in its infancy here is a blessing, and there are few of the beach resorts and big developments that often blight the coastline in more established destinations like Tunisia and Egypt.

Compared to Morocco and Egypt, which I found hectic – in Cairo, especially, it always feels as if the tourism industry is just trying to scrape as much money as they can out of you – Algeria is calm and collected. Tourists are enough of a curiosity that locals, even in cities like Algiers, are genuinely interested in talking to you showing you around and sharing their culture with visitors.

I’ll be honest, though, I was slightly apprehensive about visiting, so I opted to join a week-long tour with Lupine Travel which took me to the highlights. They helped with the visa (and they can also sort a VOA for you now) and of course, everything on the ground was taken care of; but if I go again, I’ll be more than commfortable travelling around on my own. Take the plunge, and make Algeria your next North African getaway; you won’t regret it!

The Sahara Desert, one of the best places to visit in Algeria.

1. Algiers

“Have you seen the Battle of Algiers?” asked Sumiah, my guide through the labyrinth streets of the Kasbah. “This cafe, the ‘Milk Bar’, was the first place to be bombed by Algerian insurgents during the war.” The history of Algiers, the nation’s capital, is hard-hitting, but I think it’s incredibly important that visitors get to grips with the nation’s battles for independence, much of which took place in the narrow streets of the Kasbah.

This coastal metropolis, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, has a history stretching back over a millennium though, and it’s a past marked by Phoenician, Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, and French influences. Founded by the Phoenicians in the 4th century BCE, the city reached its zenith under Ottoman rule in the 16th century, becoming a key centre for corsairs and a melting pot of Mediterranean cultures.

The Kasbah – where the scars of Algeria’s long war with colonial France are still visible today – is Algiers’ historic heart. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the Kasbah is an ancient citadel, with its narrow, winding streets and traditional white-washed houses, standing as a tribute to Ottoman rule.

Modern Algiers contrasts sharply with the Kasbah. French colonial rule, which began in 1830, brought European architectural styles and urban planning, evident in the grand boulevards and the imposing colonial edifices. Visit the Martyrs’ Memorial, a monstrous concrete monument overlooking the sea, to learn more about Algerian freedom fighters, explore ancient history at the National Museum of Antiquities, and stroll through the Botanical Garden Hamma when you need a break from the city.

The Martyrs’ Memorial, Algiers.

Read more: 15 Best Things to Do in Algiers, Algeria

2. Constantine

“You do not introduce Constantine. She introduces herself, and you salute her,” wrote 20th-century Algerian poet Malek Haddad. “She reveals herself and we discover each other.”

Perched dramatically atop a plateau in northeastern Algeria, Constantine was one of the great surprises of my trip. One of the oldest cities in the world, Constantine traces its origins back over 2,500 years. Known as the ‘City of Bridges’, I was continually awed by the spectacular vistas over the deep gorges and ravines that carve their way through the landscapes.

Crisscrossed by a series of impressive bridges (the oldest dating back to the Roman era), the city was originally named Cirta and was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Numidia before it later flourished under Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman rule. Landmarks like the Emir Abdelkader Mosque and the Palace of Ahmed Bey offer insights into Islamic architecture, while the Cirta National Museum showcases archaeological finds from the Roman and Byzantine periods.

Constantine, the ‘City of Bridges’.

3. Timgad

Timgad – located near Batna in northeastern Algeria – is a remarkable legacy of Roman urban planning and architecture. Founded by Emperor Trajan around 100 AD as a military colony, Timgad was originally designed as a bastion against the Berber tribes. Over time, it evolved into a thriving city, exemplifying the architectural and cultural grandeur of the Roman Empire in North Africa.

The ruins of Timgad are a UNESCO World Heritage site, and they offer an extraordinary glimpse into ancient Roman life. The city’s grid layout, based on the Roman cardo and decumanus system, is remarkably well-preserved, allowing you to walk the same streets as Roman citizens once did. Key highlights include the triumphal Arch of Trajan, the grand public library – one of the largest in the Roman world, and the Capitoline Temple, dedicated to Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva.

The site also features a 3,500-seat theatre, thermal baths, and a plethora of houses and shops, showcasing the city’s once-bustling life. Timgad’s mosaic floors, found in various buildings, are artistic marvels, reflecting the sophistication of Roman art. Over time, the city was buried under sand, which preserved much of its structure, leading to its nickname, ‘The Pompeii of Africa.’

Read more: How Many Countries Are in Africa? Everything You Need to Know.

4. Djémila

Djémila is another outrageous example of Roman town planning. Known in ancient times as Cuicul, this UNESCO World Heritage site was founded as a military garrison in the 1st century AD. Djémila is celebrated for its expert integration of architectural masterpieces with the natural landscape, offering a window into the Roman Empire’s far-reaching influence.

The site’s well-preserved ruins, hidden amidst lush green hills, include a theatre, basilicas, triumphal arches, and houses. Notable is the Arch of Caracalla, erected in 216 AD to honour the emperor and his mother. The forum, the social and political heart of the city, and the Temple of Septimus Severus are other highlights.

Djémila’s museum, housing an exceptional collection of mosaics, illustrates everyday life in Roman Africa. These artworks, along with the site’s ruins, not only reflect the city’s past wealth and importance but also provide invaluable insights into the urban planning and cultural life of a Roman city in North Africa.

Today, the ruins have largely been excavated, but what struck me the most was the emptiness of the archaeological site. If Djémila were anywhere in Europe, it would be heaving with tourists. Here in Algeria, my tour group was one of just a handful, even as the sun set gloriously over the Arch of Caracalla.

The Roman ruins of Djémila.

5. M’Zab Valley

The M’Zab Valley is located deep in the Sahara Desert region of Ghardaïa, and it’s a striking example of human adaptability and architectural ingenuity. This UNESCO World Heritage site, established in the 10th century by the Mozabite Ibadi sect, is renowned for distinctive, fortress-like architecture that reflects the indigenous Berber culture.

The valley comprises five fortified villages, known as ksour, which were built on rocky outcrops for defence. The most famous of these is Ghardaïa, which is often considered the main town of the region. Buildings are typically made from mud-brick and limestone, featuring flat roofs and narrow streets that create a natural cooling effect, crucial for the harsh desert climate.

Read more: How Many Countries in North Africa? Everything You Need to Know.

6. Taghit

Taghit is hidden away on the edge of the Grand Erg Occidental in the Algerian Sahara. It’s a serene oasis town, surrounded by some of the Sahara’s largest sand dunes. Close to the border with Morocco, my tour group flew here from Algiers, spending a night in the desert and waking up surrounded by dunes.

Taghit is an adventure playground for Algerians (most of whom live on the coast), and you can climb sand dunes, ride camels, race quad bikes, and even sandboard. Most remarkably of all, there’s a collection of prehistoric rock art an hour’s drive from Taghit, depicting scenes of wildlife and human activities that date back thousands of years.

The author, standing by the ancient petroglyphs near Taghit.

7. Oran

Oran is Algeria’s second-largest city. A port city on the Mediterranean coast, it was founded in the 10th century by Moorish Andalusian traders, and then shaped by various cultures including Spanish, Ottoman, and French.

Oran’s architecture is a blend of these influences, from the Ottoman-era Fort of Santa Cruz overlooking the bay to the Gothic-style Church of Saint Louis. The city’s layout reflects French colonial planning, evident in its wide boulevards and public squares, notably Place du 1er Novembre.

Renowned as the birthplace of Raï music, a genre-blending traditional Algerian folk sounds with contemporary global influences, Oran is a city that pulses with creativity and artistic expression. The nightlife and music scene here are among the most dynamic in North Africa, making this a fascinating stop on your Algerian itinerary.

Read more: How Many Countries Are in West Africa? Everything You Need to Know.

8. Tassili n’Ajjer

Tassili n’Ajjer, located in southeastern Algeria, is a vast plateau in the heart of the Sahara Desert, renowned for its otherworldly landscapes and ancient rock art. Covering an area of over 72,000 square kilometres, this UNESCO World Heritage site is a geological marvel characterised by its towering sandstone rock formations, arches, and deep canyons formed over millennia.

What makes Tassili n’Ajjer truly extraordinary is its collection of prehistoric rock art, estimated to date back as far as 10,000 BCE. These paintings and engravings provide a window into the lives of ancient peoples, depicting wildlife, human activities, and scenes of daily life from a time when the Sahara was a more hospitable environment. The art is an invaluable record of climatic changes and the evolution of human civilization in North Africa.

Ancient Algerian rock art in the Sahara Desert.

9. Tlemcen

Tlemcen is located in Northwestern Algeria near the border with Morocco, and the city is often referred to as the ‘Pearl of the Maghreb’. Tlemcen has been a crossroads of civilizations for centuries, including Berber, Arab, and French influences, each leaving an indelible mark on its character.

Founded in the 4th century, Tlemcen evolved into an important medieval Islamic centre in later years, especially under the Zianid dynasty in the 13th and 14th centuries. This period of prosperity and cultural flowering is evident in the city’s outstanding Islamic architecture and art. The Great Mosque of Tlemcen and the nearby ruins of the ancient city of Mansourah are exemplary of Islamic architectural splendour, featuring intricate tile work and elegant arches.

Read more: 18 Best Places to Visit in Tunisia

10. Tipaza

Tipaza was another highlight of my trip to Algeria, and it was here that French-Algerian writer Albert Camus wrote the poignant lines: “Here, I understand this thing they call glory: the right to love without measure.”

Located along the Mediterranean coast of Algeria, just a short drive west of Algiers, you’ll find those words immortalised on a clifftop stelle amongst the Roman ruins. Originally a Phoenician trading post, Tipaza was later developed by the Romans, becoming one of the most prominent cities in North Africa. Today, Tipaza is celebrated for its stunning UNESCO World Heritage archaeological site, which encompasses an array of ancient Roman ruins.

The remains of the Roman city are set against the backdrop of the azure Mediterranean Sea and include a theatre, basilicas, and a forum. Nearby, the town’s modern section abounds with seafood restaurants. I’d highly recommend ordering the local speciality; grilled seafood platters!

The ruins of Tipaza, Algeria.

11. Annaba

Annaba is another historically rich coastal city, this time in northeastern Algeria (some 90 per cent of Algerians live on the coast, I was told!). Known for its beaches and Mediterranean atmosphere, Annaba is also steeped in a history dating back to its founding by the Phoenicians, and later development under Roman rule.

The city’s most significant historical site is the ruins of Hippo Regius, an ancient city that was a major centre of early Christianity. It is famously associated with Saint Augustine, who served as its bishop in the 5th century. The Basilica of St Augustine, overlooking the city, commemorates his life and work.

Read more: 14 Best Historic Sites in Tunisia

12. Cherchell

Cherchell is a small yet historically significant coastal town in Algeria, not far from both Algiers and Tipaza. Founded by the Phoenicians, it later became the capital of the Roman province of Mauretania Caesariensis. Cherchell’s rich history is evident in its remarkable collection of Roman and Byzantine ruins, making it an important site for archaeological and historical studies.

The town is home to two significant museums, which house one of the finest collections of Roman and Greek antiquities in Algeria, including exquisite mosaics, statues, and artefacts that reflect the town’s ancient prosperity and cultural significance. The remnants of Roman Cherchell, such as its theatre and public baths, provide a glimpse into the city’s past grandeur.

This was the seat of power of Queen Cleopatra’s descendants, and nearby, you can visit the marvellously well-preserved ruins of the Royal Mausoleum of Mauretania.

The Archeological Museum of Cherchell.

13. Ahaggar National Park

Ahaggar National Park protects the Hoggar Mountains, and it’s an awe-inspiring natural wonder in the central Sahara of southern Algeria. This vast area, covering about 450,000 square kilometres, is characterised by its rugged, volcanic mountain terrain, with Mount Tahat as its highest peak. The park’s dramatic landscape of towering cliffs, deep valleys, and expansive plateaus offers a stark yet mesmerising beauty.

Renowned for its unique geological formations and rich biodiversity, Ahaggar National Park is home to various endemic species adapted to the harsh desert environment. The flora includes species such as the Saharan myrtle and Saharan cypress, rare survivors of a bygone era when the climate was wetter.

It’s also a significant site for the Tuareg people, a nomadic Berber community known for their distinctive culture, traditional crafts, and deep knowledge of the desert.

Nomadic tribes have long lived in the Sahara Desert.

Map of the best places to visit in Algeria

Here’s a map of the best places to visit in Algeria:

FAQ: Best places to visit in Algeria

Here’s an FAQ on the best places to visit in Algeria:

Q1: What are the top historical sites to visit in Algeria?

Timgad, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is known for its well-preserved Roman ruins. Djémila, another UNESCO site, offers some of the best Roman ruins in North Africa, and Tipaza is famous for its Roman and Phoenician ruins along the Mediterranean coast.

Q2: Which cities in Algeria are must-visits for cultural experiences?

Algiers is the capital, offering a mix of historical sites like the Casbah and modern attractions. Oran is known for its music scene and a blend of Ottoman and French colonial architecture and Constantine is famous for its dramatic bridges.

Q3: Are there any natural wonders to explore in Algeria?

Tassili n’Ajjer is a national park in the Sahara, known for its surreal landscapes and ancient rock art. M’Zab Valley is home to a unique series of fortified villages showcasing traditional Saharan architecture and Ahaggar National Park is the site of the stunning Hoggar Mountains and traditional Tuareg culture.

Q4: Can you recommend coastal destinations in Algeria?

Annaba offers beautiful beaches and the historic Basilica of St Augustine. Cherchell is a tranquil coastal town with a rich Roman and Byzantine history.

Q5: What are some unique experiences in Algerian Sahara?

Sahara Desert Tours, including visits to the Grand Erg Oriental and the oasis town of Timimoun. Taghit is known for its sand dunes, ancient rock art, and traditional mud-brick architecture.

Q6: Where can I experience traditional Algerian life?

Ghardaïa is part of the M’Zab Valley, showcasing unique Mozabite culture and architecture. El-Oued is famous for its traditional markets and architecture known as the ‘City of a Thousand Domes’.

Q7: Are there any lesser-known gems in Algeria worth visiting?

Batna is a gateway to the Aurès Mountains and is close to the Roman sites of Timgad and Lambaesis. Bejaia is a blend of Mediterranean and Berber influences, known for its natural beauty and historical sites.

Q8: Is it easy to travel around Algeria for tourists?

Travel in Algeria can be challenging due to language barriers and limited public transport in remote areas. However, major cities are well-connected, and guided tours are recommended for remote destinations like the Sahara.

Q9: What is the best time of year to visit Algeria?

The best time to visit is during spring (March to May) or autumn (September to November) when the weather is mild and pleasant, especially in desert areas.

There you are, the best places to visit in Algeria! What’s on your Algerian bucket list?