Once a popular holiday destination on a par with neighbouring Morocco, Algeria's tourist industry all but disappeared when bitter civil war broke out in 1992. After a decade of conflict the situation improved slightly, and some access to the southern Sahara region has been possible in the last couple of years. However, independent travel without a vehicle is almost nonexistent, and after the tourist abductions of 2003 self-drive travellers need to be very aware of the risks involved.
This dearth of visitors is a great shame, as Algeria is one of the most fascinating countries in North Africa. In the dramatic Unesco-listed Tassili N'Ajjer and Hoggar regions, near the town of Tamanrasset, tribal culture is very much alive, and the day-to-day hassle common to many Arab countries is conspicuously absent. Algiers contains a vivid mix of tradition and modernism, its colonial past maintaining a presence. Timimoun embodies the storybook oasis town of the Sahara, and the welcoming town of In Salah is split in two by a creeping sand dune.
Your options for travel are limited, especially as a backpacker, but a chance to see even a part of this vast nation should not be passed up.
Best places to stay in Algeria
Africa - Algeria (Chapter)
Africa’s largest country lies just a short hop from Europe and, with tourists still a novelty, offers attractions as unpeopled as they are varied: stunning coastlines, lush rural hinterland and well-preserved Roman cities. Algeria’s trump card, though, is its extraordinary Saharan region.
Desert of dreams: experiencing the Sahara
A fount of solitude and the desert of childhood imaginings, the Sahara Desert is like nowhere else on earth. It is the world’s largest desert, at once continental in its scale and exquisite in its detail, from a sand sea the size of a small European country to an orange sand dune sculpted to perfection by the wind.
Algeria destination guides
Tom Hall's travel picks for 2011
What's in store for travel in and around Europe in 2011? Here are some suggestions to get you booking that ticket. London. Sorry to bang on but you’d better get used to it. There’ll be no escaping the world’s British capital next year as it provides the perfect setting for the Royal Wedding.
Algeria: travel books to read before you go
This excerpt from Lonely Planet’s archives provides a selection of travel literature to get you in the mood for your trip.