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.