Algeria has for too long been hidden in the shadows of its neighbours Morocco and Tunisia when it comes to tourism. Decades of civil unrest scared most potential visitors away, preventing successive governments from properly developing the sector.
However, Algeria is ready to make up for lost time. Due to its newfound stability, it is promoting tourism as an activity that will attract investment, generate employment and finally allow greater numbers of foreigners to enjoy the beauty of Africa’s largest country.
Located on the shores of one of the most historically important bodies of water and in a region known worldwide for its beauty and climate, Algeria could certainly be capable of competing with its neighbours.
At SITEV 2010, Frederic Perret, the representative of the Secretary-General of the UN World Tourism Organisation, said that thanks to its “Mediterranean beaches, its fascinating Djurdjura [National Park] and its human, cultural and historical treasures” Algerian tourism holds significant potential.
Smail Mimoune, Minister of Tourism and Handicrafts, believes Algeria offers three key features that appeal to travellers: authenticity, originality and diversity. Indeed, tourism professionals call Algeria “the land of all types of tourism” and this is why the government wants to exploit its comparative advantages “in contrast to other Mediterranean destinations, which are increasingly saturated,” says Mr Mimoune, “so that we can propose trips to the international markets during the whole year, as well as offers adapted to the consumers’ motivations and demands.”
He highlights Algeria’s adventure and scenery tourism – as this is home to the most beautiful parts of the Sahara, in what could be regarded as the largest open-air museum in the world – as well as coastal tourism.
Algeria, the Minister says, has some of the most attractive and better-preserved coastlines in the Mediterranean, along with excellent opportunities for cultural, urban, niche and well-being tourism.
Top spots to visit in Algeria
With its turquoise waters, sand dunes, vast deserts and impressive mountain ranges, Algeria is a land of striking contrasts and home to six UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The Djurdura National Park lies within the Atlas Mountains and encompasses green valleys that boast colourful carpets of flowers in springtime, snow-capped mountains, babbling brooks and streams that lead into dark blue lakes. The park is also home to a magnificent range of animals.
Another park not to be missed is the Belezma National Park, one of the most important in the country. Here 447 species of flora – including lush forests of cedar and oak – and 309 species of fauna live, of which 59 are protected.
The 11th century Beni Hammad Fort, declared a World Heritage Site in 1980, is located in the mountains northeast of M’Sila at an elevation of 4,650 feet. UNESCO describes it as ‘an authentic picture of a fortified Muslim city’ and has a 4.3 mile-long line of walls.
Another 11th century monument is the Great Mosque of Tlemcen, one of the best preserved examples of Almoravid architecture. The mosque is located in a large town of the same name, which is renowned as a historical centre of music and art.
Fans of Roman ruins will enjoy Djemila, Timgad and Tipaza, all World Heritage Sites.
A mountain village near the northern coast, Djemila has a delightful collection of Berbero-Roman ruins that date back to the first century AD. Timgad was a Roman colonial town in the Aures mountains. Tipaza was a Roman city built on three small hills overlooking the sea. Here, the ruins of three Christian churches still stand, as well as two cemeteries, baths, a theatre, amphitheatre and nymphaeum.
Other fascinating monuments and parks include the Casbah of Algiers and the limestone M’zab Valley, which UNESCO calls an intact example of traditional human habitat perfectly adapted to the environment.
Lovers of sun and sand of course have thousands of miles of coastline to enjoy, though perhaps the most beautiful stretch is what is known as the Turquoise Coast. Not far from Algiers, this area is known for its stunning rocky coves and sandy beaches, overlooked by cypress, cork oaks and olive trees.