Expedition Algeria Trip Notes

Expedition Algeria

Last Modified: 17 Jun 2015
Expedition Algeria
Trip code: XLKG
Validity: 01 Jan 2015 to 30 Apr 2016
Table of Contents
StyleImportant notesVisas
ThemesGroup sizeIssues on your trip
MapYour fellow travellersHealth
Also available to purchaseMealsTravel insurance
Culture shock rating TransportResponsible Travel
Physical ratingJoining point A couple of rules
Money ExchangeArrival complicationsThe Intrepid Foundation
Spending moneyFinish point Carbon offset
TippingEmergency contactFeedback
Departure taxEmergency funds
  • ‘Comfort travel’ means encountering all that the real world has to offer, but with an added degree of, well… comfort. We use more private transport, the travel pace more relaxed, the accommodation a touch nicer. And by paying a little more up front, you’ll be treated to more included meals, more leader-led activities and get a greater immersion in all things local.
Expedition Algeria
Day 1 Algiers
Marhaba, welcome to Algeria! On arrival in Algeria you will be met at the airport and transferred to your hotel.
Your adventure begins with a Welcome Meeting in the evening of Day 1.
You can arrive at any time during the day as there are no activities planned until this important meeting; please check with the hotel reception where and when it will take place, or check the reception notice boards. If you can't arrange a flight that will have you arrive at the hotel by early evening, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.
The drive from the airport into the city is 30 kilometres but the road goes directly into the city centre where the Hotel Albert Premier is located. A 5-storey hotel of the French colonial period, it oozes old-world charm and holds a dominant position overlooking the Place de la General Poste and across to the port.
On arrival in the old city centre, Algiers’ situation on hills surrounding a broad Mediterranean bay is quite stunning for the newly-arrived visitor. With street after street of grand French buildings in various states from freshly-renovated to advanced decay, Algiers exudes a beguiling ambience.
Hotel (1 nt)
Days 2-3 Algiers/Tipaza
Tipaza is an ancient Roman site only 60 kms west of Algiers, distinguished by its wooded, secluded location, and the fact that it is right on the shores of the Mediterranean (those Romans knew all about location, location). While it is nowhere near as complete and as well-preserved as some other ancient sites to be visited later, it does have delights of its own. It’s quite pleasant to stroll amidst the ruins under the shaded canopy of trees, and of course the azure waters of the sea are impossibly clear. Beside the site itself is a small port where a number of seafood restaurants offer a good choice for lunch, chief among them one claiming to be Albert Camus’ regular haunt.
On the way back to Algiers is a stop at the imposing structure, right beside the highway, that you passed in the morning en route to Tipaza. From way off it looks like the top half of a muffin, but closer study as you approach reveals an imposing construction of massive stone blocks, with columns detailing its circular base – welcome to the Royal Tomb of Mauretania.
Initially researchers thought it could be the tomb of Cleopatra, while the cross on the doors led others to presume it was of Christian origin. When carbon dating placed its construction some time around 400BC – that’s a few centuries before Cleopatra and well before the Christian period – it must certainly have been built by the Berber Mauretanian kingdom, but the mystery remains as to whom it was for.
Algiers' Casbah is one of the few parts of the city surviving from Ottoman times – the French demolished virtually everything else to start anew with a blank slate. Although it is generally decrepid and in some places nearing collapse, a walk around the labyrinthine streets of the Casbah is fascinating, with steep stairways like narrow canyons between tottering buildings. Amidst the heart of the Casbah and down by the waterfront are elegant Ottoman palaces with charming courtyards which today house museums, mosques and mausoleums that attest the beauty of Islamic architecture.
Perched high on a hilltop overlooking the port and the city is the Notre Dame d’Afrique, a striking yet sombre cathedral that remains as an elegy to French imperialism and wasted endeavour. Its stunning interior exudes a peaceful ambience yet it is achingly sad as a memorial. Once again, its dominant position affords breathtaking views across the city to the east.
Hotel (2 nts)
Day 4 Setif
The drive out of the city to Beni Hammad takes about four hours, the first two on a modern highway, the last two on a regional road through undulating farming country. The site of Beni Hammad is amidst hills overlooking a small town, the only Islamic UNESCO site in Algeria.
Most of the ancient town lies below the surface, but French excavations during the colonial period have exposed the main points of interest – the Palace of the Lake, the Palace of the Manar, and the mosque with its iconic 25m minaret towering over the site.
From Beni Hammad it is another two hours drive to Setif.
Setif is a pleasant town with a compact French colonial centre. Near the hotel is the surviving section of an imposing Byzantine wall which unfortunately is closed to visitors, although it can readily be viewed from a distance. One of Setif’s attractions is a small fountain in the middle of its main thoroughfare, Av 8 de Mai. It would be an unremarkable fountain were it not for the nude figure of a young girl, sculpted by a French artist on 1892, and its location not 50m from the Grand Mosque. This displeased someone who blew it up in 1997, but it has since been restored to its former glory.
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 5 Constantine
It is a one hour drive from Setif to Djemila (“the beautiful”), and the ruins of the ancient Roman town of Cuicul, a World Heritage site. Set amidst languid, lightly forested hills, its hillside location and remarkable state of preservation offers visitors a sense and feel of a complete Roman town.
Your local guide, Fateh, grew up in the local village and taught himself English; his enthusiasm for the place is palpable. He will walk you around and show you the main sights; the Grand Baths, the House of Bacchus, the theatre, the forum, the photogenic arch of Caracalla and the Temple of the Severan Family, followed by a tour of the museum featuring many fine mosaics.
Continue on to Constantine, a drive of an hour and a half.
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 6 Batna
Approaching Constantine from Djemila the afternoon before does not prepare you for the dramatic beauty the city holds in store. This morning you will set off on a walking tour to discover what has until now been hidden.
Alexandre Dumas aptly described Constantine as something like a “flying island”. Established in pre-Roman times, the city was defensively located on a dramatic rocky outcrop high above the Oued Rhumel gorge, a natural fortress surrounded by sheer 100m high cliffs on three sides (you approached via the fourth).
Modern Constantine has grown far beyond its original fortifications – it is now Algeria’s third-largest city – and it requires a series of spectacular bridges to link the old city with the new city across the gorge, and crossing these bridges – especially the disconcertingly wobbly yet perfectly safe Mellah Slimane walk-bridge – as well as the view of the sheer drop below, are a feature of the tour.
There is also the kasbah with its bustling, narrow streets lined with shops and stalls, the palace of the last Ottoman governor Ahmed Bey, and the museum. Finish the day sipping a delicious ginger honey tea on the second floor terrace of a cafe overlooking the Place de Martyrs, just near the hotel, an atmospheric colonial edifice with some rooms looking back across the gorge. Continue to Batna for the night
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 7 Biskra
You'll drive an hour and a half to Timgad today, with a couple of fascinating detours en route, including the mysterious Mausoleum of Medracen and the Roman garrison town of Lambaesis.
Timgad began as a retirement town for soldiers of the Third Legion, and remains World Heritage-listed and described as “a consummate example of a Roman military colony”. Walking the ruins gives you a clear understanding of the aesthetics of Roman town planning, with its clean urban demarcations and its dominant position in a valley controlling one of the main routes from the Mediterranean to the Sahara. Follow the Cardo Maximus past the baths to the library and beyond to Timgad's most photographed image, Trajan's Arch.
In the afternoon, a 90-minute drive over the scenic Atlas Mountains and through quaint oasis villages takes you to Balcon Rhoufi, where ancient Berber dwellings maintain a precarious hold on ledges lining a precipitous canyon rock face. Time permitting, it’s a short hike down to the bottom of the canyon for a close up look. This evocative place deserves a special mention as it’s not even known to Lonely Planet.
Hotel (1 nt)
Days 8-9 Ghardaia
Settle in for an eight-hour drive to Ghardaia. It is an enjoyable drive, watching how the landscape changes as the green hills of the Atlas range give way to the arid plains just south of the mountains. The difference is quite stark, and soon it will become apparent that you have entered the region of the Saharan fringe. Keep an eye out for the ubiquitous roadsigns warning drivers of the danger of wandering camels.
Ghardaia is the principle town of the pentapolis of the M’zab Valley, the others being Melika, Bou Noura, El Attuef and Beni Isguen. These towns have a distinctive, unique appearance as they were established between the 11th and 13th centuries as a refuge for the Ibadi community who had fled here from persecution in the north. Perched atop a hill for defensive purposes, each town is a labyrinth of narrow lanes with a mosque at its summit and a market square at the foot of the hill.
While each town is fascinating to explore, there are some rules to observe. The Ibadis are a very conservative Muslim sect and photography in these towns – particularly of Ibadi women in their distinctive, ‘one-eye’ shroud – is frowned upon, if not forbidden. A local guide is required to escort visitors around each town. After a lunchtime siesta there is a tour of Ghardaia’s palmeraie, where the secrets of its sophisticated irrigation system are revealed. A highlight of the day is the visit to the marketplace of Beni Isguen, where a public auction of second-hand items is held every afternoon.
The Mozabites practice a daily siesta between 1pm to 4pm. We're unable to make visits during this time as the tourist bureau is closed and we can’t visit unless accompanied by an official guide. We will check with the tourist bureau what other options we have during this time, perhaps a walking tour of El-Atteuf (for which we don't need a guide), or of the irrigation system in Ghardaia's oasis.
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 10-11 Timimoun
The drive to the desert town of Timimoun takes about six hours. There is a stop in El Golea, the only significant settlement en route, to visit the church of Father Charles de Foucould who is buried in its cemetery. Timimoun is a relaxed, slow-paced place with wide, sandy streets and its own distinct style of red, Saharan architecture that greets you at the gate into town and also defines the various mausoleums and French-built hotel on the main promenade.
If it’s hot, once again you’ll appreciate that the hotel has a pool.
Timimoun itself would just be a pleasant, laid-back desert town peopled by laid-back, eye-catching desert people (the small market is the hub of activity and quite photogenic; more importantly, it’s delightfully relaxed after the restrictions of Ghardaia), if it weren’t for the stunning landscapes of the surrounding region. The town straddles a low ridge parallel to a line of sand dunes on the other side of a salt lake. The 75km of road around the lake is called the Circuit de Sebka and takes you through a series of small oasis villages dominated by ruined mud-brick ksars, small citadels that protected the inhabitants in bygone times.
After climbing a few ksars and numerous photo stops, you’ll appreciate a picnic and lunchtime siesta in a local, shady palm garden. In the afternoon, explore the salt lake for the desert rose, a peculiar and beautiful formation of stone, sand and calcium,. and climb the dunes for sunset and an unforgettable view back towards Timimoun.
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 12-13 Taghit
It’s another six-hour drive to Taghit (pronounced Tareet), a town that announces itself in spectacular fashion as you approach and see the ruined, mud-brick old town clinging to rocks overlooking an oasis of palm trees and set against a backdrop of huge sand dunes.
Sorry, this time the hotel does not have a pool, but this is more than compensated for by its proximity to the old town and by its terrace looking out across the dunes.
There’s not much to the town of Taghit itself apart from the aforementioned old city, oasis and dunes. That should be more than enough to make up for what it lacks in traditional architecture and desert characters. But there are plenty of walks exploring the main sights, and some interesting whitewashed mausoleums – it’s one of the more photogenic towns in a photogenic country.
About 10kms outside of town, following a gorgeous road that skirts between the dunes on one side and a long, rocky escarpment on the other, is an outdoor gallery of ancient rock carvings. Depictions of long-gone species such as ostriches and antelopes attest to the lush, temporate environment the Sahara used to be thousands of years ago, while the more recent subject matter reflects a greater reliance on cattle as the locals became desert herdsmen as the pastures dried out and aridity crept in. Sadly, much of the work has been disfigured by modern graffiti and here and there is evidence of carvings having been cut away from the rock, but there is still enough here to see and for the remote location to make the visit well worthwhile.
You would not do Taghit justice if you did not partake in the obligatory climb up the sand dunes to watch the sun set serenely over town.
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 14-15 Algiers
It’s only 90kms to Bechar and a 90-minute flight back to Algiers. The rest of the day’s activities are determined by the timing of the flight. If it’s a daytime flight it’s convenient to stop en route to the hotel at the Martyr’s Monument, a massive memorial that dominates the skyline. Quite apart from it being sacred ground for Algerians – few families would have been unaffected by the tragedy of the eight years of war to secure their independence from the French – it also affords fine views across the city.
Free time can be rewardingly spent shopping in the markets at the foot of the Casbah or strolling the streets of colonial Algiers.
The tour comes to an end on the final day after breakfast. A departure transfer can be booked at an extra cost.
Hotel (1 nt)
Also available to purchase
If you arrive early there are plenty of things to do and see. We recommend you check out some of our Urban Adventures
  • XLKG Single Supplement (XLKG)
    Culture shock rating

    The comforts of home are more of a rarity. English isn't common and the food will be quite different to home. It's important to observe some of the local customs to not cause offence. Many of the locals’ standard of living may be confronting.
    Physical rating

    Some easy physical activities included in your trip. No physical preparation is required to make the most of the journey.
    Money Exchange
    The official currency of Algeria is the Algerian Dinar (DZD).
    Please bring plenty of hard currency (USD or EURO) with you as Algeria has very few functional ATM/Visa Cards or places where you can change travellers cheques.
    Spending money
    Every traveller is different and therefore spending money requirements will vary. Some travellers may drink more than others while other travellers like to purchase more souvenirs than most. Please consider your own spending habits when it comes to allowing for drinks, shopping, participating in optional activities, and tipping. Please also remember the following specific recommendations when planning your trip.
    On this trip, we have included gratuities for the essential services that you will receive as part of your tour package. This will cover tips to drivers, specialist local guides (where applicable), restaurant staff for included meals, porters, bellboys and other hotel staff, including room-cleaning staff.
    This amount DOES NOT include a tip for your tour leader, so you may wish to set aside some funds for this. It is customary to tip your tour leader for outstanding service throughout your trip.
    You also wish to put aside some money for your own tipping, such as when you are doing our own optional sightseeing or activity that involves local guides and/or drivers or when joining in optional groups meals or dining out on your own. In these instances, we advise you to carry small notes of local currency each day to make tipping easier. The amounts can vary greatly according to destination, so we suggest that you ask your tour leader to give you guidance on what are appropriate amounts to tip.
    Group Leader: You may also consider tipping your leader for outstanding service throughout your trip. The amount is entirely a personal preference; however as a guideline $US3-5, or the equivalent in any currency used on the trip, per person, per day can be used.
    Of course you are free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality and the length of your trip. Remember, a tip isn't compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service.
    Departure tax
    All departure taxes should be included in your international flight ticket.
    Important notes
    This trip is operated by Peregrine Adventures and you will be joined by other like minded Intrepid and non Intrepid travellers. Single travellers will share accommodation with another traveller of the same sex.
    In 2014, the important month of Ramadan will be in progress from 27 June through until 27 July, and the Eid ul-Fitr festival will be held directly at its conclusion for 3-4 days. Ramadan is a festival of sacrifice where the devout refrain from eating or drinking during daylight hours. During Ramadan, business hours are shortened, including opening hours at some tourist attractions. Alcohol is not permitted during daylight hours and many restaurants will be closed. While you should expect some delays and inconveniences during this period, the month is a fantastic opportunity to travel in a Muslim country and witness this unique period, particularly the nightly celebrations when the sun sets and the fast is broken. Please note that although the Eid ul-Fitr festival can also be a fascinating time to travel it's a period of national holiday. Most government offices and businesses will be closed and some tourist site opening hours may be affected.
    Group size
    Maximum of 16 travellers per group.
    Your fellow travellers
    As you travel on a group trip you will be exposed to all the pleasures and maybe some of the frustrations of travelling in a group. Your fellow travellers will probably come from all corners of the world and likely a range of age groups too. We ask you to be understanding of the various needs and preferences of your group - patience with your fellow travellers is sometimes required for the benefit of everyone's travel experience. Remember too that you have responsibilities to the group. If you are requested to be at a place at a certain time, ensure that you don't keep the rest of the group waiting. We have found time and time again that the very best trips we operate are those where the dynamics within the group work well - this takes just a little effort on your part. Due to privacy reasons we are unable to provide you with contact details and any personal information about your fellow travellers booked on your trip prior to departure.
    Hotel (14 nts)
    14 Breakfasts, 4 Lunches, 7 Dinners
    Budget for meals not included:
    USD 300.00
    Plane, Van
    Joining point
    Hotel Albert Premier
    5 Avenue Pasteur
    Phone: +213 2173 6506
    Fax: +213 2173 8034
    Arrival complications
    We don't expect any problems (and nor should you) but if for any reason you are unable to commence your trip as scheduled, please contact your starting point hotel, requesting that you speak to or leave a message for your group leader.
    Please also make sure have a copy of the local operator's emergency phone numbers from our Emergency Contact section of these trip notes.
    Finish point
    Hotel Albert Premier
    5 Avenue Pasteur
    Phone: +213 2173 6506
    Fax: +213 2173 8034
    Emergency contact
    In the case of a genuine crisis or emergency, our local Algeria based Office (My Unique Holidays) can be reached on Tel: +21 35 5622 8407.
    For all other enquiries please contact our Reservations department which is open 24 hours, 6 days per week.
    Emergency funds
    Please also make sure you have access to an additional US$500, to be used when unforeseen incidents or circumstances outside our control (eg. a natural disaster, civil unrest, strike action or an outbreak of bird flu) necessitate a change to our planned route.
    Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. The visa requirements for your trip vary depending on where you are from and where you are going. As a general rule most countries expect that you will have at least 6 months' validity on your passport. On arrival visitors may be asked to present return tickets and evidence of means to cover your intended stay.
    We keep the following information up to date as much as possible, but rules do change - it's important that you check for yourself. Residents from other countries must consult the relevant embassies or your travel agent.
    Libya, Tunisia and Algeria have very specific regulations regarding who can be issued a visa. This can change with short notice. Please investigate if your nationality is eligible to apply for visas or gain entry into these countries, before booking. Refusal of entry into any country for any reason is beyond the control of Intrepid and we have little recourse to pursue either approval of entry, or information as to why a visa has been denied.
    Australia: Yes - in advance
    Belgium: Yes - in advance
    Canada: Yes - in advance
    Germany: Yes - in advance
    Ireland: Yes - in advance
    Netherlands: Yes - in advance
    New Zealand: Yes - in advance
    South Africa: Yes - in advance
    Switzerland: Yes - in advance
    United Kingdom: Yes - in advance
    USA: Yes - in advance
    All travellers need a visa to enter Algeria. Nationals of Israel, Malawi and Taiwan are not allowed into the country, and if you have a stamp in your passport from any of these countries your application will be rejected.
    To apply for an Algerian visa you will need a letter of 'invitation' to visit the country from an Algerian contact or tourist agency. Intrepid will help with this invitation. Please provide your travel agent with a clear scanned copy of your passport for this purpose. We will then provide you with the Algerian letter of invitation. Once received you can take or send your passport to your local Algerian embassy and have your visa stamped in your passport. Please note that you must enter Algeria within 90 days of the visa being issued.
    Visas CANNOT be obtained on arrival so you must obtain your visa prior to departing.
    Issues on your trip
    While we always endeavour to provide the best possible holiday experience, due to the nature of travel and the areas we visit sometimes things can and do go wrong. Should any issue occur while you are on your trip, it is imperative that you discuss this with your group leader or our local representative straight away so that they can do their best to rectify the problem and save any potential negative impact on the rest of your trip.
    We recognise that there may be times when your group leader/local partner may not be able to resolve a situation to your satisfaction - if this is the case, please ask the leader to speak to their direct manager.
    You may also choose to provide details in your online feedback, which we ask you to complete within 30 days of the end of your trip. But we do ask you to be aware that it is very difficult for us to provide any practical help after the trip is complete.
    All Intrepid travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully on this trip. When selecting your trip please make sure you have read through the itinerary carefully and assess your ability to cope with our style of travel. Please note that if, in the opinion of our group leader or local guide, any traveller is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group, Intrepid reserves the right to exclude them from all or part of a trip without refund.
    You should consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information or for any necessary vaccinations and anti-malarial requirements before departure. We recommend that you carry a first aid kit as well as any personal medical requirements (including a spare pair of glasses) as they may not easily be obtained at the locations on this trip. For legal reasons our leaders and guides are prohibited from administering any type of drugs including headache tablets and antibiotics. Please ensure that you are adequately prepared.
    As a rule we recommend you don't drink tap water, even in hotels, as it contains much higher levels of different minerals than the water you may have at home. For local people this is not a problem as their bodies are used to this and can cope, but for visitors drinking the tap water can result in illness. Generally this isn't serious, an upset stomach being the only symptom, but it's enough to spoil a day or two of your holiday. Bottled water is widely available and your leader can recommend safe alternatives when available. Water consumption should be about 3 litres a day. Rehydration salts, motion sickness tablets, and diarrhoea blockers are available from many pharmacies.
    Some western governments advise you to reconsider your need and recommend the deferral of non-essential travel to Algeria because of the volatile security environment in the region. If you do decide to travel you should exercise extreme caution. You should also closely monitor the media and other local information sources for information about possible new safety or security risks.
    Our itinerary is currently running as normal. We continue to monitor the safety situation on a regular basis and if any changes occur to the running of the trip we will notify you immediately as changes to the itinerary may be necessary.
    Travel insurance
    Travel insurance is compulsory for all our trips. We require that, at a minimum, you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. We strongly recommend that the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects.
    When travelling on a trip, you won't be permitted to join the group until evidence of travel insurance and the insurance company's 24 hour emergency contact number has been seen by your leader.
    If you have credit card insurance your group leader will require details of the participating insurer/underwriter, the level of coverage, policy number and emergency contact number rather than the bank's name and credit card details. Please contact your bank for these details prior to arriving in-country.
    Please go to our website for links to various travel insurance providers:
    Responsible Travel
    We believe strongly in low impact or rather positive impact tourism. Broadly speaking this means that we try to minimise the negative aspects of tourism on the local cultures and environments that we visit and highlight the positive aspects. Please visit our website for further details and suggestions on how you can be a responsible traveller:
    A couple of rules
    Illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. Possessing or using drugs not only contravenes the laws of the land, but also puts the rest of the group at risk. Smoking marijuana and opium is a part of local culture in some parts of the world but is not acceptable for Intrepid travellers. Intrepid's philosophy of travel is one of respect towards everyone we encounter and in particular, the local people who make our destinations such special places. The exploitation of prostitutes is completely contrary to this philosophy. Our group leader has the right to expel any member of the group if drugs are found in their possession or if they use prostitutes.
    Everyone has the right to feel safe and secure on their trip. We don’t tolerate any form of sexual harassment at Intrepid, either between passengers or involving our leaders or local operators. Sexual relationships (consensual or otherwise) between a leader and a passenger are unacceptable. If you ever feel another person is behaving inappropriately please inform us immediately by contacting the emergency contact number detailed in these trip notes.
    The Intrepid Foundation
    Since Intrepid Travel commenced operating in 1989 we've been committed to giving something back to the communities we visit. One way has been through our support for local humanitarian, development and conservation projects. Many of our travellers want to contribute something too. Whilst it is often tempting to give hand-outs to those less fortunate, this has the potential to promote a culture of begging and dependency. Handouts are not a sustainable way for individuals or communities to live. That’s why we established The Intrepid Foundation – to make it easier for travellers wishing to give back to communities in an effective and meaningful way.
    The Intrepid Foundation is a not-for-profit fund offering a selection of excellent grassroots organisations which you can contribute to. All donations to The Intrepid Foundation will be matched by Intrepid Travel dollar for dollar (up to AU$5,000 per donor and a total of AU$400,000 for all donors in each financial year). And every cent gets there as Intrepid Travel pays for all the administration costs. Donating is simple and secure. Please ask your leader for information on the projects we support through The Intrepid Foundation or go to our website:
    Carbon offset
    Carbon Offset C02-e 812.00 kgs per pax.
    After your travels, we want to hear from you! We rely on your feedback. We read it carefully. Feedback helps us understand what we are doing well and what we could be doing better. It allows us to make improvements for future travellers.