Algeria: Crossroads of The Maghreb

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14 Nights / 15 Days

Algeria is one of the most fascinating countries in North Africa, combining a cultural legacy that stretches back millennia along with some of the world’s most dramatic desert scenery. Once colonised by the Romans, the Turks and the French, the country is a destination of unrivalled scope and grandeur.

Amongst the vast sands of the Sahara you will find some of the most beguiling oasis towns in the region such as Ghardaia and Timimoun; dominated by ancient Ksars or fortified strongholds, the surrounding mud brick villages still hold on to traditions that have endured the desert sands for centuries. The country can also boast of a number of UNESCO world heritage sites such as the spectacular ancient Roman sites of Timgad, Djemila and Tipaza, while its bustling capital, Algiers, offers the traditional Casbah counterbalanced by a wonderfully engaging mix of Ottoman grandeur, colonial chic and modern vibrancy.

Day 01: Arrive Algiers
Meet-assist at airport & transfer to hotel.
After short rest starting in the Algerian capital we’ll take an orientation tour of the city this afternoon. Overlooking the waters of the Mediterranean, Algiers began life as a Phoenician trading post, but it was the 10th century Berbers under Bologhine ibn Ziri who began the city’s rise to prosperity. Over time it fell to the Almohades, the Ottomans and the French, before a bloody struggle for independence finally saw the Algerians wrestle control from their colonial overlords in the early 1960’s. Much of the historic heart of the city dates back to Ottoman times and includes the impressive facade of the Ketchaoua Mosque. Without doubt the city’s most iconic structure is the impressive Cathedral of Notre Dame d’Afrique, an imposing 19th century basilica that commands stunning views across the Bay of Algiers. This evening we’ll enjoy our first group dinner and take the chance to talk about the trip ahead.

Day 02: Algiers – Djemila – Constantine
Today we head out from the hustle and bustle of the capital to the impressive ancient Roman city of Djemila, a UNESCO World Heritage site considered one of the finest in North Africa. The wheel-rutted streets of ancient Cuicul, founded by Nerva to house his subjects, are lined with what would have been elaborate houses, a forum, basilica, triumphal arches and temples. It is a fascinating example of Roman town planning adapted to suit its mountain location. Equally impressive is Djemila’s fascinating museum, where every square inch of the immense walls are plastered with mosaics. After wandering around this charming site we continue our journey east to Constantine or ‘Cirta’ with its dramatic setting amongst precipitous cliffs and deep gorges. The French writer Alexandre Dumas called it ‘a fantastic city’, something like Gulliver’s flying island. Founded 2,000 years ago, a plateau surrounded by deep ravines was a great place to build because the city could be easily defended. Since then Constantine has outgrown the plateau and spilled over into the adjoining areas. They are connected to the old city by seven high bridges hence the title ‘City of Bridges’.

Day 03: Constantine – Tiddis – Constantine
This morning we’ll drive a short distance north to the small Roman ruins at Tiddis. Also known as Castellum Tidditanorum, it’s perhaps Algeria’s most impressively located Roman site. Originally believed to be a Berber settlement, Tiddis is an oddity in that it’s made up of winding pathways that climb the hillside it clings to, as well as paved streets, a temple of Mithras, an impressive arch, cisterns and a small forum. From here we’ll drive back to Constantine for lunch before heading out on a guided tour of the city. Constantine boasts an excellent museum noted in particular for its Roman mosaics, as well as the delightful Palace of Ahmed Bey, a handful of impressive mosques, a traditional casbah with its local market and of course, the architectural triumph of the city’s bridges for which it’s so well known. Time permitting we’ll also visit the impressive Abdul Khader mosque.

Day 04: Constantine – Timgad – Lambaesis – Setif
After breakfast we’ll drive south and pay a quick visit to the mausoleum of Medracen, the royal temple of the Berber Numidian Kings, before continuing to the Roman ruins at Timgad. Sometimes referred to as the ‘Pompeii of Africa’, this vast site was constructed under Emperor Trajan as a military base to defend against the Berbers. After the Vandal invasion in 430AD, Timgad was destroyed at the end of the 5th century by montagnards of the Aurès. Centuries later, Timgad still represents the embodiment of Roman urban planning. From here we’ll stop for some lunch before continuing to the Roman military archaeological site of Lambaesis. Here we will see the Temple of Aesculapius, a set of baths, an Arch of Severus and the impressive praetorium of the Third Augustan Legion. We’ll then drive to Setif for the night, one of Algeria’s centers of resistance against French rule.

Day 05: Setif – Algiers – Ghardaia
After an early breakfast we will visit the Musee d’Archologie and then enjoy a walk around the town. We will then drive back to the capital and the airport, transferring in time for a late afternoon flight to Ghardaia. On arrival we’ll check in to our hotel for a late dinner.

Days 6-7: In & Around Ghardaia
Ghardaia lies in the heart of the traditional homeland of the Ibadi Muslim sect, and is today part of a preserved piece of medieval splendour, made up of five fortified settlements that occupy the highest hills in the valley, each one crowned by a lone towering minaret. A distinctive blend of white and red buildings, these snapshots in time still retain the customs and traditions of a culture that has endured since the Mozabite Berbers of the 11th century, providing us with a unique insight into a way of life that can trace its ancestry back a thousand years. During our 2 days here we will have the chance to explore some of this remarkable valley, paying visits to a number of villages including Beni Isguen and Al Ateuf (the oldest of the fortified settlements), as well as stopping off to wonder through the markets and palm groves of the M’zab Valley. The majority of the houses that lie scattered around the hilltops seem to almost fuse with the surrounding landscape, with their courtyards and terraces picked out in white against the brilliant blue of the desert sky. Each of the villages follows the same principle, with the houses being built in concentric circles around a central mosque and minaret, which are then in turn protected by high walls and ramparts. Originally, these villages were fed by a unique water distribution system that was devised by the Mozabites themselves to capture rainwater and divert it to the oasis by way of underground tunnels.

IMPORTANT: People in the Ibadi towns around Ghardaia are very sensitive about photography, so please pay attention to the local guides before taking any photos.

Day 08: Ghardaia – Timimoun
To the south west of Ghardaia lies the red oasis town of Timimoun, a long day’s journey across the desert. Starting out early our journey today is truly spectacular and lies along the route taken by WF’s founder, Jonny Bealby, when he rode his motorbike around Africa as told in his first book ‘Running With The Moon’. Part of the Grand Erg Occidental, Timimoun is set amongst the sands of the Gourra region and noted for the red orchre colour of its buildings. Arriving by the late afternoon/early evening we’ll check in to our hotel and have dinner.

Today we will be covering a distance of approx 620kms, so please be prepared for a long drive day

Day 09: In & Around Timimoun
This morning, before the temperature starts rising, we’ll visit some of the immediate area around Timimoun. Depending upon local conditions (ie weather and the authorities) we’ll visit various sites such as the deep red caves and the abandoned village of Tindjillet, before escaping the heat and heading back to Timimoun for lunch. We’ll then have some free time to relax before taking a walk through the old town with its ancient ksars (fortified dwellings), admiring Sudanese influenced architecture as well as visiting the town’s market and handicraft shops. We’ll also visit the palmeraie where we’ll learn about the ancient irrigation system used there known as ‘fouggara’. Beyond the town the haunting sand dune landscapes of the Grand Erg Occidental provide a stunning backdrop for our time here.

Day 10: Timimoun – Beni Abbes – Taghit
After an early breakfast we’ll drive north-west to the ‘Pearl of the Saoura’ or the ‘white oasis’ town of Beni Abbes (though the buildings here are gradually turning an orangey-brown colour!) The town has a beautiful setting where the oasis ends and the sand dunes rise majestically into the distance. Time permitting we should get a chance to look around the ksar and visit the Sahara Museum, housing an intriguing collection of artefacts and questionable taxidermy! We’ll also learn about Father Charles de Foucauld – a French monk who lived here as a hermit back in 1905 – and visit the site where he constructed his hermitage not far from the town. From here we’ll continue on to Taghit for the night.

Today we will be covering a distance of approximately 500kms, so please be prepared for a long day.

Day 11: Taghit – Bechar – Oran
Taghit (pronounced ‘Ta-rit’) is a small oasis town located on the western edge of the Grand Erg Occidental. The dunes here tower over the eastern edge of the town, and the views as you come over the hill towards the old Ksar are simply magnificent. The town is dominated by red mud architecture along narrow winding streets making for some fantastic photo opportunities. This morning we’ll get the chance to look around the small town, before taking an early lunch and driving on to Bechar, in time to catch a late afternoon flight to Algeria’s second largest city, Oran, and a late dinner.

Day 12: In Oran
After breakfast we’ll head out on a guided tour of Oran, the original home of fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent and novelist Albert Camus. Oran has a significant Spanish flavour to it after more than two centuries of occupation before the French took over in the 19th century. We’ll visit the major sites such as Place du 1er Novembre, Santa Cruz fort and chapel, La Cathedrale du Sacre Coeur and Bey’s Palace.

Day 13: Oran – Tipaza – Algiers
This morning we’ll drive east to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Tipaza on the Mediterranean coast. Considered to be one of the most important archaeological sites in North Africa, this old Roman port rose to prominence under the emperor Septimus Severus (AD193-211), and provides us with a remarkable collection of Punic, Roman and Numidian temples and monuments. From here we’ll continue east towards Algiers, and time permitting visit the Royal Mausoleum of Mauretania on the way. This imposing tomb is the final resting place of Berber Juba II and Cleopatra Selene II, who were the last king and queen of the ancient Kingdom of Mauretania. Returning to Algiers by the early evening we’ll check into our hotel before heading out for dinner.

Day 14: In Algiers
Today we’ll enjoy a guided tour of the old part of the capital, focussing upon the historic Kasbah, one of the most impressive in all of North Africa. This UNESCO World Heritage site was described by Le Corbusier as “a masterpiece of architecture and town planning” and we’re sure you will agree after wandering around its labyrinth of narrow streets and alleyways, made up of tiny shops, museums and market traders. From here we’ll visit the imposing Maqam Echahid (Martyrs Monument) and the National Museum of El Mujahid to learn some more about the Algerian war of independence. Tonight we’ll head out into the city for a farewell dinner.

Day 15: Tour Ends In Algiers
Those on the suggested group flights will transfer to Algiers airport in time for the return flight.

City Night (s) Hotel
Algeria 01 Renaissance Tlemcen Hotel
Constantin 02 Constantine Marriott Hotel
Setif 01 Novotel Setif
Ghardaia 03 Hotel El djanoub
Timimoun 02 Hotel Ksar Massine
Taghit 01 Dar Rawi
Oran 02 Sheraton Oran Hotel
Algeria 02 Renaissance Tlemcen Hotel

– Meeting and assistance by our representative.
– Welcome with fresh flower garlands.
– 14 Nights accommodation
– Daily Breakfast, Lunch and Dinners.
– Local English-speaking guide
– All transfers, sightseeing, excursions as per the program by private vehicle.
– Entrance fees to monuments as per mentioned in the program.
– Transport, Parking, Gasoline & Toll ways.
– All present government taxes.

– International Airfare.
– Tips, gratuities, Portage, laundry, telephone calls, table drinks, camera/ video camera charges, or any other expenses of a personal nature.
– Visa fees, personal insurance.
– Any item not specified under cost includes.

– Accommodation in good hotels.
– Check-in / out time is 12 noon at most of the hotels.
– Extension to other places is also possible with a minimal extra cost.
– Additional nights are available at each place with minimal supplement.
– A visa is required and must be obtained prior to your departure from your Country.
– If quoted hotel is not available, we will provide one of a similar category and standard.
– Small deviations in the tour program are sometimes necessary, depending on weather, road conditions, flight schedules and room availability.
– In case the government changes presently applicable taxes, increase in airlines prices, fuel surcharge our rates will need to be adjusted accordingly.
– Sometimes, there is no relevance between the distance and time of travelling, as it depends upon the condition of the roads and congestion of the traffic.
– While every effort will be made to maintain the itinerary, in view of local strikes etc that are beyond our control all schedule and itineraries are subject to last moment changes.
– Clients must be fully insured, as the company cannot accept liability for loss or damage to client’s property, medical emergencies or any other loss suffered by them whilst on tour.
– In Case of issuing Domestic or International air tickets, SGV is not responsible for any refund if the flight is delayed or cancelled, as it is the responsibility of airline.

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