If Morocco looks more like a tourist destination, Algeria, on the other hand, is a less traveled country that has received bad publicity, thanks to the mainstream media, but also to the laborious visa procedure, which could discourage a traveler. Still, those with a real thirst for exploring this largest country in Africa will have plenty of surprises and interesting stories in store. According to the US News & World Report in 2018, Algeria is ranked among the top 80 countries in the world for its heritage, adventure opportunities and businesses. Today, popular YouTubers travel to places like Algeria to break stereotypical views that we don’t really see.
What makes Algeria truly magnificent and unique is its vast territory preserved and steeped in history. It is bordered by the blue Mediterranean Sea to the north, Tunisia to the east, Morocco to the west and Niger to the south. Its strategic location has attracted many ancient conquerors in the past. There were Numidians, Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Umayyad Arabs, Ottomans and the French colonial empire who came here to settle. These ancient conquerors influenced the history of the region, and today one can see the reflection of the past through Algerian traditions, cuisine and architecture. Here is our compiled list of lesser-known historical places in Algeria that are truly epic.
Pyramids of Fredda – Tiaret
We all know the famous Egyptian and Mayan pyramids, but Algeria also has its own version of the pyramids. The enigmatic pyramids of Fredda are nestled 250 km southwest of Algiers on the hills of Fredda near the town of Tiaret. There are about 13 of them, and they are locally called “Jeddars”, which means walls. These pyramids were designed with square bases, and at their tops there are angular mounds. Archaeologists have claimed that they could be dated between the 4th and 7th centuries. It is widely believed that these pyramids were the final resting place of Berber royal families. Each of the pyramids has at least one room, and the largest has up to 20 compartments which include many burial chambers. Additionally, archaeologists discovered a dedicated chamber with benches, which could have been used for praying. You can still see the ancient symbols and animal figures carved above the doors inside the tombs. Interestingly, these pyramids share close resemblances with the smaller Berber tombs called “bazinas” found in the pre-Saharan zone.
Ruins of Timgad – The Pompeii of Algeria
In 100 AD, just in the beautiful Aurès Mountains, about 22 miles east of Batna, there was once a thriving Roman military colony built by Emperor Trajan. This exquisite site has now become a ruin, where you can still witness the grandeur of Roman architecture at that time. From its iconic 12-meter-tall triumphal arch known as the Arch of Trajan to the 3,500-seat theater and four thermal baths, the ruins of Timgad remind us of Pompeii. Emperor Trajan built this fortress against the Berbers who lived in the Aurès mountains. At one time, the colony was populated by some 10,000 Roman veterans, Berber descendants and African residents. It was attacked twice, mainly in the 5th century by the Vandals and then in the 7th century by the Berbers.
Ghardaia – Mzab Valley
Everything in Ghardaia is magical. Its striking landscape, think of the green palm groves of El-Atteuf, the honey-colored walls, the traditional houses and right in the middle of a pyramid-style mosque, which make this place unique. Nestled in the central-northern part of Algeria, about 600 km from Algiers (the capital of Algeria), Ghardaïa is a hilltop city built about 1000 years ago in the M’Zab valley by the Mozabites (the Ibadi sect). The Mozabite people are an Amazigh (Berber) ethnic group who live in the northern part of the Sahara Desert in Algeria.
This World Heritage Site is an ancient fortified city that has been taken as inspiration for contemporary urban planning in Algeria. Simply stroll along the cobbled paths of the main market and travel back in time. Discover local crafts, spices and traditional clothing. And of course, do not leave the place without having toured the Kasbah (citadel), classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Tassili n’Ajjer – Southern Algeria
Tassili n’Ajjer is Algeria’s most surreal national park located within the southern borders. This 8,500 km² open-air museum has a huge collection of more than 15,000 prehistoric engravings and paintings recognized as important for world history. These cave paintings are mysterious. It was first discovered by Henri Lohte, a French ethnographer who visited the Tassilli caves in the late 1950s. Some paintings include the figure of the Tassili Matalem-Amazar mushroom, where visitors can see a shaman adorned with mushrooms. Prehistoric carvings are believed to date back to the Neolithic period, which is grouped in a timeline beginning with the Fauna Period (10,000-6000 BC), the Roundhead Period (8000 – 6000 BC), the horse period (1000 BC-AD 1), and camel period (200 BC to present). This vast desert land was initially a lush green area inhabited by wild animals such as antelopes, elephants and giraffes.