Camping in the Algeria Sahara Desert carries a plethora of connotations. The concept sounds like a dream to some: exploring an alien world, hiking sand dunes, and seeing the beauty of the universe’s stars. To others the notion brings anxiety; of sleeping with scorpions, sunburns, and thirst.
What is it really like out there?
As a private tour company, we get many questions about desert excursions. To bring you the answers, we sent a team of our travel experts scouting the desert for four nights. We found that the anxieties of the desert are not quite what they are worked up to be. Taking a trip camping in the Algeria Sahara Desert was surprisingly easy, safe, and remarkably beautiful. Here are your top questions, answered.
- Is It Safe to Travel the Sahara Desert?
- What Is There to See?
- What is Desert Camping Like?
- How Can I Visit?
Is It Safe to Travel the Sahara?
Desert camping and exploring are often seen as an extreme adventure challenge only for the bravest of heart. Just leave it for the super-travelers, they say. If you think this way, you will miss out on a great adventure! Let’s look through the mean stigma of deserts and see what it is really like:
Cowboys, Wildlife, and Water
Do not be intimidated by the infamous reputation of deserts. It is easy to brush it off as only a place of death, danger, and discomfort. The media has connected it with war, kidnapping, cowboys, and coyotes. This lawless, dangerous connotation linked to the Sahara is well-overexaggerated. The desert regions of Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco are very safe. The region we operate desert tours, Tassili n’Ajjer National Park, has a strong military presence protecting the region. Thousands of people visit the deep desert every year without any incident. Wildlife is rare, animal attacks are rarer. A desert trek camping in the Algeria Sahara Desert is more feasible and safer than ever.
On the other hand, while terror risks are negligible, there is still something more to note. Just like any other wilderness, getting lost and dehydrated are still real challenges. Entering the Sahara alone without the right provisions is a death sentence. You cannot improvise or DIY this trip like Yosemite. It is too hot, barren, and isolated. But these challenges should not scare you away. The solution for this is hiring a travel agency. Travel agencies know what they are doing. They have no interest in losing a client. They will schedule the trip to ensure everything is taken care of. Even more, they have connections with local guides.
The Benefits of a Local Guide
If you would like to be sure of a safe and anxiety-free trip, here is one last tip. Find a local guide. A good local guide team is invaluable. They are experts at what they do. With their experience, they know the supplies to bring. They know the best, shaded camping spots. There is no weather situation or surprise they cannot navigate. To a local guide, the Sahara is their home and pride. Their goal is to keep their guests well taken care of with a good impression of their home.
Typically, local guides go above and beyond to ensure everything is set up and taken care of for their patrons. This can lead desert camping to feel more like all-inclusive cruises than camping—except you don’t have to share it with 3,000 people. They ensure a trip is excellent and safe. Finding a good one is a key to a memorable trip.
Finding a Good Guide
We are sure that a good guide makes for a worry-free, memorable adventure. However, it saddens us to admit that this is not what every traveler receives. Some guides are better than others guide out there. There are guides that do not share a passion for travel and pride of the desert. Sure, they will get their clients through the desert safely, but they will not go the extra mile. To them, it becomes less about providing an authentic experience and more about performing a canned task.
We do not want this to happen to you.
When doing your research into travel companies and guides, keep a careful lookout. Search for guides that are local or share a connection with your destination. Make sure that your guides are good at English (or your native language). Do not ignore red flags such as bland promotionals or lack of agency communication. Ask if they are flexible to change the routine for your interests. The best tours are custom-built for the adventurer. Our company, Mosaic North Africa, specializes in building these types of tours alongside the best local guides. We would love to help you plan your tour. Here are some of our most popular packages.
What is There to See?
Behind safety, the second largest hesitation to a potential Sahara visitor is whether is anything out there worth seeing. In many people’s heads, the desert is just a flat sandy wasteland. People think a trip longer than one day would be boring. That is far from the truth. In its immense size, 9.2 million square kilometers, the Sahara is rich with beauty and wonder. There is more than enough to see; all without the hassle of running into other tourists. Here are some highlights:
Traversing mile by mile, the landscape changes often. There is a wide variety of different natural landscapes. If you plan for multiple days camping in the Algeria Sahara Desert, you can see many of these sites. In one day, you may find yourself in awe of hiking colossal sand dunes for the sunrise. As you drive through canyons, you might spot a mountain goat scaling a rocky cliffside. Eat dinner next to wild cave formations and arches, drinking from oasis springs, eating authentic foods: tea and couscous. Every day will come with a new surprise. Nobody can conclude they have seen it all. There are always more formations, lakebeds, and colors of sand to behold.
Every type of person can find something to enjoy out there. Kids will find it the world’s largest sandbox, rolling down sand dunes to their hearts’ content. Artists will admire the beauty. Historians will be intrigued by the cave art (more on that next). Movie enthusiasts of Star Wars, Dune, or Mad Max will find it strangely familiar. It really does feel like an alien planet!
A Mysterious History
It is no surprise that the Sahara contains incredible, near-endless beauty. Nevertheless, there is something more to be experienced that cannot be captured in pictures alone. Beneath the sand, there is a mysterious, unknown story. Millenia ago, before the desert took over, ancient civilizations populated the region. They left behind pottery, cave drawings, and even tombs. Many of these sites are very unexplored and under-researched. Exploring the pieces of the desert’s past is not an activity just for history buffs—it is absolutely underrated!
A particularly underrated and underestimated portion of Sahara tours are the cave drawings. We receive feedback from many explorers from our desert tours that the cave drawings were some of the most remarkable parts of their trip. They were not the simple, rare stick figures they were expecting. There are thousands of intricate drawings that tell stories, and images of life a millennia ago. Very few have the privilege of seeing them up close. It is much more fascinating and fun than you might expect. Be sure to incorporate some drawings on your tour.
In planning Sahara Desert excursions, the real question is not whether or not you will see anything spectacular. You will, there is more than enough to do. The real question to ask is how you will get to see those sites. The size of the Sahara is surely immense. Even the most traversed guides have not seen all its canyons and historical sites. Without a public subway system, you are going to need a plan.
Local agents offer a variety of options. Some take tours by camel, which is a uniquely fun experience on its own. It is bumpy, fun, and a little slow. On the other hand, the by far most popular and efficient means is with a four-wheel drive. Traveling by truck is a true luxury. Groups with vehicles can zoom from site to site, traversing great distances out of the sun.
What is Desert Camping Like?
A trip like this, all its sites and activities, cannot be fully enjoyed in one day. The commute usually makes staying nights in hotels impractical. And so, with that, comes camping. Some people dread it. Other people love it. There will be realities out of your control that require flexibility. The tent may be too small. There will be no showers (sorry!). The guides may not be the greatest at English. Just as with camping anywhere else, anything can happen. Nonetheless, it will be more than worth it. In this section hopefully we can ease your heart from the unknowns of desert camping.
When going camping, you do not have to quit maintaining personal hygiene. This is still so for camping in the Algeria Sahara Desert. Seriously, for sake of the whole group, please do not give up! Water use will be limited, but you can still wash your hands and brush your teeth. Bringing a pack of wet wipes can go a long way, on the face or under the arms. Guides usually select meal locations near large canyons or rocks for shade. That will be your ideal time to relieve on the other side in an old-fashioned way. Usually, locals will not have any toilet paper since they clean up differently than westerners are used to (a bucket of water typically suffices for them). Pack plenty of toilet paper, embrace the fact that you will be immersed in the sand, and you will find it is not that bad after all.
Desert sleeping arrangements vary. Some tour operators build traditional “lean-to” type structures: a three-sided group tent. Others offer European 2-person tents. Mattresses are typically provided, but you may want to bring your own blanket, sleeping bag, or pillow. Ensuring yourself a comfortable night’s sleep is often worth the space in your luggage. If not, homemade t-shirt pillows may work fine. Be ready to adapt.
Do not sweat any worries about food. It may not be all the western meals you are used to, be it still will be spectacular. The exact details depend largely on the guide team. Perhaps some couscous, lamb, date salads, soup, or baguettes; all homecooked, authentic meals prepared for you, around the fire with some tea. Delicious!
If you are sensitive to foreign food adjustments, the food will likely be safe to eat, but still, bring some antiacids just in case. If you have a special diet restriction, tell your tour operator ahead of time. Unfortunately, not all diets can be accommodated.
Even with all the great sites, the fun activities, and other wonders of exploring the desert, at its heart it is still camping. It will not be for the faint of heart. Those who can look over the minor inconvenience for a few days will find it an unforgettable experience. From the second you arrive to when you leave it will truly feel like an adventure. The question remains for you, reader, is will you go?
How You Can Visit
Come camping in the Algeria Sahara Desert for yourself! We believe the best way to take a trip like this is with a custom tour. This rids of all the stresses of planning and researching. Start looking today by previewing our custom-made tour packages, such as our 10-day Deep South Algeria Adventure Tour. We would love to organize your next trip for you, exactly as you want it. Contact one of our travel experts for more information on our desert excursions throughout North Africa.