Algeria to offer Sahara tourists visas on arrival

Nomadic Tuaregs are an ethnic minority who roam across the Sahel countries south of the Sahara, including Mali, Niger, Algeria, Mauritania and Burkina Faso. Picture: REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly

Nomadic Tuaregs are an ethnic minority who roam across the Sahel countries south of the Sahara, including Mali, Niger, Algeria, Mauritania and Burkina Faso. Picture: REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly

Published Jan 1, 2023

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Algiers - Algeria will allow foreign tourists heading to its vast desert south to obtain visas on arrival as part of efforts to "promote tourism in the Sahara", the interior ministry announced this week.

In a statement, it said that "foreigners heading to the south of the country" who have tours booked with licensed local companies could obtain visas "on arrival at airports and land borders, instead of going through normal visa procedures".

Algeria – Africa's biggest country by surface area – comprises a major chunk of the Sahara, including nature reserves and prehistoric sites.

It also boasts 1 200 kilometres of Mediterranean coastline and several historical cities.

But the North African country hosts far fewer tourists than its neighbours, Morocco and Tunisia, relying instead on its vast oil and gas revenues.

According to official figures, about half of those who do visit the country are Algerians living overseas.

In recent years, however, the authorities have stepped up efforts to boost the tourism sector.

The Tassili reserve, in the south-eastern governorate of Djanet, is one focal point, with sand dunes, mountains and a wealth of birds and fauna, spreading over 138 000 square kilometres.

Earlier this month, a direct flight from Paris arrived in Djanet carrying 64 passengers, the first since the service was suspended 12 years ago following the murder of a French tourist by a jihadist group.