North Africa Travel Guide
North Africa, a realm where age-old traditions meld seamlessly with modern aspirations, offers an intoxicating blend of bustling bazaars, ancient pyramids, vast deserts, and pristine coastlines. Here, stories of pharaohs and Berber warriors intermingle with whispers of nomads and desert caravans.
This region is an emblem of how ancient history and contemporary culture can coalesce, creating landscapes brimming with wonders, both man-made and natural. Journey through North Africa and immerse yourself in a captivating tapestry of sights, sounds, and scents that promise to enchant, inspire, and transform.
Discover our travel tips and articles for North Africa !
List of destinations in North Africa
North African Countries & Territories
Quick Facts About North Africa
- 7 countries (Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Sudan, Tunisia and Western Sahara).
- Algeria is the largest country in the region, followed by Sudan.
- Key geographic facts:
- Contains the world’s largest hot desert, the Sahara, spanning across multiple North African countries.
- Home to the Nile, the world’s longest river, originating in Egypt.
- Atlas Mountains traverse parts of Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia.
- The Mediterranean Sea borders the northern coast, providing beautiful beaches and coastal plains.
- The Red Sea graces the eastern part, separating Africa from Asia.
- Arabic: Predominantly spoken in all North African countries.
- Berber (Tamazight): Various dialects spoken, primarily in Morocco, Algeria, and parts of Tunisia.
- French: Widely spoken in Tunisia, Morocco, and Algeria due to colonial history.
- English: Commonly understood in tourist regions
- Islam: The dominant religion in the region, with most North Africans identifying as Sunni Muslims.
- Christianity: There’s a significant Christian community in Egypt, known as the Copts.
- Indigenous Beliefs: Some Berber communities in Morocco and Algeria continue to practice ancient indigenous beliefs alongside Islam.
North Africa, A Region of Many Records
- Home to the Sahara Desert, the world’s third-largest and hottest desert.
- Houses the Nile, the world’s longest river, stretching over 4,135 miles.
- Algeria is the largest country in Africa and the 10th largest globally.
- Mount Tahat in Algeria stands as the highest peak in the country and is one of the highest in North Africa.
- Egypt’s Lake Nasser is one of the world’s largest artificial lakes.
- The Qattara Depression in Egypt is the world’s second-lowest point below sea level in Africa and the second-largest natural sinkhole.
- Jebel Toubkal in Morocco is the highest peak in the Atlas Mountains, dominating North Africa’s skyline.
10 Handpicked North Africa Highlights
10 fantastic places and experiences in Northern Africa, in no particular order.
- The White Desert, Egypt – The White Desert, known locally as Sahara el Beyda, is an ethereal landscape of dramatic chalk formations. This part of the Egyptian Sahara boasts striking white and cream-colored rock structures shaped by millennia of erosion, painting an almost extraterrestrial panorama. At night, the landscape transforms, as these rock forms shimmer under the glow of the moon, creating a surreal ambiance that has enchanted travelers for generations.
- Meroe, Sudan – Situated northeast of Khartoum, Meroe once stood as the heart of the Kingdom of Kush. This ancient city is adorned with over 200 Nubian pyramids—smaller yet equally captivating compared to their Egyptian counterparts. These steeply angled pyramids, which housed the tombs of kings and queens, are a testament to a civilization that thrived alongside ancient Egypt, with its own unique pantheon of deities and architectural wonders.
- Tassili N’Ajjer National Park, Algeria – A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Tassili N’Ajjer in southeast Algeria is more than a natural marvel—it’s an archaeological treasure trove. The park’s expansive rock art depicts life and rituals dating back to 6000 BCE, offering a window into the lives of its prehistoric inhabitants. Against the backdrop of sandstone formations and Saharan landscapes, these paintings reveal stories of ancient African societies, their beliefs, and their interactions with nature.
- Merzouga Desert / Erg Chebbi, Morocco – Nestled in southeastern Morocco, the Merzouga Desert’s crown jewel is Erg Chebbi, a sprawling sea of golden dunes. These sand formations, rising up to 160 meters, shift with the wind and offer a spectacle during sunrise and sunset. Travelers often embark on camel treks to explore the dunes, with nights spent in traditional Berber tents, stargazing beneath the vast Saharan sky.
- Chott el-Djerid, Tunisia – Spanning over 5,000 square kilometers, Chott el-Djerid is Tunisia’s most iconic salt flat. This vast expanse often displays mirages due to its reflective salt crust. Depending on the season, visitors might witness the flat’s myriad colors—from crystalline white to mesmerizing shades of pink and red. Local folklore even speaks of phantom cities appearing in the distance, adding a layer of mystery to its natural allure.
- Aït Benhaddou, Morocco – Set against the High Atlas Mountains’ backdrop, Aït Benhaddou is a ksar—a collection of earthen buildings bordered by high walls. This stunning clay city, bathed in ochre hues, is an architectural marvel reflecting Moroccan Berber traditions. Having served as a backdrop for iconic films like “Gladiator” and series such as “Game of Thrones,” its narrow alleys and grand gates weave tales of its Silk Road legacy.
- Gizeh and Nile Valley, Egypt – While the Pyramids of Giza and the enigmatic Sphinx need little introduction, their grandeur never ceases to inspire awe. Symbols of ancient Egyptian ingenuity, these structures echo tales of pharaohs, gods, and a civilization that laid many cornerstones for human knowledge. Further along the Nile Valley, Luxor and Aswan open chapters filled with temples, tombs, and ancient cities, bearing testimonies to dynasties that once ruled these lands.
- Roman Ruins of Leptis Magna, Libya – Leptis Magna, once a prominent city of the Roman Empire, today stands as one of North Africa’s most impressive archaeological sites. Located near modern-day Tripoli, these ruins showcase grand amphitheaters, basilicas, and marketplaces. The Arch of Septimius Severus, erected in honor of the city’s most famous son and Roman emperor, remains one of its most recognized structures.
- The Atlas Mountains – Stretching across Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia, the Atlas Mountains are a trekker’s paradise. These ranges separate the Atlantic and Mediterranean coastlines from the Sahara Desert. Rich in Berber culture, its valleys, gorges, and peaks are a haven for nature lovers. The mountains are also home to unique ecosystems and offer panoramic vistas, especially from peaks like Jebel Toubkal, North Africa’s highest point.
- Carthage, Tunisia – Overlooking the Mediterranean near modern-day Tunis, Carthage’s ruins narrate stories of a powerful ancient civilization and its conflicts with Rome. Founded by the Phoenicians, Carthage was a major trade hub and naval power. Its storied history includes tales of the legendary general Hannibal, the Punic Wars, and its eventual destruction and rebirth under Roman rule. Today, visitors can explore remnants of its glorious past, from the Byrsa Hill to the Roman-era Antonine Baths.
When to Go to North Africa
North Africa, with its vast landscapes, offers a variety of climatic conditions, from Mediterranean breezes to Saharan heat. The coastal areas, including parts of Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco, experience Mediterranean climates, with warm summers and mild winters. In contrast, the interiors, particularly the Saharan regions, can be scorching during summer and surprisingly cold at night in the winter.
Spring (March to May) and Fall (September to November): These are arguably the best times to visit, as the weather is pleasant, avoiding the extreme heat of the summer. The coastal regions will have mild temperatures, making it perfect for beach vacations, while the desert regions will be bearably warm, ideal for desert excursions.
Winter (December to February): For those looking to escape the cold, the coastal regions provide a gentle respite. However, the desert can get quite chilly, especially at night.
Traveling to North Africa
North Africa offers an intriguing blend of cultures, landscapes, and experiences. However, the region does have safety concerns that travelers should be aware of:
- Research Before You Go: While countries like Morocco, Tunisia, and Egypt are popular tourist destinations, areas in Libya and parts of Sudan have unstable security situations.
- Avoid Risky Areas: Certain regions, particularly in Libya, face ongoing conflict and should be avoided.
- Stay Informed: Keep updated with the local news and any travel advisories from your embassy.
- Respect Local Customs: North Africa is predominantly Muslim. Dress modestly and be aware of local traditions and customs.
- Beware of Scams: Like many tourist destinations, be wary of pushy vendors or offers that seem too good to be true.
- Stay Hydrated: The heat, especially in desert regions, can be extreme. Always carry water.
- Travel in Groups: Especially in less touristy areas, there’s safety in numbers.
- Secure Your Belongings: Petty theft can be an issue in crowded places.
- Know Emergency Numbers: Familiarize yourself with local emergency contacts.
- Travel Insurance: Ensure you have comprehensive travel insurance to cover unforeseen events.
Getting There and Around
North Africa is well-connected to the world with major international airports such as Cairo International Airport (Egypt), Mohammed V International Airport (Casablanca, Morocco), and Tunis-Carthage International Airport (Tunisia).
Once in the region:
- Trains: Egypt and Morocco have reasonably extensive railway systems that connect major cities, offering a scenic and comfortable mode of transport.
- Buses: Buses are the most common form of public transportation and can vary from modern coaches to more basic options.
- Shared Taxis: In many areas, particularly in Tunisia and Morocco, shared taxis (or “grand taxis”) operate between towns and are a cost-effective way to travel.
- Car Rentals: For more flexibility, renting a car is an option. However, ensure you’re comfortable with local driving habits.
From luxury resorts to budget hostels, North Africa provides a plethora of accommodation options. Coastal regions, especially in Egypt and Tunisia, boast world-class resorts, often at competitive prices. Cities like Marrakech and Cairo offer everything from luxury hotels to quaint riads (traditional Moroccan houses) and bed-and-breakfasts.
For budget travelers, hostels and guesthouses are common in tourist hubs. When exploring the Sahara or more remote regions, tented desert camps provide a unique and immersive experience. As always, it’s recommended to book in advance during peak seasons to secure the best deals and locations.