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This Mediterranean Destination Has Almost No Tourists – Here’s Why It Should Be On Your Bucket List

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From Italy's Ligurian Sea to Croatia's dramatic Adriatic coast, the Mediterranean attracts millions of visitors every year, and while it is indeed filled with both natural and man-made wonders, its soaring popularity has given rise to mass tourism and prohibitive price increases, particularly across the Western half.

A little-known fact among first-time visitors, however, is that they don't need to spend tens of thousands of dollars, nor join the surging crowds in Europe, to have a Med summer experience.

After all, this is a sea that knows no continental boundaries, and this summer, there is a lesser-known Mediterranean gem with almost no tourists just waiting to be braved by you:

A View Of Oran, A City In Algeria, On The Maghreb Region Of North Africa, Mediterranean Sea

The Mediterranean's Least-Explored Gem

Algeria is the largest country in Africa, located on the Maghreb, a geopolitical term referring to the continent's Arab World, and one of the Mediterranean's last hidden gems.

There are numerous attributes that make Algeria stand out among its peers. Other than being Africa's largest country by territorial expanse, it has a rich history spanning back several millennia, and of course, it has one of the largest coastlines to straddle the ancient sea.

While the neighboring nations of Morocco and Tunisia, part of the Maghreb, have risen to prominence in recent years due to their fast-growing development zones and resort scenes, Algeria has arguably lagged behind in spite of sharing all the features that have brought notoriety to its closest partners.

The question is, why?

Notre Dame Of Africa In Algeria, North Africa, A Country On The Mediterranean Coast

Why Is Algeria Not As Popular?

Unlike Morocco, North Africa's leading destination, or the increasingly trendy Tunisia, Algeria's economy has been hydrocarbon-based since the country achieved independence from colonial France, as reported by National Geographic.

Oil and gas comprise 20 percent of the GDP, against tourism's negligible 0.1 percent, in stark contrast with Morocco, where tourism accounts for close to 7% and growing. Algeria has not only failed to develop a strong tourism infrastructure, but it shut itself off from the rest of the world.

Both Morocco and Tunisia grant visa-free entry to Americans and Europeans.

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Close Up Of A Person Holding A U.S. American Passport

Algeria, on the other hand, continues to impose visa restrictions, having signed visa-waiver agreements with only 7 other nations, all of them neighboring North African countries.

In order to visit Algeria, Westerners must apply for a visitor visa at the Algerian Consulate or Mission in their country of residence, submit the relevant paperwork along with their passport, pay a fee, and wait for their travel document to be returned along with the visa.

Tourism-friendly Morocco registered 13 million tourists in the pre-crisis year of 2019. Unsurprisingly, Algeria hosted only two million, a figure including visiting Algerian nationals who live abroad, mostly in Europe.

The Hassan Pasha Mosque In The Historical City Of Oran, Algeria, North Africa

As Nadine Benmokhtari, a native who has lived in the capital city of Algiers all his life, has noted, ‘you would not see a trace of tourists, only Algerians‘ visiting the country.

If you have got this far, you may be wondering yourself: seeing that it isn't exactly tourism-friendly, how is Algeria bucket list material besides simply having an absence of crowds?

Algeria Is Africa's Largest Country

In total, the Algerian coast stretches for a whopping 950 miles, and it's where a majority of the country's 44 million inhabitants live: while the Northernmost edge of Algeria is fertile and enjoys a Mediterranean climate, over 90% of the country's hinterland is covered by the Great Sahara Desert.

Female Tourist Sat On A Rock As She Admires The Rugged Landscape Of Djanet In Southern Algeria, North Africa

Algeria is renowned for its Roman heritage, encompassing an important sect of the bygone Empire's North African settlements and trade routes, sandy beaches bounded by the azure waters of the Med, indigenous Arab and Berber cultures, and an extremely hospitable society where familial ties come first.

From ancient fortresses to vibrant metropolises lapped by the bright-blue ocean, Algeria is the quintessential combo sunseekers crave when making the Mediterranean their summer destination.

Alger is the country's bustling capital city, where the Franco-colonial architecture and Europenized boulevards, and the elements associated with the Maghreb, such as a whitewashed medina and lively bazaars, compete for dominance.

Colonial Era Seaside Boulevard In Algier, The Capital City Of Algeria, A Country In North Africa, On The Mediterranean Coast Of Africa

You can find comfortable five-star stays in Alger from only US$63 – check out the Oasis Hotel – though overnight rates can go as high as US$212 for the landmark Sofitel Algiers Hamma Garden in mid-July on Booking.com.

Annaba is one of the best-developed beach destinations in Algeria.

A port city close to the Tunisian border, it is easily recognized for its sandy municipal beach, lined with high-rise buildings, and the Roman ruins of Hippo Regius.

As a testament to Algeria's underdeveloped tourism industry, despite being one of the top-rated seaside spots, Annaba has a single property listed on Booking.com: a private studio with nightly rates starting at just US$26.

Aerial View Of A Beach In Algeria, North Africa, On The Mediterranean Coast

Oran, yet another major coastal city and Algeria's second largest urban conurbation at that, where an up-and-coming resort scene is centered, has a more vast offer, with up to 14 hotels registered on the booking platform and five 5-star listings.

A triple room at the luxurious Four Points by Sheraton in Oran will cost you only US$170, which leads us to our next point:

Algeria Is Hugely Affordable

Algeria is shockingly affordable by any Mediterranean standards, including North African destinations.

Ancient Fortified City Of Ghardaia In Algeria, North Africa

Observing a destination's cost of living is a great way of establishing whether consumer prices will be low or higher than one's country of origin, and budget travelers will be thrilled to learn that, based on non-peer-reviewed data available on Numbeo, Algeria can be up to 62.2% cheaper to reside in than the United States.

A meal at an inexpensive restaurant is estimated at a negligible US$2.20, while a three-course meal for two a mid-range eatery will set you back by a mere US$14.66 on average. An absolute bargain.

This is largely due to the depreciation of the Algerian currency – the Algerian Dinar – against the dollar and other strong currencies.

Couple Of Travelers Pictured Beside Their Luggage As They Withdraw Money From An ATM At The Airport, International Travel

1 Algerian Dinar equals US$0.0073, as of June 6, 2023, and even though there is inflation to be considered, not to mention scamming practices which are common across the Maghreb, there is no denying Algeria is still a steal of a deal.

How To Visit Algeria As An American

Algeria has been moving to loosen visa restrictions imposed on foreign nationals this year, having launched a Visa On Arrival program for travelers arriving via the Southern Djanet province, away from the Mediterranean shore, and strengthening air connectivity with Europe.

Sadly, visas on arrival are not yet available for Alger-bound visitors. As a general rule, you will need a pre-issued visa to enter Algeria.

man looking out airport window

According to VisaHQ, you must complete two application forms, provide two passport-type photographs taken with a white photograph in the last six months, proof of accommodation for the entire trip, and a copy of your recent bank statements proving you have the financial means to fulfill your itinerary.

Applicants must attend an interview at a visa center, usually at an Algerian Consulate, and pay a visa fee ranging between US$15 to US$160, depending on their nationality.

More information can be found directly at the Algerian Consulate nearest to you.

Ancient Roman Gateway In Batnan, Algeria, North Africa

Due to its unique nature and boundless wealth, Algeria has been a source of fascination for visitors since immemorial times, so it may be surprising that, in the contemporary era, it is yet to become one of the Mediterranean's top tourist destinations.

The stricter visa rules and lack of connectivity with the wider world may be to blame, but this does not mean Algeria, or the welcoming Algerians, do not deserve a chance.

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