Geography & Wildlife

Highlands and lowlands

The northern part of Algeria has a low-lying coastal strip. Most of the population lives along this northern coastal region.

The land rises up and gives way to two mountain ranges – the Saharan Atlas Mountains in the west and the Tell Mountains in the east. These two ranges are linked in the middle by high steppe-like plains and hills (1,100-1,400 metres above sea level).

South of the Tell Mountains lie the grasslands of the Chott Plateau. However, higher rainfall over the Atlas mountains means the western region is even better for grazing animals.

Below the mountains, water carried by streams and rivers creates a number of ‘oases’ towns, known by locals as the ‘gates of the desert’.

A desert of many landscapes

Desert mountains

A third mountain region lies to the south of the country – the Ahaggar (Hoggar) mountain range rises out of the desert and includes Mount Tahat, Algeria’s highest mountain at over 3000 metres.

The image of the Sahara desert is usually one of camel trains wandering across shifting sand dunes (known as ‘ergs’). Certainly, this kind of sandy landscape makes up a significant part of the Sahara, perhaps accounting for one-quarter of Algeria.

However, the desert has different landscapes, such as areas of wide rocky plains, gorges, ancient river valleys and mountains. The regions north of the Ahaggar (Hoggar) Massif are less dry than the Sahara to the south. At the very south of Algeria, the land is completely barren and arid.

Grazers and smaller predators

Fennec fox by Kkonstan (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Protecting nature

Endangered flora and fauna are protected in Algeria’s 11 national parks and in a number of nature reserves.

Though animals such as elephants and giraffes would have inhabited some areas of Algeria in ancient times, today the largest mammals found here are gazelles and antelopes, and the rare Barbary red deer. Monk seal also live along the coastline.

Algeria has a number of smaller predators such as hyenas, jackals and the fennec fox, which has become the animal symbol for Algeria. This fox has large ears and spends much time in its cool underground burrows.

In the Atlas mountains, visitors can find Barbary macaques (Macaca sylvanus), a monkey best known for its presence in Gibraltar. Living in the cedar, pine and oak forests of northern Algeria, the monkeys have learnt the easiest pickings can be found in tourist areas.

While larger animals can prove illusive, lizards, snakes and scorpions are easy to find. Of the country's 180 species of birds, the stork is perhaps the most visible, nesting on tall buildings everywhere.

Algeria’s native trees particularly need protection. After centuries of forest-felling, many ancient wooded areas have vanished. There are still areas of cork oak, pine and cedar in mountainous regions, but parts of the Sahara have been stripped of their native trees. In the Tassili n’Ajjer National Park – see Map – endangered plant species such as the Saharan Myrtle and Saharan Cypress are protected. Some of the cypress trees in this region are thousands of years old.