Map from Google - Algeria
In Algeria, the largest country in Africa, there are three types of climate: the mild Mediterranean climate on the coast, the transitional climate of the northern hills and mountains, a little more continental and moderately rainy, and finally the desert climate in the vast area occupied by the Sahara.
In the thin coastal strip
the climate is typically Mediterranean, with mild, rainy winters and hot, sunny summers. The rains are scarcer in the western part (see Oran) where they fluctuate between 330 and 400 millimetres per year, and therefore here the landscape is more arid, while they become more abundant in the central and eastern areas (see Algiers, Annaba) where they fluctuate between 600 and 800 mm. Most of the rains occur between October and April.
Here is the average precipitation of Algiers.
Average precipitation - Algiers
The temperatures are rather uniform: the average in January is around 11/12 °C, while in August (which is, albeit slightly, the warmest month) it is around 25/26 °C. Summer is sunny, with humid air, but also with the breezes blowing from the sea. Sometimes the hot wind coming from the desert, called Chili
, can blow: it climbs the mountains and after it goes down, reaching the coast and causing a collapse of the relative humidity, bringing also sand and dust; this wind is more frequent in spring and autumn.
Here are the average temperatures of Algiers.
Average temperatures - Algiers
The mountainous area
is composed of two chains, Tell Atlas and Saharan Atlas; the former is wetter because it receives more easily the moisture from the sea, and in winter it's snowy, so that there are some places equipped for skiing, especially from December to March.
Between the two ranges, we find a plateau
, with several cities located between 1,000 and 1,300 metres. Here the climate is slightly continental, with cold winters and hot summers.
For example, in Sétif
, at 1,000 metres above sea level, the average in January is 5.5 °C, while in July it's 26.5 °C. So here the summer is as hot as on the coast, but the humidity is lower, besides, it's warmer during the day and cooler at night. Winter is rather cold, especially when cold air masses prevail, which can at times bring snow and frost.
Average temperatures - Sétif
In Sétif, 400 millimetres of rain fall per year, with a Mediterranean pattern, ie with a maximum in winter and a minimum in summer. Here is the average precipitation.
Average precipitation - Sétif
A similar climate is found in other towns of the area, with some variations due to altitude and slope exposure, like Batna (1,000 metres above sea level), Constantine (600 metres, a little more rainy with its 560 mm), and Tebessa (800 metres, drier since it receives only 350 mm of rain).
In the vast Algerian desert
, the climate is characterized by aridity and heat during the long summer months, and it also becomes progressively hotter and drier as you proceed towards the south; in winter the warmest area is the far south (where during the day the temperature stays around 25/27 °C), while in summer the warmest area lies between 24° and 30° N, because the extreme south is reached by the extreme offshoots of the African monsoon, which bring some cloudiness and occasional downpours. The rains are very rare anywhere, below 100 mm per year, and often even 50 mm; they come in the form of downpour, and are more likely in winter in the north, and as mentioned, in summer in the far south.
The desert sky is almost always clear, and this favors a high temperature range between night and day, which is often around 20 degrees Celsius. During winter the temperature can drop below freezing at night, albeit slightly, while the days are still mild.
In the south-east of the country, in the desert area, there is a mountain massif, called Hoggar
, whose highest peak is Mount Tahat, 2,908 metres high. Here the rains, still desert-like, are slightly more frequent than in surrounding areas. North of Hoggar, but still in a mountainous region, there is the Tassili N'Ajjer National Park
, a rocky desert, with deep canyons and lunar landscapes, but also some verdant oasis.
The city of Tamanrasset
, 1,400 metres above sea level, has a very salubrious climate, dry and sunny all year round, and tempered by the altitude: in winter it can get cold at night, while the days are mild, while in summer the heat is intense during the day, but the average highs stop at 35 °C, with peaks of 40 °C.
Average temperatures - Tamanrasset
The rains in Tamanrasset, rare and sporadic, are slightly above 50 mm per year. In the lowland areas of this southern part of the desert, they are even scarcer. Here is the average precipitation in Tamanrasset.
Average precipitation - Tamanrasset
The situation is quite different at lower altitudes, where the average maximum in July is 45 °C in south-central oases like Timimoun, In Salah, Aoulef and Reggane, with peaks of 50/52 °C. During summer, this is one of the hottest regions in the world.
Average temperatures - In Salah
In the northern part of the desert, the average maximum is a bit lower, around 38/40 °C in Biskra, the "Gateway of the Sahara" just south of the Saharan Atlas, and in Touggourt; the highest temperatures, which are recorded during the invasions of warm air masses from the south, are around 48/52 °C.
Average temperatures - Biskra
In the desert, sand storms can occur at any time, especially in the vast areas covered by sand dunes, called ergs
The amount of sunshine in summer decreases noticeably in the far south (see Bordj Badji Mokhtar, where the hours of sunlight drop to 6 in July), and only a couple of hours in the Hoggar Massif (10 hours per day, compared with 12 in the central and northern regions), due to the aforementioned marginal influence of the African monsoon.
When to go
The best time to visit Algiers and the coastal cities, but also those of the mountainous belt, is spring
, and in particular the months of April and May. Autumn is also a good season, especially the month of October, which however is more rainy. You can then choose September, which, however, can still be hot during the day.
To visit the desert, the best season is winter, from December to February, especially in the southern part: you will have to take into account the cold nights, but during the day the sun shines and the temperature is pleasant. In the northern part of the desert, which can more likely experience some winter cold, you may prefer the months of March and November.
You can go to the beach
from mid-May to October, although the sea becomes pleasantly warm only from July onwards, and given that the rains may start from October, the best time for swimming runs from July to September.
Here is the average water temperature in Algiers.
Sea temperature - Algiers
What to pack
: for Algiers and the coast, spring/autumn clothes, a jacket and a sweater, raincoat or umbrella; for the hilly and mountainous northern areas, warm clothes, down jacket, hat; for the desert, spring/autumn clothes, with the possibility of adding or removing the outer layer, but also sweater, warm jacket for the evening and early morning, a scarf for the sand.
: for Algiers and the coast, and the northern plateau as well, summer clothing, a light sweatshirt for the evening, possibly a scarf for the wind-borne sand and dust. For the desert, loose fitting, light-coloured clothing, light and long shirt and pants of natural fibres (cotton, linen), a wide-brimmed hat, a light scarf, sunglasses (even graduated instead of contact lenses), comfortable and breathable shoes. For women, it's better to avoid shorts and miniskirts, especially in rural and non-tourist areas. You can bring a sweatshirt for the evening, the mountains or for any nights in a tent; hiking boots or sandals.