Discovering Kabylia, the land of mountains

Kabylie

Often forgotten by travelers, Kabylia is nonetheless a land of wonders. Discover today the region nicknamed « the land of mountains ».

Who hasn’t heard of the beauty and grandeur of Algeria? Yet one of its regions, Kabylia, is still too little known to travelers… With a history dating back several millennia and often fraught with conflict, it is nonetheless one of the most beautiful regions in the world.

Carte de la Kabylie

Map of KabyliaPhoto credit: Google Maps & travelzad.com

A land of relics, a land of mountains, Kabylia is as surprising as it is delicious. That’s why Generation Voyage presents you today with some of the most beautiful corners of the « land of the free ».

Between national parks, memories of the Roman Empire and breathtaking landscapes, discover a land that will never leave you once you set foot on its soil: Kabylia!

Djemila, a historic land

Djemila, Kabylie

IDjemila and its ancient remainsPhoto credit: Shutterstock – Anton_Ivanov

Our journey through Kabylia begins in Djemila. And what better way to set the region’s history in context than to begin with a visit to the heart of the town whose name means « the beautiful » in Arabic?

Djemila, located 50km north of Sétif, is one of the jewels of Roman architecture in Africa. Founded in the 1st century AD, the city then known as Cuicul reminds us of the power of the Roman Empire. It reminds us, or simply teaches us, that Kabylia is a region steeped in history.

In the past, its borders were not as well defined as they are today. In fact, Kabylia referred to all the territories inhabited by the Kabyle people, the people of free men. The Kabylies of Tunis, Morocco, Saoura and Ouarsenis were also referred to.

It wasn’t until the 19th century that the location of the region was more precisely defined. The heart of the Tellian mountains, between Algiers and Constantine, became its birthplace.

Djemila, Kabylie

Remains of the Roman Empire at Djemila, KabyliePhoto credit: Shutterstock – Anton_Ivanov & Leonid Andronov

Djemila, for its part, is impressive. It’s hard to imagine that you’re in Algeria and not on the Italian coast as you stroll through these Roman remains, almost two millennia old. Here, the forum, capitol, temples and sanctuaries outshine us, while the state of preservation of these monuments is beyond our comprehension.

Perhaps it’s the gentle Kabyle mountains all around the site that magically preserve its magic? We lose ourselves in imagining the Caracalla Arch remaining deliberately motionless, frozen on its two feet, so that we never have to stop admiring the beauty of the landscape…

The wind whistling through the aisles and brushing against the walls of the baptistery whispers memories of a bygone Christian era. Discovered in 1909 and listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site, this archaeological marvel is a must-see. You can also visit the museum at the entrance to the park, which will tell you all about the ancient artefacts found by archaeologists…

Béjaïa, the eternal land

Bejaia, Kabylie

View of the town of Béjaïa – KabyliaPhoto credit: Shutterstock – salem bekka

Béjaïa is both a commune, situated on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea some 250km from Algiers, and a wilaya in the Kabylie region, comprising 52 communes. Here, we focus on the pretty « capital of Lower Kabylia ».

Béjaïa, whose name means « candle », is both a surprise and a wonder. A veritable paradise, Béjaïa has something for everyone. Fauna, flora, beaches, cliffs and ancient remains give its landscapes an incredible diversity.

Pic des singes, Bejaia

Pic des singes, Béjaïa – KabyliePhoto credit: Shutterstock – Morad art & badiskharfane

For us, the most impressive is the so-called « Monkey Peak ». Located on the outskirts of Gouraya National Park, it reminds us of the unique Monkey Forest in Ubud, Bali. Captivating and enchanting, you’ll need half a day and sturdy shoes to enjoy this hike like no other.

Another of Béjaïa’s must-sees is Cap Carbon. Dominated since 1907 by one of the highest lighthouses in the Mediterranean, Cap Carbon epitomizes the beauty and strength of the Kabyle mountains. With its famous 5 km hiking trail, it is accessible to all and offers young and old alike the chance to discover one of the most exceptional viewpoints on the Mediterranean.

Bejaia, Kabylie

Left, Lake Akfadou – Right, Cape CarbonPhoto credit: Shutterstock – badiskharfane & Wikipedia – PhR61

After this superb walk, make a detour to Lac Noir d’Akfadou, just a few kilometers from Béjaïa. Enjoy the superb scenery offered by its immense forest, before returning to Béjaïa town center for a moment of relaxation.

The city known as « bougie » (it was one of the first suppliers of beeswax candles) has a marvellous town center. Wander through its narrow streets, or stop for a coffee at the Place du 1er Novembre… In short, enjoy the charm of Béjaïa, and its people.

National parks

We’ve finally arrived at the highlight of our visit to Kabylia… the national parks! These divine masterpieces, nestled in the heart of the mountains, are a blessing in disguise. They are the true wealth of the Kabyle landscape, and leave no one unmoved.

To begin this journey, we’re taking you to the Djurdjura National Park.

Djurdjura National Park

Parc national Djurdjura, Kabylie

Photo credit: Shuttterstock – Alvarodz

Although it takes its name from the Djurdjura mountain range whose boundaries it shelters, this national park could not be defined simply by a mountain. Indeed, stretching from Tizi-Ouzou to Bouira, Djurdjura’s riches are infinitely vast.

If you’re looking for a place to hike and explore, you’ve come to the right place. More than 1,100 species of flora grow here, representing almost two-thirds of the country’s total flora… All this is the result of a particularly green natural environment, irrigated by numerous mountain streams and springs. There are many lakes in the heart of the Djurdjura, but the water is likely to be particularly cold…

Parc national Djurdjura, Kabylie

Djurdjura National Park, KabyliaPhoto credit: Shutterstock – vividin

But Djurdjura is also home to an impressive fauna: over 35 species of mammal have found refuge here. Among them, the famous Barbary macaque, but also striped hyenas, jackals, crested porcupines… In short, a veritable animal kingdom.

As you soar over the horizon, you can also admire the majesty of the golden eagle, as well as the distinctive flight of several species of falcon.

Faune Djurdjura, Kabylie

Left, Barbary macaque – Right, striped hyenaPhoto credit: Shutterstock – monticello & Andrew M. Allport

As you can see, a visit to the Djurdjura is a decisive and essential step in your journey to the heart of the Kabyle lands. Fascinating, you’ll miss it the very second you leave… But be warned, if you want to contemplate it, we strongly advise you to go through a travel agency, which will take care of organizing the visit.

Gouraya National Park

Parc national de Gouraya

Gouraya National Park, KabyliePhoto credit: Shutterstock – MohamedHaddad

While some call it the « Corsica of Kabylia », probably because of its cliffs that plunge straight into the Mediterranean, Gouraya National Park has other, more « exotic » similarities… with Southeast Asia.

Already, from the sea, its cliffs seem to have been deposited there by a superior force, reminding us of the rocks of Halong Bay. Inaccessible, wildly carved and overlooking a vast expanse of water, the resemblance is striking. Not to visit them during your stay in Kabylia would be an affront to the beauty of this site, listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site since 2004.

Gouraya is located in northeastern Algeria, in the heart of the wilaya of Béjaïa, on the shores of the Mediterranean. And if every year more than a million tourists set foot on its soil, it’s because it’s home to so many treasures.

Parc national de Gouraya, Kabylie

Gouraya National Park, KabyliaPhoto credit: Wikipedia – Halim Ben Khalfallah

And one of its surprises, just like in the heart of Halong Bay, is its sublime sandy beaches. All along your route through Gouraya National Park, you’ll find a succession of beaches and coves, each more attractive than the last. Take a break and cool off in the crystal-clear waters.

Once you’ve caught your breath, you can continue on your way to discover the mausoleum of Yemma Yemma, the corniche of the great lighthouse, the Gouraya fort, the Riac tower… and many other wonders. We’ve chosen not to reveal everything, because each discovery will make you feel the satisfaction of the explorer in front of his treasure.

But with a surface area of 32 km², one day won’t be enough to discover all the wonderful memories Gouraya has to offer… Take the opportunity to spend several days here and enjoy the mildness of the town in the evening.

The coast road

Route du littoral, Kabylie

Coastal road, KabyliePhoto credit: Shutterstock – Walderfoto

To round off our stay, we’re taking you on a road trip along the coast. After all, what could be better than driving from the seaside to the mainland, with the windows open, to take the time to reminisce about your trip? The RN 24 runs from Algiers to Béjaïa. As Gouraya lies in the heart of the latter wilaya, you can take this road in the other direction.

You will then cross the 222 km of this road leading to Algiers, to continue your journey on Algerian soil. And once again, this road is full of surprises. After some 50 km, you’ll reach the outskirts of the wilaya of Tizi-Ouzou. Here, you can stop for an afternoon visit to its namesake capital. You’ll be able to enjoy its cultural heritage and learn more about its emotionally-charged history, while chatting with its inhabitants over a cup of tea or coffee…

Follow the road for about 60 kilometers, until you reach the wilaya of Boumerdès. Here, the « coastal road » lives up to its name. Situated by the sea, the town formerly known as « Black Rock » exudes a gentleness that only coastal towns have the secret to. Although it’s located on the shores of the Mediterranean, it reminds us of certain Breton towns…

Boumerdes

Boumerdes, AlgeriaPhoto credit: Shutterstock – Oussama.houssam

But beyond its sunny beaches, Boumerdès also boasts a number of natural springs, such as Haï Foaïs, which promise particularly pleasant moments… A great way to round off your stay in Kabylia.

Then, to continue your journey and discover Algeria’s magnificence, which doesn’t stop at the Kabyle « borders », you’ll take the RN 24 back to the wilaya of Algiers. Then another journey begins for you… a journey that will offer you new sensations and new landscapes.

Discover Algeria, a welcoming land almost 90% covered in desert, whose grandeur makes it one of the most beautiful countries in Africa, one of the most beautiful countries in the world.