The remote oases of Niger and the Aïr Mountains

The remote oases of Niger and the Aïr Mountains

Niger in West Africa is largely a Sahara desert, so it's only natural to be head to the Sahara when you travel to Niger. In these parts, you'll find picturesque oases, ruined forts, high sand dunes and the beautiful Aïr Mountains.

The Sahara in Niger and its remote oases of Fachi and Bilma were still popular tourist destinations less than 20 years ago, but the Tuareg rebellion that has since begun and ended days ago has driven all tourists away. Today, tourists are expected to return.

This itinerary starts and ends in Niger's largest city in the Sahara, historic Agadez, where the traveller will either arrive by air from the capital Niamey or our guide will pick you up by car for an additional fee.

Day 1

Arrival in Agadez, an ancient caravan town and crossroads of trade routes. We explore the UNESCO World Heritage-listed old town and its magnificent clay architecture. We will visit the 16th century Grand Mosque and its 27-metre minaret, the Sultan's Palace, the house of German explorer Heinrich Barth and many other interesting sights, including the camel market.

Days 2–3

Off-road vehicles are now packed for a long wilderness tour. Tents, food, drinks and other necessities are included. The journey will be made privately in a convoy of several cars, as the Niger state requires military personnel to secure our passage just in case. Security services are included in the price of the trip and their necessity depends on the region and the time of the trip. Because of the convoy and the cost involved, this trip is best suited to a minimum of six participants.

From Agadez, we head east towards the Arbre du Ténéré, the Tree of Ténéré, now a mere monument to the ancient spiral necklace. For decades the tree lived in isolation, a reminder of a time when the Sahara was not yet so dry. Of course, in 1973, a Libyan lorry crashed into the tree, which may be considered something of an achievement in the middle of a treeless wilderness. Today, the tree is on display in Niamey at the National Museum of Niger.

From the Arbre du Ténéré monument, we continue towards the village of Fachi, home to some hundreds of inhabitants. The oasis keeps the village alive and allows, for example, the cultivation of dates.

Days 4–5

We visit the village of Fachi, then continue another 150 km east to the village of Bilma. It is also an oasis village where the inhabitants grow vegetables. Bilma, however, is known for its salt mines and the fact that salt caravans still leave from here. We will visit the salt mine.

Days 6–7

We drive north from Bilma towards the ruined city of Djado. The ruined city of Djado is actually a labyrinthine fortress on top of a high hill. There are other similar forts in the region. The Djado area is not completely deserted, but there are still a few hundred inhabitants. We also visit the nearby village of Chirfa.

Days 8–10

From Djado and Chirfa we turn back towards Agadez, but the return journey is long, first to the high dunes of Arakao, right next to the Aïr Mountains. We will circle the mountains and finally reach the village of Iferouane, in the northern part of the Aïr Mountains, via Chiriet.

Day 11

We visit the village of Iferouane, which lives from horticulture and cattle farming. The village's attractions include the ruins of a colonial French fortress.

Days 12–13

We travel from Iferouane to Timia, a village in the heart of the Aïr Mountains. Surprisingly, there is even a waterfall on the outskirts of the village, with water at least during the rainy season and immediately after it ends. But you can still swim in Timia, as the waterfall drains into the guelta, a pool of water that holds water all year round.

Day 14

We return to Agadez.

General information about the tour

Price: inquire with us

The price of the trip includes:

  • All accommodations
  • All transports
  • All entrance fees
  • English-speaking local guide
  • Security services where they are mandatory
  • Meals and bottled water
  • Visa invitation letter

Not included in the price:

  • International flights and travel from Niamey to Agadez either by land or by air
  • Visa
  • Travel insurance
  • Personal expenses, such as souvenirs and tips