Tipaza (or Tipasa) is one of the highlights of any trip to Algeria. Most travelers head straightaway south, to the Sahara, but Northern Algeria has loads to offer and Tipaza is an absolute must. Au printemps, Tipasa est habitée par les dieux et les dieux parlent dans le soleil et l’odeur des absinthes…
(Albert Camus – Noces à Tipasa)
This pleasant town lies only around 60 kms away from Algiers, in a privileged location amid lush rolling hills and a beautiful coastline. You can come here on a day trip from the capital but I would actually recommend you take your time and stay at least for a couple of days to enjoy the town and its surroundings.
The first thing to do is to visit the Roman Ruins, classified as Unesco World Heritage. They are not in so good shape as other ancient sites in northern Africa (such as Timgad and Djemila in Algeria or Bulla Reggia and Dougga in Tunisia) but their impressive location, clinging on a cliff, and the magical combination of stone, sun, sea, the buzzing of bees, the colours and smells of flowers and pine trees, makes this place unique. Albert Camus was not exaggerating when he said that Tipaza is inhabited by Gods. Walking around the remains of the Roman Basilicas and graveyards, with the impressive Mont Chenoua in the background, you will probably find an isolated stone pillar where you can read “Ici je comprends ce qu’on appelle gloire : le droit d’aimer sans mesure” (“Here I understand what they call glory: the right to love without limits”), which marks Camus’ favorite spot .
After this epic visit, you can go back to the world of mortals by having a tea or and orange juice in the nice terrace of cafe by the port. Once recovered, head for the small Museum and the pedestrian street, where you can find some nice shops selling antiques and carpets.You will soon realize that Tipaza is a laid back town, one of the most open in the country, in fact, and that people are very friendly and easy to engage in conversation with.
If you decide to stay for a few days, I strongly recommend the hotel at Le Corne d’Or (lovely architecture, nice staff and great food, plus two lovely beaches). Also, if you like fish and seafood you won’t be disappointed! Go to Le Dauphin (just over the port, close to the Roman Museum) and ask for a fish soup and a melange de poisson. If you prefer to have your meal overlooking the Roman Ruins, try the Romana and its fantastic terrace under the shadow of a grapevine.
If you feel like exploring the area, do not miss a day trip to Cherchell, famous for its Roman Sculpture Museum and its central square, full of huge trees and if you like shrimps, go to the restaurant overlooking the sea on the Marché Communal (Amani Abdelka Fast Food) and do not miss the crevettes en sauce.
Another highlight in this area is the Tomb of the Christian, in Sidi Rachid (18 kms from Tipaza), which according to the legend would be the burial place of Cleopatra’s and Marc Anthony’s daughter, Cleopatra Selene.
Who could resist a visit to such a godly place??