is an informed but personal interpretation
of travel access across the Sahara and believed
to be correct at the date shown above. For the latest situation on
Saharan travel in a specific country click
this or visit the forum.
For kidnapping in the Sahara, click this.
For Sahara Routes Map, click the map below right.
Cross via Western Sahara and Mauritania to Senegal the southMali,
or from Egypt to Sudan, assuming you can get to Egypt via Libya
or taking the ferry from Turkey to Egypt.
Crossing the Sahara has for centuries been limited to a handful of routes
linking the Mediterranean with sub-Saharan Africa.
In the old days these camel caravan routes followed a string
of reliable wells, while
at the same time circumventing difficult
terrain such as mountain ranges or sand seas.
Prevailing routes also shifted according to regional
political allegiances and the activity of nomadic
would offer to guide a caravan across the desert
for a fee, pillage it, or engage in a bit
It's not an exaggeration
to say that the situation today is broadly similar,
the added complications imposed by contemporary politics. The Sahara remains by and
large, a vast and unpoliced region where the risks to the
traveller are not to be underestimated, not just because the risks are great but because foreign travellers and tourists have become rare and are therefore overtly conspicuous.
at the thin lines which criss-cross Michelin's
741 map or even the gaps in between, you might think there
are an infinite number of possibilities for a trans-Saharan
adventure. This is not the case. No longer can you roam
around the desert with impunity or lately, even
without an official escort or guide. As with Antarctica,
it's an irony that legitimate recreational access to such a
vast wilderness is limited by human intervention.
Routes Map (above right) shows the
main pistes, desert border crossing posts, which
borders are porous and which are not.
The trans Sahara Highway is now sealed from Algiers all the way to the Niger border at In Guezzam. From there it's 150km of hard sandy piste to Arlit where the tarmac resumes, but security issues still prevail in this part of Niger and at the time of this update no one has crossed this way since before the Libyan revolution of 2011.
idea people regularly come up with is travelling
anticlockwise around the rim of the Mediterranean until they learn that the Moroccan/Algerian border has been closed for years (despite talk of it opening), the complications in getting Algeria visas, and the still shaky situation in Libya. The classic Tamanrasset-Agadez
'Hoggar Route' requires escorts
in Algeria, but
the northeast of Niger is not so safe, if not off-limits.
With Algeria closed in
the 1990s, the flow of trans-Saharan
traffic, both commercial and touristic, diverted
to the west via Morocco, Western Sahara and Mauritania. This has become an all-sealed way of crossing the desert in
either direction, baring a few kilometres of piste
through the minefields in No Man's Land. Unless
you slow down or head inland in Mauritania, the
Atlantic Route is a relatively
boring and unsatisfactory run if you're looking
to experience the real Sahara. In November 2009 three Spanish were kidnapped on this road down to Nouakchott and a few weeks later two Italians were kidnapped close to the Mali border south of Ayoun and again just over the border in Mali in November 2012. However, the road from Nouadhibou to Nouakchott is now well patrolled with checkpoints and is as safe as can be expected, but further south the Route d'Espoir running east from Nouakchott to Nema is less safe, especially as of late 2012.
Although it was never that popular following the
1990s, the Algerian part of the Tanezrouft
route south of Reganne is again closed to tourists and even trying to get to Bordj Moktar from Tam is risky of forbidden. The north Malian portion
of the Tanezrouft route has for years been where most hostages ended up in the hands of AQIM or their affiliates. Now of course the French are trying to finally regain that territory.
In the 1970s, crossing
the Nubian desert from Egypt to
Sudan and Uganda was the main route to East Africa
until the escalation of the Sudanese civil war
put an end to this. That war is
over as Sudan separated in 2011, though tourists aren't
rushing into South Sudan yet. The Wadi Halfa ferry is running,
but Egyptian bureaucracy is as onerous as ever. TIn 2012 there was talk of a new Sudan-Egypt land border, but it will still require a short ferry crossing from Abu Simbel. Egypt is no longer accessible via the Middle East so in 2012 at least half a dozen parties managed to transit of Libya between Tunisia and Egypt and seems a RoRo service between southeast Turkey and Port Said has become the other alternative.
There are other TRANS SAHARA ROUTES that you might think possible from the sometimes misleading 741 Michelin map, but for first timers these are marginal, dangerous or impossible.
more information visit or ask on the forum or follow the links
at the top of this page.