Africa > North Africa > Algeria > Algeria Geography Profile

Algeria: Algeria Geography Profile


Situated in northwestern Africa along the Mediterranean Sea, Algeria is the second-largest country on the continent. Comparatively, it is slightly less than 3.5 times the size of Texas, with a total area of 2,381,740 sq km (919,595 sq mi). Extending about 2,400 km (1,500 mi) E – W and 2,100 km (1,300 mi) N – S , Algeria is bounded on the N by the Mediterranean Sea, on the E by Tunisia and Libya, on the SE by Niger, on the SW by Mali, on the W by Mauritania, and on the W and NW by the Western Sahara and Morocco; the total boundary length is 6,343 km (3,933 mi). Land boundary and claims disputes with Libya were unresolved as of late 2002.

Algeria's capital city, Algiers, is located on the northern boundary of the country on the Mediterranean Sea.

Algeria, the second-largest state in Africa, has a Mediterranean coastline of about 998 kilometers (620 mi.). The Tellian and Saharan Atlas mountain ranges cross the country from east to west, dividing it into three zones. Between the northern zone, Tellian Atlas, and the Mediterranean is a narrow, fertile coastal plain--the Tel (hill)--with a moderate climate year round and rainfall adequate for agriculture. A high plateau region, averaging 914 meters (3,000 ft.) above sea level, with limited rainfall, great rocky plains, and desert, lies between the two mountain ranges. It is generally barren except for scattered clumps of trees and intermittent bush and pastureland.

The third and largest zone, south of the Saharan Atlas mountain range, is mostly desert. About 80% of the country is desert, steppes, wasteland, and mountains. Algeria's weather varies considerably from season to season and from one geographical location to another. In the north, the summers are usually hot with little rainfall. Winter rains begin in the north in October. Frost and snow are rare, except on the highest slopes of the Tellian Atlas Mountains. Dust and sandstorms occur most frequently between February and May.

Soil erosion--from overgrazing, other poor farming practices, and desertification--and the dumping of raw sewage, petroleum refining wastes, and other industrial effluents are leading to the pollution of rivers and coastal waters. The Mediterranean Sea, in particular, is becoming polluted from oil wastes, soil erosion, and fertilizer runoff. There are inadequate supplies of potable water.


The principal physical features of Algeria are the Atlas Mountains in the north and the Sahara, to the south, a vast desert that covers about nine-tenths of the country.
The Atlas Mountains are a faulted system, with steep-sided mountains and deep ravines in the additional rugged parts. The region consists of three roughly parallel northeast-southwest zones. Beginning near the coast, they are (from north to south) the Tell Atlas, the High Plateaus, and the Saharan Atlas. The highest ranges of the Tell Atlas rise additional than 7,500 feet (2,290 m) above sea level. The rough terrain is interrupted by small plains, particularly along the coast.
The High Plateaus are marked by rolling hills, some steep cliffs, and flat plains, with an average elevation of 3,000 feet (910 m). Though generally low, the Saharan Atlas, which fringes the desert, rises to a height of additional than 7,600 feet (2,320 m).
The Sahara is made up mainly of low tablelands, with occasional areas of high terrain, such as the Ahaggar massif in the south. Here rises 9,573-foot (2,918-m) Tahat, the highest point in Algeria. Part of the Sahara consists of sand and dune areas, called ergs, part the major of which are the Great Eastern Erg and the Great Western Erg. There are as well areas of exposed bedrock, called hammadas.


There are few rivers and lakes. The Chelif River, 450 miles (720 km) long, is the chief river. Of the rivers that originate in the Saharan Atlas, it is the only to reach the Mediterranean. A lot of watercourses are dry except after winter rains. On the High Plateaus and in the Sahara are expansive salt flats and marshes, known as chotts or shotts. A lot of of them are covered by shallow water during winter. Chott Melrhir, in the Sahara near the Saharan Atlas, occupies a depression below sea level.


Coastal Algeria has a Mediterranean type of climate, with mild, rainy winters and hot, dry summers—a climate similar to that of southern California. January temperatures average about 50° F. (10° C.); July temperatures, just below 80° F. (27° C.). Most of the area has 30 inches (760 mm) or additional of rainfall a year; some places receive additional than 50 inches (1,270 mm).
On the High Plateaus, there is a dry steppe climate, with cooler winters and slightly hotter summers. Rainfall averages 10 to 20 inches (250 to 500 mm) annually, amount of it coming in winter and spring. The Atlas Mountains have a varied climate because of their elevation.
The Sahara is of the world's most desolate areas. Summer temperatures average above 95° F. (35° C.) and frequently rise as high as 110° F. (43° C.). Temperature changes between night and day are extreme. There is little or no rain.

Flora and fauna

Characteristic trees of northern Algeria are the olive and the cork oak. The mountain regions contain large forests of evergreens (Aleppo pine, juniper, and evergreen oak) and some deciduous trees; the forests are inhabited by boars and jackals, about all that remain of the many wild animals once common. Fig, eucalyptus, agave, and various palm trees grow in the warmer areas. Esparto grass, alfa, and drinn are common in the semiarid regions. On the coastal plain, the grape vine is indigenous.
Vegetation in the Sahara is sparse and widely scattered. Animal life is varied but scarce. Camels are used extensively. Other mammals are jackals, jerboas, and rabbits. The desert also abounds with poisonous and nonpoisonous snakes, scorpions, and numerous insects.

Northern Africa, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Morocco and Tunisia

Geographic coordinates: 

28 00 N, 3 00 E

Map references: 


Area comparative: 

slightly less than 3.5 times the size of Texas

Land boundaries Total: 

0 km

Land boundaries Note: 

6,343 km


arid to semiarid; mild, wet winters with hot, dry summers along coast; drier with cold winters and hot summers on high plateau; sirocco is a hot, dust/sand-laden wind especially common in summer


mostly high plateau and desert; some mountains; narrow, discontinuous coastal plain

Natural resources: 

petroleum, natural gas, iron ore, phosphates, uranium, lead, zinc

Natural hazards: 

mountainous areas subject to severe earthquakes; mudslides and floods in rainy season

Environment - current issues: 

soil erosion from overgrazing and other poor farming practices; desertification;, petroleum refining wastes, and other industrial effluents is leading to the pollution of rivers and coastal waters; Mediterranean Sea, in particular, becoming polluted from oil wastes, soil erosion, and fertilizer runoff; inadequate supplies of potable water

Geography note: 

second-largest country in Africa (after Sudan)