Tenere desert

The Tenere Desert, 500km (310mi) as the crow flies northeast of Agadez, is an enormous emptiness that extends over 700km (434mi) of space. It is often known as the desert of deserts, and reputedly has some of the most beautiful sand dunes in the entire Sahara. If you head east toward Bilma, you'll pass close to the dinosaur cemetery, full of fossils spread out over 150km (65mi) of constantly shifting sand dunes.

Further into the desert is the Djado Plateau, with its ruined villages, rock engravings and glorious landscapes, and after that the oases of the Kaouar Plateau, where you'll find Bilma and Fachi, places that truly look, and feel, like the end of the earth.

Most travellers are better off looking for a reliable organised tour that will take in both the A?r Mountains and the Tenere Desert. You can rent a car and a guide if you can’t find a good tour group, but make sure that the terms of the hiring are clearly spelled out. Attempting the crossing on your own is not recommended. Government authorisation is required for all such trips. The distance from Niamey to the edge of the Tenere Desert is over 1500km (930mi).

If you approach overland you?ll see Agadez rise right out of the desert. The town has only 20.000 inhabitants who live in sand-brick houses that blend in with the countryside. Three tribes walk the streets: the Fulani who wear large hats that look like the hats worn by the Chinese; the Hausa merchants dressed in long robes; and the nomadic Tuaregs who give chilling looks from beneath massive turbans.

The main sights are the central market, the 16th-century mosque, the Sultan’s Palace, the camel market and some interesting silver shops; the Croix d’Agadez is famous in all of the Sahel, here you can get the real thing. If the political situation permits excursions can be arranged to go by camel or other conveyance into the nearby Air Mountains, where the Tuaregs live. That will be an unforgettable trip.

The Air Mountains are north of Agadez. They are a very impressive natural wonder and absolutely worth a visit. North of the Air mountains tsart the Tenere desert, and further northeast you can find the Djado Plateau. The mountain massif covers an area about the size of Switzerland. One of the more surprising aspects of the Mountains is that there is some really interesting flora anf fauna, not just camels. The highest peaks reach 2000 meters, Mt Bagzane some 150 km north of Agadez is just above that.

Bilma is the end of the world. When you’re done with your 500+ km of desert from Agadez this is not the reward you were looking for. If you want to cross the desert to Libya this is your last stop.