Chad - Peaks of the Tibesti

Chad - Peaks of the Tibesti

Style: PioneerGroundbreaking tours to unique destinations
Duration: 22 days
Type: GroupTravel with a small group of other travellers


Chad offers opportunities for adventure on a grand scale, in a way that very few other places can match. The most remote and least visited country in the Sahara, Chad is home to dramatic landscapes and people that rarely see western visitors – an intoxicating combination. To complement our trip to the Ennedi Mountains, this longer trip visits what has long been described as the desert’s final frontier – the foreboding Tibesti Mountains, pushed up against the northern border with Libya. Out of bounds for a long time, with a little care and a lot of planning it’s now possible to visit this stunning region. Expect a tough journey – we will be crossing vast empty spaces on our journey from the capital to the north. We head into breath-taking landscapes of the Tibesti, home to volcanic peaks and some of the most isolated settlements on earth. We meet the Tubu people, a fiercely independent group and true adepts at living in such harsh conditions – exploring their settlements we see how they have managed to carve a life for themselves here. We also delve into prehistory, seeing ancient rock carvings and paintings among the stones. Crossing rocky plateaux, tackling vast fields of sand dunes and following the courses of long dried up riverbeds, the landscape here is diverse and constantly changing. With virtually no facilities outside of the capital we spend our nights camping, immersing ourselves completely in the desert experience. A ground-breaking trip for true Sahara enthusiasts.

Tour Rating

Fitness ●●●●○ | Off the Beaten Track ●●●●●| Culture ●●●○○ | History ●●○○○ | Wildlife ●○○○○

Tour Pace


Tour Highlights

  • The most remote and least visited area of the Sahara – a true untamed environment
  • Explore dramatic peaks - including the Sahara's highest mountain Emi Koussi
  • The opportunity to view ancient rock carvings and paintings
  • Experience otherworldly landscapes
  • Meet Tubu villagers and nomads
  • Descend to the bottom of a volcanic crater at Trou Au Natron
  • Sandstone cathedrals of the Ennedi Massif
  • Camp wild under the vast Saharan sky

Accommodation: Camping except in N’Djamena where you will stay in a comfortable hotel
Included Meals: Daily breakfast (B), plus lunches (L) and dinners (D) as shown in the itinerary.
Group Size: Maximum of 16
Start Point: N’Djamena
End Point: N’Djamena
Transport: 4WD
Countries: Chad

Tour Itinerary Notes

While our intention is to adhere to the day-by-day itinerary as printed below, however with an expedition such as this a degree of flexibility is built in. Overnight stops may vary from those suggested and on occasions alternative accommodation, of a similar standard to that named below may be used.

Tour Guide

Our guides are a key strength, chosen for their knowledge of and passion for the areas in which they work. On this tour, your guide may be local or European but they will be based in the region. We may also you specialist guides local to their specific region. Unlike some companies it should be noted we do not send a guide or tour leader from Undiscovered Destinations in the UK as we have every confidence in our locally appointed representative who is responsible for operating the tour on our behalf. Where possible you will have the same guide throughout your trip but on occasions it may be necessary to change the guide at one or more points during the tour.

Day 1 – N’Djamena

Arrive in N’Djamena and transfer to the hotel. Overnight Mercure Hotel or similar.


Chad’s capital sits on the Chari River, opposite the Cameroonian town of Kousseri on the western bank. It’s a relatively recent creation, having been founded in 1900 by the French and originally named Fort Lamy after an officer who had recently been killed ‘pacifying’ the region. It’s quite a spread out city, with wide boulevards which are unfortunately now mainly devoid of the trees that they once sported, these having been chopped down to remove cover for rebel forces during the city’s turbulent past. There are few specific sights in the city, but if you’re arriving early or staying on after the tour you might want to have a wander through the central market, which is quite interesting.

Days 2 and 3 – N’Djamena - Abeche

We set off on our expedition firstly on an asphalt road via Bahr el Ghazal. Upon reaching the large village of Massaguet, we take an easterly route through an area of authentic Sahelian Africa with numerous villages and markets. We will pass the settlements of Ab Toyour, Bitkine, Mongo and Oum Hadjer through the beautiful and lively region of Guera, punctuated by its granite peaks. The village of Ab Toyouris dominated by the granite peak known as Vultures Mountain. We will spend some time admiring the beautiful landscapes. We arrive in Abeche, the ancient capital of Chad and nowadays the capital of the Ouaddai region and one of the most important centres of the whole country. Overnights camping (BLD) 

Days 4, 5 and 6 – Kalait – Bichagara – Borkou

From Abeche we swap the asphalt road surface for a northbound track towards the village of Biltine. After the small village of Arada, the Sahelian environment transforms more towards the desert with death dunes and low vegetation prominent. We may see nomadic herders along the way. We reach Kalait, a true Saharan crossroads for trade. We are now in a true desert region on the southern borders of the Ennedi, inhabited by populations of Gaeda, Tama and Zagawa nomadic tribes. We continue northwards along the western (and most jagged) edge of Ennedi Massif. In the gorgeous tassilli region of Bichigara we witness the sandstone cathedrals of the Ennedi, separated by sandy plains and scattered dunes, an area of unrivalled beauty. Here we will see some beautiful rock art from the Bovidian period. We continue north to reach the oasis of Ouei, an important place for the Toubou clans to obtain water for their herds. Overnights are spent camping. (BLD)

Days 7 and 8 – Borkou – Yarda - Kouroudi

We are now in the Borkou region, where dunes and palm groves alternate seamlessly. A sandy track will take us on to the plateau of Yarda surrounded by its characteristic sandstone tassilli where we reach a small oasis and a settlement of Toubou with their huts mad of banco. We continue through a landscape of sedimentary rock formations being constantly shaped by the Saharan winds and surrounded by canyons and dunes. We arrive at the oasis of Orori where we will discover the lifestyle of the Toubou nomads who have inhabited this area for centuries. We should also be able to view some ancient rock art in this area. We reach the small village of Kouroudi nestled in a stunning tassilli environment. Overnights are spent camping.  (BLD)

Days 9, 10 and 11 – Emi Koussi – Enneri Miski – Bini Erde – Tarso Tieroko – Yebbi Bou

We continue to the Emi Koussi plateau, driving around the western edge of the volcano – the highest mountain in the Sahara at 3415m. We spend time exploring the area around Emi Koussi. We follow the course of the Enneri Miski, surrounded by tassilli rock formations, where paintings and rock engravings show evidence of prehistoric civilisation. To our west we see the peaks of the majestic Tarso Tieroko. Excursions on foot allow us to learn a little more about the region. We continue to the well of Birni Erde, very important for the Teda people, who have built a small village nearby. Heading through the mountains our track takes us sometimes through natural gorges and at other times across stony hills. We drive towards Yebbi Bou, a typical Toubou village. Nearby a deep canyon is home to one of the prettiest palm groves in the region. Overnights are spent camping. (BLD)

The Tubu

The Tubu live in Chad and Niger, in some of the most inhospitable parts of the Sahara desert, and on this trip we will meet many Tubu villagers and nomads. With dark skin but almost European features, their origins are rather a mystery to researchers, with the current best guess being that they descend from a mixture of Berbers and Bantu Africans. The Tubu are made up of two main groups, the Teda of the Tibesti and the Daza further south, and within that are comprised of numerous clans. There are around 200,000 Tubu today. Up until relatively recently they had had little contact with outsiders and even now are rather wary of strangers – this particularly manifests itself in an aversion to photography and we ask that you follow your tour leader’s guidelines on this to avoid any problems.

Emi Koussi and the Tibesti Mountains

The Tibesti are a group of volcanic mountains – no longer active – on Chad’s northern border with Libya. They are home to the highest peaks in the Sahara, with Emi Koussi taking the title at 3415m high. Different from the more gentle Ennedi Mountains to the south east, the Tibesti are characterised by jagged peaks and seem rather unforgiving in comparison. The Tibesti are home to numerous cave paintings dating back 3-5000 years, showing that this area has been populated for some time. This is possibly the most remote and inaccessible part of the Sahara, but is home to the Teda group of Tubu people, who live in small villages and the main towns Zouar, Bardai and Aozou. It is also rumoured that they are home to a small population of African wild dogs.

Days 12 and 13 – Zumri - Bardai

Skirting across the gorges of Yebbigué, the track alternates between hard and rocky stretches to long routes into the green ‘enneri’ (wadis) of acacias and tamarisks; we head around the Tarso Voon and Tarso Toon, two imposing volcanic structures. In the Enneri Zoumri valley we shall find some green oases. Bardai, situated at 1000m altitude on a ledge of striking mountains, is the main town of the region. This oasis is just emerging from many years of terrible war and starting to take its place once more as an important trading post – although small, it is the only one for hundreds of kilometres.  Overnights are spent camping. (BLD)

Days 14 and 15 – Bardai - Trou au Natron

We ascend in altitude, travelling past the Oudinger Gorges until we reach a height of 2200m. At the top, the crater of Trou au Natron appears. A white surface of sodium covers the bottom of the crater and it is used as a salt pasture for the animals, accompanied there by Tubu, after a precarious descent amongst the crags. We descend on foot to the bottom, then return to meet our vehicles. Overnights are spent camping. (BLD)

Day 16 – Region of Zouar

The track that takes us to the plateau of Enneri Tao at 650m of height is difficult, but the sight on the horizon of the first dunes of the Erg of Bilma and, to the north, the view of the spires of Sissé, more than makes up for it. We head towards Zouar, home of the Dardai, the spiritual and traditional leader of Tubu families of Tibesti. Overnight camping. (BLD)

Days 17, 18 and 19 – Zouar – Marmar - Faya

We arrive at the oasis of Zouar, residence of the Derde, spiritual and traditional leader of the Toubou families of the Tibesti. The Derde represents the highest political and religious authority among the Teda of Tibesti. We should be able to explore the village and the picturesque market. We leave Zouar and traverse rocky buttresses and enter the beautiful region of Marmar, in which isolated high rocky peaks dot the sandy soil. We are now in true desert environment characterised by beautiful dunes. After exploring this area we return to the Borkou region and reach the oasis of Faya, whose palm groves are the most lush and important in the entire region. Overnights are spent camping. (BLD)

Faya Largeau

Faya Largeau is situated on one of the routes which connected, in the past, the rich Fezzan ‘cities’ to the empires of Kanem and Bornou. It was conquered by French people at the beginning of this century. There is a deep contrast between the Saharan character of its buildings, its colourful market and the poignant relics of the war with Libya.

Days 20, 21 and 22 – The Journey South to N’Djamena  

Our journey south starts with a crossing of around 80km’s of difficult dunes. After crossing the dunes, we arrive at the beginning of Bahr el Ghazal where clusters of diatom fossils are present, evidence of climatic periods when Lake Chad stretched up to the southern reaches of the Tibesti. Along the Bahr we cross the village of Kouba Oulanga, also known as the ‘depression of the acacias’. We visit the village of Salal, made up of a few houses constructed from banco arranged around an abandoned colonial fort. The track then follows the Bahr el Ghazal depression also known as the river of gazelles. Groundwater reserves here are close to the surface and as a result there is lush vegetation comprising of different acacia and dum palms. We take the road for Massakory crossing the savannah where herds of zebu and sheep graze. At this point we take the last part of our journey back to N’Djamena on asphalt road. We arrive back in the afternoon where day use rooms will be available before your transfer to the airport for your evening departure. Overnights camping until arrival in N’Djamena (BLD)

Arrival and departure transfers
All accommodation on a twin share basis
Services of English speaking guide / tour leader
Meals as listed (B – Breakfast, L – Lunch, D – Dinner)
Entrance fees for sites listed as part of the itinerary

International flights
Travel Insurance
Items of a personal nature
Tips (discretionary)

Other tours in Chad

Chad - Discover Zakouma »

Chad - Gerewol Festival »

Chad - Soul of the Sahara »