Territory

Wonders of Libya

Landscape in Tadrart Acacus mountains, Libya
Landscape in Tadrart Acacus mountains / Luca Galuzzi, / CC BY-SA 3.0

WorldBlue  Highlights

Libya, for the most part, is covered with desert. This country is enormous, f.e. distance from Tripoli to the southernmost point of Libya exceeds the distance between Tripoli and Vienna. This giant land has lots of secrets – landmarks created by long lost cultures. The most amazing wonders of Libya are:

  • Roman and Greek heritage. African provinces were among the richest in the Roman Empire and here flourished arts and sciences. Time has passed and now we can admire just ruins of these ancient cities.
  • Heritage of Garamantes. The most interesting indigenous culture in Libya is the rich and too little known culture of Garamantes which flourished in the time period between 500 BC and 700 AD. Although little mentioned today, this was a highly developed and very interesting culture, Garamantes built extensive underground irrigation systems and amazing cities.
  • Petroglyphs and cliff art. Libya has thousands of sites with high-quality paintings and petroglyphs, created over many thousands of years. Drawings often show animals which are long extinct here and thus hints at a different climate and nature in the past.

Map with the described wonders

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WorldViolet Top 25 wonders of Libya

Geological wonders

Afzejare Arch (Forzhaga Arch)

Ghat

Enormous free standing natural arch in the desert, with a span of 32 m and height of 43.5 m.

Afzejare Arch, Libya
Lethe Cave

Benghazi

Large cave chamber with brackish lake. This is the supposed legendary site of the Lethe River of Forgetfulness.

Tin Khlega Arches (Fezzi Jaren Arches)

Ghat

Group of large natural arches – a block of rock standing on several tilted columns. The largest arch has a span of 11 m and a height of 18.6 m. There are numerous other spectacular arches in Akakus Plateau.

Tin Khlega Arches (Fezzi Jaren Arches)

Archaeological wonders

Leptis Magna

Murqub

Some of the best preserved Roman ruins. This city was founded by Phoenicians around 1000 BC and in the 1st century AD was incorporated into Roman Empire. Abandoned sometimes around 650 AD.

Market in Leptis Magna, Libya
Cyrene

Jabal al Akhdar

Spectacular ruins of ancient Greek and Roman city, once the most important city of these empires in Africa, capital of Cyrenaica, a city of philosophers. Founded in 630 BC and abandoned after several devastating earthquakes in 365 AD. Contains ruins of the Temple of Apollo and necropolis. Here is located also the Cave of Apollo – approximately 300 m long natural underground passage.

Cyrene, Temple of Zeus
Sabratha

Zawiya

Ruins of a historical city that was established by Phoenicians sometime around 500 BC or local people earlier. Later it was a city in Massinissa and Roman city. The notable structure is the three-storied theatre, as well as temples of Liber Pater, Serapis, and Isis, Christian Basilica of Justinian. The decline of the city started in 365 AD.

Ruins of Sabratha, Libya
Tadrart Acacus rock paintings

Ghat

In these spectacular mountains are found numerous sites with thousands of rock paintings. Paintings have been created over an extended period of time from 12,000 BC to 100 AD. Many paintings are made in very high artistic quality, with skilled use of different colors and adjusted to the background. Most drawings show daily activities of people, hunting scenes, rituals.

Engraving of elephant in Tadrart Acacus mountains. There are no elephants in Libya nowadays
Wadi Mathendous

Wadi al Hayaa

This site is very rich with high-quality prehistoric rock engravings that were created some 8,000 years ago. The site contains engravings of elephants, giraffes, crocodiles – animals that became extinct here millennia ago. One drawing shows a huge herd of giraffes, each animal is some 2 m high. In this region – Mesak Settafet – are found numerous other sites with petroglyphs.

Engravings in Wadi Mathendous
Slonta Grotto

Jabal al Akhdar

A very old cult site that was mentioned by Herodotus already in 500 BC. Petroglyphs and sculptures have been carved in the walls.

Slonta Grotto, pre-Islamic cult site
Germa (Garama)

Wadi al Hayaa

An abandoned desert city, the capital of Garamantes that flourished in the 2nd – 3rd century AD. Captured by Arabs in the 7th century AD.

Germa Old City
Senam Semana

Murqub

Group of 17 ancient Roman olive presses that for a while where considered to be prehistoric megaliths – trilithons. There are other groups of such olive presses too – f.e. Kherbet Agoub.

Apollonia (Libya)

Jabal al Akhdar

The ancient port city of Cyrene, founded by Greek colonists. Now the city is partly inundated due to earthquakes. Here are the ruins of three churches but especially impressive is the Greek theatre.

Greek theatre in Apollonia, Libya
Germa pyramids (Jerma, Jarmah) (Ahramat al-Hattya)

Wadi al Hayaa

Necropolis in the former capital of Fazzan – Kingdom of Garamantes, created in the 1st – 4th century AD.

Germa pyramids - necropolis of Garamantes, Libya
Arch of Marcus Aurelius

Tripoli

The only visible remains of Roman structures in Tripoli. The arch was built in the 2nd century AD.

Arch of Marcus Aurelius in Tripoli
Haua Fteah Cave

Jabal al Akhdar

A spectacular, wide, and shallow cave, up to 20 m high, 40 m deep, and 85 m wide. Cave has served as a shelter for extended periods of time, cultural deposits are more than 12.5 m deep. Excavations in this cave have provided valuable information about the history of the whole of North Africa.

Ptolemais

Marj

Well preserved ruins of an ancient city, most likely founded in the 7th – 6th century BC. Later it became a Roman city and was an important center until 428 AD when it was destroyed by Vandals. The city contains an extensive network of underground passages.

Ptolemais in Libya. ruins of villa
Zinchecra (Zankakrah)

Wadi al Hayaa

Abandoned fortress town on the top of a hill. The first capital of Garamantes flourished in the 9th – 1st century BC. Circular buildings were built here initially, the village was enclosed in a wall.

Architecture wonders

Ghadames

Nalut

A beautiful, walled desert town with excellent infrastructure providing protection from heat. One of the ways to avoid the heat is covered walkways between the buildings. City first mentioned in the 1st century BC.

Covered walkways in Ghadames, Libya
Tarmeisa

Jabal al Gharbi

Hilltop village, almost abandoned. This ancient Berber village is surrounded by dramatic mountain scenery, houses are adorned with ancient ornaments. The village can be accessed through underground passages.

Tarmeisa
Ksar Nalut

Nalut

Typical ksar – fortified granary, built in the 11th century on the hilltop to make its defense easier. It is abandoned since the 1960s.

Ksar Nalut
Quasr al Hajj granary

Jabal al Gharbi

Enormous, fortified granary. This structure has an oval form and multiple smaller premises for the grain supplies of local families.

Quasr al Hajj granary, Libya
Tripoli Old City

Tripoli

Well preserved, albeit dirty and dilapidated historical center of Tripoli with its fortification walls still standing.

Old Tripoli, fortification walls
Atiq Mosque

Al Wahat

An old mosque, built in the 12th century in vernacular style from adobe and limestone. It has 21 conical domes that provide light and ventilation.

Garian troglodyte houses

Jabal al Gharbi

In earlier times local people built their houses underground to escape the heat in summer and cold in winter. There was made central courtyard – a hole in the ground with entrances into several underground apartments. One such house has been well preserved since 1666 and now serves as an exclusive hotel.

Tripoli Cathedral

Tripoli

Ornate cathedral, built in Neo-Romanesque style in 1928. Now converted into a mosque.

WorldYellow Recommended books

Tripolitania (Libya Archaeological Guides)


This is the first in a new series of guides to the archaeology of Libya, from prehistoric times until the invasion of the Bani Hilal in AD 1051. It deals with a region that offers the visitor not only the classical splendors of UNESCO World Heritage Sites such as Sabratha and Lepcis Magna but also a hinterland that is rich in standing monuments of the Punic, Roman, and early Islamic periods.

Libya – Culture Smart!: The Essential Guide to Customs & Culture


Culture Smart! provides essential information on attitudes, beliefs, and behavior in different countries, ensuring that you arrive at your destination aware of basic manners, common courtesies, and sensitive issues. These concise guides tell you what to expect, how to behave, and how to establish a rapport with your hosts.


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