Most interesting landmarks of Libya

Below are listed the most amazing natural and man made landmarks of Libya.

Natural landmarks of Libya

Impact craters
  • BP Crater – Kufra. Old, eroded, but nevertheless visible impact crater. Diameter – 2 km, less than 120 million years old.
  • Dar al Gani meteorite field – Jufra. A desert plateau – a famous site where more than 1,200 meteorites have been found with total mass over 690 kg. Meteorites here have accrued over an extended time period.
Natural arches
Afzejare Arch, Libya
Afzejare Arch / Rob Glover, / CC BY-SA 2.0
  • 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.
  • Tin Khlega Arches (Fezzi Jaren Arches) – Ghat. Group of large natural arches – a block of rock standing on several tilted columns. Largest arch has a span of 11 m and a height of 18.6 m. There are numerous other spectacular arches in Akakus Plateau.
Caves and sinkholes
  • Bukarma pit – Benghazi. 101 m deep pit, contains 78 m deep lake.
  • Lethe Cave – Benghazi. Large cave chamber with brackish lake. This is the supposed legendary site of the Lethe River of Forgetfulness.
  • Umm al Nasabih – Zawiya (?). Longest known cave in Libya, 3,593 m long. Cave has formed in Bir Al Ghanam gypsum formation and has 12 entrances.
Derna Falls, Libya
Derna Falls / Maher27777, , public domain
  • Derna Falls – Derna. Some 20 m tall waterfall which starts from the spring. Water is rich with lime and along the waterfall have formed deposits of tufa.
  • Ras al Helal Falls (Balfo Falls) – Jabal al Akhdar. Tall waterfall, also starting from the spring which precipitates tufa.
Fossil finds
  • Petrified forest in Ubari Erg – Wadi al Shatii. Remains of petrified wood in desert. Largest pieces of wood are up to 20 m long and are 90 – 95 million years old. Prehistoric tools have been made from this material.

Man made landmarks of Libya

Rock and cave art
Engraving of elephant in Tadrart Acacus mountains. There are no elephants in Libya nowadays
Engraving of elephant in Tadrart Acacus mountains. There are no elephants in Libya nowadays / Luca Galuzzi, / CC BY-SA 2.5
  • Mogharet el Kantara (Shaw’s Cave) – Kufra. Shallow, wide cave with fine cave paintings. Drawings for most part show cattle and homestead scenes.
  • 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.
  • Wadi Mathendous – Wadi Al Hayaa. This site is very rich with high quality prehistoric rock engravings which are created some 8,000 years ago. Site contains engravings of elephants, giraffes, crocodiles – animals which became extinct here millenia ago. One drawing shows huge herd of giraffes, each animal is some 2 m high. In this region – Mesak Settafet – are found numerous other sites with petroglyphs.
Landmarks of Garamantes
Germa pyramids - necropolis of Garamantes, Libya
Germa pyramids – necropolis of Garamantes / Franzfoto, / CC BY-SA 3.0
  • Germa (Garama) – Wadi al Hayaa. Abandoned desert city, a capital of Garamantes which flourished in the 2nd – 3rd century AD. Captured by Arabs in the 7th century AD.
  • Zinchecra (Zankakrah) – Wadi al Hayaa. Abandoned fortress town on the top of hill. The first capital of Garamantes which flourished in the 9th – 1st century BC. Circular buildings were built here initially, the village was enclosed in a wall.
  • 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.
Other prehistoric landmarks
  • Haua Fteah Cave – Jabal al Akhdar. 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 whole North Africa.
  • Igidi Wan Kassa stone settings (Igidi Wa-n-Kassan) – Ghat. Unusual stone settings from large, upright stones which form narrow, winding corridors. Length of these corridors is up to 28 m.
  • Slonta Grotto – Jabal al Akhdar. Very old cult site, mentioned by Herodotus in 500 BC. Petroglyphs are carved in the walls.
Landmarks of Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans
Ruins of Sabratha, Libya
Ruins of Sabratha / Felix O, / CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Apollonia – Jabal al Akhdar. Ancient port city of Cyrene, founded by Greek colonists. Now the city is partly inundated due to earthquakes. Here are ruins of three churches but especially impressive is the Greek theatre.
  • Arch of Marcus Aurelius – Tripoli. The only visible remains of Roman structures in Tripoli. Arch was built in the 2nd century AD.
  • 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 Cave of Apollo – approximately 300 m long natural underground passage.
  • Leptis Magna – Murqub. Some of the best preserved Roman ruins. This city was founded by Phoenicians sometimes around 1000 BC and in the 1st century AD was incorporated into Roman Empire. Abandoned sometimes around 650 AD.
  • Ptolemais – Al Marj. Well preserved ruins of ancient city, most likely founded in the 7th – 6th century BC. Later it became Roman city and was important centre until 428 AD, when it was destroyed by Vandals. City contains an extensive network of underground passages.
  • Sabratha – Zawiya. Ruins of historical city which was established by Phoenicians sometimes around 500 BC or local people earlier. Later it was a city in Massinissa and Roman city. Notable structure is the three storied theatre, as well as temples of Liber Pater, Serapis and Isis, Christian Basilica of Justinian. Decline of the city started in 365 AD.
  • Senam Semana – Murqub. Group of 17 ancient Roman olive presses, which for a while where considered to be prehistoric megaliths – trilithons. There are other groups of such olive presses too – f.e. Kherbet Agoub.
Historical towns and cities
Covered walkways in Ghadames, Libya
Covered walkways in Ghadames, Libya / , / CC BY 2.0
  • 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.
  • Ghadames – Nalut. Beautiful, walled desert town with excellent infrastructure providing a protection from heat. One of ways to avoid the heat are covered walkways between the buildings. City first mentioned in the 1st century BC.
  • Siwa Oasis – Matruh. Oasis which has been inhabited since prehistoric times. The old centre contains ancient fortress, remains of ancient oracle and numerous adobe buildings. Historical centre has high density of structures, many are abandoned.
  • Tarmeisa – Jabal al Gharbi. Hilltop village, almost abandoned. This ancient Berber village is surrounded by dramatic mountain scenery, houses are adorned with ancient ornaments. Village can be accessed through underground passages.
  • Tripoli Old City – Tripoli. Well preserved, albeit dirty and dilapidated historical centre of Tripoli, with fortification walls still standing.
Other man made landmarks of Libya
Quasr al Hajj granary, Libya
Quasr al Hajj granary / , / CC BY 2.0
  • Athrun Churches – Derna. Group of Byzantine churches, now in ruins. Churches were built in the ancient Greek colony of Athrun and have magnificent location with Mediterranean sea in the background.
  • Atiq Mosque – Al Wahat. Old mosque, built in the 12th century in vernacular style from adobe and limestone. It has 21 conical domes which provide light and ventilation.
  • 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.
  • Quasr al Hajj granary – Jabal al Gharbi. Enormous, fortified granary. This structure has oval form and multiple smaller premises for the grain supplies of local families.
  • Tripoli Cathedral – Tripoli. Ornate cathedral, built in Neo-Romanesque style in 1928. Now converted into a mosque.

Described landmarks of Libya

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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. Highlights 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.

Featured: Leptis Magna

Theatre in Leptis Magna, Libya
Theatre / Rob Glover, Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0.

One of the best preserved Ancient Roman city in the world (next to Palmyra, Jerash, Herculanum and Pompeii) is Leptis Magna in Libya. It is beautiful tourist destination – extensive ruins, numerous art values and no hordes of tourists.

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 which offers the visitor not only the classical splendours of UNESCO World Heritage Sites such as Sabratha and Lepcis Magna, but also a hinterland which 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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