"Libya revisited" Top 5 Page for this destination Libya by TheWanderingCamel

Libya Travel Guide: 1,094 reviews and 4,148 photos

My first visit to Libya in January 2006 left me with the desire and determination to return to this fascinating, and largely unknown, country - particularly to its south-western corner - the desert region of the Fezzan and the Jebel Akakus.

That first visit introduced me to Tripoli - the White City on the Mediterranean with its walled mediaeval medina, Ottoman houses and faded Italian colonial buildings; Outside the city there were magnificent Roman ruins - Imperial Leptis Magna, seaside Sabratha and the quiet beauty of the Villa Sileen; hilltop Berber towns with their massive fortified granaries, ancient olive presses and tiny stone mosques and, 600km south, on the edge of the Sahara, the extraordinary caravan city of Ghadames.

March 2007 found me back there for a few days in Tripoli - time to explore the city again and to visit Leptis Magna and the Berber hilltop towns of Qasr el Haj and Gharyames before flying to Sebah - 800km south of Tripoli - at the beginning of a journey that would take us deep into the Fezzan and the strange landscape of the Jebel Akakus.

2009 was the year for a third visit. With another couple we ventured far and wide, starting with Tripoli and the great Roman sites of Leptis Magna and Sabratha. A road trip took us to the northern fringe of the Sahara and the Berber towns of the Jebel Nafusa and then we flew first to the east - Benghazi, the ruined Greek cities of the Jebel Akhdar and Tobruk - and finally south, back into the deep time of the Jebel Akhdar.

Each visit has taken me further in to Libya, both in distance and into an appreciation of the people, the history and the landscape of this extraordinary country. I count myself very lucky.

Why Libya?

The north-west region of Libya - the land around the capital, Tripoli, and into the escarpment of the Jebel Nafusa, belies the image of Libya as a land of barren desert with the occasional oasis. Named Tripolitania for the three Roman cities that once stood here, this is the coastal plain, a region of intensive agriculture. It was this that brought the Romans here - to grow olives and wheat for the empire and build the towns whose ruins tell us so much of the life here. One, Oea, now lies buried beneath Tripoli, the country's capital, but the others, Sabratha (80km west of Tripoli) and Leptis Magna (125km to the east), remain - wonderfully preserved and worth the journey to Libya alone.

But there's more....

Tripoli's a delight. With its old walled medina, beautiful harbour, the remnants of Ottoman and Italian occupations, parks, arcaded streets and excellent museum - there's plenty here to keep you wandering for days. That you can do it without any hint of hassle or pestering from a soul makes the time spent here a joy.

The fertile coastal strip gives way to the rocky scarp of the Jebel Nafusa as you head inland. Here is where you'll find miles of olive groves, flocks of sheep and ancient towns, some - like Nalut and Kbao - clinging to the hillsides and crowned with extraordinary fortified granaries, whilst others - such as Gharyan - hide their old houses under the ground - troglodyte dwellings that were both perfectly adapted to the harsh climate here and provided protection from invaders. All speak tellingly of the fierce independence of the Berber people who call this part of North Africa their home.

Once over the escarpment, the road stretches before you, the fall in the land barely discernable as you head out into the desert. There's little to watch out for apart from the occasional camels, sand drifting across the road ( this can be a real hazard) a couple of small villages and the odd clump of palm trees. If Ghadames is your destination - as it has been mine twice now - and you have made a couple of stops along the way, it will be early evening before you're there - a long day ( Ghadames is 660km from Tripoli) that has brought you to the edge of the Sahara, at a point where Libya, Algeria and Tunisia's borders meet.

Further south lies the desert region of the Fezzan - the dunes of the Urabi Sand Sea with its surprising lakes; the ghost cities of a long-lost Saharan civilization and, even further south, the Jebel Akakus with its fabulous ancient rock art - prehistoric petroglyphs and cave paintings - testament to the time when wild animals roamed here and man lived among them with their herds of cattle; and, always, the sands of the desert. Just the place for a wandering camel.

The eastern shores of the country's Mediterranean coast and the mountains behind them form the region known as Cyrenaica. 500km seperate Benghazi and Tobruk - names that carry great meaning for those with an interest in WW2 history, but there's much more than old battlefields and lonely wartime cemeteries. The Greek cities of Cyrenaica were centuries old before the upstart Romans arrived over in the west and their ruins, whether high on the hillsides of the Jebel Akhdar (Green Mountain) or down by the sea, are every bit as beautiful as those of much-better-known Leptis and Sabratha.

Practical realities

Libya really lived up to my expectations - it's a beautiful country, with so much to offer the visitor.

January's weather in 2006 was kind ... lovely sunny days and reasonably mild temperatures made sightseeing a pleasure and whilst the overcast skies in the desert meant the colours of the sunset were not spectacular they kept the intense night chill at bay.

March 2007 brought warm Spring days, almond blossom, wildflowers, fabulous sunsets - and the flying sands of a desert storm!

March 2009 repeated more of the same (including the desert sand, though this time it was what greeted us on our arrival in Tripoli) and also brought the added experience of serious cold in the mountains of the east - to the point of flurries of sleet one morning. It's not only the landscapes that bring surprises here.

There is so much that is special about Libya, it really repays the effort it takes to get there. For most visitors that will mean an organised tour of some sort - a guided tour through one of the agencies that specialize in out of the way places, a Mediterranean cruise with day stops at the ports of Tripoli and Benghazi, a safari by 4x4 or RV for those with a more adventurous bent - or more time at their disposal - perhaps. Currently, tourist visas are only available through the Government-registered travel agent with whom you have made your booking and, despite anything you may have heard to the contrary, the reality is that it is certainly not the easiest place to get to as an independent visitor. This does show signs of easing but the best advice is to contact a reputable travel agent who deals with Libyan tourism regularly to see what the current situation is at the time you are planning your trip.

  • Last visit to Libya: Mar 2009
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (49)

Comments (55)

  • icunme's Profile Photo
    Apr 13, 2011 at 10:18 AM

    This mystical, wonderous country and its people are in my thoughts and prays all these days! Want to see it all one day! Thank you for your candid view! Ciao, Carol

  • tiabunna's Profile Photo
    Mar 5, 2010 at 10:31 PM

    A superb page: content, presentation and photos. Quite a few updates since my previous visit - good that restrictions on cameras have been relaxed.

  • Robmj's Profile Photo
    Dec 20, 2009 at 1:30 PM

    Thanks for looking at some of my pages, yes I too love the middle east, Libya is one I haven't got to yet, but would like to before too long. Cheers Rob.

  • hunterV's Profile Photo
    Nov 10, 2009 at 7:11 AM

    Hello, Leyle! You have a great story to tell us about that ancient country... Shukran!

  • iandsmith's Profile Photo
    Oct 28, 2009 at 6:46 AM

    Not sure whether I should be encouraged or discouraged after reading your warning tips! Cheers, Ian.....actually, that should be ciao, currently in Italy.

  • toonsarah's Profile Photo
    Aug 30, 2009 at 12:51 PM

    A wonderful page Leyle, as always from you - atmospheric descriptions, fascinating details, & practical info. Perhaps I shouldn't read your pages - as soon as I do, I add another place to my wish-list ;-)) Let me know when remaining tips are done please

  • VeronicaG's Profile Photo
    Jun 19, 2009 at 3:11 PM

    I liked your up to date and thorough tips, Leyle! Sorry it took me so long to drop by....hope to read about your future travels soon.

  • Nemorino's Profile Photo
    Jun 5, 2009 at 12:33 PM

    Another great page! Amazing (to me, at least) that the dry, clean sand of the dunes was such a wonderful preservative for the Villa Sileen. You saw so many beautiful places -- but thanks also for your authoritative tip on the landmine situation.

  • kokoryko's Profile Photo
    Jun 4, 2009 at 1:43 PM

    I’ll have to come back to see the last updates; Libya is a fascinating country and I loved to discover the Dawada Lakes and Valley of life (death?) with you, Leyle.

  • lynnehamman's Profile Photo
    Apr 16, 2009 at 6:05 AM

    Leyle-this is an amazing page-with tips and photos that are worthy of any travel magazine or even book. I really enjoyed reading , and would love to see Libya.BTW-I love the camel pictures (those eyelashes!) Thanks

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