ibya has a rich tradition as a crossroads for the Greeks and Romans, giving it a certain draw for those in search of cultural attractions alongside pristine beaches. Like other countries in the Maghreb region of North Africa, Libya has strong Arab influences overlapping touches of western European and Asian customs. Despite its reputation for being a rather closed country, it attracts visitors from many places, particularly academics interested in the historical sites. If you decide to go, here are the six places you must see in Libya:
In the northwestern corner of Libya, the capital sits on a rocky outcropping into the Mediterranean Sea. Meaning “Three Cities” in Greek, it was founded in the 7th century BC by the Phoenicians and has been a major trade center ever since. Many visitors head to the city’s Medina Quarter, a maze-like district maintaining the aura of the historical town in modern times. After walking through its winding streets filled with restaurants and traditional shops, take a trip to the Jamahiriya Museum, the national archaeological center and home to 5,000 years worth of artifacts.
Libya’s second-largest city, Benghazi is considered to be the most cosmopolitan of the country’s large cities. With immigrants from neighboring Egypt, Iraq, and other countries, it is more open than Tripoli and has a greater reputation for welcoming tourism. Besides having a wide variety of historical monuments and architectural styles on display – Benghazi has been ruled by the Greeks, Romans, Arabs, and Italians – some of Libya’s most beautiful beaches are along with its port.
The most famous stand-alone attraction in the country is Leptis Magna, a massive and well-preserved complex of Roman ruins 80 miles east of Tripoli. Though it was first settled more than 3,000 years ago, its greatest period of prosperity came when Lucius Septimius Severus became emperor. Originally from the area, much of the ornate building projects we see today were founded during his reign.
Much like Leptis Magna, Cyrene attracts history lovers.A former Greek colony, it is near the city of Shahhat and 130 miles east of Benghazi, recent excavations have uncovered temples to Demeter and Zeus. Originally dedicated to the god of knowledge, Apollo, it was once called “Athens of Africa.”
On the very western edge of the country, near the Algerian and Tunisian borders, Ghadames is famous for its medina district. Named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1986, for hundreds of years it was an oasis for traders crossing the Sahara Desert. Though its inhabitants have largely left the area for modern homes outside the walls, some residents return during the scorching summers to take shelter in the cooler halls of this classical Arab structure.
Those looking to see more of Libya’s natural beauty will be drawn to the Acacus Mountains along the western edge of the country. The variety of terrain in this 60-mile mountain range is remarkable. Tourists can see everything from bright orange sand dunes to stunning rock formations and deep ravines, as well as cave paintings dating to 12,000 BC.
- Leptis Magna
- Acacus Mountains
With such history and diversity, it’s difficult to decide where you’ll spend your time. Whether you’re going to get some sun or walk in the footsteps of the ancients, you can be certain Libya will have much to offer.