Sahara Routes, Tracks &Pistes
Touring and travelling Libya can be very exciting
and as such tourists and travellers often
need to prepare for their desert adventures before
hand, by finding as much information as possible
about the Sahara routes they will be taking across
the desert. Those travelling by car also
need to know more about the condition of the
routes, tracks and pistes they will be driving
through, how good they are, and if their cars
can handle the rocky terrains. The best
way to answer these questions is to provide clear
photos about these routes and tracks so that
drivers can see for themselves what they really
Some of the Sahara routes are so natural that to travel along them
requires a desert expert - unless you are an
Some of the tracks are barely visible marks on
the ever-changing sand dunes, while other routes
were originally used by the ancient Berber Garamentes
of Fezzan. On average there are about 500 prehistoric
drawings of chariots known to exist so far, most
of which are found along two parallel tracks
running from one water well to the next: one running from Fezzan towards Goa on the Niger
bend, and the other from Orania and southern
Morocco towards Goundam.
Some of the current
tracks were originally caravan routes used by the
Tuareg and other traders of the great Sahara, to link the desert oases
with the bustling coastal centres and with the interior
of the continent. Tarmac roads, exploration tracks
and tunneling are rapidly changing this sacred
experts say the Sahara is to large for the recent
developments to have a major impact on its ecology.
Main Tourist Routes:
Ras Jdayr - Zwara - Sabratha - Tripoli - Leptis Magna - Benghazi - Cyrene -
Apollonia - Amsa'ad
- Ras Jdayr - Zwara - Nalut - Ghadames - Qaryat - Mezdah - Gharyan - Leptis
- Tripoli - Yefren - Nalut - Ghadames - Qaryat - Ash
Shwayrif - Sabha - Tkerkiba
- Daraj - Hamada - Awaynat Wnin - Adiri - Ubari Lakes - Tkerkiba - Sabha
- Ghadames - Hamada Hamra - Awaynat - Ghat
- Sabha - Tkerkiba - Ubari Lakes - Germa - Wadi Methkhendoush - Messaks - Wan Casa - Acacus
- Sabha - Ubari - Awaynat - Ghat - Acacus - Tashwinat - Wan Casa - Messak Mellet - Idehan Murzuk
- Sabha - Brach (Brak) - Sawknah - Waddan - Zillah
- Maradah - Jalu - Benghazi - Tobruk - Egyptian border
- Sabha - Zawilah -
Tmassah - Waw Al-Kabeer - Waw An-Namus - Tazerbu - Kofrah - Jalu - Benghazi
- Tmassah - Tazrrbu - Jalu - Jaghbub - Tobruk - Egyptian border
Types of Roads in Libya
- Motorways: mainly found around Tripoli (from Az-Zawiyah to Misratha,
and down to Gharyan and Tarhunah); around Sert (Surt);
and around Benghazi (from Ajdabiya to Tukrah).
- Tarmac Main Roads: these are tarmac road connecting all the major cities
and towns of Libya.
- Tarmac Connecting Roads: these are smaller than the main roads, connecting
some of the smaller villages with the major towns.
Pistes: these are traditional routes connecting remote
destinations with the nearby villages and towns:
both words (track and piste) mean the same thing,
as the word piste came into English from the French
word for "track",
which in turn was from Italian pista, from Latin pistare:
"to trample down".
Paths: these are narrow paths connecting some of
the remotest destinations and mainly used on foot,
some of which run along the mountain tops, while
others serve as short cuts from one place to another.
Road Signs in Libya:
Driving in Libya requires extra caution and vigilance.
Road signs are often in Arabic, although signs
for tourist sites, like Wadi Methkhendoush (above),
are often found in Arabic and English, and therefore
foreign drivers are faced with the dilemma of
driving without road signs, except those image-based
signs (like the camel above), which are universal.
huge distances separating Libyan cities and sites
also makes it difficult for the police to monitor
and enforce traffic regulations and as such there
are those who do not pay any attention to road
signs despite the fact that they are written
in a language they understand. There will always be people who will break the law in any country in the world, and that is why law was invented in the first place. So always assume that bad drivers are around!
Leaving Nalut for Ghadames: this is one of the main routes you need to
watch out for.
Other things to watch out for include wind-blown
sand which render visibility poor, build-up of sand mounds in the middle
of the road, stray animals crossing the road, especially camels, high
speed, reckless driving, using cell phones, and foolish drivers coming
from nowhere into the main road (this is so because some of the roads
in Libya are higher than the ground level and thus some drivers coming
up into the main road cannot see incoming cars and drive straight into
According to a recent report released by the Libyan
Ministry of Public Security, there were about
263 car accidents in Libya in one week, between the 19th and the
26th of July 2008; leading to 60
deaths and 123 injuries.
Sand Tornado (simple twister)
Sand encroaching a tarmac road.
Sometimes small sand dunes pile up right in the middle of the road; which can be very dangerous at night, if you are not familiar with the area. It is well recommended that one rests at night.
Desert Travel Tip
The pyramid stone (left) may appear puzzling to some
desert travellers and tourists. They are there
as road signs left by the Italians during the
wars, to indicate to travellers that they are
travelling in the right direction, and as such they are often found along
the desert tracks and pistes every few miles or so. They are built of
concrete, and their height is just under one meter. If you venture into
one of these tracks and take the wrong turn or junction and travel for
a while without seeing any of these interesting mini pyramids, then you
need to reconsider your position. The stone pyramid (right) is the modern
version of old Italian pyramids. Many of these stone piles, also found
along the desert pistes and tracks in various desert areas, were built
by Sahara travellers and tourists, to further contribute to the marking
system of the desert's routes and pistes; and maybe you too can build
some, if you come across an area or track which does not have any pyramids.
A Sample of Roads & Tracks in Libya
Mountain walking path
Hard mud road.
Tour operators and travel companies are not allowed to drive with their
visitors during night time.
Rural roads lack markings and therefore it is impossible
to anticipate a turn or a bend;
and littered with holes and cracks, some of which
are really dangerous even during the day, and thus
always let your operator drive ahead of you.
High speed is one of the major causes of car accidents
in Libya; please take care and drive slowly.
Which direction shall I go? Is the only odd-one-out driving in the right direction?
They know the answer?
Trees on either side of the road is a common occurrence in Libya.
This particular one is in al-Marj, near Benghazi, in Cyrenaica.