Few places around the Mediterranean can inspire the traveller as much as Libya. Its Greek and Roman sites are simply breathtaking and beautifully illustrate the brilliance of their cultures. The greatest site, Leptis Magna, transports you to another world and time and here, it is easy to imagine daily life in Roman times. As we take our passage through history, our guest speaker and local guides will enhance our knowledge of this epic land where once the legendary Ulysses travelled, Caesar battled with the Berbers and his Roman rivals and Belisarius, the greatest of all Byzantine generals, fought and ejected the Vandals.
There is another vital element that makes Libya so attractive. The very lack of any real tourism infrastructure means that very often the sites are oddly quiet with few other visitors.T his combined with the stunning settings where a dazzling blue sea forms a dramatic backdrop makes Libya unique. For most lovers of history, Libya remains a mystery and here is an opportunity for a small group to discover some of the most thrilling archaeological sites, as if fresh from the archaeologists’ spades. Leptis is one of the largest and least disturbed, retaining the wonderful buildings that its favourite son Septimius Severus bestowed on his home town when he became emperor. His forum, much of it still standing, is one of the largest public spaces, not just from antiquity but down to the present day.
And if the grandeur of Rome palls for just a moment, ancient Cyrene, the most important and complete Greek city in Africa, is similarly undisturbed and serenely occupies one of the most numinous sites, centred on a magnificent Doric temple to rival the best of Sicily or Paestum.
Lost Cities of Libya itinerary:
Day 1 - LONDON HEATHROW TO MALTA.
Fly by scheduled flight. Upon arrival, transfer to Valletta with its impressive harbour and embark Callisto. Sail in the early evening.
Day 2 - TRIPOLI.
Morning cruising before arriving in Tripoli at lunchtime. There will be an afternoon excursion including the National Museum. We then venture into the Old Town where, in age old fashion, merchants and customers haggle over local handicrafts and produce. We see the venerable arch of the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, the Gurgi Mosque, and the Karamanly Museum. Afterwards there will be free time to explore the souks.
Day 3 - TRIPOLI & SABRATHA.
Depart after breakfast for a full day excursion to Sabratha which began life as a Carthaginian trading post. Under the Roman’s the city flourished and the impressive ruins including temples, public baths, fountains and excellent museum are located by the sea. Lunch will be taken in a local restaurant.
Day 4 - KHOMS & LEPTIS MAGNA.
This morning, call at Khoms on Libya’s Tripolitanian coast. Nearby are the ruins of Leptis Magna, one of the Mediterranean’s most compelling ancient sites. Excellently preserved to the present day because of its burial under shifting sands, this glorious coastal city is a unique example of ancient town planning. Spend the day exploring the city’s magnificent buildings, monuments, temples and streets. Lunch will be taken in a local restaurant.
Day 5 - AT SEA.
After the last busy few days take a well earned rest and enjoy the comforts and facilities of your vessel.
Day 6 - BENGHAZI & PTOLEMAIS.
From Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city and a major commercial port, travel to the attractive area known as the Jebel Akhdar (Green Mountains) to visit the remains of Ptolemais.
Day 7 - DERNA & CYRENE.
Morning at sea; the Callisto will dock in Derna (the ancient Darnis) on Libya’s Cyrenaican coast at lunchtime. Take an afternoon excursion to Cyrene, one of North Africa’s great cities of antiquity. Founded by Greek colonists from the island of Thera (Santorini) in the 7th century B.C., Cyrene was built on the side of a hill, facing the plain and the sea. Its substantial ruins and monuments testify to its wealth and power. From here we will visit the temple of Zeus, one of the highlights of Cyrene. Reflecting Cyrene’s importance in the ancient Greek world, the Temple of Zeus was larger than the Pantheon in Athens.
Day 8 - TOBRUK.
Our last call in Libya will be Tobruk in the far east of the country close to the Egyptian border. It was here that some of the fiercest battles of the Second World War North African Campaign took place. We will visit some of the battle sites and the British War Cemetery.
Day 9 - SITIA, CRETE.
Spend the morning at sea, heading for the north eastern corner of Crete. Arrive in Sitia from where we will drive eastwards along the picturesque north coast to Vai. After a brief stop here at the natural palm forest, the largest in Europe, we continue to the 15th century Toplou Monastery. This is one of the most significant monasteries in Crete. Later, return to Sitia for a brief walking tour of this small, but charming town.
Day 10 - HERAKLION.
From our berth it is a short distance to the Palace of Knossos, legendary home of the Minotaur. Wander round the site impressively excavated by Sir Arthur Evans seeing some of the 1300 rooms adorned with lively frescoes where King Minos held court. The afternoon is at leisure for independent exploration and we will moor overnight here so take the opportunity for an after dinner stroll.
Day 11 - HERAKLION TO LONDON HEATHROW.
Return to London by scheduled flight via Athens.
The MS Callisto has a guest list which is limited to 34, a party large enough to bring together an interesting mix, but small enough to foster a true spirit of community. Beautifully appointed and filled with amenities one would expect to find in a fine country house, the 17 cabins feature large windows (portholes on the Daphne Deck) that look out to sea. Cabins also feature:
• Satellite TV, DVD/CD player
• Marble-appointed bathroom with fine toiletries
• Plush terry robes and slippers
• Decorated with rich fabrics, handsome wood, polished brass, the yacht’s public spaces are warm and inviting. These include:
• Library with Internet access
• Lounge with audiovisual facilities
• Dining room
• Two sun decks
• Swimming platform
MS Callisto’s steward and kitchen staff seek fresh provisions from many ports of call. Guests savour just caught fish and perfectly ripened produce from local markets, resulting in menus of classic regional specialties as well as creative Continental fare. Select regional wines are complimentary with lunch and dinner (wine is not permitted to be served in Libyan waters). Meals are served at a single, unassigned seating in the elegantly-styled dining room, surrounded by large picture windows. Weather permitting, guests may also dine al fresco on the broad sun decks.
An Uncommon Advantage
MS Callisto’s compact size allows visits to unspoiled islets, pristine beaches and intimate coves inaccessible to larger cruise-liners. She is both large enough to offer every possible comfort and small enough to navigate tiny inlets and berth in exclusive harbours, taking travellers where few have gone before.