Ancient ruins in Timgad, Algeria is one of the most beautiful Roman sites in existence. Established on a perfect square grid, it’s a prime example of Roman town planning. No wonder why the ruins in Timgad gained the title of the Pompeii of Africa. I love to visit ancient towns, and Timgad was definitely the highlight of my trip to Algeria.
Timgad is one of the few Roman towns in Algeria. I already wrote about the Tipaza ruins – one day trip from Algiers, which were beloved of Albert Camus. I have to admit Timgad is much more impressive than Tipaza, and very well preserved (currently under UNESCO protection). Walking around the ancient ruins seems so authentic. You have the real street under your feet, hear the water canal underneath. The beautiful columns still standing almost 2000 years, what’s more the ruins of the forum, capitol, houses, and even the toilets.
Ancient Roman Ruins in the middle of nowhere?
When I got there I was surprised that I am actually far from the sea, as most of my memories of the ancient Roman towns, were on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Ancient ruins in Timgad, however, are far from any modern city, and around 170 km from the coast. Why Timgad was built there? The function of this ancient city was to control one of the main passes through the Aures Mountains to the Sahara Desert. Therefore, in 100AD Trajan, the Roman Emperor founded the military garrison town here.
Walking around ancient ruins in Timgad – what to see?
From the entrance, the path leads next to the gallery with pieces of sculptures and ancient inscriptions on the left. Soon you will see a red bricks building, standing out the stone ruins of Timgad. The Great Baths of the North, a huge public place of some 40 rooms. The baths were symmetrical, with the same latrines, warm and hot rooms on either side of the complex. The baths were originally out of the city gates.
Walking up the street you will finally enter the city of Timgad. Ruins of the houses all around and beautiful columns on the sides of the street. What a beauty!
The most interesting building on this street is the public library (for me were ancient toilets btw) . It’s special because it’s one of the only two known Roman-period public libraries, the other being in Ephesus (Turkey). If you get in, you can still see the niches for storing the ‘books’ (actually manuscript pages or parchment rolls).
Soon you will reach the center of the city, where cardo maximus – the main north–south street meets the decumanus maximus, the town’s main east–west artery. City center was a forum, large open space, surrounded by limestone Corinthian columns, statues, temple and municipal offices.
Trajan’s Arch – the pearl of Timgad
If you continue to the right you will reach the most impressive building remaining in the ancient ruins in Timgad – the Trajan’s Arch. The gate was very elegant with columns and statues. The high central passage was for chariots, the arches on the sides for pedestrians.
Going left you will be passing next to the Sertius Market up to the ruins which impressed me the most in Timgad. The capitol with huge columns still standing and some of them fallen apart. The capitol was dedicated to the gods Jupiter, Juno and Minerva. This was the most sacred place of pagan worship.
Continue walking towards the theater. Imagine, that it could host 3,500 people! From there you can admire the view at the whole ancient city of Timgad. Most of what we see today is reconstruction by French archeologists. Soldiers building the nearby fortress destroyed the original theater in 539. The Byzantines chose to build the fort outside the original settlement. You can still see the wide walls remain.
How to get to the ancient ruins in Timgad?
Timgad is far from any big cities. From Algiers or Constantine you can take a bus to Batna which is around 50 km from Timgad. From there you can search for a bus or a shared taxis to Timgad.
The whole open space of the ancient ruins has no trees, and it’s very windy. Remember to take some warm clothes, as it might be a bit colder than in other parts of the country.
The ticket to The Pompeii of Africa costs 200da, which is less than one euro, if you exchange money on the black market in Algeria. Outside the entrance, there are few souvenirs stands, where you can get some local and Chinese stuff.
I haven’t seen any hotel nearby. The closest you will get in Betna. However, I think in Constantine you will get a better choice of accommodation. Visiting Timgad is a perfect idea for a one day trip from Constantine.
Have you visited the ancient ruins in Timgad? Share your views in comments below! Let’s inspire each others!
The Bee is a nature lover and tea addict. Loves the idea of slow life and responsible traveling, constantly trying to improve to bee more eco-friendly. Appreciates old cultures and traditions, loves to immerse with locals, listen to ethnic music as well as taste regional food and drinks. Her favorite spots while traveling are family houses and street markets.
Wow that sounds super interesting. I have been obsessed with Roman ruins since I first visited Rome at 18, even finished off the History of Rome podcast recently! I would love to see these one day!
Algeria is not a place I would think of to find Roman ruins. This is fascinating! I’ve seen Hadrian’s Wall in England and ruins in Italy. Algeria looks like a great place to explore more ruins.
Indeed, they have plenty of them. And in many other countries in the North Africa too as Roman Empire was all around the Medditarenean Sea in its biggest extend.
Another great article from Algeria! I absolutely love ancient, historical places. You seem to be having a great time over there and you’re really inspiring me to visit this country (hopefully soon). Thanks for sharing and keep up the good work
Glad you like it Daniel
What a great post and something I had never known about. The Ancient ruins in Timgad is one of the most beautiful ruins I have seen and they do resemble Pompeii so much. If it wasn’t for this post would not have known even. The ruins are a photographers paradise with some brilliant views. It’s a bit touch to get to but worth the journey must say.
Thank you Amar, glad you liked it.
Timgad is a wonder to explore in the dessert of Algeria. I thought all the Roman outposts were near the sea too but it’s location probably allowed this one to survive longer. And how unique that it has one of only two Roman public libraries remaining. Perfect day trip from Constantine.
Indeed, Timgad survived thanks to the sand from the desert which covered the ruins.
Timgad Ruins in Algeria are on my wishlist to visit, especially as they seem far less busy than many of the ancient ruins around the world. I love your photography, very evocative.
THank you so much Kavita, glad you like it.
I heard these ruins were allegedly haunted! Do you think tgats true?!
I love to hear legends about souls roaming around and stories of the old places. I hear them visiting every second castle. However, I never heard about such stories when reading about Timgad. Therefore, I will be happy to read some, if you came accross such, please share.
What an incredible landmark, and one I’d never thought to expect in Algeria. For that price, I return countless times! I think it’s so impressive it’s one of the only Roman public libraries, what an accolade! I’m always in Italy, and still surprised to see this obvious Roman relic here.
Rome is some impressive, indeed. I love to find similarities to Rome in other ancien Roman towns. THis ancient culture was incredible.
I can’t believe after 2000 years the columns are still standing and I agree with you, the Trajan’s Arch is the most impressive building in the city. And I learned something new today. Apparently, the Romans also built a city that was far from the coast and you explained the reason. This is the first time I heard about this ruin. Glad I bummed to your post.
I am happy to make you come accross this stunning heritage and history which shouldn’t be forgotten. Happy travels Umiko!
I LOVE visiting ruins and had not really paid much attention to the ancient ruins of Timgad. I hadn’t spent too much time thinking about Algeria, but would love to go see it now. Thanks for the tips on bringing warm clothes- it looks warm so I may not have thought about it!
Well yeah, it can be windy there, I was surprised too 😛
I’d definitely visit Tigmad when we go to Constantine! I want to take a picture with the Trajan’s Arch, too! Hehe 🙂 As a Christian, those sites are very remarkable – it traces the historical background of Christinity from the Roman Empire. Too sad there are no hotels nearby.
You can always find some hotels in the nearby cities, no worries. Timgad is just a small little town.
Timgad has been on my wish list for 30 years, maybe this year 2022, will be the year I finally get there, thank you for some excellent info and photos!
Wish you a great trip from all my heart. Algeria has so much of history that needs to be appreciated
Enjoyed the blog on Timgad, thanks. I’d like to visit there.