The Sanctuary of Poseidon is an archaeological site perched on the southernmost tip of Attica, popular for a half-day trip from Athens. I don’t live far away from Sounion and FINALLY visited last week. (Twice, actually, because I left with only half the information I needed the first time. #organised)
My favourite time was at sunset. It was beautiful and surprisingly not too crowded, even in the middle of August. I heard that unless you go early to miss the tour groups, it can be much busier in the day. That wasn’t the case during my day visit. But it was very windy, so perhaps tours were cancelled.
Temple Of Poseidon Sunset over the Aegean Sea
I recommend this if you’re doing more than one day in Athens, depending on what else you want to see. Either way, a visit to the ancient temple, a dip in the sea at the nearby beach and then some traditional Greek food at one of the local tavernas sounds like a good trip to me.
Let’s look at what the site’s all about and how’s best to visit.
Archaeological site of Sounion
Temple of Poseidon Location
The ancient site is along the Athens Riviera at modern-day Cape Sounion, a lovely spot. On a clear day, you can see several islands from the cliff. You can see the Greek islands of Kea, Kythnos and Serifos in one direction. In the other, you can see Aegina and then beyond to the Peloponnese.
Sea views from the temple dedicated to the god Poseidon
Getting to the Sounion Temple of Poseidon
Organised Tours to the Temple of Poseidon
There are various group and private tour options, including the Cape Sounion sunset tour.Joining an organised tour and leaving all the planning to someone else is the easiest way to visit.
If you go on a group tour, check what’s included. Variations might include:
- hotel pick up and drop-off
- a guided tour of the site
- some time doing other activities like visiting the beach and/or
- a taverna visit
- a stop at some other spots like Lake Vouliagmeni or the Thorikos Archaeological Site
If you choose a private trip, check whether it’s an actual tour or more of a private transfer to Sounion. Your private driver will likely be very knowledgeable, but they probably won’t be a licensed tour guide to take you around the site. That’s not necessarily a bad option, just make sure you get what you’re looking for.
By Rental Car
If you like to go at your own pace, then driving yourself is the best way to go. Once you’re out of central Athens, it’s straightforward. You basically just head out on the coast road and keep the sea on your right through Glyfada, Vouliagmeni and then on to Sounion. I used Google Maps to keep me right, but it’s signed too.
Looking back at the sea view on the way to the iconic Temple of Poseidon
You get great views of the Aegean Sea as you drive along the coastal road. And you’ll see the imposing temple before you as you come along the last bends.
View of the ancient Greek temple in the distance
You might like this option if you’re staying along the Athens Riviera or one of the neighbourhoods that are not in the very centre of Athens.
It’s also easy to get to from Athens airport, and it’s very close to Lavrio Port.
There’s a small car park to the right of this funny junction in the road where you cross over to drive on the left.
The road loops round in front of the site entrance, and there are various parking spaces around the loop. Park there if you can; otherwise, it’s quite a steep walk uphill.
When I went at sunset, all those spaces were full, and a number of coaches and mini-buses were double parked, too.
The car park was also busy, and I ended up parking further back along the road, where there was plenty of space. On my second visit, there were spaces at the top of the hill, and the car park was empty.
Important Note: I’ve heard a few reports of cars getting broken into at Cape Sounion, even when there were no valuables on display. Take everything with you and don’t leave anything in the car.
KTEL bus to Sounion
You can use public transportation if you’d prefer not to drive or join an organised group. But it’s not quick, and options are limited.
Bus Schedule for Athens to Sounion
It’s probably a good idea to check the most recent bus timetable from Athens to Sounion before you go. Travel time from Athens is about two hours.
As I’m writing this, there are only three departures per day from Athens:
Bus timetable Athens to Cape Sounion for the Temple of Poseidon:
- 16:30 – take this one for the sunset
Cape Sounion to Athens bus times:
- 20:50 last bus
These times from Athens are from the bus stance here at Victoria, close to Victoria metro station and in my experience, the bus leaves on time. It’s also comfortable, air-conditioned and the driver was friendly.
The bus says Sunion on the front but the LED display doesn’t show up on my photo!
It’s not the nicest neighbourhood, and the bus stops at this more central stop at Syntagma about 10 minutes after the scheduled departure times.
The bus also stops at Sygrou–Fix Metro station close to the Grand Hyatt and Intercontinental if you’re staying there.
If you’re at the Mariott close to Flisvos Marina, you can also get on at this stop about 15 minutes after the departure times above.
You’ll need to flag the bus down to stop at these points.
Sounion bus stop at Sytagma is outside Eurobank and the Sytagma Car Park
I got on the 14:30 bus in late August, and while it was quite busy, it wasn’t full. There were several available seats for people getting on at the city centre and beyond. But if you’re going for sunset, it might be worth getting on at the first stop in case the bus is very busy and no seats are left.
Tickets cost 6.30 euro single and 12.50 euro return. You pay for your ticket on the bus, but ages after you get on, so just go and find a seat (on the right-hand side for the best views of the sea). You’ll need to pay in cash, but normally, there’s no problem changing notes.
Getting Back to Athens on the Bus
Should the bus back be full or you miss it, then you’ll either need to get a taxi all the way back to Athens, or get it to take you to Saronida for the 122 bus to Elliniko Metro. (Red Line, 15 minutes to Acropoli station). If you get stuck trying to order a taxi, I’m sure the hotel by the beach would help you.
At the Temple of Poseidon Site
Temple of Poseidon Tickets
The Temple of Poseidon entrance fee is 10 euro between April and October.
Concessions are 5 euro:
- Non-EU visitors aged 6 – 25 if you show a passport with birth date
- EU visitors over the age of 65 on production of ID or passport
If you visit between November and March the entrance fee is 5 euro for everyone.
Entrance is free for all EU-visitors up to the age of 25 and for everyone on the following dates:
- First Sunday of the month between November and March
- 6th March
- 18th April
- 18th May
- last weekend of September
- 28th October
There’s no official website for the Temple of Poseidon, so be aware of that if you’re buying tickets in advance. I think it was part of the odysseus.culture.gr official site, but that hasn’t been working for a while now.
Temple of Poseidon Opening Hours: 09:30 until 20 minutes before sunset. People were being turned away when I left, so make sure you’re there in good time if you go in the evening.
The site is also closed on the following dates:
- 1st January
- 25th March
- Orthodox Easter
- 1st May
- 25th and 26th December
Facilities at the Temple of Poseidon site include:
- a bar for takeaway drinks and snacks like ice cream packets of biscuits
- a decent restaurant that’s open after sunset (until about 21:30 in summer)
- toilet block and a disabled toilet, plus a few extra toilets beside the bar
- souvenir shop
- museum shop
My tasty lunch at the restaurant
View of the restaurant and shops
In terms of accessibility, there’s a ramp alternative to the steps to get onto the site and then up to the temple. The ramp to the temple particularly looked quite steep but I’m no expert on these things.
History of the Poseidon Temple
This temple is part of the sacred triangle with some of the most famous archaeological sites like the Hephaisteion in Athens and the Temple of Aphaia Athena on Aegina island.
In Greek mythology, Poseidon is the Greek God of the Sea. There’s a famous bronze statue in the National Archaeological Museum that’s thought to be of the sea god Poseidon (or his brother, Zeus). The statue is poised to throw something, and if it is a depiction of Poseidon, then it would have been his 3-pronged trident.
The famous temple that poet Lord Byron defaced with his signature!
Anyway, the ruined temple of Poseidon at Sounion, dedicated to the sea deity, is aptly perched high on the rocks. It’s at the tip of the Sounion peninsula – the southernmost point of Attica – with endless views of the Aegean.
Religious temples were important to the ancient Greeks, and several were built here. The remains you’ll visit are from a Doric temple, made from local white marble and completed in 400 B.C.
It was built on the site of an earlier temple. The older temple was from the archaic period, and it was destroyed before completion during the Persian invasion.
Fifteen of the original Doric columns survive today. They’re unique in that they were cut with only 16 grooves instead of the normal 20. The fluting was created like this so less surface area was exposed to the sea spray, reducing erosion from the elements.
It’s thought to have been built by the same architect who designed the Doric Temple of Hephaestus in the Ancient Agora of Athens.
Temple of Athena
As well as the main site, there was also a sanctuary for Athena. The most recent temple built for her there was Ionic, with an altar at the south. Previously, there’d been a Doric temple, but the Persians destroyed that archaic temple too.
You can see the remains if you follow the path opposite the car park. There’s little to see, but the views are great, and it’s a peaceful spot to sit.
Other Things to Do in Sounion
There’s a sandy stretch next to the archaeological site with crystal clear water. It’s not really a small beach, but most of it is taken over with sunbeds and umbrellas from a hotel. There is space to put down your towel in the “unorganised” part, and you can rent the sunbeds from the hotel, too.
The beds are 20 – 40 euro depending on the level of service and whether you go in the week or at the weekend. The hotel has decent toilets and a parking area that you can use and there are a couple of restaurants around the beach as well.
Lavrio is a nearby town and home to Lavrio Port for ferries to Kea and Kythnos. It’s about 15 minutes from Sounion and the main thing you’d want to visit is the archaeological museum. It’s only small but it has several items from ancient Greece found at Sounion amongst other places. Note it’s closed on Tuesdays.
Visit Thorikos Archaeological Site
Thorikos is an ancient settlement and quite an important site. But like many others in the country, it’s been left to go to ruin. What’s interesting is the ancient theatre. The first phase of build was completed in the 6th Century B.C., so it’s one of Greece’s oldest surviving theatres.
It’s also unique because of its shape. Instead of being circular like others in Greece, it’s an elliptical shape. (I never really understand what that means, but I think it’s like an oblong.) The orchestra pit is rectangular.
The place is open, and you can just walk straight up; you don’t need to pay. There’s nothing else around it except a beach straight across.
Other Information About Athens
If you’re thinking about visiting Athens’ Temple of Poseidon in the evening – I recommend it – here are some other things to do in Athens at night. If you’re spending some time around the Riviera you could go and visit the Sea Turtle Rescue Centre at Glyfada.
For those of you who are going to Sounion as part of a layover at Athens Airport, here are some suggestions for hotels to stay at near Athens International. Here’s a post I wrote about the best Greek airlines for island-hopping if you’re wondering about that.
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