Situated on the Attica Peninsula’s southernmost tip it takes only an hour to get to Cape Sounion from Athens where the Temple of Poseidon resides. An architectural masterpiece, this ancient Greek temple is an icon of Greek mythology, attracting thousands of visitors every year worldwide.
This enchanting archaeological marvel has captivated hearts and minds for centuries, offering visitors a glimpse into the distant past of a civilization that gave birth to democracy, philosophy, and the arts.
What is the Temple of Poseidon?
The Temple of Poseidon, located on Cape Sounion in Greece, holds a rich and storied history that dates back over 2500 years and is one of the most significant archeological and mythology sites in Greece.
Construction of the Temple occurred during the Golden Age of Athens between 444-4000 BCE and it is believed that the architect design the Temple of Hephaestus at the Ancient Agora. It is thought that the temple was built upon the ruins of an earlier structure, possibly a smaller temple dedicated to Poseidon, indicating the significance of the site to the ancient Greeks.
The temple’s strategic location atop the cliffs of Cape Sounion served both practical and symbolic purposes. From its elevated vantage point, it offered unobstructed views of the Aegean Sea, allowing ancient sailors to catch sight of the land as they approached the Athenian coastline. It also served as a prominent marker for seafarers, guiding them through treacherous waters and providing a sense of security and divine protection.
The Temple of Poseidon endured periods of destruction and restoration throughout its existence. In 480 BCE, during the Greco-Persian Wars, the temple fell victim to the marauding forces of the Persian Empire, which laid waste to many Greek sanctuaries. However, the Athenians rebuilt the temple, displaying their resilience and determination to restore their sacred site.
Over the centuries, the Temple of Poseidon experienced alternating periods of reverence and neglect. The decline of the ancient Greek civilisation and the rise of Christianity brought about a shift in religious practices, causing the temple to lose its prominence. It fell into disrepair, succumbing to the ravages of time and natural elements.
In the 19th century, the temple regained recognition and appreciation during the Romantic era, when the allure of ancient ruins captivated the imagination of artists, writers and poets. Figures such as Lord Byron, who famously etched his name on one of the temple’s columns, contributed to its renewed popularity and brought international attention to its historical significance.
Today, the Temple of Poseidon is a cherished archaeological site and a popular destination for visitors worldwide. Its timeless beauty, perched on the edge of the Aegean Sea, offers a glimpse into ancient Greece’s architectural prowess and spiritual devotion.
As visitors stand amidst the weathered columns and gaze upon the vast expanse of the sea, they become part of an enduring legacy that celebrates the power of Poseidon and the enduring spirit of human achievement.
How to get to Cape Sounion from Athens
Temple of Poseidon from Athens
You have several options to reach the majestic Temple of Poseidon from Athens.
If you prefer a self-guided journey, hopping in a car and driving southeast towards the coastal town of Lavrio is the most convenient. Following the Lavrio-Sounion Avenue will lead you directly to Cape Sounion from Athens and takes around one to two hours, depending on traffic conditions and stops.
Alternatively, you can opt for public transportation by taking the Athens Metro to the ‘Elliniko’ station on Line 2 (Red Line) and then catching bus line 122, which runs from Elliniko to Sounion. The bus ride takes about two hours, and upon reaching Sounion, you can walk or take a short taxi ride to the temple.
For a hassle-free experience with insightful commentary, organised tours & drivers from Athens to the Temple of Poseidon are also available, offering transportation, a guide, and sometimes additional stops at nearby attractions, including dinner at one of the excellent seafood tavernas nearby.
Opening hours and admission price
The Temple of Poseidon is open daily from 10 am to ‘sunest, which of course varies throughout the year. Admission closes 20 minutes before sunset.
During the peak summer period, which runs from 1st April to 31st October, it will cost you 8 euros to enter the site. However, if you are a Greek or European senior citizen over 65 with a valid identification card, you can enter the site for just 4 euros. This concessional price also applies to students and people under 18 from non-EU countries.
During the off-peak winter season (1st November – 31st March), ticket prices are 4€ for adults.
At all times of the year, young people under 18 with valid ID, unemployed Greek citizens with ID and a current, valid unemployment card and all visitors with disabilities are given free admission.
Throughout the year, there are several days when admission is free for everyone. They are March 6, April 18, May 18, the last weekend of September, October 28 and every first Sunday from November 1 to March 31.
There are also days when the site is closed; 1st January, 25th March, Easter, 1st May, 25th & 26th December.
Keep an eye on the official Government website for any updates ( although it’s really not a great site).
Highlights of Cape Sounion
The Temple of Poseidon at the Archaeological Site of Sounion offers a wealth of captivating experiences for those who visit it.
Outlined below are some of the main things to enjoy at this incredible ancient structure to make your time there as captivating as possible:
The architectural grandeur of the Temple of Poseidon stands as a testament to the remarkable craftsmanship and enduring legacy of ancient Greece.
As visitors approach the temple, they are greeted by the majestic Doric columns that rise proudly against the backdrop of the Aegean Sea. Despite the passage of centuries, the remnants of this ancient sanctuary exude a sense of awe and reverence.
Although weathered by time, the sturdy, fluted columns still bear witness to ancient Greek architects’ meticulous attention to detail and precision. Standing tall and proud, each column speaks of the temple’s former splendour and the immense respect bestowed upon the god of the sea, Poseidon.
The Temple of Poseidon offers visitors breathtaking panoramic views extending far beyond its ancient walls.
Perched atop the cliffs of Cape Sounion, the temple commands a privileged position overlooking the vast expanse of the Aegean Sea. As visitors stand at this elevated vantage point, they are rewarded with a mesmerising sight – the azure waters stretching as far as the eye can see, merging seamlessly with the horizon.
The panoramic views captivate the senses, immersing visitors in the beauty and vastness of the natural world. Whether it’s the sea’s endless blue, the breeze’s gentle caress, or the sun’s warmth casting a golden glow, the experience is nothing short of magical.
In the presence of such unparalleled beauty, it is here that one can truly appreciate the timeless connection between the Temple of Poseidon and the captivating Greek landscape surrounding it.
There is even a cafe at the site which has good views and good food and is a great spot to sit and wait for sunset or enjoy a light meal before or after your visit.
Mythology and History
Immersed in history and mythology, the Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion allows visitors to connect with ancient Greek lore.
Stepping foot on this hallowed ground, one can’t help but be transported back in time, surrounded by the tales and legends of the mighty Poseidon, the god of the sea. Here, sailors sought his favour, offering prayers and sacrifices for safe passage through treacherous waters.
The temple’s historical significance is equally compelling, serving as a prominent religious centre during the golden age of Athens. Exploring the site offers a window into the rituals and ceremonies of the past, as well as a deeper understanding of the profound reverence bestowed upon Poseidon.
Whether captivated by the mythical stories or fascinated by the site’s historical importance, the Temple of Poseidon stands as a testament to the enduring power of mythology and the indelible mark it has left on Greece’s cultural tapestry.
Lord Byron’s Connection
One of the intriguing highlights that adds an extra layer of fascination to the Temple of Poseidon is its connection to the famous poet Lord Byron.
During his travels in the early 19th century, Byron visited the temple and left his mark on its columns, forever etching his name into the site’s history. His presence at this sacred location serves as a reminder of the temple’s allure and the inspiration it has evoked in renowned figures throughout the centuries.
Standing before the weathered columns, you can’t help but imagine Byron’s contemplative moments and the poetic musings that may have sprung from the breathtaking surroundings.
Lord Byron’s connection to the Temple of Poseidon adds a literary dimension to the site, intertwining art, culture and history.
Indeed some people even sit at the site and read some of his works to further connect with it.
Romantic Sunset at the Temple of Sounion
Try and time your visit to the Temple of Poseidon to coincide with sunset. If you do, you will be in for a magical experience.
As dusk approaches, the temple becomes a front-row seat to an awe-inspiring natural spectacle. At this time, the sky mutates into a canvas of vibrant colours, with hues of fiery orange, golden yellows and soft purples casting a majestic glow over the temple and its surroundings.
Against this breathtaking backdrop, couples and visitors alike are captivated by the ethereal beauty and serenity of the moment. The merging of the ancient ruins, the sweeping views of the Aegean Sea and the ever-changing shades of the sky create an atmosphere of pure romance and tranquility.
Sharing this romantic sunset at the Temple of Poseidon is a cherished experience providing an intimate connection with nature and ancient history.
The Temple of Poseidon not only showcases remarkable architectural splendour but also immerses visitors in the breathtaking natural beauty of its surroundings.
From its lofty position atop the cliffs of Cape Sounion, the temple offers a picturesque panorama of the azure Aegean Sea stretching out as far as the eye can see. The rugged coastline, with its dramatic cliffs and crashing waves, adds to the site’s allure, creating a harmonious blend of human creation and untouched nature.
Exploring the area surrounding the temple allows visitors to appreciate the raw power and serenity of the Greek landscape. The tranquil atmosphere, accompanied by the gentle sea breeze and the distant sound of waves, provides a soothing escape from the bustle of Athens.
Ultimately, the Temple of Poseidon presents an extraordinary opportunity to witness the magnificence of both ancient human craftsmanship and the awe-inspiring natural world, reminding us of the inherent beauty found in the embrace of nature.
Where to stay in Cape Sounion
Despite being a fairly remote area and the southern most tip of the prefecture of Attica there are a few nice places to stay. Visitors can explore the Temple at their leisure and also enjoy some of the other attractions on the peninsula such as the many excellent beaches and fish tavernas. The nearby town of Lavrio is a small port which offers ferry services out to the northern Cycladic islands.
Right below the Temple of Poseidon is the popular Aegeon Beach hotel and a little further along is the 5 star Grecotel Cape Sounion. Both of these hotels have excellent amenities and sunset and temple views.
For something a little cheaper check out Poseidon Beach Villas which are situated between the two resorts.