Cape Sounion and the Temple of Poseidon: Planning Your Visit

Athens' Favorite Sunset Spot

The temple of Poseidon in Cape Sounion, Athens, Greec
The temple of Poseidon in Cape Sounion, Athens, Greec. Richard T. Nowitz/Getty Images
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Temple of Poseidon

Address
Cape Sounio, Sounio 195 00, Greece
Phone +30 2292 039363

For many travelers in Greece, visiting Cape Sounion in Attica comes as a shock and a relief. For the tourist arriving from Athens, the contrast between the city's hustle and bustle and this serene and imposing temple is sharp. Sounion, sometimes called just Sounio, is a cape located 48 miles (77 kilometers) south of Athens, but its show-stealing temple is an integral piece of history that attests to the power of a once-indomitable temple. It is also a well-known spot to witness some of the most spectacular sunsets in Greece.

Though his famous statue is long gone, safely kept at the National Archeological Museum in Athens, the great Poseidon needs no bronze props to make his presence felt. The Greeks have always watched the sea, for the return of loved ones, safe delivery of goods, or news of war. Maybe that's why the Temple of Poseidon, with its magnificent view of the Aegean Sea, seems to still fulfill the role of sea-watcher from the high promontory. It's also well-known as one of the most spectacular sunset spots in all of Greece.

Temple of Poseidon, Cape Sounion, Greece

History

The Doric temple was erected by Pericles, during the Golden Age of Greece, and is said to be on top of the ruins of an earlier sea temple which may date back to Mycenean or even Minoan times. However, what is most important about this destination is the highly-strategic value of Cape Sounion, which every ship was required to pass in order to traverse the Aegean Sea. With an outpost and temple here, the Athenian Empire had control over the entire sea, and to erect a temple in honor of Poseidon, the god of the sea, was to make a strong statement about the empire's maritime power. Cape Sounion also has some importance in Greek mythology as the reported spot where King Aegeus threw himself into the sea after mistakenly believing his son Theseus was dead.

Visiting Cape Sounion and the Temple of Poseidon

  • Best Time to Visit: Sunset is always the best time of day to visit the Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion, but once the sun goes down you'll find the weather to be quite cold and windy. Although you may be able to avoid the crowds in the cooler months, you'll be much more comfortable visiting in the summer between June and September.
  • Hours: The temple is open every day of the year from 9:30 until sunset with the last entry allowed 20 minutes before the sunset time. It may be closed on holidays.
  • Admission: 10 Euros
  • Tours: Many tour companies offer guided half-day tours that include pick-up and drop-off in Athens.
  • Travel Tips: Exploring the area around the temple requires caution, so watch your step on the rough and slippery rocks. If you are traveling with young ones, people prone to vertigo, or merely the inherently clumsy please be aware that there are few guard rails. No matter how hot the weather has been, always bring a jacket as temperatures cool quickly.

Getting There

Driving from Cape Sounion from Athens takes about an hour and a half, depending on traffic. The easiest way to get there is to rent a car or to sign up for a guided tour that can pick you up and bring you back to your hotel in Athens. There is also a bus, but this takes 2 hours and it will drop you off in town, about 2 miles (3 kilometers) away from the Temple of Poseidon. Driving or taking a guided tour will also give you the option to enjoy the views along the scenic coastal route.

At the main site, you'll find tour buses letting off passengers and everyone will scramble past the same gift shop and restaurant to the place where the temple overlooks the sea. Sunset is the most popular time to visit Cape Sounion, so you should expect the parking lot to be quite full just before. If you want to avoid the big crowds, consider visiting early in the morning.

Things to Do Nearby

While most people will only stop by the Temple of Poseidon for sunset, there are many things to do around Cape Sounion, whether you'd like to see more ruins, squeeze in some beach time, or get some lunch in a fishing village. You can drive around and check out beautiful beaches like Paralia Sounio, just below the temple or travel further up the highway to the more secluded Kape Beach, which is clothing optional. Although it isn't as well-preserved as the Temple of Poseidon, you can also see the foundation of another temple dedicated to Athena, not far from the main site.

If you want a chance to explore this region deeper, pay a visit to local villages like Lavrion, where there is a picturesque fish market. The average tourist probably won't be taking home any fish to grill, but you can taste it on the spot by pulling up a chair at Maria Terlaki, a restaurant located in the middle of the market. Lavrion is a little-visited port city that is best known for being the site of Athen's ancient silver mines; the town also has a Mineralogical Museum which has many beautiful and rare crystals on display. From here, you can also catch a ferry to a few other destinations in Greece like the islands of Syros and Kea.

Where to Stay

All along the coast from Athens, you'll find luxury resorts catering to travelers who want to enjoy the cape's beautiful beaches. However, if you'd like to spend as much time near the temple as possible, the Grecotel Cape Sounio is a resort perfectly positioned to provide beautiful views of the temple. Or consider renting a whole place to yourself at the nearby Poseidon Beach Villas, where you can enjoy the same sunset views from the privacy of your room and far away from the crowds at the Temple of Poseidon. Budget-minded travelers will find more wallet-friendly options in the nearby town of Sounio, such as the two-star Saron Hotel.

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