Sicily's Valley of the Temples: The Complete Guide

Concordia Temple view in Sicily Italy
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Valley of the Temples

Address
92100 Agrigento, AG, Italy
Phone +39 0922 183 9996

The Valley of the Temples at Agrigento, Sicily, routinely tops every list of must-see places in Sicily. One of the most important archaeological sites in the Mediterranean, the Valley of the Temples is remarkable for its long history, its importance in the ancient world, and its testament to the influence and breadth of ancient Greece. The Valley of the Temples has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997 and first-time visitors to Sicily should absolutely try to make a stop here. Here's everything you need to know about visiting this incredible archaeological site, now operating as the Parco Valle dei Templi Agrigento.

History of the Valley of the Temples & Agrigento

Agrigento (Akragas in Greek) was founded by the Greeks in the 6th century B.C.. What started as a minor outpost soon grew to be one of the most important cities in the Mediterranean. For centuries, Agrigento and other Greek cities in Sicily were in the crossfire of the frequent regional wars between Syracuse, Corinth, and Carthage. During the Punic Wars of the 3rd and 2nd centuries B.C., Agrigento was a prize sought by both the Carthaginians and the Romans. By the 1st century A.D. and the rise of the Roman Empire, it once again became a prosperous trade center. Byzantine, Arab, and Norman conquests followed over the centuries as the city of Agrigento was frequently sacked.

The modern city of Agrigento contains a mixture of medieval, Byzantine, and more recent architecture, with most of the remains of the old city buried underneath. But the real attraction at Agrigento lies just outside the old city. The Valley of the Temples is a vast field of ruined temples that speak to the importance of ancient Akragas during the height of its Greek phase. The remains of those seven temples, as well as other sections of the 3,212-acre site, are among the most iconic sites in all of Italy.

illuminated walkway to the Temple of Juno at dusk
Atlantide Phototravel / Getty Images

What to See & Do at the Valley of the Temples

There are seven temple ruins in the valley (which is not really a valley, but a plateau), in various states of preservation. All were built in the Doric style, between 510 - 430 B.C. The best-preserved and most often photographed are:

  • Temple of Concordia: With its six mighty columns and raised pediment, the Temple of Concordia is the best-preserved in the park. During the early Middle Ages, it was converted to a church, which is part of the reason it remained in a relatively high state of preservation. A contemporary statue of Icarus, by Polish artist Igor Mitoraj, lays in front of the temple.
  • Temple of Juno: Near the eastern entrance of the park, the Temple of Juno, once very similar in design to the Temple of Concordia, was destroyed by the Carthaginians. Marks from its burning are still visible in the temple interior.
  • Temple of Hercules: Only eight columns remain standing from this once-mighty temple, the oldest at the site.

The other temples are:

  • Temple of Olympian Zeus: Part of a vast Olympian field, the Temple of Olympian Zeus was once held up by columns in the shape of atlases, or giants in human form. Several of them lay on the ground, partially reassembled near the temple.
  • Temple of Castor and Pollux: A partially reconstructed corner with only four columns is all that remains of this temple, also called the Temple of the Dioscuri.
  • Temple of Hephaestus: The footprint of this 5th-century temple, built on the foundations of an even older one, suggests it was once one of the most important in the valley.
  • Temple of Asclepius: Set apart from the rest of the sacred complex, this temple to the Greek god of medicine was likely a pilgrimage site for the sick.

Other sites at the Valley of the Temples archaeological park include:

  • Pietro Griffo Archaeological Museum. Accessible via a combined ticket, the museum houses many finds from more than a century of excavations at the Valley of the Temples, including statuary, antique vases, and sarcophagi.
  • Tomb of Theron: This misnamed tower tomb sits near the necropolis area.
  • Necropoli Giambertoni and Paleo-Christian Necropolis. Both these burial grounds are composed of chest tombs and carved niches that once held funerary urns.
  • Kolymbethra Garden. Accessible via a combined ticket this verdant spot features thousand-year-old olive trees, rock formations and rock-cut chambers, and a small stream.
  • Remains of the ancient city walls. These once formidable walls were destroyed by the Carthaginians and other subsequent invaders, plus a series of earthquakes that further devastated the entire valley.

How to Get There

  • By car: The Valley of the Temples is near the southwestern coast of Sicily, about 81 miles (130 kilometers) by car from Palermo, 108 miles (174 kilometers) from Trapani, and 99 miles (160 kilometers) from Catania. It's reachable by car via several regional highways that connect to Agrigento.
  • By train: Trains from Palermo Centrale station run several times a day, with a two-hour journey time. From Catania Centrale, it's a minimum five-hour journey with at least two train changes. From the station in central Agrigento, it's a 1.9-mile (3-kilometer) walk to the park entrance, or take the #2 bus to Fermata Tempio di Giunone.

Where to Stay

The three-star Villa San Marco and five-star Villa Athena are both located within the archaeological park, and both have pools. Villa Athena has a restaurant and spa, while San Marco offers B&B service. Dozens of hotels of all classes are located in Agrigento town. There are beachfront hotels south and west of the Valley of the Temples, on the SS115 coastal road.

Tips for Visiting & General Information

  • Weather: From mid-June to early September, Sicily is extremely hot—daytime temps can top 100 degrees F (37 degrees C). Try to avoid the Valley in the hottest part of the day, and bring a sun hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, and a water bottle. There are water fountains throughout the park.
  • Walking: To explore all the sights in the park, you will need to walk 2.5 to 3.1 miles (4 to 5 kilometers). For 3 euros, an electric shuttle bus will take you from one entrance of the park to the other. The park offers free electric wheelchairs, by reservation, to those with reduced mobility.
  • Entrances: There are currently two open entrances to the archaeological park. If you just want to see the main temples, head to the Temple of Hera Lacinia (Juno) entrance.
  • Facilities: There is a cafe in the park, as well as bookstores at both main gates.
  • Tickets: There are three different ticket types for the Valley. You can purchase a ticket just for the Valley of the Temples, a combination that includes the Valley and Kolymbethra Garden, or a combination that includes the Valley and access to the archaeological museum.
Frequently Asked Questions
  • How much time should I spend at Valley of the Temples?

    Plan to spend 3 to 4 hours in the park, more if you visit the gardens or the musuem.

  • Where is the Valley of the Temples in Sicily?

    The Valley of the Temples is located adjacent to the city of Agrigento a few miles inland from Sicily's southwest coast.

  • Which airport is closest to Valley of the Temples?

    The two closest airports are Falcone Borsellino airport in Palermo and Fontanarosso airport in Catania. The drive time from each is about two hours.

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A Visitor's Guide to the Valley of the Temples, Sicily