One of the most scenic places you can visit that is only a half day from Athens is Cape Sounion. It lies about an hour from the city center and is well worth the trek out to see it.
As with the rest of Athens, the KTEL national bus company serves the outlaying cities clustered around Athens. The bus is a fantastic deal for those on a budget. The ticket one way is only 5 Euros. From Syntagma Square the bus leaves about once an hour beginning at 7:30 am. The last bus departs until about 4pm. Make sure you know ahead of time what the bus schedule is!
The journey will take you about 2 hours there and 2 hours back.If you plan to take the bus, I would make it an all day excursion. The bus will make stops along the way, but the good news is that the entire route is scenic and you can catch some amazing views of the Aegean Sea from the bus. You will want to get off at the last stop which is directly across from the site!
A majority of travel agencies around Athens will offer a half day excursion to Cape Sounion if you don’t want to take the bus. Transportation is included in their fees. Most travel companies will take you to the site in the late afternoon in order to experience sunset at the Temple of Poseidon.
For me, I found that I didn’t want to do 4 hours of travel on a bus. I was more than willing to pay for semi-private transportation to Cape Sounion and wanted the experience of hearing what the tour guide would have to say about the temple and landmarks around Athens. I paid about $50 for my roundtrip. The entire experience took about 3 hours.
Some History About Cape Sounion
As you make your way from Athens, you will pass through the port city of Piraeus and some of the most expensive real estate homes and beaches in Athens.Fishing is a life line for the island nation of Greece, if you look off into the distance you will see small fishing boats. I had no idea that so many beaches in Greece are actually privately owned!
There are several ancient references to Cape Sounion in the Odyssey and from the creator of history, Herodotus. If you visit the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, some of the best preserved statues of Athena and Poseidon you will note are also from this region.I found it interesting to hear that silver and copper mines in Cape Sounion were actually one of the most important business venures for the region until the 1970s.
The caves and mines in Sounion, known as the Mines of Laurion are prehistoric and are key to the history of Greece. In the 480s during the second Persian War, the great general Themistocles used the money the mines were making to build 200 plus Greek war ships. These ships became the heart of the Athenian Navy and were key to a victory at the Battle of Salamis. This was a key battle to defeating the Persians!
The Temple of Poseidon
As you arrive at the Temple of Poseidon, there is a small cafe and gift shop before you enter the temple. I would encourage you to make use of their restrooms!As with most sites in Athens, the Temple of Poseidon has none.They have really good coffee here too!
The entrance fee to the temple site was 3 Euros when I was there earlier this year. You will walk up the hill past the ticket booth and the first thing you will see is the sea! It’s endless views of the beautifully blue Aegean Sea and seeing these views is why the Temple of Poseidon remains so popular with tourists.The Temple of Poseidon is not the best preserved temple, but it has its own unique charms.
The Temple is built in the doric style and dates back to the 440s BC and golden age of Greece when Pericles was the leader of Athens. It’s hard to imagine the Parthenon being constructed around the same time! The Temple of Poseidon allows you to walk around it and take many different interesting angles. if you are there at sunset, the sun reflects off the white marble.
There are two other temple ruins that are only deep pits now,but on the same site once stood Temples to Athena and Artemis. If you have time, it is worth hiking down to the beach to see the temple from below the water. There is supposedly some writing done by Lord Byron somewhere inside the temple as well, but nobody is allowed inside the ruins. I looked closely and didn’t see anything myself.
If you plan to make it along day trip on your own, make sure you bring snacks. There are some pricey restaurants along the way. Have a jacket with you just in case it gets windy at the temple. Weather can be unpredictable. This temple and day trip was one of my favorite places to walk around, enjoy nature and really feel something special.There were not as many tourists here as say the Parthenon.I highly recommend taking the trek from Athens to Cape Sounion! Hope this helps you. Until next time, happy travels.