Cape Sounion and the Temple of Poseidon is a great place to visit on a day trip from Athens. This area is often quite simply referred to as “Sounion”.
Cape Sounion and its dramatic landscapes sit on the southernmost tip of mainland Greece. The area is located just 45 miles south of Athens city centre.
It is the historic Temple of Poseidon that draws most people here. However, the area has a lot more to offer than initially meets the eye.
Sounion is one of the best excursions from Athens. This is the case whether you are fascinated by Greek mythology, or in search of a relaxing beach day by the sea.
About Sounion and the Temple of Poseidon
It is here where the ancient temple of Poseidon is perched precariously on the edge of a craggy bluff. This clifftop plunges 65 metres into the sea.
The temple dates all the way back to 444 BC. This is the same year as the construction of the Parthenon. When you arrive at Sounion, you will notice that the two structures share a lot of similarities.
Historically, Sounion was a very important port town. Its location made it excellent for trade and indeed, hundreds of merchants and sail boats would pass by here every day.
The sunbleached ruins of crumbling old city walls and remnants of ancient houses are all that remain from Sounio’s impressive past. They are scattered along the hilltops that surround the temple.
Once upon a time, the Temple of Poseidon was an important Greek landmark for sailors and merchants approaching Greece by sea. It is said that they knew they were almost home when they saw the marble columns of the Temple of Poseidon glistening beneath the Mediterranean sun.
Arriving at Sounion will take your breath away, regardless of how well-traveled you may be. Here, sea waves splash violently against the rocks – something that seems even more dramatic on a windy or stormy day.
From the Temple grounds, you have unparalleled views across the water to several uninhabited Greek islands. What could be a better location for a temple dedicated to the Greek God of the sea?
Sounion in Greek Mythology
The city of Sounion played an important role in Ancient Greece. Primarily, it was a strategic trading port.
Secondly, as the home of the magnificent temple of Poseidon, it was an important place for worship. The area’s role in Greek mythology is also fascinating.
King Aegeus and the Aegean Sea
It is from here where it is said that King Aegeus of Athens leaped to his death in the sea. This was due to an unfortunate turn of events leading him to believe that his son Theseus had passed away. From his passing, the waters obtained their name of the Aegean sea.
According to Greek mythology, Theseus had travelled to Crete to kill the minotaur. This was a hideous half-human, half-bull creature that lived in the labyrinth at Knossos.
Here, it would trap and eat Athenians. The people of Athens would have to send a number of locals as human sacrifices to Crete and the minotaur every year.
Theseus was successful in defeating the Minotaur. However, his father falsely believed that he had died.
Theseus had told his father that he would display white sails on the ship if he was successful in defeating the minotaur. If he were to fail and die, his crew would sail back with black sails.
Sadly, after getting caught up in the joy of defeating the minotaur, Theseus forgot his promise and did not change the sails. He headed back to Athens with black sails affixed to his ship fluttering in the wind.
His father, overcome with grief, thought that Theseus had died. He then leaped to his death from the craggy rocks of Sounio.
Getting to Sounion from Athens
You have a couple of options for visiting the Temple of Poseidon and getting from Athens to Sounion. Renting a car in Greece gives you a lot more freedom and flexibility. However, there are also several ways in which you can make the trip by public transport.
Take the KTEL Bus from Athens
The easiest and cheapest way to reach Sounion from Athens is by taking the KTEL bus. This departs from the KTEL Attica Buses Station at Pedion Areos in Athens.
The journey takes approximately 2 hours and the ticket costs 7€ each way. It should be noted that the last bus from Sounion to Athens departs at 18h00.
If there are several of you travelling together and you do not have a car, it may make sense to hire a cab to take you to Sounion. BEAT is the Greek answer to Uber and is a very convenient way of ordering cabs in Athens.
All cars listed on BEAT are licensed, yellow cab drivers. The fare is displayed before you get inside the car so you don’t have to worry about being scammed or haggling over the cost.
You should expect to pay around €25 there and back to get to Sounion. If you don’t want to download the BEAT app, you can ask your hotel to call you a cab. Alternatively, book a transfer online in advance here.
Rent a Car
Renting a car in Greece is not as intimidating as it may first seem. Greek roads are mostly asphalt and are well-maintained. Additionally, road rules here are not all that different from what you may be used to elsewhere.
Athens is heavily congested and so it is not necessarily advisable to rent a car if you plan on spending most of your time in the busy city centre. However, if you plan on taking frequent excursions out to places like Delphi, Sounion, or Nafplio, having a vehicle will give you a lot more flexibility.
By Organised Tour
There are several organised tours that run to the Cape Sounion area from Athens. These range from half-day Sounion tours to full-day Sounion tours.
Day tours like this one also take you to some of the area’s smaller Greek seaside towns. Some Sounion tours enable you to combine a trip to the area with a visit to Lake Vouliagmeni and the Athens Riviera.
Recommended Sounion Tous
Sounion day tours also work out cheaper than hiring a cab. That is, unless there’s a bunch of you. Some reputable tour options that you may wish to consider are detailed below.
- Temple of Poseidon and Sounion day tour from Athens
- Sunset Poseidon and Sounion tour from Athens
- Journey from Athens to Sounion by Sea Kayak
Other Things to do in Sounion
The Temple of Poseidon site at Sounion is pretty small. You can walk all of the paths that surround it within an hour.
That said, there is more here than initially meets the eye. In the immediate vicinity of the Temple of Poseidon, you have a small beach, a scattering of tavernas, and the Sounion National Park.
Temple aside, the primary highlight of coming here is simply taking in the incredible scenery and the views out to sea. Pack a picnic, sit on one of the benches and just enjoy a relaxed day in the sun.
The sunset here is one of the best in mainland Greece. The atmosphere feels almost ethereal as the sky is illuminated in hues of orange and pink.
Hike Through the Sounion National Park
A lesser-known attraction in the Sounion region is the Sounion National Park. The site is not signposted and isn’t really promoted. As such, most visitors to Greece are not even aware of its existence.
There is an old dirt trail that veers left from the road that connects Sounion centre to the temple of Poseidon. Follow the trail until it joins an asphalt road and the quaint church of Agia Varvara.
At this point, head north towards the village of Agios Konstantinos. Then, you will be greeted with the rolling green hills that make up Sounion National Park.
Abandoned churches, dense pine forests, and 40,000-year-old cave dwellings that once housed prehistoric men make Sounion National Park a fascinating trip to combine with a day trip to the Temple of Poseidon. There are no shops, cafes or restaurants here so be sure to pack plenty of supplies.
There is a beach situated right beneath the Temple of Poseidon. This is managed by the Aegeon hotel. However, anyone can enter (with a fee) during the summer months for a spot of swimming, reading, and relaxing beneath the ruins.
Additionally, if you have your own transport, you can travel onwards to one of the many beaches and coves in the area. A continued drive along the coast takes you to the beaches of Kavatza, Asimaki, and Limani Passa.
Additionally, there are numerous secluded, unmarked beaches along the coastal road that connects Athens and Sounion. These are known as “Limanakia”.
Limanakia are not serviced, and some of them require an element of hiking or clambering down rocks to get to. However, it will be well worth the effort.
You will find that you have many of these little pockets of coastline all to yourself. They exude desert island vibes that would rival some of the beaches in the Cyclades.
Explore the Athenian Riviera
A day trip to Sounion and the temple of Poseidon can be easily tied in with a visit to the other highlights of the Athens Riviera. This is especially accessible if you have your own transport.
Consider driving from Sounion to relax at Lake Vouliagmeni. Alternatively, make time to enjoy the Athens beaches at the upscale towns of Voula, Vouliagmeni, or Glyfada.
Sounion Day Trip from Athens:
Do you have any additional burning questions about planning your trip to Cape Sounion and the Temple of Poseidon? A number of common FAQs are answered below.
Temple of Poseidon Admission Costs
During the summer months, admission to the Temple of Poseidon is €8 for adults and €4 for children. In the off-peak season, there is a reduced admission fee of €4 for adults and €2 for children.
Temple of Poseidon Facilities and Amenities
At the entrance to the archaeological site, there is a restaurant with a gift shop and some bathroom facilities. The bathrooms are fine. Although as you may imagine, the restaurant is very overpriced.
There are no other shops or restaurants in the immediate area. Try to pack a few snacks and bottles of water to take with you before you leave Athens.
Dining Options Close to Sounion
There are a handful of tavernas situated in Sounion that are approximately a 10-15 minute walk away from the Temple of Poseidon site. Some of these are primarily geared towards tourists and are a little expensive.
If you have a car, you can also consider venturing to one of the nearby towns and villages for lunch. Kalyvia Thorikou is particularly charming.
This is a little town that is known for its excellent meat tavernas and chophouse restaurants. Dining here can be a little on the pricier side.
For instance, a meal for two here is likely to cost approximately €50. However, the food is of great quality and you can watch the meat cooked and grilled on spits in front of you.
When to Travel to Sounion
Sounion and the Temple of Poseidon can be visited from Athens all year round thanks to Greece’s Mediterranean climate. During the summer months, temperatures can get very hot and often soar over 35 degrees Celsius in the day time.
In the Summer period, the Athens area sees the most tourists. So, it is advisable to head to Sounion early in the morning to avoid the midday heat and the crowds if you can.
Winters in the Athens area can get cold and snow is not unheard of. Expect strong winds at the Cape of Sounion and temperatures well below 10 degrees if travelling between the months of November and February.
Spring and Autumn present some of the best conditions for travelling to Sounion. At this time, you can expect blue skies and minimum rainfall. Additionally, you also have a warm pleasant climate at this time and temperatures that linger around the mid-twenties (degrees Celsius).
Day Trip to Sounion – Is it Worth it?
A day trip to Sounion and the Temple of Poseidon is a nice way to while away a day of your Greece itinerary. That said, if you only have two or three days in Athens, you may be wondering as to whether or not you should use one of them up on taking a day trip to Sounion.
There is an element of personal preference and opinion here. However, there are other, more fulfilling, action-packed day trips from Athens to choose from than Sounio. This is particularly true when you consider precisely how far Sounion is from Athens, and how much travel time is required to get there.
There are also plenty of things to do in Athens to keep you occupied for weeks. It is up to you to make the judgment call of what is best for your trip.
Do you have any further questions about visiting Sounio or about Athens travel in general? I live in Greece, in the quirky Pagrati neighbourhood of Athens, and will be happy to assist you any way I can.
Feel free to reach out to me or drop me a comment below. Safe travels, Melissa xo
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