Taking a Cape Sounion day trip from Athens is one of the most popular and enjoyable days out that you can take from the Greek capital. It’s easy to do and only necessitates an hour of travel each way.
Cape Sounion is the name of a rocky bluff that sits at the southernmost point of the Attica mainland, 77km south of Athens. It is best known for being home to the clifftop Temple of Poseidon, but there are other interesting attractions in the area that make it worth spending a whole day here.
This article has been written by a British Travel Writer based in Athens. It will run through the best things to do on a Cape Sounion day trip – from the famous sights to lesser-known highlights of the area.
Taking a Cape Sounion Day Trip from Athens
Taking a Cape Sounion day trip from Athens is a highlight of any Athens itinerary – especially if you are interested in Greek history and culture. The Temple of Poseidon that awaits here dates back to 444 BC.
This is one of the most important Greek landmarks from the “Golden Age” of Athens and it was built around the same time as the Acropolis’ magnificent Parthenon. The temple has been constructed in the Doric hexastyle style, similar to the Temple of Hephaestus in the Ancient Agora.
It originally consisted of 38 columns, each of which was 20 feet tall. Today, only 16 of the original doric columns remain.
Regardless, when you arrive at the site, it is easy to imagine just how impressive this temple looked during its heyday. As the name suggests, the temple was built in honor of Poseidon, the Ancient Greek God of the Sea.
At one point, there was an impressive 20-foot bronze statue of Poseidon in the central hall of the temple. On windy days, the waves of the Aegean sea lap ferociously against the 95-foot cliff that the temple sits on top of – a fitting location for a place built in honor of the God of the Sea, right?
The Temple of Poseidon in Greek History
Once upon a time, Cape Sounion was a thriving port town. Its location made it excellent for trade and hundreds of merchants would pull into the port here every day.
When they were approaching Greece, they would see the Temple of Poseidon in the distance. They knew they were almost home when they saw its marble columns glistening beneath the Mediterranean sun.
Local fishermen and merchants would go to the Temple of Poseidon to pray that Poseidon would grant them a safe voyage to their destination and calm seas.
Today, some remnants of the old port area still remain. Historical records indicate that this area was inhabited as early as 2,500 years ago.
You can walk along the worn cobbled path past the old defensive walls and sunbleached remnants of ancient stores and outhouses. There is also an interesting story behind the temple in Greek mythology too.
The Temple of Poseidon in Greek Mythology
Legend has it that is from here that King Aegeus of Athens leaped to his death in the sea. The people of Athens were being tormented by the minotaur – a terrifying half-man, half-bull creature that lived in the labyrinth of Knossos on the island of Crete.
Every year, the minotaur would demand that the Athenians send people to be sacrificed and eaten. Eventually, King Aegeus and his people decided that enough was enough.
His son Theseus travelled to Crete on a quest to kill the Minotaur. He told his father that if he were to be successful on his mission, he would sail back with a white sail on his ship.
If he were to fail and die, his crew would sail back and fly black sails. Theseus was triumphant but he and his crew were so preoccupied with celebrating the minotaur’s defeat that they completely forgot their promise to King Aegeus about the ship’s sails.
As they made their way back to Athens with black sails fluttering in the wind, King Aegeus saw them and was heartbroken. Overcome with grief, he leaped to his death from the craggy rocks of Sounio.
From there, the water took its name: the Aegean sea
Visiting Cape Sounion on a Day Trip from Athens
Taking a Cape Sounion day trip from Athens is easy. You can opt to take a bus or a taxi to the site, participate in an organized tour or rent a car and drive yourself independently.
Each of the options is detailed below so you can decide which is the best for you.
Cape Sounion tours from Athens
A number of reputable tool companies offer Cape Sounion day trips from Athens. Opting to participate in an organized tour can take a lot of the stress out of managing the logistics of how to get to the Temple of Poseidon independently.
Although Athens KTEL buses do run to the site, they are not the easiest to navigate for a first-time visitor to Athens. There are several different tours you can choose from depending on your preference and budget.
Small group tours offer pickup and drop-off from your hotel in Athens. They typically start from around € 54 per person and include a multilingual, English-speaking guide.
Cape Sounion audio tours start from around €32 per person. Most audio tours do not include pickup from your hotel.
However, you can board the bus at various designated points around Athens city centre which is much easier than having to get to Attiki bus station for the KTEL public bus.
Recommended Cape Sounion tours
Some highly rated Cape Sounion tours are detailed below for your consideration. Book your place online in advance to avoid disappointment!
- Athens: Cape Sounio and Temple of Poseidon trip with audio guide
- Cape Sounion and Temple of Poseidon half-day tour
- Sunset tour of Sounion and the Temple of Poseidon
- From Athens: sea kayak adventure to Cape Sounion
When you explore with a local tour guide, it also means that you have an Athens expert on hand to ask for recommendations on the best things to see and do in Athens, where to eat, other Athens day trips to consider, etc.
Take the KTEL Bus from Athens
The 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 twice a day.
This station is just north of the city centre. You can take the Athens metro to KTEL Attikis metro and then walk to the bus station or you can take a cab from Syntagma Square to the bus station for a couple of euros.
The bus journey down to Sounion takes approximately 2 hours and the ticket costs €7 each way. The last bus from Sounion to Athens departs at 18h00.
You don’t typically need to purchase your bus ticket in advance and you can usually buy it at the station on your intended day of travel. Keep in mind that Athens is a popular tourist destination and it can get crowded here during the summer months.
Be sure to arrive at the bus station at least an hour before the bus departs so that you have plenty of time to get your ticket.
Take a cab from Athens
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 private 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.
The 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.
Many well-known international rental companies operate in Greece. This includes the likes of Alamo, Enterprise, Europcar, and Herz.
Discover Cars is a great platform that allows you to compare prices between different providers so that you can secure the best deal.
It is a 77 km drive from Athens city center to Cape Sounion along a scenic coastal road. The wonderful drive offers spectacular views of the Saronic gulf and leads you through some of the most beautiful suburbs of Athens.
There is free parking at Cape Sounion. If the parking lot is full, you can park your rental car at the side of the road that leads up toward the famous Temple of Poseidon.
Things to do in and around Cape Sounion in 2023
The Temple of Poseidon is most people’s raison d’etre for taking a Cape Sounion day trip from Athens. However, there are other interesting things to see and do in the area that most tourists tend to miss.
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. It is magical to see the temple against a pink and orange sky.
Hike through Sounion National Park
The Sounion National Park is one of the lesser-known attractions in the region. The site is not signposted and isn’t really promoted.
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 by 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 this beautiful place (with a fee) during the summer months for a spot of swimming, reading, and relaxing beneath the ancient 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. Athens beaches are underrated and some 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.
The Athens Riviera is a stretch of coastline that sits just south of Athens and is often affectionately referred to as the “Hellenic Hamptons.” It is home to some incredible exclusive beach clubs, as well as the upscale towns of Voula, Vouliagmeni, and Glyfada.
FAQs about Taking a Cape Sounion Day Trip from Athens
Do you have any further questions about taking a Cape Sounion day trip from Athens in 2023? The answers to some frequently asked questions on the topic are detailed below.
Hopefully, you will find the information that you’re looking for there. If not, please do not hesitate to reach out to me.
How much is the bus from Athens to Sounion?
The bus from KTEL Attikis in central Athens to Cape Sounion costs between €5 – €7 and gets you to the Temple of Poseidon in just over an hour.
Is it worth going to the Temple of Poseidon?
The Temple of Poseidon at Sounion is well worth visiting, especially if you are interested in Greek history and archaeological sites. Not only is the temple itself interesting, but so too are the ruins of the old port of Sounion and the coastal walking trails that weave around the region.
From the coast, you have spectacular views across the Aegean sea, with the Saronic Islands glittering in the distance. There are also several beaches, walking trails, and villages in the area that are worth adding to your radar if you are renting a car in Greece.
Is Cape Sounion worth it?
Cape Sounion is well worth visiting. You could easily spend an entire day in this area. Start at the Temple of Poseidon, hike through the nearby Sounion National Park, relax on one of the gorgeous beaches near Athens, and stop for lunch en route back to the capital.
You could even tie in your Cape Sounion day trip from Athens with a visit to Lake Vouliagmeni, and the Athens Riviera.
Can you swim at the Temple of Poseidon?
Yes. The little beach just beneath the Temple of Poseidon is popular among Greeks and tourists alike.
It is fully serviced, meaning that you can rent sun umbrellas and beach chairs if you like, and there is a taverna on site for if you get hungry. The water is usually calm and clear and perfect for swimming in.
What amenities are at the Temple of Poseidon?
There is a restaurant with a gift shop and some bathroom facilities. The bathrooms are fine at the entrance to the archaeological site. Although as you may imagine, the restaurant is very overpriced.
There are no other shops or restaurants in the immediate vicinity of Poseidon’s temple. Try to pack a few snacks and bottles of water to take with you before you leave Athens.
Temple of Poseidon admission costs
During the summer months, admission to the Temple of Poseidon is €10 for adults and €5 for children. In the off-peak winter season, there are reduced entrance fees of €4 for adults and €2 for children.
If you take a Cape Sounion tour, check the small print as most tours do not include admission fees.
The “off-peak” season runs from November to March. The marble temple is free to enter on the first Sunday of the month from November to March.
Entrance is also free on certain public holidays. These are as per the below.
- Melina Mercouri day – 6th March
- International Monuments Day – 18th April
- International Museums Day – 18th May
- European Heritage Days – last weekend of September
What dining options can be found near Sounion?
There are a handful of tavernas situated in Sounion that are approximately a 10-15 minute walk away from the ancient Greek Temple of Poseidon. Some of these are primarily geared toward 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.
Final Thoughts on taking a Cape Sounion day trip from Athens
Do you have any further questions about visiting Sounio, taking a temple of Poseidon tour, or travelling to Athens in general? I live in Greece.
I have been based in the quirky Pagrati neighbourhood of Athens since 2017 and will be happy to assist you in any way I can.
Many local tour companies run excursions here every day throughout the year.
Feel free to reach out to me or drop me a comment below if you need anything. Safe travels. Geia sou! Melissa xo