The Temple of Poseidon at Sounion is an easy half-day trip from Athens. Here’s everything you need to know about planning a Cape Sounion sunset tour.
When it comes to day trips from Athens, visitors are spoilt for choice. There are several destinations just a couple of hours out of our vibrant capital city.
One of the most popular, is the easy half day trip from Athens to the Temple of Poseidon at Sounion. Not only is it an amazing example of ancient Greek architecture, but it also boasts one of the finest sunset spots in Greece.
The Temple of Poseidon at Sounion
In my opinion, one of the most majestic temples in the whole of Greece is the Temple of Poseidon at Sounion, about 70 kms away from central Athens.
In all honesty, no Greek God could have asked for a better spot to have a temple built in his honour. Cape Sounion is surrounded by steep rocks, offering spectacular views to the Aegean Sea. Watching the sunset from the top of the hill is really an unforgettable experience.
At the peak of ancient Athenian and Greek power, Cape Sounion was a strategic spot for the city-state of Athens. Any boat sailing towards Piraeus would pass by Cape Sounion.
Sounion was also close to the silver-mining town of Lavrion, which enabled Athens to achieve unprecedented wealth and power during the 5th century BC.
History of the Temple of Poseidon at Sounion
According to archaeological evidence, the wider area of Cape Sounion had been considered sacred since the Bronze Age.
Cape Sounion is mentioned in the Odyssey, and it was one of the places where the Greek fleet stopped on their return from Troy.
The existing Temple of Poseidon at Sounion was built between 444-440 BC. It was constructed on top of the ruins of an Archaic poros temple, and was made out of marble collected in nearby Lavrion.
During the Peloponnesian war, a couple of decades later, the Cape was enclosed by an extensive wall, which was considered the strongest existing fortification in the proximity of Athens. Parts of these defensive walls still survive today.
Who was Poseidon?
To understand Poseidon’s significance in Ancient Greece, it is useful to know some more information about this dominant God.
Poseidon came from a very powerful family. He was the son of the Titans, Cronus and his sister-wife Rhea. As Cronus was obsessed that his children would try to throw him off the throne, he ate all of them as soon as they were born.
However, Rhea manage to save one of her children, who later returned to take revenge from his father. This God was none other than Zeus, the King of Gods and ultimate god of the Skies and the Universe.
Poseidon and the rest of Zeus’ siblings, Hades, Hera, Demeter and Hestia, helped the King of Gods overthrow his father from the throne. Eventually, Zeus and the Olympians won the War, and each God assumed a role.
Poseidon, the mighty God of the Sea
In the ancient Greek universe, Poseidon was known as the God of the Sea. Additionally, he was the God of fresh waters, earthquakes and horses.
Is this Zeus, or Poseidon? National Archaeological Museum in Athens
Poseidon was the God responsible for the fates of sailors, but he also controlled rivers, pools and lakes, and regulated earthquakes and natural disasters. For this reason he was worshipped all around Greece, and his temples were not only founded close to the coastline, but also inland.
Like many other gods, Poseidon was particularly fertile. It is said that he had over 100 children, with goddesses and mortal women alike. At the same time, he was also attracted by men, such as Niritis and Pelopas.
Poseidon was officially married to Queen Amphitrite, with whom he had a son, Triton, and by some accounts a daughter, Benthesikyme. Pegasus, the flying horse, was the offspring of Poseidon and Medusa.
Fame riding Pegasus by Antoine Coysevox
Children of Poseidon
Unlike the children of Zeus, some of Poseidon’s descendants were evil and malicious. Allegedly, Poseidon himself killed some of his villainous offspring, while others were eliminated by Hercules and Theseus.
Poseidon is always depicted as a serious-looking, bearded man holding his powerful weapon, the trident. His chariot is pulled by imaginary monstrous creatures, half-horses and half-snakes, while dolphins, fish and numerous other sea creatures follow along.
There are hundreds of myths, stories and legends connected with the god of the sea. Of these, the most famous is the legend of Athena and Poseidon, or how the city-state of Athens took its name.
The legend of Athena and Poseidon
You may have heard the Ancient Greek legend according to which the two siblings, Athena and Poseidon, both wanted to be the protectors of the city of Athens.
The two Gods competed over the powerful city state. While Poseidon offered salty water to the Athenians, Athena presented them with the olive tree, the first ever to grow in Greece. The tree sprung up on the site of the Acropolis.
The Athenians, led by King Kekrops, quickly realized how useful the olive tree would be, and decided to dedicate the city to Athena. This is in fact how the city took its name, which is pronounced “Athina” in Greek. Poseidon was furious, and he flooded an area outside Athens, the Thriasian Plain.
When the Parthenon was built inside the Acropolis area, it was dedicated entirely to Athena. Later on, the Athenians built a smaller temple, called Erectheion, which they dedicated to both Athena and Poseidon. It was important to keep the mighty God happy.
Interestingly, no earthquakes have ever caused any damage to the Acropolis. It is well known that Ancient Greeks were excellent engineers. Still, would the Acropolis have survived if it wasn’t for the Erechtheion? We leave it to you to decide whether this is a coincidence!
Getting to the temple of Poseidon at Sounion
So now you know a little about Poseidon, it’s time to plan a trip to his temple!
There are three ways to get to the temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion. You can catch a bus, rent a car, or go on an organized tour / private transfer.
Getting to the temple of Poseidon at Sounion by bus is fairly straightforward. Buses depart from Pedion tou Areos, near Victoria metro station.
The bus takes a much longer time than a private car, and the time taken to get to Sounion also depends on traffic. Expect it to take longer on summer weekends, as Athenians go out to the beaches. It could take you two hours to get to Sounion!
If you decide to visit by bus, make sure that you don’t miss the last bus from Sounion to Athens! You can find bus timetables here. Note that, as a rule, they are seasonally adjusted.
Private transfer to the Temple of Poseidon
If you want to get to the temple of Poseidon at Sounion by rented car, you will have more flexibility and you won’t worry about the last bus back to Athens, especially if you want to see the sunset.
The coastal drive passes by the Athenian Riviera, and it’s really a beautiful route. You can see many hidden coves and sandy beaches along the way – and perhaps stop by for a swim.
Note that the road is quite winding, and Athenians are pretty fast drivers, so if you are coming back after dark pay extra attention.
Cape Sounion Sunset Tour
Finally, you can always take a half-day tour to Sounion. There are numerous companies offering this service, and as a rule you will be left to explore the temple at your own pace.
This is the easiest and most hassle-free option. If you want to catch the sunset from the temple of Poseidon, make sure you choose the right one, as not all tours are late in the day.
The Temple of Poseidon at Sounion
Have you been to the temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion? What did you think? Let us know in the comments!
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