A Road-trip to the Temple of Poseidon at Sounion, Greece

By - January 11, 2011 (Updated: November 24, 2014)

This entry is part 3 of 7 in the series Glorious Greece.
Poseidon Temple at Cape Sounion

Poseidon Temple at Cape Sounion

Andrew and I love road trips. Driving ourselves allows us to stop when we like, go where we want and explore places we wouldn’t see otherwise. This is how we were able to visit the Poseidon Temple in Sounion, Greece.

One of my favourite days on our recent trip to Vouliagmeni and Athens, Greece started with a spur of the moment decision to rent a car and go exploring. After searching the phonebook for a local rental agency, we decided to ask the hotel staff for advice.

The front desk clerk said he would make a few calls. Low and behold, a few calls later and we had a car coming from Athens that was half the cost of the cars locally AND it would be dropped off at our door.  I am a huge advocate of seeking local knowledge when you travel. Sure we could have picked a rental car on-line but because we took the time to ask, we got a better deal and some great advice on where we should drive.

The weather was drizzly, one of the reasons we decided a road-trip would be a nice way to spend the day. But not long after we left town, out came the sun to dry up all the rain.

The hotel clerk had recommended we drive to Sounion (Soúnio in Greek) and we were glad we took his advice. The road wound south hugging the coast. On the left we could watch the Greek countryside roll by and on the right we could admire the blue Aegean sea.

View of Vouliagmeni from the coast road

View of Vouliagmeni from the coast road

Cape Sounion is the site of the stunning ruins of the Temple of Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea. You can see the striking white pillars from across a small bay as you drive towards the town.  The temple, perched high on a cliff-top point, acted as a beacon for sailors on their way home.

Poseidon Temple on Cape Sounion

Poseidon Temple on Cape Sounion

The Poseidon temple consisted of 34 Doric columns made of marble. Only 15 remain today. Famously, in 1810, the poet Lord Byron carved his name into the temple, beginning a history of vandalism at the temple.

Andrew examines the Poseidon temple

Andrew examines the Poseidon temple

Graffiti from 1900 at Sounion

Graffiti from 1900 at Sounion

When we arrived at the  site, there was only a handful of other people, and we could wander around the ruins in peace. Although the temple itself is roped off, you can stroll around the entire grounds of the former surrounding village.

We followed a small path down towards the water and discovered what once had been the main road to and from the temple. Years of foot traffic had carved a deep groove in the earth and we could see the remains of building foundations on either side.

Even in early November there were still wildflowers blooming. I was delighted to find some bright purple crocus to photograph. Greece is famous for saffron and with the abundance of crocus I spotted, it’s easy to see why.

Wild Crocus blooming at Sounion

Wild Crocus blooming at Sounion

We also discovered some interesting wildlife as we explored. We almost tripped over a turtle who was munching grass beside the path. Then we spotted a strange bird, I later learned was a Chukar Partridge (Alectoris chukar), crashing through the brush. He wasn’t alone. We spied another and another until we found a whole flock huddled under a shrub. They didn’t seem terribly concerned by our presence and let us walk right past them.

Tortoise at Sounion

Tortoise at Sounion

Chukar Partridge (Alectoris chukar)

Chukar Partridge (Alectoris chukar) nesting in Sounion

By the time we finished exploring the grounds and started heading back to the car, several busloads of tourists had arrived for lunch at the on-site restaurant. We decided not to stick  around but to head down the road 2 kilometres to a small taverna called Syrtaki, recommended in my trusty DK guidebook.

View from Poseidon Temple at Cape Sounion

View from Poseidon Temple at Cape Sounion

There was only one other couple (and a few cats) in the restaurant and there were no menus, a good sign in my books. The owner came over, slapped Andrew on the shoulder, something that happened a lot in Greece, and asked, “So friends, what can I get you? You like meat, fish…. BBQ?”

Having already eaten a lot of Greek seafood on our trip, we both opted for BBQ, having no idea what we were actually in for. We were brought a small carafe of delicious white wine and the ubiquitous but scrumptious Greek salad.

Our BBQ turned out to be what looked like two hamburgers each, without the buns and served with fries. They were filled with herbs and spices and grilled to perfection. The fries were light and crispy and, even after becoming Belgian Frite snobs, we enjoyed them.

After a long relaxing lunch, and a bit of kitty therapy, we hopped in our little rental car and wound our way back to the hotel. It was a perfect day trip from the hustle and bustle of Athens and one I definitely would recommend.

Poseidon Temple and Olive tree

Poseidon Temple and Olive tree


Rental car from Avance in Athens including hotel drop off: 52 euro

Lunch at Syrtaki 2kms from the Poseidon temple.  25-30 euro for 2

Tickets to the Poseidon Temple – 4 euro each

View Vouliagmeni to Sounion in a larger map

Read more from this series...

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Alison Cornford-Matheson is a Canadian freelance writer and travel photographer and the founder of She is the author of The Foodie Guide to Brussels: Local Tips for Restaurants, Shops, Hotels, and Activities. Alison landed in Belgium in 2005 and, over the years, has become passionate about slow and sustainable travel, in Europe and beyond. She loves to discover hidden gems - be they museums, shops, restaurants, castles, gardens or landscapes, and share them through her words and photos. She has visited 45 countries and is currently slow travelling through North America in an RV, with her husband, Andrew, and two well-travelled cats. You can also follow her work on Google+
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  1. Comment by Amy

    Amy January 11, 2011 at 10:50

    Gorgeous! We love taking road trips too. You really can’t beat the freedom you get from driving yourself, and there are always interesting things to discover on the side of the road.

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison January 11, 2011 at 11:25

      Absolutely. I love being able to stop when I want to take photos. Andrew really likes exploring little random back roads. We’ve discovered some really interesting and strange things by veering off the main path 🙂

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  3. Comment by Adrienne

    Adrienne January 11, 2011 at 15:17

    So beautiful! Greece is one of those places on my “list” 🙂 I chuckled at your DK guidebook reference… I was just talking to someone the other day about various brands of guidebooks and said that DK was my favorite “brand”. A few weeks ago I was in a used bookstore and found a 2009 edition about Greece — you can bet I snatched it up!

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison January 11, 2011 at 15:46

      Oh I LOVE the DK guidebooks. Maybe it’s because I’m a photo junkie so I appreciate all of the great photographs. I’ve also found their restaurant guides totally reliable. I’ve been fortunate to pick up quite a few of the European ones at a clear-out book sale and although they are a few years out of date, they are reliable enough for my needs. As for Greece, I loved it and can’t wait to go back. I highly recommend traveling in the off season as we did for a peaceful and relaxing trip.

  4. Comment by Mary Newman

    Mary Newman January 11, 2011 at 17:05

    Greece is at the top of my list of places to visit. I love the water and ruins! I just wanted to leave a comment and say I appreciate you putting a map on your post too! Good idea for those geographically challenged like moi! hehe

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison January 12, 2011 at 07:55

      Glad you like the map Mary. I’m going to try and add them more often. I realized that I often leave out little details like addresses and admission costs so I’ll be doing more of that in the future. Greece was high on my list too and honestly still is as we only saw a tiny bit of the mainland. I’d love to explore some of the islands as well.

  5. Comment by Kimberly

    Kimberly January 15, 2011 at 20:48

    Nice shots, you captured it’s beauty perfectly! I wonder why the gods left this place, lovely:)

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison January 16, 2011 at 16:22

      Thanks Kimberly, I’m glad you like the photos 🙂

  6. Comment by Pond Jumpers: Spain

    Pond Jumpers: Spain February 13, 2011 at 21:26

    Amazing photos. Great idea to take a car to drive and explore. I’ve really come to appreciate road trips being in Europe.

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison February 14, 2011 at 12:04

      Thanks! I love road tripping in Europe too. It’s a nice relaxing way to explore the countryside 🙂

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