Just outside Agrigento, on the beautiful southern coast of Sicily, you will find a large archaeological area where monumental Greek temples were built in the 4th and 5th centuries BC. They are some of the largest and best-preserved Greek temples outside of Greece.
In 1997, the Valley of the Temples was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site and this archaeological park is now a national monument of Italy. If you are heading to Sicily (1.5-hour direct flight from Athens), we highly recommend you visit.
History of Agrigento
This wonderful ancient city was built by the Greeks who colonized parts of Sicily in the 6th century BC. Although today it is known as Agrigento, this ancient Greek town was originally called Akragas, named after the Akragas River. At one time Agrigento was one of the richest and most important cities of the Greek empire.
Centuries later the Romans took the territory and renamed it “Agrigentum”. The city prospered again right up until the fall of the Roman Empire. While the modern city was severely damaged during WWII, the Valley of the Temples was preserved.
Valley of the Temples
Today, the Valley of the Temples features the remains of 7 temples. Six of these sit along the hill while one, the Temple of Asclepius, is located next to the Akragas River.
Along with ancient temples, the park also features ancient houses, tombs, and other historic monuments. Much of the ancient city of Agrigento remains unexcavated but the size and splendour of the temples allow visitors to realise just how majestic Agrigento was in the ancient Mediterranean world.
Discover the ruins
Visits to the site begin from the entrance at the eastern end, just down the hill from the centre of town. Walking along, you will come across three main ruins- the Temple of Juno, the Temple of Concordia (reminiscent of the Acropolis in Athens), and the Temple of Hercules (the site’s oldest temple). Roman tombs and Greek walls run along the pathway and as you walk through you will also come across remains of the ancient Agora, which are located near the parking lot.
What else you’ll find in the area
Beyond the ancient ruins, nearby attractions include the Kolymbithra Garden (an ancient olive and citrus garden), and The Regional Archaeological Museum ‘Pietro Griffo’, which is one of the most important and visited archaeological museums in Sicily; the museum displays over 5688 artifacts illustrating the history of the Agrigentan territory from prehistoric times to the end of the Greek-Roman period. Across the street from the museum, you will find remains of the Hellenistic and Roman quarters.
Tips for visiting
-If you are visiting during summer, we suggest getting there very early, or late in the afternoon. During the peak of the day is extremely hot and keep in mind there is not a lot of shade.
-Wear comfortable shoes and if you are here during the warmer months make sure you take a hat and have a bottle of water with you. Although there are a couple of shops on-site, it’s a large area to walk so it’s best you are prepared.
-To explore the site well, you will need around three to four hours.
-At the entrance of the park you’ll find the ticket office, souvenir stands, a shop, and restrooms.
Location of Agrigento
Agrigento is in southwestern Sicily. It’s just off the main road that runs along Sicily’s south coast; approximately 140km south of Palermo and 200km west of Catania and Syracuse. We stayed in Cefalù, and the drive from there to Agrigento was roughly two hours.
The archaeological site can be reached by car or bus and it’s 6.5 kilometres from Agrigento. Local buses run regularly from Agrigento, and there are also many organised day tours that run from pretty much anywhere in Sicily.
All images by IN+SIGHTS GREECE © (Copyright)