Are you going to discover the historical monuments of Sicily? Go and visit the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento, you won’t be disappointed!
Visiting the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento is an essential part of any trip to Sicily. Sicily, the largest island in Italy and the Mediterranean, is home to wonders of inestimable value. Among its beaches, gastronomy and culture, we can mention the Valley of the Temples, located between the city of Agrigento and the seaside resort of San Leone, on the south Sicilian coast. This unique archaeological site testifies to a city founded in 582 BC by Greek settlers from Gela, which quickly established itself as one of the brightest and most prosperous colonies in the Hellenic West. These Greek ruins are the most famous of Sicily’s Gallo-Roman remains, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and therefore attract tens of thousands of visitors all year round.
Going to Sicily without visiting the Valley of the Temples would be like visiting Granada (Spain) without visiting the Alhambra: you really would be missing out! Here is our mini-guide to the Valley of the Temples!
Also read : The 17 best things to do in Sicily
Visit the Valley of the Temples: a little history
It is from this western entrance, Porta Quinta, that we began the visit. The Valley of the Temples – which is less a valley than a city built on a rocky promontory – is an archaeological estate of 1,300 hectares, composed of a dozen Doric temples built between 510 and 430 BC. We recommend arriving in the morning, both for the parking space and for the suffocating heat that it may cause in the afternoon.
During our visit, we realized that the site has very few explanatory panels. Visitors are free to simply wander down the main aisle and photograph the remains. As a result, if you wish to know the history of the construction of the temples, you will have to opt for a guided tour. Some private guided tours can be booked online ain advance and may leave from your hotel in Agrigento while others leave from the ticket office of the Temple of Juno.
What to see in the Valley of the Temples
The visit includes a total of a dozen temples. It should be recalled that the city of Agrigento – Akragas in ancient Greek – had more temples in the middle of the 5th century BC than there are on the Athenian acropolis. Even better news, they have been well preserved through time and were too far from Mount Etna to be harmed by its many eruptions. Here is a brief presentation of the temples to be made.
The Temple of Hera: Built around -460 or -450, this Doric temple, six columns wide and 13 columns long, was burned by the Carthaginians in -406, and repaired by the Romans during the 1st century BC. Since the 18th century, 25 of the 34 columns of the peristyle have been reconstructed. It is one of the most famous temples in Agrigento.
The Temple of Concord: This temple is with the Hephaistéion of Athens, one of the best preserved of Greek antiquity. Probably built between -440 and -430, it is also the most famous of the temples of Agrigento. It was rehabilitated as a Christian basilica in the 6th century AD and it is perhaps this religious use that preserved it from the ravages of time.
The Temple of Heracles: Built around -500 BC, it is the oldest ancient temple on the site. Located to the east of the park, only a few ruins and stones remain on the ground. This temple has a peristyle of 6 by 15 columns, of which only 8 columns remain today.
The Temple of Zeus Olympian: This temple – named Olympion – was never completed because it was ransacked and burned by the Carthaginians in 406 BC. If it had not been destroyed, it would have been the largest of all the Doric temples and the third largest among the Greek temples, with large dimensions: a peristyle of 7 by 14 columns, measuring 370 by 184 feet, columns 66 feet high, and gigantic statues 26 feet high to support the cover of the temple: the Atlanteans (for the Greeks) or Telamons (for the Romans), representing a man with raised arms. A reconstruction of one of these statues can be found in the archaeological museum.
The Temple of the Dioscuri: Near the remains of residential houses and the ruins of the Olympiad, this temple of the Dioscuri (dedicated to Castor and Pollux) was built in the middle of the 5th century, in the image of the Temple of Concord. Together with the latter, it is one of the most common postcard photos of Agrigento. It is noted that the scientific community disagrees with the anachronistic reconstruction of the temple.
How to get to the Valley of Temples in Agrigento?
– Whether you are driving your own car or if you chose to rent a car, you will have to take the SS115 road that runs along the southern coast of Sicily, either from Gela or from Realmonte. Take via Giuseppe la Loggia and park in the car park named after the site (5 € per day).
– If you stay in Agrigento, some neighborhoods are within walking distance, and driving to the Valley will be quick and well indicated.
The Valley of Temples in Agrigento: rates and opening hours
OPENING DAYS AND HOURS
The site is open all year round from 8:30 am to 7 pm, the last entrance is one hour before closing time.
- General entrance rate for adults: €10
- Reduced rate (EU citizens under 25 years old): €5
- Persons with disabilities : Free
- European and non-European citizens under 18 : Free
- First Sunday of every month : Free
As explained above, it is interesting to have a guide or at least an audio guide. There is a 21€ ticket which includes the entrance to the Valley of the Temples with the audio-guide.
GOOD TO KNOW
– When visiting the Valley of the Temples, take the opportunity to also visit the regional archaeological museum of Agrigento, located within the archaeological site. Admission is €8, but if you can combine it with a Valley of the Temple Ticket for only a small additional fee (+3,50€ for adults, +2€ for Eu citizens under 25.
– The museum has different hours than the park however, it is open Monday to Saturday from 9:00 to 19:00 and Sundays and public holidays from 9:00 to 13:00 only.
– Bring plenty of water and head cover – especially in summer, when it can be over 110°F – as there is absolutely no shade on the site.
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