The Valley of the Temples in Sicily is one of the world’s most famous historical attractions. In our two months living in Sicily I can honestly say it was one of the most impressive and incredible places we visited, and I can see why it’s a must see for many tourists.
When walking into the Valley of the Temples for the first time, you wouldn’t be blamed for thinking you had stumbled upon the film set of a historical drama. Gigantic Greek columns that rise dramatically from the rugged and windswept backdrops make tourists feel as though they have stepped back in time to a world where beauty and design went hand in hand.
Throughout this archaeological park are scattered eight temples, most of which are impressively intact for their age. These monuments were built between 510 BC and 430 BC. Of the two archaeological parks we visited while in Sicily this was by far the most impressive, but if it gives you a taste for the ancient then why not check out Syracuse’s stunning archaeological park with it’s Greek theatre and Roman ruins lying side by side.
A Little History
The Valley Of The Temples, or The Valle dei Templi, is one of Sicily’s most impressive tourist attractions. The archaeological site in Agrigento is one of the most outstanding examples of Greek art and architecture.
It was founded in 580BC by settlers from Gela and Rhodes, probably to be used as a base for agriculture and handicrafts, such as ceramic work. The city underwent extensive building like no other, as you will see from some of the ruins, but much of it was destroyed in 406BC by the Carthaginians.
Then, during the Roman period, new public buildings were erected in the city, now called Agrigentum. These included at least two temples, the theatre and the bouleuterion. In the late ancient and early Middle Ages, the hill of the Temples was occupied by a vast Christian necropolis-you can book onto a tour to visit the underground sections of this. During the Muslim conquest they withdrew to the Girgenti hill, where later the medieval and modern city would be developed.
This rich history makes Valley of the Temples a particularly interesting place to visit. As it was used over the years by so many, for so many different purposes, it is historically fascinating.
Where Is The Valley Of The Temples?
The Valley of the Temples can be found just outside the city of Agrigento. Agrigento is a city on the southern coast of Sicily and capital of the province of Agrigento. It’s a great area to visit, so try to make time to see some of the other attractions while you’re here, such as Agrigento itself and The Turkish Steps.
Getting To The Valley Of The Temples
By far the best way to see the sights of Sicily is by car. It’s relatively easy to drive here, once you’ve got used to the speedy habits of the locals, and having your own mode of transport will mean you can easily get to the major attractions and beauty spots. If hiring transport appeals to you then you should look at taking a roadtrip around Sicily, and include the Valley of the Temples in your itinerary!
By Car: If you’re arriving at the Valley of Temples by car, then you’ll be pleased to know there is a large car park by the ticket office. There is a 5 euros minimum charge and make sure you bring change for the machine.
By Taxi: You can take a taxi from Agrigento for around 10 euros. If you’ve based yourself here and don’t have a car, then this will probably be your cheapest option.
By Tour: There are plenty of organised day trips from the main cities around Sicily. This is a great option if you’ve not hired a car, as you’ll be able to fit in a lot more sightseeing. This company offers well priced tours from Palermo, and if you’re coming from Catania you can take this tour that includes a trip to the stunning Turkish Steps. If you’re based in Taormina then this all day tour includes a trip to the Valley of the Temples.
We have found public transport in Sicily to be somewhat lacking. It would be very possible to get to Agrigento if you plan to stay over but much harder to do it all as a day trip. We recommend taking a day tour if you are short on time.
Exploring The Valley Of The Temples
The Valley of the Temples is a vast site, and is crammed full of interesting things to see. You will definitely want to pick up a map from the ticket office before you set off, and make sure you give yourself a reasonable amount of time to explore. We spent a whole day here and there were still parts of the site we hadn’t seen when we left. If you are short on time then a half day would be sufficient to see the main attractions and get a feel for the place.
We’ve given a short description of each zone in the Valley of the Temples below, to help you plan your trip before you arrive.
The Eastern Zone of The Valley of the Temples in Sicily
The eastern zone of the Valley of the Temples in Sicily is probably the most impressive, containing the three best preserved temples. If you’re short on time you should head here first to be sure not to miss them. The 5th century Tempio di Hera (or Temple of Juno as it is also known), is the first temple you will see as you walk through the eastern entrance.
Perched on the edge of a high ridge, you can enjoy this temple along with magnificent views. It is possible to see the long altar inside, which was originally used for sacrifices. Sadly it was partly destroyed by a fire in 406 BC and repaired by the Romans, but it is still an impressive introduction to the Valley of the Temples and will give you a taste of what is yet to come.
Instead of taking the long, straight path to the next set of temples make sure you duck alongside and walk through the olive grove with it’s stunning views and Byzantine tombs built into the city walls. This will lead you to arguably the most impressive and most photographed structure of the park, Tempio della Concordia (Temple of Concordia).
This ridge top temple is one of the best preserved Greek temples discovered and is an incredible site. We could see why some describe the site as one of the must sees across the whole of the Mediterranean. It was later turned into a Christian church, evident from excavated underground tombs.
To make the Temple of Concordia even more special, lying next to it is a huge statue of Icarus, with his burnt wings from flying too close to the sun. This modern interpretation of the classical style of staue is all that is left of the 17 statues created around the park by the Polish artist Igor Mitoraj.
The Temple of Heracles is the last of the zones temples and is the oldest, dating from the end of 6 BC. It originally had 38 columns of which 8 remain but you can wonder around the ruins here which is a spectacle in itself.
The Western Zone of The Valley of the Temples in Sicily
The main attraction of the western zone is the ruin of the Temple of Zeus. With an area of 112m by 56m with columns 20m high, this would have been the largest Doric temple ever built had its construction not been halted by the Carthaginians. Now little remains except ruin.
Just around the corner in the Valley of the Temples in Sicily, lies the Temple of Castor and Pollox. It was quiet and peaceful here and there was space to reflect on everything seen throughout the day. This was one of my favourite spots and I sat here for a long time, enjoying being a part of the ancient ruins around me.
Aside from the main attractions there is plenty more to explore. The Valley of the Temples is extensive and around every corner is a new, equally beautiful surprise. Anything less than a day here and you will not get to soak it all in, so if you can make sure you spare some time and take your time exploring.
If you pay extra for your ticket into the Valley of the Temples in Sicily, you will gain admission to the Gardens of Kolymbetra. As we were on a tight budget we opted out of this and were glad we did. It took hours to walk around the ruins and by the end of the day our feet were sore and we were ready for a long sit down and a cold beer! If you bought a picnic then we heard there are picnic benches and plenty of trees providing welcome shade.
Tip: Agrigento is not the prettiest city in Sicily, but if you have a spare hour or so then the views of the Valley of the Temples from up here are spectacular and well worth a look.
The Valley of the Temples, Sicily: Need To Knows
We found the website for Valley of the Temples pretty hard to navigate and low on information. Try their facebook page for a little more seasonal detail.
Valley Of The Temples: Ticket Prices
Adults-10 euros, or 13.50 for a park ticket including the museum, and 15 euros for the park and gardens.
Concession-5 euros, 7 euros including the museum and 9 euros for the park and gardens.
Valley of the Temples: Opening Times
Everyday, 8.30-7pm. The park is open later in the summer months and you can see the temples lit up at night. Check their facebook site for up to date info!
We enjoyed a day here, and needed it to see everything on offer. But the midday heat makes it hard going so aim to arrive either early or late and make sure you take proper rests throughout.
There is a well looked after path passing most of the main sites. To get to some of the ruins the ground is uneven and rocky.
If the walk from one end of the park to the other (2.5km) is enough for you then it is possible to get a taxi ride back to your car at the other end.
What To Bring To The Valley Of The Temples
The valley of the Temples isn’t actually in a valley, as the name suggests. It is set along a 2.5km ridge which offers little shade for those Sicily summer days. Make sure you take the obvious-water, sun cream, sunhat and snacks. The is a cafe on site that isn’t too ridiculously priced but is still on the expensive side (think 3 euros for a single scoop of ice cream).
Where To Next?
Leave time to visit the incredibly beautiful Turkish Steps nearby. Consider going at sunset when it’s at its most romantic!
Enjoyed the Valley of the Temples? Then you’ll probably want to see the beautiful ancient town of Syracuse and check out Syracase’s Archeological Park, that has a beautifully preserved Greek ampitheatre that still puts on live theatre to this day.
Don’t miss Ragusa Ibla, Sicily’s UNESCO world heritage site. This stunning ancient town is full of charm, from it’s dimly lit alley ways that glow under the street lamps, to it’s authentic cafes and restaurants.