Valley of the Temples, Agrigento: Sicily’s Greek Heritage

Temple of Concordia, Sicily
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Nestling among the wilds of the Sicilian landscape, close to Agrigento, the Valley of the Temples comes as a surprise. Sicily is unmistakeably Italian: we had explored hilltowns and Roman remains, and spent long evenings with Italian food and wine. But here we were, in a pocket of ancient Greece, surrounded by Doric columns and camera-toting Japanese tourists.

Classical Landscape of the Valley of the Temples

Most visitors are aware of Italy’s long history, but Sicily’s Greek legacy is less well known. The city of Agrigento was an important Greek colony in the 6th century BC, and this area has some of the best preserved Greek remains outside of Greece itself, becoming a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.

Much of the Greek heritage still lies underground, but the Valley of the Temples, just outside modern Agrigento, has been excavated and is one of Sicily’s main tourist attractions. The temples were partially destroyed by the Carthaginians, restored by the Romans and then damaged by a mixture of human and seismic activity.

Temple of Concordia, Sicily
The Temple of Concordia is one of the most complete temples

Today you can walk among the remains of seven temples, all facing east towards the rising sun. This is in fact not a valley, but a ridge, and the temples are perched on the hillside, creating a dramatic classical landscape.

Valley of the Temples, Sicily
The temples are perched on top of the ridge, amid a dramatic Sicilian landscape

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Kolymbetra Garden

We left the tour groups to their exploration and went in search of another remarkable site, the Kolymbetra Garden, sunk into a basin in the Valley of the Temples. The basin was created for irrigation purposes and later planted by Arabic settlers. It became known as a place of beauty and reflection and throughout the centuries it has inspired Roman and Italian poets including Virgil and Pirandello.

Kolymbetra Garden, Sicily
Looking up to a ruined doric column from the Kolymbetra Garden

For us it was a place of calm. We had the garden almost to ourselves and we spent some time wandering through the olive and citrus groves, admiring the freely growing cacti and succulents, and picking our way between ripe oranges and limes that had fallen to the floor.

Olive grove, Sicily
We walked past old olive trees

But finally it was time to leave this Arcadian idyll. We bid farewell to the garden and the Greek ruins and went in search of some very Italian pasta for lunch.

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15 thoughts on “Valley of the Temples, Agrigento: Sicily’s Greek Heritage”

  1. I was there years ago but we were too late. The place closed about an hour earlier and I could only take pictures from the outside. It was still an impressive sight from the parking lot.

  2. Samantha @mytanfeet

    I can't wait to explore ruins and temples in Europe! I'm surprised that there are no people in your pictures but it seems that it's a big enough area that you're not in crowds all the time which is pretttty awesome.

  3. I'm so jealous, any place where history comes alive like this is a treat. You captured the scenery very nicely with your words, thanks for sharing!

  4. Just lat night I was discussing a possible trip to Sicily before the end of this year. Thanks for this, it really isn't something that popped into my mind when visualizing the area. 'I've obviously got a bit to learn. 🙂

  5. Great spot! It doesn't look as a touristic place which is so good. There are not many place like this when you can see the ancient monuments in their natural and incredible location without many people wandering around. I wish I could visit it one day!

  6. The ancient Greeks certainly made their way around the Mediterranean. Thanks for showing me sites that weren't on my radar before.

  7. I haven't been there yet but my boyfriend loves to read about history and empires that came before us and he has rambled on about his places and the Greek links within Roman lands while I pretend to listen. Hopefully I can see it myself one day.

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WorldWideWriter is owned and managed by Karen Warren.

I have been writing and travelling for many years (almost 70 countries at the last count), and I’ve visited every continent except Antarctica. This website is my attempt to inform and inspire other travellers, and to share some of the things I’ve discovered along the way. Read more…

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