The Valley of the Temples is a special place.
Situated on the dry arid hilltops overlooking the penetrating blues of the Mediterranean sea, these iconic temples have stood strong in the face of the winds, the invasions, the wars, the sorrows, the eruptions, and the shifting plates and political fortunes of Sicily.
For 2,500 years, they have remained standing - resolute in form and expression.
Though some have admittedly seen better days, with weather and time beginning to edge ahead in their eternal battle, these famous Greek temples of Sicily scattered amongst the olive trees, the modern tarmac road, the dusty pathways, are something to be treasured by any visitor to the island.
In this practical guide to the Valley of the Temples - written for travellers planning a day trip or tour - we’ve shared our personal tips on visiting one of Sicily’s most popular sites. It includes clear advice on planning your route across the park’s two zones, an overview of the transport options from Agrigento, a little bit of a history lesson, and the reason you really shouldn’t visit the park at 1pm in July.
Here are seven essential things to know before you visit the Valley of the Temples in Sicily.
VALLEY OF THE TEMPLES | THE BASICS
Located outside Agrigento, on the southwestern coast of Sicily.
A UNESCO Heritage site of eight Greek temples and ruins.
Full entry is €12, and you can buy ‘skip the queue’ tickets online.
The site can be reached by public transport, rental car, or a tour.
A day trip visit involves walking 4-5 kms and lasts 3-4 hours.
It’s All Greek To Me (And Everyone Else)
So, in a nutshell, why are there lots of Greek temples in Sicily? And why are they all conveniently in one place?
Various coastal areas of southern Italy were once colonies of the city-states of ancient Greece; collectively, these were known as Magna Graecia (or Great Greece). Culturally and linguistically, they were shaped and reflected the Greeks.
In Sicily, the city of Akragas was founded as a colony in the 6th century BC and developed to become “one of the leading cities in the Mediterranean world”. Its prosperous and pivotal status as the third-largest city within Magana Graecia, according to UNESCO, was clearly demonstrated by the cluster of light honey-coloured Doric temples which dominated Akragas.
Though Akragas is now Agrigento and the Greeks are long gone, it is the extensive remains of their grand 4th and 5th century BC temples which now fall under the umbrella of ‘The Valley of The Temples’.
Not only are the temples tangible testaments to the golden age of the Greeks in Sicily, but they are some of the finest, best preserved examples of the style outside of Greece itself. Indeed, for some, the complex of eight temples comes second only to the Athens’ Acropolis.
All Roads Lead to Agrigento…
Agrigento serves as the gateway city to what the Greeks left behind.
As the Valley of the Temples is just three kilometres / less than two miles outside the hilltop city, it's the most logical place to base yourself before and after your visit. Due to this, you can find lots of affordable accommodation in and around the city (see this post on the best accommodation options in Agrigento).
From Agrigento, there are three ways to reach the entrances to the Valley of the Temples park complex.
By public bus
Take the Number 1 bus from Agrigento. It departs every 30 minutes, and will stop at the archaeological museum (15 minutes) and the Porta V Western entrance (20 minutes).
Bus Number 2/ runs less frequently to the eastern Tempio di Hera / Temple of Giunone / Juno entrance (15 minutes), but it departs less frequently than the Number 1.
You can catch either from the bus station on Piazzale Rosselli (Google Maps) or the square directly outside the train station in Agrigento (Google Maps). Tickets cost €1.70 if purchased on board, but are a little cheaper when you buy in advance from a cafe or kiosks inside the train station. Remember to validate your ticket in the machine when you board, and keep an eye out for your stop.
There is a timetable and route map for all Agrigento buses here.
It may only be 3 km from Agrigento to the eastern entrance, but just remember that in the Sicilian summer heat (more on why that's important later) it may feel like a lot longer. If you walk, make sure you leave earlier in the morning.
You could also take a taxi for the short ride (€10-12) but the bus is really the best option.
…But You Don’t Have to Stay in Agrigento!
On our own Sicily road trip, we wanted to stay a little further along the southern coast rather than in Agrigento.
For some of you reading and planning your own route, you may really want to visit the Valley of the Temples but you won’t have a rental car or will be based on the west or east coast. Thankfully, it’s still absolutely possible to visit the Temples on a day trip if you don’t plan on staying in Agrigento! Here’s how.
Agrigento is cheap and easy to reach by train from Palermo (2 hours, €9), and there are regular departures. Unfortunately, train connections with the east of Sicily (i.e. Catania at 3.5-4.5 hours, €16) are really not convenient if you’re hoping to visit Agrigento for a day trip.
If you want to take the train in Sicily, we use and recommend looking and booking with the free OMIO app.
By Rental Car
As we did, you can simply stay elsewhere along the southern coast and make your own way by car to the Valley of the Temples.
There are two dusty paid parking lots at both the western and eastern entrances. They’re signposted, but in a bit of a confusing way, so our advice is to stick one in Google Maps and follow the directions.
We parked in Parcheggio Tempio Di Giunone (Google Maps) at the eastern entrance, and the parking fee was €2 for the first hour, €1 for the second hour, and then €0.50 for each subsequent hour, with a maximum daily rate of €5. So, as an example, the total cost would be €3.50 if you parked for three hours. The machine accepted notes, but we'd recommend you bring enough small change and cash for your day at the Temples generally. Don’t lose your ticket as you need it to exit!
You can find the larger western entrance car park here on Google Maps, and we imagine the parking cost it around the same.
If you don’t have your own wheels or the train connection is unrealistic, your best option is to take one of several guided day trip tours which bring you to the Valley of the Temples from other locations in Sicily.
From Palermo | Full Day in Agrigento and the Valley of the Temples | View here
From Catania | Full day in Agrigento, Piazza Armerina, and the Temples | View here
From Taormina | Day Trip to Valley of the Temples and Villa Romana del Casale | View here
You Can Buy Tickets Online
Thankfully, you can enjoy the Valley of the Temples for quite a bit less than than €100,000 Google reportedly paid to rent the temples out for a gala dinner as part of their annual summer summit! It’s actually free for children under 18 and reduced for EU citizens aged 18-25, but just remember that you will likely need proof / ID.
Valley of The Temples Tickets
Full price | €12
Free | Children under 18 years old of all nationalities and for EVERYONE on the first Sunday of the month.
Tickets can be purchased at either the western or eastern entrance (we’ll explain the difference between the two in the next section) with cash or card. You can also buy ‘fast track’ tickets online, which allows you to bypass the summer crowds and tour groups and ‘skip the queue’ when you arrive. For further details or to buy your ticket, click here.
Audioguides are available in English, Italian, French, Spanish, or German for €5.00 - simply buy and collect at ticket desks. We didn’t take these as we were more focussed on photography in the summer heat and had done quite a bit of research beforehand, but they’d likely be a great addition to someone wanting a better perspective on the site’s history and importance. A personal piece of ID is required as a deposit.
Opening Times + Sunsets
The park is open every day from 8.30 am - 7 pm. During summer high season (usually mid-July to mid-September), the hours extend to 11 pm during the week, and until midnight on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays. The ticket office closes one hour before closing time.
As the eagle-eyed amongst you may have noticed, you can access the park until quite late in summer. These sunset and late-night openings are an increasingly popular way to experience the temples, especially for those based in Agrigento, as they are illuminated by the setting sun and then artfully placed light installations.
You can visit for sunset and the nighttime lights independently, or take an evening guided tour from Agrigento.
Pick Your Entrance + Route in Advance
The whole site extends over a much larger area than some people may expect - 3212 acres to be precise. It also involves quite a bit of walking, so that’s really important to appreciate before you arrive if you have health or mobility issues.
As we’ve mentioned, there are two entrances to the Valley of the Temples archaeological park, and the park is split into two zones. This caused us a bit of confusion when doing research for our own visit, but it’s actually really simple!
Note that temples are often referred to by several names - the Greek, the Italian, or the English - and we’ve used the English primiarily below.
In this area, you will find the three most complete and well-preserved ruins - they’re sort of the superstars of the park.
This includes the 6th century Temple of Hercules / Heracles (the oldest temple in Agrigento) and the stunning Temple of Concordia (one of the best preserved Doric temples in existence in the world). There’s also a cafe and free public toilets.
This entrance is just outside the Temple of Juno / Hera Lacinia (find it here on Google Maps)
Home to the magnificent Temple of Zeus / Jupiter (thought to have been the greatest Doric temple of the west), the Temple of Castore and Polluce, and a Sanctuary dedicated to the goddesses Demetria and Kore. It also had some adorable goats indigenous to the island which they’re trying to preserve!
The entrance and car park can be found here on Google Maps.
Everybody will explore the the two zones during their visit and your ticket covers both zones - it really isn’t a big deal whether you arrive at one or the other. The western entrance probably has more parking spaces and would be the ‘main’ entry point, but that’s just splitting hairs. The route along the dusty path to all the temples and ruins is obvious, and quite well sign-posted (although many of the other signs and explanations in the park could be improved).
In total, it’s a little over 2 km from the western entrance to the eastern entrance. Visiting the temples across these two zones will take 2-3 hours and that will be sufficient for most visitors (it was for us).
The only real inconvenience from the park layout is that, whichever car park or entrance you choose to enter from, you’ll have to walk back on yourself through the park to get back to your car. This, plus the heat, is why they’ve created the shuttle bus inside the park (see next section).
If you take the public bus from Agrigento, the best route may be to take bus 2/ from Agrigento and disembark at the Eastern / Temple of Juno entrance, and then take bus 1 back to Agrigento from outside the other end of the park (or vice versa - just remember that bus 2/ is less frequent). This means you don’t have to walk back through the park like everyone else.
If you take the bus and find a more efficient way, let us know your suggestions in the comments!
The Museum + Gardens
Those with a really keen interest in the period and the archaeology, should consider adding the the Regional Archaeology Museum and a handful of other ruins (i.e. Temple of Esculapio, Temple of Demetra) to their day trip route.
The museum is on the main road between the temple and Agrigento (Google Maps); it’s a very manageable 15 - 20 minute walk from the eastern zone cafe. The other ruins are probably best accessed by car.
If you would like to visit the museum, then you should purchase the Valley of The Temples + Archaeological Museum Combined Ticket. It’s €15.50 for adults, €9 for 18-25 year olds, and free for children under 18 years old of all nationalities. It’s free for everyone on the first Sunday of the month.
It’s also possible to add on a visit to the Garden of Kolymbethra, but we preferred to go to the beach. The combined ticket for the Valley of the Temples and Gardens is €17 for adults, €11 for 18-25 years olds.
Prepare for the Heat. Seriously
In summer, Sicily gets hot.
If you plan on walking nearly 5km in an archaeological park which has next to no shade, then you need to appreciate this and prepare accordingly. From our own visit, it was clear that it took quite a lot of people by surprise! So, here’s what you need to do:
Avoid exploring the Valley of the Temples in peak sunshine hours (i.e. 12 pm - 3 pm). However, due to tour schedules or your own plans, this may be unavoidable.
Stay hydrated. We always travel with our own refillable water bottles anyway to reduce unnecessary plastic consumption, and hope more travellers to Sicily do the same. In the park, they also have a number of drinking water fountains, so you can easily fill up as you explore and stay hydrated! Read this post if you’d like to know more about how to travel with less plastic.
Take breaks. As we mentioned, there’s really not much shade within either of the zones. However, if you do find a spot under a tree or whatever, then take the opportunity to get out of the sun. There’s also the cafe area in the eastern zone.
Wear a hat and lots of suncream.
If the heat really does become too much for you, then you’ll be happy to know that there is an electric shuttle (it’s a big golf cart really) inside the park. We can’t recall where exactly it runs to/from, but it’s probably to both entrances and we remember that it costs €3 per person (possibly cheaper if you buy it in advance from the the ticket office)! If you do have any better information, let us know in the comments.
Also, remember that in summer you can visit the Valley to the Temples in the late afternoon and evening, when it’s supposed to be stunning!
Please Be A Responsible Tourist
This should go without saying, but after visiting the Valley of the Temples (and a number of other sites in the last few years), it’s clear that many people do not have enough respect or appreciation for monuments or the environment.
Andrew got into…heated discussions…with two separate people who were walking all over two separate temples, when it was clear that this was not allowed. Their lack of understanding or surprise that, perhaps, walking indiscriminately on a 2,500 year old UNESCO heritage site my not be considered sensible or respectful spoke volumes. And if you’re going to break the rules for your Instagram or a photo opp, then please don’t.
Thankfully, after these discussions, other visitors said that they were also appalled by the behaviour and had wanted to speak up - so please don’t feel embarrassed or stupid about speaking up if you see someone showing a lack of respect and responsibility for the Temples! There aren’t many guards or attendants around and the site is very open (a good thing), so it’s up to all of us to ensure that it remains that way and that the ruins, temples, and statues are not poked, prodded, and treated like a pavement by other tourists (as has happened again and again in Pompeii). When you visit the Valley of the Temples, please:
Stick to the routes and paths.
Observe any signs and instruction.
Do not damage or touch the ruins, temples, statues.
Put litter in the bins or take it out with you.
Every touch leaves a trace, and none of us want tourism to be the thing which destroys these historic ruins quicker than anything else in the last 250 centuries.