Cape Sounion is the windy southern tip of Attica, 69 km (43 mi) from Athens. Here on a rocky cliff-top spur high above the Aegean stands a Doric temple to Poseidon, god of the sea. It was built in 444 BC, the same time as the Parthenon, and its brilliant white columns have been a welcome landmark to seafarers ever since. The marble, quarried at nearby Agrileza, contains no iron and retains its whiteness over centuries. Of the original 34 slender columns, 15 survive; Lord Byron set an unfortunate precedent in 1819 when he carved his name on one of them.
The sacred site was sealed by massive walls; these can be followed down to the bay and the remains of ancient boathouses, which later became a pirates lair. The coast road along the Attic Riviera passes many busy and commercialized beaches and resorts. South of Vouliagmeni and Varkiza with their marinas and luxury clubs, the road is lined with quieter coves and tavemas and exclusive villas.
There are regular buses from Athens to Sounion, and it is a popular outing - an early morning visit avoids some of the crowds. It is possible to drive back round the Cape and a little north to the rather desolate town of Lavrio. The Mineralogical Museum is a reminder of its wealthy past as a silver-mining centre. A loop inland rejoins the coast road at Anavysos.
By car or bus
WHEN TO GO
All year; but avoid weekends and high season (July/August)
TIME IT TAKES
sunset at the Cape may be cliched, but the views over the islands and sea are sensational Vouliagmeni Lake - the warm sulphurous water has brought relief to rheumatism sufferers for years.
Anavysos - a lively little town, with fish sold from the boats in the harbour and a colourful market.
YOU SHOULD KNOW
Highway 91, with its sharp curves and unheeded speed limits, is a dangerous road.