Mythology Provides the Perfect Backdrop for the Best Sunsets in Athens

by | Jul 10, 2024 | Travel and Tourism

Beautiful sunsets are part of the quintessential Greek summer. To be fair, they are beautiful all year long, but during the summer when spending time on the coast is practically a must, watching the sunset almost becomes mandatory at the end of the day.

Sunset has been my favorite time of day for as long as I can remember. I make a point to experience it whenever possible, wherever I am in the world, but when I am in Greece it becomes a top priority. In Athens, there are many places to catch a stunning sunset but at one place in particular, the experience is truly magical, and it is where I send every friend who visits the city.

Photo: Eugenia Lazaris

About an hour outside of Athens is Cape Sounion, or Sounio for short, a promontory that overlooks the Aegean and draws visitors from around the city each day to bear witness as the sun departs, slowly sinking into the horizon. The sunsets here are consistently stunning, but what makes them so special is the ancient temple that sits on the site.

The temple in question is the Temple of Poseidon and it’s one of Greece’s most impressive and most well-preserved ancient monuments. Dedicated to the mythological god of the sea, this Doric temple serves as an imposing reminder of the brilliance of the ancient Greeks. The temple has stood sentinel over Attica for centuries despite earthquakes, exposure to the elements and the impact of tourism.

The site, which dates to approximately 440 BCE, not only offers incredible sunsets on a daily basis, but it also holds a significant place in the mythology of Greece. The temple was built during the Golden Age of Pericles and has always been the most prominent landmark for ships coming and going from the port of Athens. It is also the site of a mythological tragedy that is rumored to have resulted in the sea below being named the Aegean Sea.

According to myth, when Theseus, the son of King Aegeus, sailed to Crete to fight the legendary minotaur of Crete, he left sailing a black flag with a promise to return home with white sails if he succeeded. In his excitement at completing his mission, Theseus forgot to change his sails upon his return. Aegeus, who stood waiting on the cliff at Cape Sounion, saw the black sails as soon as the ship came into view and, brokenhearted, leaped to his death in the sea below.

Photo: Eugenia Lazaris

Today, the site, which is open daily until sunset, is known as one of the best places to enjoy the golden hour. To enjoy the experience, visit in the late afternoon so you have time to visit the monument and the gift shop. As the day draws to a close, find yourself a spot on the hillside, which gradually slopes downward to the shore, and wait for the show to begin.

The drive from Athens, which is about 77 kilometers (48 miles), can take around an hour depending on traffic, but it is well worth it. The coastal route takes you along the beautiful Athenian Riviera past great restaurants, cafés and plenty of places to stop and take a refreshing dip in the Aegean.