Valley of the Temples

Top choice archaeological site in Agrigento

Sicily's most enthralling archaeological site encompasses the ruined ancient city of Akragas, highlighted by the stunningly well-preserved Tempio della Concordia (Temple of Concordia), one of several ridge-top temples that once served as beacons for homecoming sailors. The 13-sq-km park, 3km south of Agrigento, is split into eastern and western zones. Ticket offices with car parks are at the park's southwestern corner (the main Porta V entrance) and at the northeastern corner near the Temple of Hera (Eastern Entrance).

Eastern Zone

If you only have time to explore part of the site, make it the eastern zone, where you'll find the three best-preserved temples. The 5th-century-BC Tempio di Hera, is perched on the edge of a ridge. Though partly destroyed by an earthquake in the Middle Ages, much of the colonnade remains intact, as does a long altar, originally used for sacrifices.

From here, the path continues westwards, past a gnarled 800-year-old olive tree and a series of Byzantine tombs built into the city walls, to the Tempio della Concordia. This remarkable edifice, the model for Unesco's logo, has survived almost entirely intact since it was constructed in 430 BC. In 1748 the temple was restored to its original form and given the name it's now known by.

The last of the zone's temples, the Tempio di Ercole, is the oldest, dating from the end of 6 BC. Eight of its 38 columns have been raised and you can wander around the remains of the rest.

Down from the main temples, you can see a little temple set on a high base. This is known as the Tomba di Terone, although it dates to 75 BC, about 500 years after the death of Theron, Agrigento's Greek tyrant.

Western Zone

The main feature of the western zone is the crumbled ruin of the Tempio di Giove. Covering 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 interrupted by the Carthaginians sacking Akragas. The incomplete temple was later destroyed by an earthquake.

A short hop away, four columns mark the Tempio dei Dioscuri, a 5th century BC temple that was destroyed by an earthquake and partially rebuilt in the 19th century. Just behind is a complex of altars and small buildings believed to be part of the 6th century BC Santuario delle Divine Chtoniche.

In a natural cleft near the sanctuary is the Giardino della Kolymbetra, a lush garden of olive and citrus trees interspersed with more than 300 labelled species of plants and some welcome picnic tables.

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