However you decide to go, whether by taxi or tour, a day trip to Cape Sounio on the Attica Peninsula is a connection to one of the most famous of all Greek myths. With the remains of the Temple of Poseidon perched on a promontory overlooking the deep blue waters of the Aegean, you can see visible evidence of the early temple and the spot where Aegeus threw himself off the cliff in despair, thinking his son to be dead, giving the name Aegean to the waters. As was the custom at that time, the Athenians were forced to send 7 young men and 7 young women to King Minos of Crete as tribute to the dreaded Minotaur. Not only were they to receive freedom if they killed the monster, but had to make their return through the complexities of the maze, deemed almost impossible. Theseus, son of Aegeus volunteered and a pact was made that if he was successful, his ship would return to the port using white sails. If dead, the ship would return using black sails. Mistakenly, the ship neglected to use the white sails and the distraught father, thinking his son was dead, gave up his own life – talk about Greek tragedies!
There is archaeological evidence of an earlier temple dating back to the Archaic period of 700 B.C.. Although the temple was destroyed in 480 B.C., it was rebuilt in 440 B.C., the remains of which are still standing. Of the total number of the original 84 columns, today there are 15, built in the distinctive Doric style. The earliest reference in literature is in Homer’s Odyssey but in more modern times it has attracted visits by both the English poet, Lord Byron, as well as the more contemporary German philosopher, Martin Heidegger. Today, it also attracts many visitors to this breathtaking spot, both for the mythology and the beauty. Now, Cape Sounio is part of the Athenian Riviera featuring ultra luxurious homes, but is also a wonderful day trip from Athens.
Leaving from our hotel, Grande Bretagne in Athens, our first stop on the way was the Papagiannakos winery in the Markopoulo area on the Athenian Riviera in the Mosogeia Wine Region. There we met the owner and president of the innovative “Wines of Athens” and his wife. First we were given a most interesting tour of the winery and then sampled some of the wines in the tasting room. These included the Malagousia variety which found its ideal home in the privately owned vineyard of the winery in Markopoulos, aided by the exceptional soil of the Attica vineyard. As for the red wines, chief among them are the Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot varieties. The owner, Vassilis Papagiannakos, is the 3rd generation descendent of the original family who began the production in 1919. It is modern and immaculate, using the most advanced of wine technology as well as reflecting the ecological sensitivities of the winemaker and owner of the first bioclimatic winery in Greece.
Not only is the wine exceptional, using the bioclimatic standards that are innovative and important to production of wine in that famous wine producing area, but its location, set among vineyards, is built on the site of an old monastery. It’s also close to the Temple of Artemis and was, according to legend, a favorite place to visit by the Greek god of wine, Dionysus. There are other archeological sites nearby as well as some beautiful beaches.
Built on one of the most exquisite of those beaches is the 5-star resort of Cape Sounio, a Grecotel Resort. Dining on the outdoor deck at the edge of a beautiful and protected cove is an experience of a lifetime. Across the water is the Temple of Poseidon where, in ancient times, the boats entered the small harbor. This is where the boat of Theseus sailed in resulting in the tragic story of his father, Aegeus. Now it is a superb swimming area, but the view of the remaining temple remains a connection to the ancient myth.
The intense blue green of the water makes it appear that paint has been spilled into it and it is undisturbed by waves or movement, giving the feeling of a vast, open swimming pool. Surrounded by natural beauty, five-star dining and accommodations, ancient ruins and well known Greek mythology, you can relax and enjoy superb food, beautifully presented in a movie setting that is real. If it is within your realm of reality to spend the night at one of the private bungalows, you can count on being treated like visiting royalty.
With all there is to do and to see in Athens, taking a break to visit this magnificent area, just a short hour away, will provide a completely different experience not soon to be forgotten.
If You Go
Cape Sunio Resort
Susanna Starr is a well-traveled and published travel writer, photographer, author, entrepreneur, speaker and artist. She holds a degree in philosophy from Stony Brook State University of New York. Susanna is the International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association’s Regional Membership Coordinator for Oaxaca & Mexican Caribbean, Mexico and a Contributing Editor at FWT Magazine: food wine travel. Her books have achieved worldwide acclaim.