Temple of Apollo in Ancient Corinth

Ancient Corinth, Acrocorinth, and Corinth Canal are three extraordinary historical landmarks that you can visit on a day trip from Athens.

Ancient Corinth and Acrocorinth are a 10-minute drive apart and both are quite close to the canal, so you can do the whole Corinth trilogy in one go.

I have been to Ancient Corinth and Acrocorinth many times – especially Corinth Canal as you have to cross it if you are going anywhere to the Peloponnese. Still, I always find something exciting new to fascinate me in those beautiful and important Greek areas.

This time, I was also visiting my sister Eleni who was spending the summer at a family seaside resort close to Corinth.

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    Corinth Canal

    Corinth Canal or the Isthmus of Corinth is a narrow canal, 6 km long, connecting the Corinthian Gulf (the western part of Greece towards Italy) with the Saronic Gulf and the Aegean Sea in general.

    Over 10,000 boats and cruise ships cross the canal to avoid navigating the 400 km around the Peloponnese every year.

    Nasa photo of Corinth Canal and Kechries
    Corinth Canal © NASA

    Periandros, the ancient ruler of Corinth, trying to avoid the many-day trip all around Peloponnese, and the dangerous capes of Tainaron and Maleas, decided to dig the Corinth canal. This was not possible due to technicalities, but as Corinth was big in trade with other cities-states, Periandros came to construct Diolkos.

    Diolkos in Corinth Canal© Archaeological News

    Ancient Corinthians designed and built Diolkos probably in the 6th c BC. Diolkos was a brilliant idea. The Corinthians built a special road, on which ships were actually pulled from the Corinthian Gulf to the Saronic Gulf and vice versa across the land.

    The historians think that slaves – and not animals – were dragging the ships on platforms, which must have been a real hardship.

    This kind of transportation went on for many centuries and you can see traces of it today in the area of Isthmia, in Corinth Canal.

    As soon as Greece became independent from the Ottomans (after 1821), the Greek authorities started thinking again about opening the Corinth Canal, after the 2.500 years that Diolkos was made.

    Corinth Canal Today

    The companies that were commissioned with the construction of the canal worked for 11 years, it was officially finished on 25 July 1893 and has been used since.

    However, as today’s ships are quite large and will get stuck if they try to cross the canal, only smaller ships can pass through.

    Mosaic in Isthmia Site and Museum

    Nearby Corinth Canal, you will find the Archaeological Site of Isthmia towards the village Kyra Vrysi with exhibits from Diolkos, the Temple of Poseidon, the Raches Settlement, and a beautiful mosaic from Kechries port (the departing port of Apostle Paul to Ephesus after his staying in Ancient Corinth).

    The Isthmia Museum is open between 8.00 and 15.00 but it is closed on Tuesdays. The entrance fee is 2 euros.

    Acrocorinth, the Acropolis of Corinth

    Acrocorinth, Photo by Lifo

    Acrocorinth, standing at 574 meters on a large monolithic rock, is the most significant and largest fortified castle in Greece and one of the biggest in Europe.

    Outer Walls

    It was first fortified in the 6th or 7th century BC. Inside the courtyard, the famous temple of Aphrodite was built, where the priestesses of the goddess practiced sacred prostitution.

    Acrocorinth is 10 minutes far from Ancient Corinth and if you are fit enough you can hike there. However, the usual way to get to Acrocorinth is to drive and follow the signs up to the mountain. There is a large parking area and a cafe under the trees where you can admire the entrance of the Castle.

    The Castle is just amazing in every sense. The mix of many religions and civilizations, the stunning 360° views of the Corinthian region from the top, the nooks, and the hidden rooms make Acrocorinth a very special and exciting destination for me.

    Agios Dimitrios Church

    As I was strolling Acrocorinth’s pathways, I came across the beautiful small church of Agios Dimitrios, dated probably since the 17th century.

    Agios Dimitrios Church

    The frescos inside the chapel looked centuries old. I was all alone at the moment and I really cherished the sacred atmosphere of the historic chapel.

    Inside the castle, there are three defensive lines and fortification gates, their constructions following the natural shape of the mountain.

    There are also traces of all the religions and civilizations that conquered Acrocorinth. There are remains of the ancient Aphrodite temple and walls from the ancient Greek period, the Roman period, Byzantine fortifications, Venetian constructions, and additions, a 16th-century mosque (more info about the mosque here), a Greek orthodox church, and the underwater Peirene cistern.

    View from the third line of defense

    Walking towards the top of Acrocorinth and the Temple of Aphrodite, I was trying to imagine how busy this place must have been, with 1000 young women serving as sacred prostitutes. Unfortunately, today very few remain from the original Temple of Aphrodite.

    Do visit the nearby Spring of Peirene and be aware of the bees that frequent the place – probably because of the water.

    Temple of Aphrodite © yiannis mitos
    Spring of Peirene © yiannis mitos

    A tip of caution: There is no safety fence around the Acrocorinth site so be careful of the edges as there is a high risk of falling into the chaos if you are not careful.

    Personally, I wouldn’t bring young children to the castle either. If you do, don’t let them wander around by themselves.

    There were now more people going to the top of Acrocorinth around me and as my sister would have already sipped her Greek coffee, I started the return trip downhill, which can be slightly tricky.

    The ground is made of shiny cobblestones which are slippery and make me a bit nervous. There are in places some iron bars where you can hold on but generally speaking, you need to be extra careful. There is nothing worse than ruining a perfect day of sightseeing with sore feet, blisters, or even a twisted ankle.

    Cobblestone in Acrocorinth

    I was wearing my Teva river crossing shoes (what was I thinking?) as I had totally forgotten how slippery the ground is in Acrocorinth. I was OK with them but they weren’t the best shoes for this kind of terrain.

    One of the best shoes for walking on cobblestones is the Merrell Range Ac+. (link opens to Amazon store). They are more sporty looking while still looking chic and stylish and above all safe.

    I managed to get to the ground floor in one piece and we set off to Ancient Corinth Archaeological Site.

    Remains of Ottoman Tomb – Türbe

    Ottoman Tomb in Corinth

    As I was driving to the free parking area of the Ancient Corinth Archaeological Site and just about 200 meters before I reach it, I was taken aback by an amazing site on the side of the road.

    A small, old but very beautiful building was standing I couldn’t put my finger on what exactly it was. It was definitely not a Greek church as it had no cross and the information sign was saying that it is an Islamic Monastery.

    But I had never heard of an Islamic monastery in my life!

    Doing some research, I found out that in the same spot there used to be a group of Ottoman buildings known as Kuliye. Kuliye, a charitable Ottoman settlement, would include a central mosque, and around it, there were other supporting buildings for eating, teaching, baths, and a hostel for the poor.

    The Kuliye in Corinth had also a tomb. The little building is the only one still standing and it is the türbe (tomb) of the Gülşeniye tekke of Şeyh Hasan Sezâ with the graves of Sheikh Mehmed Sadık and his successors. (Source: Annual Journal issued by The Faculty of Archaeology, Fayoum University, 2016)

    Quite amazing, if you ask me!

    Ancient Corinth

    Glauke Fountain
    Corinth Archaeological Museum

    5 minutes later we had parked and headed towards the entrance of Ancient Corinth.

    The entrance ticket from April – to October is 8 euros and half-price for the rest of the months. The opening hours are from April 3 to October 15: 08:00-19:00 and the rest of the year is up to 15.00 pm.

    As soon as you get into the Ancient Corinth Site you will see on your left side, the large Glauke Fountain, which was curved on the western slope of the Hill of the Temple of Apollo in Roman times. If you go straight ahead, you are directed toward the small yet exquisite Archaeological Museum of Ancient Corinth.

    Exhibitions at the Atrium

    The museum houses the numerous findings of the excavations in the archaeological area and its construction was undertaken by the American School of Classical Studies, thanks to a donation from Ada Small Moore.

    I find the Ancient Corinth Museum fascinating because they have taken the extra step to use lights, sounds, and presentation methods that are really unique in the museums.

    There is an open Atrium with life-size Roman statues and the Hercules carved adventure.

    Temple of Octavia
    Temple of Octavia

    Ancient Corinth was one of the most powerful and rich cities of the ancient world in the Mediterranean. Even centuries later when Romans conquered the ancient Greek cities, Corinth was one of the 3 biggest cities with Rome and Ephesus being the other two.

    Temple of Apollo

    The most striking monument is the Apollo Doric Temple of around 560 BC., a monument indicating how glorious Corinth used to be.

    Today, although only seven standing columns of the Temple’s foundations are preserved, the monument is the emblem of the Archaeological Site of Ancient Corinth and remains one of the few standing Archaic Greek Temples in the world.

    To the north of the Agora, you can walk down Lechaion Street, which probably dates back to the 4th century BC when the Corinthians shopped.

    Lechaion St.

    Around Lechaion Street is where the rich and famous of the time built their extravagant homes. The Basilica Iulia, a courthouse built by Emperor Claudius in 44 CE, can be found in the east part of the Agora. As you walk around, you will find remains of other temples, public baths, pottery factories, a gymnasium, and a large triumphal arch.

    Director emeritus of the excavation at Ancient Corinth run by the American School of Classical Studies in Athens, Mr. Charles K. Williams, has spent a good 31 years digging at Ancient Corinth. You can visit their excellent website on the History of Corinth.

    Apostle Paul in Ancient Corinth

    Bema of Ancient Corinth

    Apostle Paul or the Apostle of the Nations arrived in Corinth in the mid-1st c. A.D. and stayed with the Jewish tentmakers Aquila and Priscilla for 18 months.  Apostle Paul preached inside the Ancient Corinth site, in the specific Bema spot –  an elevated area where all the public speeches were held.

    Excerpt from the Corinthians in Bema

    After 18 months, Apostle Paul left for Ephesus from the ancient port of Kechries having established a strong and well-organized church in Corinth.

    It is also worth visiting the impressive church devoted to the Apostle Paul in the center of modern Corinth town.

    Interesting Book on Apostle Paul: “After Paul Left Corinth: The Influence of Secular Ethics and Social Change” which you can buy from Amazon.

    Monastery of Zoodochos Pigi

    On our way to Kechries port, we made a short visit to the Monastery of Zoodochos Pigi found 2 km out of the Examilia village. It is a very impressive monastery with a fantastic decoration of the church inside. The entrance is free and the best time to visit is up to 12.30 pm.

    Kechries Ancient Port

    Kechries Ancient Port

    After the shortstop to the Monastery, we traveled a few km to ancient Kechries port. In total Kechries is about 11 km far from Corinth. There used to be an ancient path connecting Ancient Corinth to Kechries and Apostle Paul used this path on his way to the Kechries port when he left for Ephesus in 53 AD.

    Ancient Corinth used to have two ports, the Lechaion port which can be found at the modern Corinth seaside, and Kechries, which was the commercial and the biggest port of the city. Today you can stroll (free entrance) to the once-powerful port and see at the edges of the breakwater, the small temple-form buildings possibly dedicated to Poseidon and Isis.

    Right next to the Kechries site beach, people were swimming and enjoying the sea.

    After all this activity and walking, we were both famished. We picked up a nice seaside tavern at the nearby summer resort Loutra of Oraias Elenis and had a much-needed lunch! And just one beer, no ouzo for the travelers!

    Where to Stay in Corinth?

    Loutraki beach with people standing in front of the sea

    If I wanted to stay overnight in the area of Corinth, I would choose to stay in Loutraki which has much better beaches.

    Loutraki is a very popular seaside summer resort, especially among Greeks, has a variety of hotels to choose from, decent nightlife, a Casino to spend your money in, and some of the best thermal spas in Greece.

    Best Hotels in Loutraki

    The Club Hotel Casino Loutraki is a luxurious 5-floor beachfront Casino hotel with exceptional spas and is famous for its cuisine.

    Casino Loutraki club hotel
    Club Hotel Casino Loutraki

    Budget Hotel: Grand Olympic Hotel Loutraki is a fantastic budget choice, with exceptionally clean air-conditioned rooms, warm hospitality, and friendly staff.

    How to Get from Athens to Corinth

    Corinth is 82 km from Athens. Public buses (KTEL Kifisos) go to Corinth many times a day (chaotic website mostly in Greek).

    Naturally, the best way to visit all the sites is by rental car. If you don’t like driving this Guided Tour to Ancient Corinth from Athens gets you to many of the locations mentioned in this post.

    These are some of my Favorite Travel Resources for Greece

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    3 Responses

    1. Fred

      Great post! Have never been to Corinth, must put in on the list!

    2. Jackie Uthus

      Thanks for your great information! We are visiting in October, 6 adults and our grandchildren ages 6-16. We have booked a snorkeling adventure one morning and will have the remainder of that day before returning to Athens early evening (by about 8pm). We’re interested in seeing Acrocorinth and Ancient Corinth, as well as the theater at Epidaurus and possibly strolling Nafplio before dinner and returning to Athens. In you opinion is that cramming too much into one day? We will also visit Rhodes Town and Lindos so I’m wondering if we should skip Nafplio and do a better job understanding Corinth and Epidaurus. What would be your advice for our group? Thanks!

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