The Ancient Theater of Epidaurus in Greece

The remarkable Ancient Theater of Epidaurus is part of the large archaeological site of Asklepios sanctuary in the Peloponnese in Greece.

The ancient theater of Epidaurus with some people a lot of trees in a sunny day in the Theater of Epidaurus Peloponnese.

Asklepios Sanctuary, a UNESCO-listed monument, was the most important religious and healing center in ancient Greek and Roman times. The sanctuary, built between 365 and 335 BCE, had developed pioneer methods for healing and treating their patients:

  • music and plays in the ancient theatre of Epidaurus
  • athletics and competitions in Epidaurus Stadium
  • swimming, reading, and even performing basic operations!

Asklepios Sanctuary is considered to be the birthplace of modern medicine.

Aerial photo of the Asklepios Sanctuary, with the theater on the bottom left, the large stadium, the Tholos, the museum and other buildings in Theater of Epidaurus Peloponnese.
The Asklepios Sanctuary, with the theater on the bottom left, the large stadium, the Tholos, the museum, and other buildings © Edo Peloponnisos

The ancient Theater of Epidaurus is located in a beautiful area in Argolis, with lush greenery of vast orange and olive groves. Every summer, in the evenings, the Athens Festival organizes spectacular theatrical and musical performances that you can attend.

Evgenia in Ancient Theater of Epidaurus and some people in a sunny day in Theater of Epidaurus Peloponnese.

Find in this post information about the ancient theatre of Epidaurus, the monuments inside the Asclepios sanctuary, the tickets and time of operation, info on the nearby villages, and where best to stay!

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The Asklepion Sanctuary of Epidaurus

Reproduction of The Sanctuary in Epidaurus Peloponnese.
© De Agostini/Getty Images/ The Sanctuary in Epidaurus
  • Apollo Malateas god was worshipped and had its sanctuary in the same area before Asklepios cult was established
  • Asklepios was a son of Apollo and the god of medicine in Greek Mythology

The Sanctuary of Asklepios covers a vast area, comprised of many classical Greek masterpieces: the Theater of Epidaurus, the Tholos, the Temples of Artemis and Asklepios, the Enkoimeterion, the Palaestra, and the Propylaea, all surrounded by a beautifully preserved natural landscape.

Palaestra Wrestling School, some trees in a sunny day in Theater of Epidaurus Peloponnese.
Palaestra – Wrestling School

The Sanctuary is the earliest organized sanatorium and hospital. The theater was used for both entertaining and therapeutic reasons. The Ancient Greeks believed that the arts positively affected man’s health, which we know today is more than true.

Temple of Asklepios in Theater of Epidaurus Peloponnese.
Temple of Asklepios

The striking theater of Epidaurus was built in 340 BCE and can seat about 12,000 spectators. It also housed the musical and dramatical competitions that were devoted to Asklepios.

The Ancient Theater of Epidaurus

The Ancient Theater of Peloponnese with some people and trees in Theater of Epidaurus Peloponnese.

The theater is notorious for its perfect acoustics and is used every summer for the Athens – Epidaurus festival where high-caliber performances can be watched here.

Performance in Ancient Theater of Epidaurus and hundreds of people at dome in Theater of Epidaurus Peloponnese.
Theater Epidaurus Performance © The Toc

Byzantine Emperor Theodosius banned all pagan activities including the Sanctuary in 426 CE and it remained unused ever since. In 1881 the Greek Archaeology Company started excavating the area and uncovered the monuments that you can see today. It was reused as a theater again in 1938 when Greek actress Katina Paxinou performed Elektra, an ancient play of Sophocles.

Epidaurus Festival in 1956 and hundred of people in Theater of Epidaurus Peloponnese.
Epidaurus Festival in 1956

In 1956 the Athens -Epidaurus Festival was officially launched where plays are performed both in Athens (Odeon of Herodes Atticus) and Epidaurus. Find your favorite performance and book your ticket early on the official site of Athens and Epidaurus Festival here.

Museum of Epidaurus

Museum of Epidaurus and some people out side an olive tree in a sunny day in Theater of Epidaurus Peloponnese.
The museum

In the Archaeological Museum of Epidaurus, you will see important findings from the excavations on the site such as the entablature of the Temple of Asklepios (380-375 BC), the entablature of the Temple of Artemis (370-310 BC), and the statue of the god Asklepios (copy).

The Stadium

At the 5th century BC stadium, the ancient Greeks were organizing athletic races to honor the Asklepios god and entertain the patients.

Tholos or Thymeli is a circular building with subterranean corridors and is considered to be the most perfectly round building in Greek architecture. The ancient Greeks believed that the round shape helped the patients to focus inward and proceed with the healing.

A famous Tholos building is in the Delphi archaeological site.

The renovated Stoa of Avaton or Enkoimeterion, where the patients were first cleansed with water from the holy well, spelled on the ground, and god would appear in their sleep treating them or suggesting the best treatment for their health problem.

Stoa of Avaton or Enkoimeterion
Stoa of Avaton or Enkoimeterion

Book a guided day tour of the Epidaurus from Athens and visit Nafplion as well!

FAQs for Epidaurus

What are the opening hours and entrance fees?

The site is open daily and there’s a combined ticket for both the theatre and the sanctuary. Time of operation is May to August: 08:00-20:00, April, September, and October it closes at 19:00 or 19:30. During winter is 08:00-17:00. The entrance fee is €12 (1 April – 30th of October) and €6 for the rest of the months.

What facilities are available at the site?

There’s a ticket office, a small museum shop, and restrooms. Some basic food and drink options are available near the entrance. However, you are not allowed to bring any food or drinks inside the site except for water.

What’s the best time to visit?

Spring and fall offer pleasant weather and fewer crowds compared to the peak summer months. Consider attending the Epidaurus Festival in July-August for a unique experience.

How much time do I need to visit Ancient Epidaurus?

Allow 2-3 hours to explore the theatre, sanctuary, and museum at a leisurely pace. More time would be needed if attending a performance or enjoying a slower exploration.

Nea Epidaurus Village

Coastal views to Epidaurus

If you choose to drive a rental car to Epidaurus, then right after Corinth Canal you should take road number 10. This is a smaller road that passes from the Isthmia Archaeological site, Kechries ancient port (the port Apostle Paul left Corinth), and many summer resorts, through a beautiful route with impressive sea views.

Nea Epidaurus Square

The first village you find closest to the Sanctuary is Nea Epidaurus village, spread on the mountain overlooking the sea.

Note: It can be a bit confusing but there is Nea Epidaurus village and Palaia Epidaurus village and the Asklepion Sanctuary of Epidaurus.

Polemarcha Beach

Worth visiting sites in Nea Epidaurus are:

  • The remains of a Venetian castle on top of the village
  • The First National Assembly Square and Museum: in 1822 Nea Epidaurus housed the first assembly of the legislature of the new Greek state
  • The Nea Epidaurus main beach with the seafood taverns
  • The Polemarcha beach, which in my opinion is the best beach in the area with the beautiful chapel of Panagia Polemarcha hidden among the olive trees

Palaia Epidaurus Village

Palaia Epidaurus is the next village you find on your way to the ancient theater of Epidaurus and the prettiest of the three villages we will discuss in this post.

The village is built around a small port on a lush green peninsula. One of the best things to do is to stroll on the lovely seaside promenade, especially during the summer when all the locals sell their fresh goods like oranges, wine, eggs, and honey.

Besides the port and the seafront seafood taverns, you shouldn’t miss visiting:

Small Theater of Epidaurus
  • The Ancient Small Theater of Epidaurus (2.000 people capacity), was built in the 4th century BC in honor of the god Dionysus. Every summer it hosts important events and plays. The site has free entrance
  • The Mycenaean Cemetery with 15 domed Mycenean tombs (no road signs, you will have to ask the locals or use Google Maps to find it)
Sunken Ancient Ruins
  • The Sunken ancient Roman ruins on the Kalymnios beach – take your snorkel mask with you!
  • Kalamaki pretty beach
  • Seaside Mouria Tavern with fresh fish and traditional Greek cuisine

The Lygourio Village

Credit: Anagnostis

Lygourio is just 5 km away from the Archaeological Site of Epidaurus and this is where everyone goes for dinner after the night theater performances are over.

There are quite a few taverns with great traditional Greek food with the most notorious of all being Leonidas (you will need to have reserved a table for Leonidas).

Besides the taverns, during the day you can visit:

  • There are about 50 churches in Lygourio but 12 of them are very old Byzantine chapels
  • One of the best Museums of National History in Greece exhibits more than 6.000 minerals, fossilized tree trunks, and insects, ammonites, mineral crystals are some of the exhibits (Mondays closed, entrance fee 2 euros)
  • The remains of a pyramid, built around 4th c BC (there is a better pyramid preserved in Elliniko village near Argos)
  • 10 km far from Lygourio towards Nafplion, you will find the Mycenean Bridge of Kazarma from 1300 BCE, which is considered the most ancient bridge in Europe.

Where to Stay in Epidaurus

AKRON Luxury Holidays impressive terrace

AKRON Luxury Holidays is an exceptional mid-range, family-friendly hotel with a stunning view of the Epidaurus Gulf, 14 km away from the Epidaurus archaeological site.

Marilena (budget, family-friendly): Recently renovated and with a fantastic location right on the beach in Nea Epidaurus, Marilena is an ideal money-saving property.

Where is the Theater of Epidaurus located?

If you love road trips, the distance from Athens is 137 km (85 miles). I suggest you rent a car or book a private tour as there are some fascinating sites that you can visit on your way to Epidaurus or are close by:

If you don’t like driving, KTEL public buses are leaving from Kifisos bus station a few times per day all year round.

When is Best to Go to Epidaurus

Palaia Epidavros in Greece seaside aerial view.
Epidaurus

The Ancient Theater of Epidaurus is open throughout the year – except Christmas, Easter, and Greek National Days. If you would like to combine your tour with sea vacations then you should visit between May and October. But if you are interested in the archaeological sites in the Peloponnese, any time of the year is a good time to visit 😀

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About the author
Evgenia Mataragka
Hi! I am an Athens-based Greek obsessed with exploring Greece and bringing you the best travel experience ever!

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