The remarkable Ancient Theater of Epidaurus is part of the large archaeological site of Asklepios sanctuary in the 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 BC, 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.
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.
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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Quick Epidaurus Reference
- Where to stay in Epidaurus: Marilena Hotel
- Essential Item for Visiting Greece: An Organic Prewashed Cotton Towel
- Private transfer with an English-speaking driver from Athens International Airport to Piraeus Ferries.
The Theater of Epidaurus in the Asklepion Sanctuary
As soon as you arrive outside the site, you can leave your car in the vast free parking in front of the entrance. There is an entrance fee for Epidavros Sanctuary of €12 (1 April – 30th of October) and €6 for the rest of the months.
Time of operation
May-August: 08:00-20:00, April or September and October it closes at 19:00 or 19:30. During winter is 08:00-17:00.
The Asklepion Sanctuary of 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
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.
The striking theater of Epidaurus was built in 340 BC 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 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.
Byzantine Emperor Theodosius banned all pagan activities including the Sanctuary in 426 AD 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.
In 1956 the Athens – Epidavros Festival was officially launched where plays are performed both in Athens (Odeon of Herodes Atticus) and Epidavros. Find your favorite performance and book your ticket early on the official site of Athens and Epidaurus Festival here.
Museum of Epidaurus
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).
At the 5th century BC impressive 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.
Book a guided day tour of the Epidaurus from Athens and visit Nafplion as well!
Nea Epidavros Village
If you choose to drive to Epidavros, then right after Corinth Canal you should take road number 10, (EO Isthmou Archaias Epidavrou).
This is a smaller road that passes from the Isthmia Archaeological site, Kechries ancient port (the port Apostle Paul left Corinth), many summer resorts, and all the way to Epidavros you enjoy a magnificent route with impressive sea views.
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.
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:
- 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)
- 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
Lygourio is just 5 km far 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 BC, which is considered the most ancient bridge in Europe.
Where to Stay in Epidaurus
Marilena: Set right on the beach in Nea Epidavros, Marilena is fully refurbished and offers views of the beach and the mountains. A quiet, spotlessly clean hotel with beautiful views and affordable prices.
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:
- Corinth Canal
- Ancient Corinth and Acrocorinth
- Isthmia Archaeological site
- Mycenae, another UNESCO site (west of Epidaurus)
- Nemea, the largest wine production area in Greece and an archaeological site
- Argos town with its Archaeological site and the Acropolis on top of the Larisa hill
- Ermioni, Porto Heli, Iria, and Tolo seaside villages
- 3 must-visit villages around the Sanctuary: Palaia Epidavros, Nea Epidavros, and Lygourio
- Nafplion, the beautiful medieval town
If you don’t like driving, there are KTEL public buses leaving from Kifisos bus station a few times per day all year round.
When is Best to Go to 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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