A Day Trip To the Remarkable Asklepion Sanctuary In Epidavros

One Sunday morning I decided that I would like to visit the Asklepion Sanctuary in Epidavros on a solo trip. This wasn’t my first visit to the area, I just wanted to explore further the villages and the sites.

Asklepion Sanctuary in Epidavros or Epidaurus is a UNESCO-listed site and can be found in Argolis (Argolida) region in the eastern Peloponnese.

Asklepion Sanctuary was the most important religious and healing center in ancient Greek and Roman times. The Sanctuary had developed pioneer methods for healing and treating their patients: theater, athletics, swimming, music, reading and even performing basic operations.

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

© De Agostini/Getty Images/ The Sanctuary in Epidavros

On your way to Epidavros, there are other significant sites that you can visit in the Peloponnese:

  • 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 archaeological site
  • Argos town with its Venetian castle
  • Ermioni, Porto Heli, Iria and Tolo seaside villages
  • 3 must-visit villages around the Sanctuary: Palaia Epidavros, Nea Epidavros and Lygourio
  • Nafplio, the beautiful medieval town

And what I love most about driving there is that the roads pass by endless orange groves, fertile plains, vineyards, and local small producers selling their goods.

I often buy fresh eggs, tomatoes or fruit from them, they are so much tastier than the ones I buy from Athens supermarkets (or at least I think they are!).

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How far is Epidaurus from Athens?

If you travel straight to Epidavros from central Athens, it is 137 km (85 miles) – I also stopped at the Corinth Site which adds about 7 km in the route – and most of the road is a speedy highway. There are 2 tolls between Athens and Corinth (around 2 euro each).

If you are traveling to Epidaurus on a Friday, you may find some traffic in the area as Epidaurus Theater performances are a frequent reason for Athenians to combine it for a long weekend trip.

The best way to get to the Epidavros Sanctuary is by private car simply because it offers the flexibility of going wherever you want at your own time schedule.

However, if this is not possible there are KTEL public buses leaving from Kifisos Bus station a few times per day all year round.

Check, compare and save with the RentalCars:

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 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 Epidavros village, spread on the mountain overlooking the sea.

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

Worth visiting sites in Nea Epidavros are:

  • The remains of a Venetian castle on top of the village
  • The First National Assembly Square and Museum: in 1822 Nea Epidavros housed the first assembly of the legislature of the new Greek state
  • The Nea Epidavros main beach with the fresh 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 Epidavros Village

Palaia Epidavros is the next village you find on your way to the Askleipion Sanctuary in Epidavros and the prettiest of the three villages we will discuss in this post.

Palaia Epidavros is built around a small port in 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 in Palaia Epidavros:

  • The Ancient Small Theater of Epidaurus (2.000 people capacity), 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 in the Kalymnios beach – take your goggles with you!
  • Kalamaki pretty beach
  • Seaside Mouria Tavern with fresh fish and traditional Greek cuisine

Asklepion Sanctuary In Epidavros

Epidaurus Sanctuary © Edo Peloponnisos

Leaving behind Palaia Epidavros and taking the local road 70 (EO Argous Archeas Epidavrou) for about 16 km, you get to the main Archaeological site of Epidavros.

There is a vast free parking in front of the entrance, leave it wherever you want, preferably under the shade of a tree, if it is summer.

There is an entrance fee for Epidavros Sanctuary of 12 euro (1 April – 30th of October) and 6 euro for the rest of the months.

Fast Facts for the Asklepion Sanctuary of Epidavros

  • 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, the Tholos, the Temples of Artemis and Asklepios, the Enkoimeterion, the Paleastra 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 (wise!) Ancient Greeks believed that the arts had positive effects on man’s health.

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.

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

  • Byzantine Emperor Theodosios banned all pagan activities including the Sanctuary in 426 AD
  • In 1881 the Greek Archaeology Company started excavating the area
  • It was reused as a theater again in 1938 when Katina Paxinou performed Elektra ancient play of Sophocles
  • In 1955 the Athens – Epidavros Festival was officially launched where plays are performed both in Athens (Odeon of Herodes Atticus) and Epidavros
  • In the Archaeological Museum of Epidavros you will see important findings from the excavations on the site.  Among the most important exhibits are 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 c BC impressive stadium, the ancient Greeks were organizing athletic races to honor the Asklepios god and entertain the patients
  • Tholos or Thymeli, a circular building with subterranean corridors, is considered to be the most perfectly round building in Greek architecture. It was built intentionally round because the ancient Greeks believed that the round shape helped the patients to focus inward and proceed the healing of oneself.

The renovated Stoa of Avaton or Enkoimeterion, where the patients were first cleansed with water from the holy well, spelt 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 in Epidaurus Archaeological site from Athens and visit Nafplion as well with the expertise of the Get Your Guide Tour

The Lygourio Village

Lygourio is just 5 km far from the Archaeological Site of Epidavros 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 the 12 of them are very old Byzantine chapels
  • One of the best Museums of National History in Greece that exhibits more than 6.000 minerals, fossilized tree trunks and insects, ammonites, mineral crystals are some of the exhibits (Mondays closed, entrance fee 2 euro)
  • 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

Mouria Studios : Just a few meters from the beach, in the area of Ancient Epidavros, Mouria Studios offers traditional apartments with garden-view patios and a seaside bar with free sunbeds. The view from the taverna is simply stunning. Check availability and prices in Booking

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. Check availability and prices in Booking

When is Best to Go to Epidavros

Palaia Epidavros seaside aerial view
Epidavros

The Asklepion Sanctuary in Epidavros is open throughout the year – except Christmas, Easter, and Greek National Days, from 8.00 am-5 pm in the winter and 8.00 am-8 pm during the summer.

Useful Information

  • Hospital, Health Centers: Lygourio Health Center open 24/7 tel: +30 2753360000, Palea Epidavros small health center: +30 2753041004
  • 1 ATM Piraeus Bank in Palea Epidavros port & Lygourio

I hope I have inspired you to visit the spectacular Asklepion Sanctuary in Epidavros, the next time you are traveling to Greece. Until then, stay safe and enjoy life!

My favorite Travel Resources for Greece

  • All the archaeological sites in Greece can be found on the official Greek Ministry’s website here. If you are an EU member, you might be eligible in reduced or free entrance.
  • Map of Athens Metro here
  • Booking.com: I use Booking.com because I can get the best deals, have info on hotels and Airbnb’s alike, with breakfast or not, free cancellations, and great prices!
  • Ferries to the Greek Islands: Book your ferry transfer with FerryHopper, and get the best price in the market with no hidden fees
  • World Nomads Insurance: I feel insecure traveling to another country without having even the most basic of insurances. Insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft and cancellations
  • Best car rental prices – Guaranteed. RentalCars.com
  • Get Your Guide: For all your day or multi-day tours and city guide needs, I use Get Your Guide
  • iVisa: For any questions, you may have about your documents, passport if you need a visa, a new photo, or any visa-related matter, iVisa is your man (or woman!)
  • Emergency Numbers Anywhere in Greece: AMBULANCE 166 – FIRE 199 – POLICE 100EMERGENCY NUMBER 112

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