If you’re considering a visit to Sicily and need ideas for some good stops, I know a place that you cannot miss.
Agrigento might seem like a quaint stop, but I can assure you that it’s all an affront. Agrigento may have been my most memorable town in Sicily.
I’m usually sold on a location because of two things: historical significance and/or beauty. Agrigento is a prime example of both.
Agrigento’s history goes back quite a ways. It started as a Greek city in 500-600 BC, housing 300-500 thousand people. It was later overtaken by the Romans in 200 BC. Because of the historical significance of this ancient city, it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
You can still see ancient Greek ruins scattered around Valley of Temples. Some are in better shape than others, but all are beautiful to see in the flesh.
Valley of Temples doesn’t hold all of Agrigento’s beauty, though. The town itself has unique charm in each winding street and alley. We stayed in the cutest Airbnb with a balcony and sat there every morning with coffee to soak in all the cuteness.
Then, there’s the natural beauty. A short bus ride or cab can take you to Scala Dei Turchi, a white rocky cliff that offers beautiful beaches and photogenic views of the Mediterranean Sea.
As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words! Here’s some more information (with pictures) with two examples of what you’d be missing if Agrigento was not on your Sicily itinerary.
Valley of Temples
The Valley of Temples is a short drive or long walk (40-50 minutes) from Agrigento’s main town. We walked from our stay, which did not feel long at all considering we were able to sight-see as we went. Along the way, we started seeing teasers of the temples just on the other side of the park.
The entrance fee is 10 Euros at the gate. If you are a student, see if you can swing a discount. But, if you pay full price, it’s completely worth it. Promise.
ESPECIALLY – here’s a tip – if you plan to be in the park for sunset.
You should allot at least 2 hours to visit properly.
Akragas, the Ancient City
As you enter the park, you’re really entering the ancient city of Akragas. You start to get a grasp of how awesome it is. The amount of ruins, the quality of their preservation… it’s almost difficult to wrap your head around what you’re seeing.
Not to mention the beauty of it all. The contrast between the stone ruins and the greenery make you feel as if you’re about to hike Utah’s Zion National Park.
A Greek poet, Pindar, described the valley as the “most beautiful city of those inhabited by man.”
No objections, Pindar. I can see how it once was.
Since I was basically a historian’s equivalent of star-struck, you might be, too. Avoid the overwhelming sense of awe by understanding what you’re about to see.
Not Only Temples
You are literally about to see the blueprint of an ancient city from one gate to another. Sure, there are temples. Many temples. But you also get to see a number of other important buildings that define Greek lifestyle, particularly in such a vibrant city for its time.
In order, here are the building’s you’ll run into as you walk along the path:
- Temple of Hera
- Temple of Concordia
- Paleo-Christian Necropolis
- Necropoli Giambertoni
- Theron’s Tomb
- Temple of Asclepius
- Temple of Heracles
- Temple of Olympian Zeus
- Gate V of the Akragas’s Fortress
- Sanctuary of the Chthonic Deities and Temple of Castor and Pollux
- Temple of Vulcan
- The Ekklesiasterion and Oratory of Phalaris
- Hellenistic-Roman Sanctuary
- Roman Hellenistic Quarter
- Temple of Demeter
- Temple of Athena
- Regional Museum of Archaeology
If you take anything away from this list I’ve provided, it’s the fact that this is a huge collection of impressively preserved ruins. Over 2000 years ago, this was a functioning, flourishing city to hundreds of thousands of citizens. All of these buildings had a specific purpose that was vital to Akragas.
The Temple of Concordia is probably the face of the entire valley. It’s the most intact temple remaining. It also features a fallen statue of Icarus, which was actually a more modern installation by a Polish sculptor.
I would recommend hanging out with Icarus close to sunset to wrap up the visit.
Scala Dei Turchi
If you want to hit up a beach unique to Agrigento, this is the one you want to see.
Scala Dei Turchi is a short bus ride away from Agrigento proper. Make sure you check bus times… We did not, and ended up paying an unreasonable amount for a cab to take us there and back. Remember that the transportation in Sicily does not revolve around the tourist, and the busses are not always convenient to you.
Trying to figure out the best way to get around Sicily? There’s a blog for that.
Even though we paid a pretty penny to get there, it was worth it. You see it almost immediately as you walk onto the beach. You do need to be ready to walk if you want to see all that Scala Dei Turchi can offer.
We visited in March/April which is considered a shoulder season for tourism. So, luckily, we got most of the views to ourselves!
Soak in the Nature… Maybe
Nature is neat. Limestone and marl give the rocks the bright, white color.
A local man told us that mixing stone sediment with the sea water can create a purifying mud mask for the face and body… But now I know that some websites say to refrain from doing that to preserve the cliffs.
I admit, I did it. My face was not blessed with permanent youth so it’s not worth it, I guess.
The most striking cliff is the first one you encounter. It’s also the main portion of rock that everyone visits.
I would argue that the best views are behind the first cliff. It takes some careful climbing, but if you’re sure-footed, you can get to some private and relaxing beaches where the limestone and marl rock has naturally eroded away.
We spent an entire afternoon relaxing, walking, reading, and playing with local pups who were the goodest boys. I highly recommend packing a lunch or snacks so that you can spend as much time here as possible.
This side of the rocks is said to be a nude beach during peak months, although we aren’t really sure if that’s true.
Had to say it, just in case.
Settled on Agrigento?
Agrigento is not a town to skip. If you are planning a tour around Sicily, it must be on your list.
If you’re a foodie, visit Siracusa, too. I’ll explain.
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