The Temple of Apollo Epicurius

One of the best preserved monuments of Ancient Greece, the Temple of Apollo Epicurius is worth the effort to visit.

Written by Michael Turtle

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle. A journalist for more than 20 years, he's been travelling the world since 2011.

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle and has been travelling full time for a decade.


Visiting the Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae

The isolation of the temple, in a remote part of the Peloponnese mountains, adds to the atmosphere you'll find here at one of the most intact monuments of Ancient Greece (even though it's covered in a tent).

It takes a bit of an effort to reach, so I would recommend doing a bit of research before you set out on your journey.

In so many of the best archaeological sites in Greece, the strong Mediterranean sun beats down as you explore the ancient ruins.

There’s almost no shade when you visit the Acropolis in Athens. Away from the coast, the ruins of Epidaurus are covered in a blanket of heat. And a visit to Delos means hours out in direct sunlight.

It’s the first difference you notice at the Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae. High in the mountains of central Peloponnese, the climate is cooler and the landscape is lush.

But even more distinctive is the enormous tent over the temple, a cloth cover enclosing it completely that is designed to protect it from the elements, but also has the effect of hiding it from sight from the outside and blocking the surroundings once you go in.

Tent over the Temple of Apollo Epicurius

Inside the tent covering the Temple of Apollo Epicurius, you quickly forget about its surroundings – even though the location is quite interesting (more on that shortly). because this ancient monument is one of the most impressive archaeological sites in Greece.

What is the Temple of Apollo Epicurius?

The Temple of Apollo Epicurius is an enormous temple built in the mountains of the western Peloponnese around 400 BC. Dedicated to Apollo Epicurius (which means ‘Apollo the helper’), it was designed by the same architect as the Parthenon in Athens.

Why is the Temple of Apollo Epicurius important?

One of the main reasons the Temple of Apollo Epicurius is important – and one of the reasons it was listed as a World Heritage Site – is because it’s considered to be one of the best preserved temples of the Ancient World. Its spectacular design has features that can be found nowhere else in Greece.

Can you visit the Temple of Apollo Epicurius?

Yes, you can visit the Temple of Apollo Epicurius and it’s open to the public all year round. However, it’s in a relatively remote location in the mountains and is not easy to reach by public transport and is quite a long drive by car.

The tent is here for protection. Not for me, or any of the other visitors, but for the monument. The Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae is one of the best preserved sites of Ancient Greece and the covering is part of the effort to protect that – as is the restoration work that’s been going on for years.

Of the 38 large columns that it would once have had around its edges, most are still now standing here (in various states of repair). Walls, stairs, and other elements come together to give a rich impression of how it would’ve once looked.

Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae

Inside the tent, I feel a closer connection to the temple, the limited space between the canvas and the columns drawing me physically into the history.

With the usual experience missing – taking in the whole vista of the the building from a distance – all I’m left with at the Temple of Apollo Epicurius is the details of the stone and the imposing columns towering above me.

Adding to this intimate moment is the relative absence of other tourists. Although it’s one of Greece’s World Heritage Sites, visiting the Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae feels like a journey off the beaten path.

For a good private tour from Athens to the Temple of Apollo Epicurius, I recommend this day trip that also includes Olympia, Ancient Sparta and Mycenae

Up in the mountains, far from major cities, with little public transport, this is not the easiest place to get to. But it is worth the trip to see the impressive construction for yourself.

History of the Temple of Apollo Epicurius

One of the first things you wonder when you visit the Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae is why it was built here. Why is there such an impressive monument so far from any of the main centres of power of Ancient Greece?

Well, the temple was constructed around 400 BC by the people of Phigalia, an ancient city that was located about 10 kilometres away (or about 40 minutes’ drive these days).

The Phigalians believed that the god Apollo had helped save them from both plague and from an invasion during the Peloponnesian War. They built the temple to honour him as Apollo Epicurius (Apollo the helper) – and, presumably, so he would continue to look after Phigalia.

The temple, so majestic and in such a scenic location, became a place of worship and healing, where pilgrims would come to ask Apollo to help them as well.

Visiting the Temple of Apollo Epicurius

The architecture was obviously one of its most impressive aspects, but it also apparently housed a magnificent cult statue of Apollo, made of bronze and ivory (which has never been found).

Worshippers and pilgrims came to the Temple of Apollo Epicurius for centuries and it was in use until around the 4th century AD. But by this time, Christianity was becoming the dominant religion and so it was ultimately abandoned.

The isolation of the temple then protected it for more than a millennium. Although time wrought its ravages, it wasn’t plundered for its materials like other monuments in Greece closer to cities.

The Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae

The plundering only started in the 18th century when it was discovered by scholars.

Although they admired it, British antiquarians also stripped it of some of the most important artworks in 1810. They removed 23 slabs of sculptural decoration from the temple, most of which are now on display at (can you guess?) the British Museum.

The first serious restoration of the Temple of Apollo Epicurius began in the early 20th century, but it was in the 1980s that the current large-scale project began.

Design of the temple

Even if you’re not an expert in Ancient Greek history or architecture, you’ll be impressed. Its sheer size is awesome and the amount of detail that’s been preserved is, as I’ve mentioned, among the best of the time.

After all, the design of the Temple of Apollo Epicurius temple is said to be by Iktinos, the same architect who worked on the Parthenon at the Acropolis in Athens – so you know it’s going to be good!

But one of the things that makes the monument so special are the elements that are unusual and rarely seen in other places.

Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae

It is primarily a Doric temple, with a rectangular plan and a colonnade of 15 columns on each long side and 6 columns on each short side. However, it also incorporates elements from the Ionic and Corinthian orders, the only temple known to have all three features.

The Temple of Apollo Epicurius also has the oldest surviving Corinthian capital in existence. Some archaeologists have a theory that there may have been no statue of a god here (or, at least, it wasn’t the focus), and that perhaps this majestic column in the centre of the temple was an icon representing Apollo.

The Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae

The temple is also notable for its orientation, which goes from north to south rather than east to west as most other Ancient Greek temples did.

There are a few theories about why it was aligned this way. Perhaps it was to line up with the winter solstice, perhaps it’s perhaps it was to avoid the strong winds that the area is known for, or perhaps it was just because it fitted the location better.

Regardless, there’s an unusual addition to the temple – a doorway on the eastern side of the room (the adyton) where the statue of the deity might have been that would let in the light of the rising sun.

Temple of Apollo Epicurius

All of these things you’ll see when you visit the Temple of Apollo Epicurius. Some things you have to imagine, though – like the wooden roof that would’ve covered it and the decorations that may have stood between the columns.

Plus, of course, the 23 intricately carved marble slabs of the interior frieze. You’ll have to go to London to see most of them (although eight are in the National Museum in Athens).

Restoring the Temple of Apollo Epicurius

With the enormous tent covering the whole monument, there’s no avoiding the restoration of the Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae.

A covering was first put over the temple in 1987 and there’s been something over it ever since. (I was upset that I’d chosen the wrong time to come until I discovered that!)

The decades-long project here has two main goals – to protect the temple and to restore the temple.

Restoring the Temple of Apollo Epicurius

In terms of protection, the tent is designed to keep out things like rain, snow, wind, and sun exposure, which can all cause further damage. It also creates a controlled environment that reduces fluctuations in temperature and humidity.

Over the years, the temple has been damaged by earthquakes, fires, landslides, and looting, so the restoration part of the project aims to put pieces back where they’re supposed to be and add various supports to keep them in place.

As part of that focus, there’s also archaeological work taking place across the broader site at Bassae, trying to uncover more information about the history and function of the temple, as well as any fragments of sculptures and architectural elements that can aid in the reconstruction.

The Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae

Unfortunately, the reality is that the tent may well be protecting the temple… but it is pretty ugly. Although there’s something intimate about being inside with the columns so close, it’s a shame you can’t get more of a panoramic view.

I’m not the only one who thinks that which is why there is a plan to replace the current tent with a new covering that will be transparent. That way it will still keep out the elements, but there’ll also be a view.

The current goal is to get the transparent covering in place by the end of 2023, and for the whole restoration project to be finished by about 2030.

Visiting the Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae

The actual archaeological site at the Temple of Apollo Epicurius is relatively small, with the temple the main focus.

Although you may want to spend much longer looking at the details, it’s easy to cover the temple itself in about 15 minutes if you prefer. You can’t walk past the columns, so all you’re doing is looking from the outside.

But after all the effort to get here, you will probably want to do a bit more. Around the temple, there are the remains of the buildings that would’ve supported the pilgrims and the worshippers, although none of it is too spectacular.

Ruins around the Temple of Apollo Epicurius

It is probably also worth the ten-minute walk up to the ruins of the nearby Temple of Artemis, although there is also not too much here, and it certainly doesn’t even come close to the main attraction.

If you’re active, you can combine your visit to the Temple of Apollo Epicurius with some hiking – either to or from the village of Andritsaina, for example. (That will also save you a taxi ride, if you’re not driving yourself).

But we warned there is no food and drink on the site, so make sure to bring something with you.

Where is the Temple of Apollo Epicurius?

The Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae is in the mountains of the western Peloponnese, about three hour’s drive from Athens or 90 minute’s drive from Kalamata.
You can see it on a map here.

How do you get to the Temple of Apollo Epicurius?

It can be really tricky to get to the Temple of Apollo Epicurius independently, and the best option is definitely to hire a car and drive there yourself. (In Greece, I recommend renting through Discover Cars.)
If you want to use public transport, the most convenient way is to catch a KTEL bus to the town of Andritsaina (find route information here). From there you can hike to the temple (about 12 kilometres) or catch a taxi.
For a day trip from Athens without a car, you’ll need to use a tour.

When is the Temple of Apollo Epicurius open?

The Temple of Apollo Epicurius is open throughout the year at the following times:
April – August: 08:00 – 20:00
1 September 1 to 15 September: 8:00-19:30
16 September to 30 September: 8:00-19:00
1 October 1 to 15 October: 8:00-18:30
16 October to 31 October: 8:00-18:00
November – March: 08:30 – 15:30
The temple is closed on 1 January, 25 March, 1 May, Easter Sunday, 25/26 December.

How much does it cost to visit the Temple of Apollo Epicurius?

Admission to the Temple of Apollo Epicurius is €6 full price, €3 concession.
There is a reduced rate for every one of €3 from November to March.

Are there tours to the Temple of Apollo Epicurius?

Because of its remote location, there aren’t really any tours that just go to the Temple of Apollo Epicurius, and most of the ones in the Peloponnese leave it off their itineraries.
However, there is this really good day tour from Athens that does go to the temple – as well as some of the other most important historic sites in the region.

The biggest challenge for the whole visit is how to get to the Temple of Apollo Epicurius. It really is quite isolated, even if it looks close to other places on the map, so you’ll need to plan this one in advance.

By far the easiest option is to come by car (and I recommend Discover Cars in Greece, if you need to rent one). But be warned it’s a very windy road up into the mountains here.

If you’re coming by public transport, you’ll need to make your own way from Andritsaina, which probably means either paying for a taxi or hiking.

Hiking to the Temple of Apollo Epicurius

Or you can take a tour – which I would normally recommend for somewhere like this, except there aren’t many to choose from.

The best option for a tour to the Temple of Apollo Epicurius is this day trip from Athens which is actually great because it also includes the World Heritage Sites of Olympia and Mycenae and a couple of other spots. It’s probably too expensive if you’re on your own, but is reasonable for a group.

When you do get here – however you do it – I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. The protection and restoration of this very special site will give you one of the best looks at Ancient Greece you’ll find in the country.

Time Travel Turtle was a guest of Trekking Hellas but the opinions, over-written descriptions and bad jokes are his own.


This site is on the UNESCO World Heritage List!
I'm on a mission to visit as many World Heritage Sites as I can. Only about 800 more to go... eek!

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