| |

Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae

By Andy Vanr

What is the Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae?

This World Heritage site is centered around the ruins of a 5th-century-BCE temple, designed by Ictinus, also the architect of Athens’ Parthenon. Built in the classical architectural style, it is one of the best remaining examples. It was built by the residents of Phigaleia, then a city 13 km (8 mi) to the southwest, on the site of an earlier temple also constructed by them to the god Apollo. 

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. Making a purchase through an affiliate link will mean a small commission for this website. This will not affect your price.

Text: Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae, Greece. Images: above, the tent structure from outside; below, the temple inside the tent.

The first organized excavation and large-scale restoration work took place between 1902 and 1908. The work brought the temple to the form we see today. The canopy was added in 1987 to slow the deterioration of the building materials (local limestone) by the weather (rain and ice).

The site is in an isolated spot of the high mountains of Western Arcadia on Greece’s Peloponnese peninsula, on a natural plateau known as Bassa. It includes about 20 hectares (49 acres) of land surrounding the temple. This land is covered in trees and grasses with ruins of buildings and walkways.

A large white tent, with a few small trees outside it.

Why is the Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae a UNESCO World Heritage site?

The temple ruins were discovered in the early 19th century. They contain the oldest Corinthian capital ever found. Corinthian capitals were part of the last and most ornate of the three classical orders of Ancient Greek architecture, the others being Doric and Ionic.

 The temple site was recognized by UNESCO in 1986, the first World Heritage site in Greece.  

The World Heritage list description notes that this “temple to the god of healing and the sun was built towards the middle of the 5th century B.C.” With the oldest Corinthian capital, it is “a model for all ‘Corinthian’ monuments of Greek, Roman and subsequent civilisations.” It “combines the Archaic style and the serenity of the Doric style with some daring architectural features.”

Rows of large columns with some pieces of the pediment still on top.

What can you expect on a visit to the Temple of Apollo Epicurius?

The main attraction at this site is the reconstructed temple which is under a huge white tent-like structure which fully covers it. Under the tent, most of the columns around the exterior of the temple have been reassembled. The long axis is oriented north-south and has 15 columns. The ends have six columns. Visitors can walk the perimeter of the temple but cannot step inside the structure. 

We wandered around the rest of the site on the walkways and near meadows to see the outlines of other buildings delineated by pieces of columns and walls. A number of plaques throughout the site explain its history and restoration.

The site is isolated. There are no amenities in the area. 

An informational sign in the foreground and in the background, stones showing the outlines of buildings.

Is the Temple of Apollo Epicurius worth visiting?

This site is difficult to get to and there really is not a lot to see other than the temple under the tent. The drive to the site is more than one hour from the nearest city, Megalopolis. We included this visit as part of our Greece road trip.

If Greek architecture or architecture which is more than 2000 years old interests you, this site is worth setting aside time for, at least if you’re on a road trip. For most, however, your time will be better spent exploring other places.

Rent a car for your road trip in Greece.

Or take a one-day tour from Athens.

Tips for visiting the Temple of Apollo Epicurius

In general, this site is easy to visit, keeping in mind that the ground is uneven in places and the canopy structure has ropes and guide wires so you should be careful. 

We stayed about 50 minutes and that included exploring some of the grounds further from the temple. The official website has an excellent video which shows the site well.

We combined our visit to this site with the Archaeological Site of Olympia an hour and 20 minutes away by car, making a full day.

Other UNESCO sites you might want to include in a road trip in the Peloponnese are Mystras, Mycenae and Tiryns, and the Sanctuary of Asklepios at Epidaurus.

Where is the Temple of Apollo Epicurius?

The site is immediately adjacent to the road EO Andritsenas Epikouriou Apollona, 13 kilometers (8 miles) south of the village of Andritsaina. Its Google location is Temple of Apollo.

The easiest access to the site is from the north. We drove from the Archaeological Site of Olympia which is to the northwest. There is lots of free parking.

There is no access by public transport.

For more information about Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae, its opening hours and admission fees, see its official website.

Have you been to the Temple of Apollo Epicurius? If so, do you have any additional information or advice about this UNESCO World Heritage site? Please add your comments below!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *