Famous for its extraordinarily well-preserved ancient theater, the archaeological site of Epidaurus is a one of the most iconic landmarks in the Peloponnese!
Follow the guide!
💡 Insider Tips 💡
Brief history of Epidaurus & the Temple of Asclepius
An ancestral therapeutic site
While the sanctuary of Asclepius was founded in the 6th century BC, its origins are much more distant!
In the 2nd millennium BC, the site was occupied by a therapeutic sanctuary where patients gathered to implore divine healing. At the time, any hope of recovery was based on religious believes: patients hoped to win the favors of the gods by participating in ceremonial rituals.
Over the centuries, these religious ceremonies were enriched with more tangible curative practices and thus gradually shifted towards actual medical science.
In the 8th century B.C., the sanctuary adopted the cult of Apollo Maleatas, then that of Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine, in the 6th century BC.
The Temple of Asclepius
The Temple of Asclepius was ounded in the 6th century BC. It was the first sanatorium in history and quickly became the most important therapeutic center of the ancient world. In the centuries that followed, the medicinal practices implemented in the sanctuary slowly spread through the Greco-Roman world as a whole. This explains why the Temple of Asclepius is unanimously considered as the cradle of medicine.
🤔 Who was Asclepius? 🤔
Son of Apollo, Asclepius was the Greco-Roman god of medicine. According to legend, Zeus executed Asclepius to punish him for trying to raise the dead! After killing him, Zeus realized that Asclepius was only trying to do good, and turned him into a constellation: the constellation of the Serpent.
A symbol of the god, the staff (or caduceus) of Asclepius (a stick along which a snake is coiled) is still used as an emblem medicine!⚕️
The Asclepia: Panhellenic games
Like the sanctuaries of Delphi and Olympia, the sanctuary of Asclepius also held great panhellenic games: competitions organized in honor of the gods.
Probably created in the 6th century BC, these games included athletic as well as cultural competitions: running, horseback riding, wrestling, music and poetry.
The last historical trace of the Asclepia dates from the 3rd century AD.
The theater of Epidaurus
Built in the 4th or the 3rd century BC, the Theater of Epidaurus is said to be the work of the architect Polykleitos the Younger.
With a capacity of 6,200 people at the time of its construction, the theater was enlarged in the 2nd century BC to accommodate up to 12,000 spectators.
The Ancient Theater of Epidaurus is still considered an architectural masterpiece partly because of its incredible acoustics: a whisper at the bottom of the stands can indeed be heard all the way to the top of the theater!
The archaeological site today
Discovered in the 19th century, the Temple of Asclepius and the Ancient Theater of Epidaurus were the subject of major excavations conducted by the Greek archaeologist Panagiotis Kavvadias from the year 1879.
In 1988, Epidaurus was listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site.
Visiting the Ancient Theater of Epidaurus & the Temple of Asclepius
Visiting the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus
Considered to be the best preserved ancient theater in the world, the theater of Epidaurus (built in the 4th century B.C.) has stood the test of time and remains to this day miraculously unscathed! It is one of Captain Ulysses’ favorite landmarks in the Peloponnese!
If you have very little time to visit the ancient site of Epidaurus, the Captain recommends ocusing on the theater, nestled 500 meters from the temple, in the middle of a breathtaking scenery.
During your visit, be sure to test the theater’s incredible acoustics: from the top of the stands you can hear every word whispered on the stage!
Visiting the Temple of Asclepius
While it may not be quite as impressive as Mycenae, Delphi or Olympia, the Temple of Asclepius remains a fascinating archaeological site, and is well worth a visit. The site is particularly beautiful in spring, when it is covered with small country flowers.
During your visit, be sure to have a look at:
- the Temple of Asclepius, where once stood a large chryselephantine statue of the god of medicine
- the tholos, a large circular temple in white marble where the sacred snakes of the sanctuary might ver well have been kept
- the 70-meter-long portico, where the patients waited to be visited in dream by the god Asclepius
- the propylaea, a monumental vestibule which marked the entry to the sanctuary of Asclepius
- the stadium, where the Asclepia, the panhellenic games were once held
The museum of Epidaurus
Before leaving the site of Epidaurus, don’t forget to visit the museum, where you’ll be able to admire a small collection of sculptures and architectural elements discovered during the excavations.
The museum’s models and reconstructions give a nice glimpse of what the sanctuary might have looked like in ancient times.
Theatrical performances in Epidaurus
Since 1954, the Festival of Epidaurus has been inviting theater lovers to attend plays and lyrical performances in the ancient theater of Epidaurus.
Performances take place every Friday and Saturday evening from June to September.
Getting to Epidaurus
Driving to Epidaurus
Epidaurus is located in the northeast of the Peloponnese, 140 kilometers from Athens and about 65 kilometers from the Isthmus of Corinth.
From the capital, it’ll take around 2 hours to get to the archaeological site.
🚘 Visiting the Peloponnese by car 🚘
If you’re planning on exploring the Peloponnese on your own, Captain Ulysses strongly recommends renting a car: it is by far the most practical way to get around the peninsula. Not to mention that car rental in Greece is on the whole very cheap!
To find THE best deal, the Captain recommends Rentalcars, which compares offers from a host of rental services.
One last piece of advice: the Peloponnese is crisscrossed with small mountainous roads, so you should definitely opt for a fuel-efficient car, even if it is a little more expensive to rent!
Getting the bus to Epidaurus
During the high season (May to October), a bus service runs from Athens to Epidaurus twice a day.
While this may not be the most practical option to get to the ancient site, it is definitely the cheapest solution.
You’ll find detailed information on the timetable and prices on the website of the bus company.
Excursions to Epidaurus
If you are staying in Athens and want to explore the Peloponnese from the capital, the Captain advises opting for a day trip.
Captain Ulysses recommends two day-trips in particular:
- From Athens: Bus Trip to Mycenae, Epidaurus & Nafplio
- From Athens: Mycenae, Epidaurus & Nafplio Private Tour
🚐 Multi-day tours in the Peloponnese 🚐
To discover the emblematic landmarks of the Peloponnese without having to worry about organizing your trip, the Captain recommends opting for a multi-day trip. Transportation, hotel stays, the services of a guide and entrance fees to tourist sites are all included.
Find out more here.
Want to find out more about Nafplio? Feel free to have a look at the article of Captain Ulysses!
Opening times of the archaeological site of Epidaurus
The archaeological site of Epidaurus is open every day of the year except January 1st, March 25, May 1st, Easter Sunday, December 25 and 26.
Schedules vary depending on the time of year:
|From November 1 to March 31||8am – 5pm|
|From April 1 to August 31||8am – 8pm|
|From September 1 to September 15||8am – 7:30pm|
|From September 16 to September 30||8am – 7pm|
|From October 1 to October 15||8am – 6:30pm|
|From October 16 to October 31||8am – 6pm|
|Good Friday||12pm – 5pm|
|Holy Saturday||8:30am – 4pm|
Entrance tickets for the site of Epidaurus
The entrance ticket is valid for the archaeological site and the museum. Rates vary depending on the time of year:
|From April 1st to October 31st||Full price : 12 €. Reduced rate : 6 €.|
|From November 1st to March 31st||Single price : 6 €.|
Where to stay near the Temple of Asclepius and the ancient site of Epidaurus?
If you wish to stay near the archaeological site of Epidaurus, Captain Ulysses warmly recommends staying in the small coastal town of Archea Epidavros.
Looking for tips and recommendations? Here are all Captain Ulysses’ suggestions in the Peloponnese!
🛏️ Accommodation: to book your accommodations in the Peloponnese, Captain Ulysses highly recommends Hotels.com From youth hostel to luxury boutique hotel: there’s plenty to choose from!
🚌 Local transportation: to get around the Peloponnese, Captain Ulysses can only recommend renting a car. He suggests renting your car on Rentalcars, which compares offers from a host of brands, including Hertz, Avis, Europcar and trusted local agencies.
If you prefer to avoid driving, GetYourGuide and Civitatis offer a selection of day-trips in the Peloponnese.
✈️ Flights: to book your flights to Greece, Captain Ulysses warmly recommends the Skyscanner comparator. You’ll be able to compare countless offers to find the best deal. If your dates are flexible, you can also compare prices over several months to find the cheapest flights possible.