Not a valley at all, but a hill, the UNESCO world heritage archaeological park of the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento comprises eight temples built between around 510BC and 430BC and remains one of Sicily’s most remarkable historical attractions. The temples are constructed in a Doric style.
The most impressive temple ruins are on the eastern side of the site. The Temple of Herakles which dates back to the sixth century BC, is the oldest of the remaining temples and the closest temple to the road.
The Temple of Concordia is one of the best preserved temples of the ancient world with the steps to the roof still visible. Converted to a church in the sixth century by Gregory, its revised function probably saved it from demolition.
The Temple of Hera or Juno is at the far end of the hill. Noteworthy ruins include several standing columns, the remains of a huge stone sacrificial altar and remnants of the destruction cause by the fires of 406BC when Akragas was conquered and sacked by the Carthaginians.
The Temple of Olympian Zeus is one of the largest ancient temples (over 110m) and it is this massive scale that makes it so distinctive. It is also striking for its colossal human statues, telamons, which were used to support part of the structure’s weight.
The vast extent of its ruins means that building up a visual image of the original temple is extremely difficult. It is thought that the building was never completed and also that some of the stonework was possibly damaged by Carthaginian invaders.
The Temple of the Dioscuri: Built at the end of the fifth century BC in homage to the twins Castor and Pollux, all that remains of this temple is four columns, probably re-erected in the nineteenth century, and an entablature.
The Temple of Vulcan: This Doric-style building dates back to the fifth century BC and was one of the last temples to be built.
The Temple of Asclepius: Located far from the ancient town’s walls and dating back to 400-39BC, this smaller temple would be visited by the sick in search of treatment and advice.
The Temple of Demeter: Built around 480BC, the base and most of the cella are still well preserved.
A pretty green gorge beyond the ruins has been transformed into attractive gardens, the Giardino della Kolymbetra, filled with citrus fruit, pomegranate, almond and olive trees and a heavenly place to stop for a picnic.
The museum at Agrigento is one of the most important in Italy, with impressive exhibits and covering the history of the city from the earliest human settlement.
Practicalities: For those travelling to the Valley of theTemples by car, there are two car parks, one to the east by theTemple ofJuno and one by the western half of the site. Both are clearly signposted.