In contrast to Athens’ verdant northern suburbs, Sounio or Sounion at the tip of the Attica peninsula, stands seemingly bare with its archaeological ruins, against the backdrop of shimmering sea. But don’t be deceived, there are hundreds of plant species growing here, including some that exclusively grow in the area such as special orchids and two thistle (knapweed) species, in addition to a nearby forest. Land tortoises, wrasse (fish), rare birds of prey, sea birds and migrating songbirds can be spotted.
Geologically the area boasts 256 types of mineral ores and has been known for mining since antiquity. You can discover this richness at the park’s metallurgical museum, where the stones have fantastic shapes and colors. There are shafts and mines dating from the time of Aristotle and Themistocles, when Greek triremes were made to battle the Persians. Ironically, this is an example of land degradation in ancient times. The area is now a national park with a famous archaeological site protected under the Natura 2000 network.
There’s a narrow asphalt road crossing most of the park past Lavrio, Agios Konstantinos, Agrileza and Agii Anargiri Sounio, ending at the temple of Poseidon. Check out the Agios Konstantinos pine forest, the Chaos gulch just one kolometer from Agios Konstantinos, the mines and mine facilities at Agia Triada and an enormous well at Pigadi.
Chaos gulch is a unique geographical phenomenon, a large round gulch that’s 70 meters deep with a perimeter of 500 meters. While there’s a fence around the gulch for safety, there’s an entrance where you can follow a footphat to the bottom of the gulch. Some two kilometers north of Agios Konstatinos on the eastern slope near the rocky peak of Mikro Rimbari, the cave of Kitsos is worth a visit. There are also rocky outcrops north of the temple of Poseidon called Mavro Lithari and Vasilopoula which attract birds of prey during spring and fall. Snorkeling is recommended at the Legrena Bay area to explore the rocky sea bed and its rich marine life, between fish and birds. Keep your swimsuit with you as there are many nice spots to swim in. Just remember to leave them in better shape than when you found them.