On our way to Sounion, to the world famous and heavily visited by tourists Temple of Poseidon, we decided to stop by the ‘unknown’ Lavrion where we finally spent a wonderful evening pretending to be explorers in search of ancient tombs and then visiting one of the oldest theaters of ancient civilization in Greece! Lavrion proved to be very welcoming also for an overnight stop, being only 8 km away of the Temple…
We left Marathon late in the morning heading South. We were planning to follow the coastline to Sounion searching for a nice quite beach to relax on and to stay for lunch. It was not that easy. The east coast of Attica is a very built up area, not as heavily as it could be but still too developed for our tastes. After passing through several ‘towns’ we finally decided to go to Avlaki [37.86717, 24.03854] about which we had heard good things.
The beach is quiet nice, but it is fenced, managed by the municipality and there is an entrance fee of 5 € per person. At the time of our visit it was closed; the few people that you see at the image below had been trespassing. The parking is enormous and free of charge. I’m not sure what the situation will be during the summer months but I won’t be surprised if it is something close to a nightmare.
We arrived in the outskirts of Lavrion one hour later. Our first stop was at the place where we thought we would find the ancient tholos tombs of Thorikos (1600 – 1100 B.C). There is also a brown archaeological signpost! We turned right onto the dirt road and as there was no parking area or any other indication we left our camper at the roadside [37.74156, 24.06213] and started walking uphill to find the tombs. Thorikos was of the earliest settlements in Attica and one of the oldest naval settlements. It used to be a metal processing settlement as it was close to the mines of Laurium (Lavrion) and gradually it became a commercial center.
The uphill is a bit steep so it’s easy to miss the first tomb, half-hidden behind some bushes and to go directly to the top of the hill. Below is the tomb which is located at the highest point. On the background you can see the premises of a modern chemical plant. Ten years ago the tanks caught fire causing terror to the inhabitants of Lavrion; despite their reactions it operates again!
Here is the ‘hidden’ tomb in the middle of the ascent. It is remarkably well preserved!
We turn to our camper and we continue to the ancient theater of Thorikos (6th c. B.C.), just a few hundred meters after [37.73651, 24.05422]. According to the official site of the Greek Ministry of Culture, this is believed to be the most ancient theater in Greece! (I had the impression that this ‘title’ was attributed to the Ancient Theater of Dionysus in Athens, but apparently I was wrong…). Anyway the theater, known for its unique, elliptical shape, is in excellent condition. The site is not fenced, at least for the moment.
We are heading to Lavrio(n) where we intend to spend the night. There are two excellent parking, both ideal for the night and close to the center, the first one near the port area [37.71393, 24.05847] and the other (where we stopped) near the characteristic clock tower close to the marina too [37.71110, 24.05551].
Lavrio is definitely not a tourist town and somehow this makes it attractive! In the recent past it used to be an industrial center, in fact it started to be built in the middle of the 19th century because of the mining activities that restarted at that time after 22 centuries of pause. The mining in this area began in 3000 B.C. and lasted till 2th c B.C. The Athens Golden Age was made achievable mainly by the mines of Laurium (the Athenians used the silver found there to made their coins).
The modern mines were closed in 1992 but the environmental pollution caused by them is irreversible. In any case, Lavrio seems to be an ideal base if you want to visit the temple of Poseidon early in the morning. Furthermore the town is renowned for its fish taverns and ouzeri.
In the morning we decided to go for the ancient mines first and afterwards to the Temple. We took the road to Agios Konstantinos village up in the mountain where we found this wonderful pick-nick area [37.72204,24.01981]. During the heat of the summer it would be the perfect place for an overnight stay, although it is a bit isolated. As you can see, there is also a fountain easily accessible in case you need water for your camper.
We continue further on and we arrive at a church (Agia Triada) with another ‘recreation area’ and some demolished buildings, most probable an abandoned miners village [37.69619, 24.01760]. We are inside the National Park of Sounio and very close to the ancient mining area.
After a few meters we stopped again after we saw a signpost indicating the presence of an ‘ancient metallurgical laboratory’! Unfortunately we didn’t find any laboratory but searching in the bushes we spotted various wells of an undetermined depth that probably were used as ventilation shafts for the underground mining tunnels. Be careful where you put your feet, because some of them are not fenced.
The entrance of the (huge) archaeological site of the ancient mines [37.69292, 24.01591] is nearby but it is … closed! What a delusion… A few meters after the entrance we saw that the fence was cut and that the site could be accessed without difficulty, but we preferred to be respectful of the rules. The closure is due to lack of staff and it is unknown when the site reopens. One more reason to come back!