Destinations, Northern Greece

Mount Athos

Monte Athos

Mount Athos

Mount Athos is the largest and most important centre of Eastern Orthodox monasticism, also known as “The Garden of the Virgin Mary”. It is located in Chalkidiki, a peninsula at the northernmost tip of Greece resembling a hand of three fingers.

Mount Athos is the second most important place of religious pilgrimage, after Jerusalem, for more than 300 million Orthodox Christians around the world.

With its 20 monasteries, Mount Athos forms an autonomous region within the Greek state, while spiritually it is under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. Although it is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the entrance is forbidden to all women. However, any adult male can visit the sacred mountain, regardless of faith or nationality, simply by obtaining a residence permit or Diamonitirion.

Ouranoupolis, the gateway

Ouranopolis, the “City of Heaven”, is also the gateway to Mount Athos situated in the very beginning of Athos peninsula. More than a thousand people live at the door of “the holy mountain” and in the shadow of the massive tower, with the austere Prosfori tower in the middle. A major holiday destination in northern Greece, Ouranoplis is the ultimate earthly destination for those who are heading for the experience of the monasticism.

Historic Monasteries and Religious Retreats

In the peninsula of Athos there are 20 monasteries that date of different periods and form together a religious community. There are also minor monuments such as hermitages and retreats where individuals live as anchorites in hermits or in small brotherhoods. There are no asphalted roads here, but there is a network of forest paths and paths that connect the monasteries to each other.

Peregrine and explore

When you knock on the door of a monastery, you will find yourself with a warm welcome, simple accommodations and very good food. However, meals take place at odd hours, depending on times of prayer and religious duties. One should bear in mind , that the monks do not eat meat or olive oil, dairy products, cheese and fish on Tuesdays, Thursdays and weekends, and become vegans during the four Great periods of fasting.

In communion with the monks and the divine nature

This will be your unique opportunity, regardless of religion, personal philosophy and beliefs, to listen to authentic Byzantine hymns, sung by admirable voices that honor the Christian musical tradition. During times when there are no prayers, you may be admiring nature and everything you see around you. Go for a walk from one monastery to the other along paths that pass through places of incredible natural beauty and peculiar flora and fauna. You can also choose to assist the monks in their daily tasks, with the stunning nature of Macedonia as a backdrop.

The main and largest monastery

The Monastery of Great Lavra is the oldest and largest of Athos. It was founded by Athanasios the Athonite in the year AD 962 at the tip of the peninsula. Its architecture is a typical example of late Byzantine fortress design and its library contains the third largest collection of Byzantine manuscripts in the world.

The restored Monastery of Zygou

It is one of the oldest monasteries of the area from the tenth century, and has been restored with care and dedication. In this monastery women are allowed to enter.

A venerable vineyard

Just a 20-minute walk from the Monastery of Iviron, you will find one of the most important attractions in the area: the Mylopotamos winery. The monks of the Saint Megalomartira Evstathios have been the ones who have revived one of the oldest vineyards in Europe, creating in the process a collection of internationally recognized wines.

The top of the sacred mountain

The best way to reach the top of Mount Athos (2,033 m) is through the Great Monastery of Lavra and Kerasia. You can choose between routes that vary from mild to moderate difficulty, where you will have to walk through forests of oaks, chestnut and spruce, beyond the arboreal vegetation of the Alpine area and meet the massive rocks of the Metamorphosis of Sotiros Church.From the chapel at the top of the mountain, you will admire an exorbitant view of the northern Aegean and Macedonia.

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