Mount Athos: The “Holy Mountain”

The third finger. This peninsula rising from the clear blue-green waters to 2.033 meters at its peak, surrended in the mysteries of time. It was founded in 885 and given to the Church by Basil the 1st but the first monastery was built eighty (80) years later. Approximately 100 years later it was decreeted that no «smooth face» i.e. female could not set foot on the holy ground and this law is still in force today. However, ladies, you can still enjoy the beauty and the sensation of one of the most fun filled days of your holiday by taking a cruise around the land of Athos and witness the landscape that has hardly been altered from the beginning of time. You can cruise aboard a first class boat with all comforts you would expect. And, by the way, this is the ideal way to top up your tan. So, I can drive you to Ouranoupolis, a village close to Mount Athos, and from there you can start your cruise. If you wish to visit the monasteries, I will provide the necessary assistance needed to prepare all the paperwork. Please note that you need to follow a certain procedure for visiting the monasteries.

Entry to the mountain is usually by ferry boat either from the port of Ouranoupoli (for west coast monasteries) or from Ierrisos for those on the east coast. Before embarking on the boat all visitors must have been issued a diamoneterion, a form of Byzantine visa that is written in Greek, dated using the Julian calendar, and signed by four of the secretaries of leading monasteries. There are generally two kinds of diamoneterion: the general diamoneterion that enables the visitor to stay overnight at any one of the monasteries but only to stay in the mountain for three days, and the special diamoneterion which allows a visitor to visit only one monastery or skete but to stay as many days as he has agreed with the monks. The general diamoneterion is available upon application to the Pilgrims’ Bureau in Thessaloniki. Once this has been granted it will be issued at the port of departure, on the day of departure. Once granted, the pilgrim can contact the monastery where they would like to stay in order to reserve a bed (one night only per monastery).

The ferries require reservations, both ways. Most visitors arrive at the small port of Dafni from where they can take the only paved road in the mountain to the capital Karyes or continue via another smaller boat to other monasteries down the coast. There is a public bus between Dafni and Karyes. Expensive taxis operated by monks are available for hire at Dafni and Karyes. They are all wheel drive vehicles since most roads in the mountain are unpaved. Visitors to monasteries on the mountain’s western side prefer to stay on the ferry and disembark at the monastery they wish to visit.