Visiting Mount Athos is a journey of a lifetime
The Holy Mountain, or Mount Athos, is unique in its kind. It is the only place in the world where Man, Nature, Art, and Faith, are all connected in such harmony.
The Holy Mountain, covered in lush vegetation, has been standing for the last 11 centuries on the peninsula of Chalkidiki. It has been standing there, in all its glory and uniqueness, a legendary symbol in a corner of the world.
The Holy Mountain is famous for its hospitality towards people (men only) who want to visit and decipher its secrets. And there are many of them: in 330 square kilometres visitors can enjoy the ancient beauty of the Greek land, unspeakable natural beauty, legendary as well as humble monasteries, emblematic glebes, places of abaton covered in mystery (: ‘monastic abaton’ means that the doors of the monastery are closed to most visitors), monastic cells, and hundrends of visitors who came as visitors but the calling was too strong to resist. They are those who became monks, ascetics, or abbots. And last but not least, thousands of visitors who come for the first time, or have returned again and again, attracted by their love to God, or simply love to beauty.
The Holy Mountain is so much more than just a peninsula with 20 monasteries and rich history. It is a tourist destination for those who seek something more, for those who seek spiritual experiences, a holy place where faith, worship and piety fill the place. It is a journey of a lifetime, a journey that you know you have to go on to, even if it means that it is just going to be mental journey (for women), because if you don’t, you will always feel you miss out on something.
If you are considering of making the step to visit the Holy Mountain, the following questions and answers will shed light to all mysteries and will help you make a decision: the decision of a lifetime.
Yes, you can. The Holy Mountain accepts visitors. However, due to current restrictions, monasteries are allowed to accept 15 visitors each, only.There are boat itineraries that reach Mount Athos through Ouranoupoli and Ierissos. As part of the efforts to keep travelers safe, 50% capacity policies and all necessary health and safety measures are always in place.
What is life on the Holy Mountain like nowadays?
The Holy Mountain is a place of peace and quiet. Access is not allowed to women. Men from all backgrounds (age, race, nationality, and religion) are allowed to visit the area, as well as spend the night there (as long as they have a special permit – diamonitirion, see below for more information) to experience moments of peace and prayer, away from the intense life of the outside world.
Can non Orthodox Christians visit the Mount Athos?
The Holy Mountain is open to all. The Holy Mountain is the cradle of Christianity, and this is precisiely the reason why all are welcome to visit. Of course, as long as you are willing to abide by the rules and understand that you may not insult the faithful with your behaviour.
What is the success recipe of the Athonic cuisine?
The Athonic cuisine is minimalistic, very tasty, with recipes that are good for your health. It is based on mainly vegetables, legumes, and fish. Meat is not allowed. Monks consume vegetables and fruit that are grown on the Mount Athos. This protects them from cancer and other diseases, and enhances longevity. Monks and visitors eat with moderation. Fish is consumed insetad of meat. Meals on Monday, Wednesday and Friday are oil free.
Am I allowed to swim in the sea?
Swimming is not allowed. We recommend that you visit the beaches in Ouranoupoli and Tripiti, as well as the following beaches: Alexandros, Philippos, Agios Pavlos, Komitsa, Xiropotamos, Tzafa, Voulitsa, and Iviritiko. Ammouliani island, right across Ouranoupoli and Tripiti, is a majestic island ideal for swimming and diving. You can reach Ammouliani by ferriboat, from Tripiti or, alternatively, you can rent a boat in Ouranoupoli.
How many monasteries are there?
There are 20 monasteries in Mount Athos, 17 of which are Greek: Megistis Lavras, Vatopediou ( Greek Cypriot ), Iviron, Koutloumousiou, Agiou Pavlou, Dionissiou, Xenofontos , Stavronikita, Gregoriou, Konstamonitou, Esfigmenou, Doheariou, Karakalou, Xiropotamou, Pantokratoros, Simonos Petras, Filotheou. One monastery is Russian (Agiou Panteleiminos), one is Serbian (Hilandar) and one is Bulgarian (Zografou). There are also 14 skites and many kellia, kalives and kathismata.
What other sights are there on Mount Athos?
In Ouranoupoli you can see the Byzantine Tower of Prosforio, the remainings of the Monastery of Zugou (Fragokastro) and the Museum of Christian Chalkidiki. Near Nea Roda, you can visit the Xerxes Canal and the Archaeological Site of Sani/Ouranoupoli. In Ierissos toy can visit the Archaeological Site of Akanthou and the Byzantine Tower of Krounos.
Do I have to issue a Permit (Diamonitirio)?
Is this the ‘passport’ to the Holy Mountain?
Exactly. It is easy! To secure access to Mount Athos you need to have an paper access permit issued in your name. The permit is issued in 4 days. To get a permit you need to follow the following steps:
Please call the Pilgrims Office in Thessaloniki at 2310 252575. The office is located at 109, Egnatia str.
The office is open daily 8.30 to 14.00 and on Saturdays 10.00 to noon. It is best to secure your access permit as early as possible (a couple of months earlier would be ideal, if possible) as there is a specific number of visitors allowed per day.
The permit costs 25 euros. You may also call the Pilgrims Office in Ouranoupoli at 23770 71421. The access permit will include a code number, your personal details, the date of issue and dates that you have booked to stay on Mount Athos.The permit is usually issued for 4 days. In case you wish to prolong your stay, you may ask so from the monastery that you are staying.
What will I need in orderto issue a permit?
You will be asked to give your personal details, as registered in your ID. You will also be asked which monasteries you wish to visit. You are advised to look for more information on the monasteries in advance (see below) so that you can decide where you would like to go. You will also need to contact the monasteries in advance to ensure that you can stay in the monastery of your choice.
Which documentation are needed for not Greeks?
If you are not a Greek national, you will need to have the following:
> A letter of recommendation from the Embassy of your country in Athens, or from the respective Consulate in Thessaloniki.
> An access permit to the Holy Mountain issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Athens (Directorate of Church Affairs) or the Ministry of Northern Greece in Thessaloniki (Directorate of Foreign Affairs).
> Your passport.
Access to Mount Athos
You can travel to the peninsula in Chalkidiki by car (you can leave your car at any of the dedicated parking areas in Ouranoupoli or in Ierissos) or by bus from Athens or Thessaloniki:
KTEL Station Athens: Tel. 210 515-4800
KTEL Station Thessaloniki: Tel. 2310 924-4444
KTEL Station Poligiros: Tel. 23710 22309
You can also travel by plane, by ship, or by train to Thessaloniki and then hop on a bus to The Holy Mountain (Ouranoupoli/Ierissos).
There are daily ferryboat trips from Ouranoupoli to the monasteries of the West coast of the Holy Mountain, while there are daily ferryboat trips from Ierissos to the monasteries of the Northern-east and Northern-west coast of the Holy Mountain.
Ouranoupoli port: Tel. 23770 71248
Ierissos port: Tel. 23770 22576
When you travel from Ierissos by ferryboat, the boat takes you to the left side of the Holy Mountain. Visitors receive their access permits at the port, by the Visitors Office agent. It is advised that you declare which port you intend to depart from at the time of issuing your access permit.
► From Ierissos :
You can visit the following monasteries by ferryboat: Hilandar, Esfigmenou, Vatopedi, Pantokratoros, Stavronikita, Iviron, and Morfonou. For the rest of the monasteries, you will need to travel to Iviron monastery (3 hours by ferryboat), from there you will need to travel to Karies (half an hour by bus) and from there you can reach the monasteries that you wish to visit.
► From Ouranoupoli :
From Ouranoupoli you can visit the following monasteries by ferryboat or boat: Doheariou, Xenofontos, Panteleiminos, Gregoriou, Dionissiou, Agiou Pavlou, and the skites Nea Skiti, Agia Anna, Katounakia and Kausokalivia.
For all other monasteries, you have to stop at the port of Dafni (2 hours by boat or 45 mins by ferryboat, from Ouranoupoli). Once you reach Dafni, you can take the bus or moni bus to Karies, the capital of Mount Athos (30 mins).
Useful phone numbers :
Macedonia Airport: Τel. 2310 985-000 or 2310 473-212
Thessaloniki Port: Τel. 2310 531-505
Thessaloniki Railway station: Τel. 2310 517-517 or 2310 517-518
Eleftherios Venizelos Athens Airport: Τel. 210 353-0000
Piraeus Port: Tel. 210 422-6000 up to 03
Athens Railway Station: Τel. 210 529-7777
Telephone numbers for reservations:
Dionisiou Monastery : 23770 23686
Panteleimonos Monastery : 23770 23201
Agiou Pavlou Monastery : 23770 23208
Vatopedi Monastery : 2377023219
Gregoriou Monastery : 23770 23218
Doheariou, Monastery : 23770 23245
Esfigmenou Monastery : 23770 23796
Zografou Monastery : 23770 23247
Iveron Monastery : 23770 23248
Karakallou Monastery : 23770 23225
Kostamonitou Monastery : 23770 23901
Koutloumousi Monastery : 23770 23226
Great Lavra Monastery : 23770 23761
Xenofontos, Monastery : 23770 23249
Xiropotamou Monastery : 23770 23251
Pantokratoros Monastery : 23770 23253
Simonos Petras Monastery : 23770 23254
Stavronikita Monastery : 23770 23255
Filotheou Monastery : 23770 23674
Hilandar Monastery : 23770 23281