Visiting Mount Athos: a great history time lapse of 4 different eras

The Visiting Mount Athos Project consists a trip that includes collections of photos and information about the Mount Athos peninsula. Athos Sea Cruises team with dozens years of cruising experience next to the Southwest coast of Mount Athos started the following Mount athos visit Project for the entertainment of our readers.

visiting mount athos
Visiting Mount Athos Simonos Petras monastery

Where Mount Athos peninsula is

The Mount Athos peninsula is located in the southeastern part of Halkidiki. Its area amounts to 333sq/km. and have a coastline of 66 miles, 38 miles are wet by the Aegean Sea, and the 28 miles by the Siggitikos Gulf. It is connected to Halkidiki with the well-known Xerxes canal which is about 2 km long. At the end of the peninsula, Mount Athos rises magically like a marble pyramid with a top at 2033m.

Are you interested about visiting Mount Athos? Contact the pilgrimage office.

mount athos peninsula
mount athos visit aerial photo

The Ancient history

The first references to the peninsula of Mount Athos were made in the time of Herodotus and Thucydides. Its first inhabitants were called Pelasgians. Later they were occupied by settlers from Evia who propably gave the name Halkidiki to this area.

Mount Athos ancient history

The ancient inhabitants of the peninsula of Mount Athos placed altars of ancient gods on the top of the mountain believing that they never get rained since the clouds were always lower from the top. Also at the top of the mountain there was a statue of Zeus.

mount athos top
visiting mount Athos top

The peninsula used to be called Akti, later Oros and finally Mount Athos. On the peninsula there were cities named “Dion Ellinis”, “Kleonai Ellinis”, “Haradria Ellinis”, “Holofyxos Ellinis” and “Sanni Ellinis”. The cities of Mount Athos belonged to the Athenian alliance and paid taxes for it. Finally, they joined the state of Macedonia.

History wants Deinocrates, an ancient Greek architect, to propose Mount Athos area to Alexander the Great for the construction of a majestic city in his name. Alexander the Great rejected his idea.

Alexander the great sculpture
alexandria city dreamed on mount athos

The mythology of Mount Athos

Ancient Greek mythology mentions the Athos peninsula as a huge rock from a mountain in Thrace. From there the titan Athos threw it to the Gods, but it ended up falling on the edge of Halkidiki and the current peninsula was created.

Elsewhere they mentions that Poseidon cut a piece from Pallini and threw it against the titan Athos. It overwhelmed him and since then he lives caged under the mountain. It was said that every time he tries to free himself then seismic vibrations occur in the area.

Holy Mount Athos tradition

According to tradition. The Virgin Mary sailed with Saint John the Evangelist from Jaffa to Cyprus to visit Lazarus. Suddenly the ship began to take waters in the peninsula of Athos, it was forced to anchor near the current monastery of Iveron.

The Virgin Mary walked ashore and was shocked by the wonderful and wild natural beauty of the mountain. She blessed it and asked her Son to be her garden. A voice was heard saying: “Let this place be your heritage and your garden, a paradise and refuge of salvation for those who want to be saved.”

From that moment the mountain was dedicated to the Virgin Mary or the Mother of God (Orchard of the Virgin Mary) and entry was forbidden for all other women.

mount athos forest
mount athos visit forest

Mount Athos modern history

The Athos peninsula was part of the Byzantine Empire during the 4th century. At that time it is probable that between the 4th and 7th century the first monks settled in the area.

In 958 AD. the monk Athanasios the Athonite, arrived at Mount Athos. In 962 the large central church of “Protatos” was built in Karyes. In 963 AD The first large monastery with a coenobitic organization was founded, the monastery of the Holy Monastery of the Great Lavra.

Until the 12th century there were over 180 monasteries on the peninsula. In the 14th century, Mount Athos was placed under the spiritual jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

mount athos monastery
visiting mount athos monasteries

In the first centuries of Ottoman rule, Mount Athos alone suffered from a lack of security, violations of their rights, encroachments of the Turks, robberies, piracy and differences between them over their land boundaries.

The confiscation of the monasteries was one of the biggest blows that occurred in 1958. Sources mention about unbearable debts and interest in combination with the destruction caused by the Turks to bring to the monasteries poverty from large debts, desolation and dissolution of monasteries.

mount athos ruins
ruins of a monastery

Due to the enormous difficulties of the time, the Holy Monasteries chose a peculiar life. Also, many Mount Athos people chose to be isolated in cells, and finally the hermitages were created.

The difficulties they faced turned them to seek help from Greek communities all over the world, Orthodox rulers and religious individuals. They strengthened them by paying their taxes, sending material goods and protecting them. Despite all the huge debts owed to the Holy Community, the monasteries in 1600 brought them into total impoverishment.

russian skiti athos
Russian skiti, mount athos visit

The monks, thanks to their deep faith in God, managed to preserve a large part of their religious and cultural heritage.

Mount Athos was a symbol of Orthodoxy during the Turkish occupation. In the difficult years of proselytizing by Muslims and Catholics, it was the monks who kept the people in their Orthodox faith with their preaching.

Mount Athos today

Τhe liberation of Mount Athos was in 1912. Until today it is an autonomous part of the Greek territory. It is governed according to the provisions of the Statutory Charter of Mount Athos, within the framework of the Greek Constitution. The supervision over the observance of the Statutory Charter and its foreseen institutions, as well as the responsibility of the Greek State in matters of order and security is expressed by the Commander of Mount Athos. The Administration reports to the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs and is based in Karyes.

Mount Athos Visit

Visiting Mount Athos the Holy Mountain a republic of 20 monasteries, is a special experience. Even non-orthodox tourists are interested in seeing this holy place that has the somewhat unique condition of not admitting women. It has been a sacred area for more than 1000 years, dedicated to Orthodox spirituality.

While it is for the monks, priests and clerics, it welcomes male pilgrims to visit. The hospitality means that you can stay at a monastery and eat with the monks and other pilgrims for free, participate in the religious services and witness the beautiful and historical settings.

Visiting Mount Athos

But planning is needed. You need permission to enter and must arrange with monasteries in advance to stay (normally a day at a time). Most pilgrims before visiting Mount Athos starts from the Pilgrim’s Station in Ouranopoli, but you should begin planning weeks or months ahead.

A very limited number of non-Orthodox men are admitted each day. Not surprisingly, most of the pilgrims are Orthodox, including many monks and priests from around the world, including Greeks, Russians, other Eastern Europeans and others.

Visiting Mount Athos is interesting for you but language is a problem; most of the people speak Greek, although Russian also appears common. Fortunately, there are a number of monks and pilgrims who speak English who can help

Some monasteries can be reached directly by boat (if you know how). Wandering the trails is a meditative way visiting Mount Athos monasteries, but most people use the buses. Pantokrator and Vatopedi, on the north side of the peninsula, which provides excellent hospitality.

Accommodations are in dorms that sleep multiple people and are pretty simple. And meals are also simple, but healthy. Much of the day can be spent in services, which are beautiful (but mostly in an old Greek). Mount Athos visit is an once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Mount Athos Visit

Karyes in Mount Athos

Karyes is located about in the middle of the peninsula of Mount Athos. It was founded in the 9th century, when many monks moved to the area, forming the Lavra of Karyes. The Lavra of Karyes was recognized as the first of all the monastic institutions at that time, and its head was named “First” of Mount Athos.

In Karyes is the Church of “Protatos” which dates from the 10th century. The building of the Holy Community and nineteen “Konakia” of Monasteries. Also in Karyes we find the building of the Administration of Mount Athos, the police building, the doctor’s office, the bookstore, the post office and various other shops and laboratories. There are more than fifty Cells around Karyes.

karyes mount athos
Karyes on Athos peninsula

Athoniada school

Near Karyes, in the Southwest wing of the Skete of Agios Andreas, operates the “Athoniada School”. The school was inaugurated in 1749. It was housed in a specially built complex near the Holy Monastery of Vatopedi. It included 170 rooms, an altar, a Chapel, a Library and classrooms. It had the form of a Higher Academy. Saint Cosmas of Aetolia and Saint Athanasios of Parios taught there. In 1809 it stopped operating and reopened in the complex of the Skete of Agios Andreas in 1930.

athoniada school
Athoniada school

Dafni the central port of Mount Athos

Visiting Mount Athos west part you will surely pass by Daphne. Daphne is located in the southwestern part of the peninsula of Mount Athos. It is the main port of Mount Athos. Most of Daphne’s buildings date back to the 19th century. Daphne has a port authority, customs control, post office but also small shops such as grocery hotels and restaurants. Here you can find buses that transport people from the port of Dafni to Karyes – the capital – to monasteries.

Mule in Mount Athos
Dafni port

Visiting Mount Athos is not possible?

Are you in Greece with your family and you’ve just learned about visiting Mount Athos is possible for men, but you don’t have a Mount Athos visit passport? There is an alternative option which your family will enjoy too, the cruise around the west side of the peninsula where you will be guided in 8 monasteries. It’s a true opportunity if you are interested on visiting Mount Athos next time you ll come in Halkidiki Greece. There are Athos cruise departures every day from April to October at 10.30 from Ouranoupoli port.

Mount Athos map

Visiting Mount Athos ”must” is a map of the peninsula, here is a google map you can use.


How can I visit Mount Athos?

Visiting Mount Athos is easy, you have to post a copy of your passport to the pilgrimage office in Thessaloniki, 2 weeks before the date you will visit Mount Athos you have to call them about the approval of your reservation.

Who will provide me my Mount Athos passport?

Once you reach Ouranoupoli village you will search for the pilgrimage office where your Mount Athos visit passport is.

What time the ferry boat to Mount Athos departs from Ouranoupolis?

The ferry boat to Mount Athos departs every day at 9.45. There is also an earlier departure at 06.30 in the morning but if you choose it you have to inform the pilgrimage office first and surely you have to stay a night before in Ouranoupoli village.

Once you visit a monastery, is there any extra fees?

No, there are no extra charges in the monasteries.

I want to join a Halkidiki cruise around Mount Athos with my family, where can we buy tickets?

You can buy your Halkidiki cruise tickets online via our official website or you can make a phone reservation and buy your tickets onboard. (+30)6986107451

Cruise to Mount Athos

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