Boasting a rich past of thousands years back, traditions with Gods and an exceptional natural environment, Greece is one on the most visited countries in Europe and in the whole world.
Also known as Elada, Greece offers everything that can satisfy every tourist – whether she/he is a history buff, nature or sport lover, or likes to spend long energetic nights out on the town. Vestiges of Ancient Civilizations are fantastic open air museums, which will teach you about the country’s glorious past even in the largest urban centers. The breathtaking landscape will surprise you at every step with mountains covered with lush vegetation, large olive orchards and sandy beaches with clear turquoise waters.
Greece is also very popular among orthodox pilgrims from all around the world. Greeks are a nation with very deep and old religious traditions; this fact is confirmed by a large number of monasteries, churches, holly relics, miraculous icons and small churches placed in front of their houses, on the roadsides or in orchards. For sure, Mount Athos is the most important and popular for its spiritual life in Greece and throughout the Orthodox East.
Mount Athos is the east most of the three arms that reach out from the peninsula of Halkidiki. The Mount Athos range (2,033 m in height) runs down the whole of its length and has given the small peninsula its name; it has a length of 60 km, a width of 8 km at its narrowest point and a 18 km at its widest. The natural beauty is overwhelming. The ground is covered with lush vegetation which varies as we ascend from the sea level: laurels and sycamores along the brooks, terraces of olive trees and orchards on the lower slopes, small oak forests ranging from five hundred meters, pine - over seven hundred meters, and over three hundred of white stone till the top of the mountain which is covered with snow more than half the year.
Mount Athos is a great center of Orthodox monasticism and an independent state or almost independent inside Greece. There are 20 big monasteries called royal, all with equal rights which lead the whole mountain; 14 skites (similar to monasteries but much smaller) and a lot of monastic cells where live over 1500 orthodox monks.
The 20 monasteries on the mountain are: Monastery of Great Lavra, Vatopedi Monastery, Iviron Monastery, Hilandar Monastery, Dionysiou Monastery, Cutlumus Monastery, Pantokrator Monastery, Xiropotamu Monastery, Zographou Monastery, Dochiariou Monastery, Karakalou Monastery, Filotheu Monastery, Simonos Petras Monastery, Saint Paul’s Monastery, Stavronikita Monastery, Xenophon Monastery, Gregoriou Monastery, Esphigmenou Monastery, Saint Pantelimon Monastery and Konstamonitou Monastery.
A number of 17 monasteries of these 20 monasteries are Greek, one Russian - Saint Pantelimon Monastery, one Serbian - Hilandar Monastery, and one Bulgarian - Zographou Monastery. There is one Romanian skit – Saint John the Baptist, belonging to the Monastery of Great Lavra. Every foreign monastery is financially supported by the county of origin.
The access on the Athos branch is allowed only in accordance with a written permit called diamonitirion valid for only 4 days and only for men. Only men are permitted to enter Mount Athos. The rule, known as the ABATON, forbids access to Mount Athos by any female and is enforced by law. Every day are issued only 10 permits per day for non-orthodox pilgrims (foreigners) and 100 for Greeks and orthodox pilgrims. They cost 25 euro, can be purchased at Mount Athos Office in Ournaapoliss Port and must be presented every time the pilgrim requires accommodation at a monastery. Entry by land is prohibited, that is why on the Holly Mount you will move only by cars belonging to monasteries. The only way to get to the mountain is by ferry boats which depart from Ouranoupolis Port daily. A round trip is 14 euro. Pilgrims will disembark in Daphni Port; there they will take the bus (30 euro one way ticket) to the capital of Mount Athos – Karyes where they will find other buses to various monasteries.
Daily, there are organized cruises along the southwest coast of the brunch; this is an amazing occasion for women to admire the beauty of the nature and monasteries. The Cruise Menia Maria departs at 09:00 in the morning from Ormos Panagios – a lovely town located at the entrance on the Sithonia. The cruise ship offers a large lounge (100 people), a panoramic lounge (150 people) and the sun deck with seasonal seats and tables, with a capacity of 100 people. On the four decks of the cruise ship you can enjoy the attractive décor of the ship, which takes you back to other times. You can also enjoy your coffee or refreshment at one of the fully equipped bars. The visitor has the ability to be fully informed on the history of every Monastery on Agion Oros (the Holy Mount) from the cruise ship’s experienced tour guide.
The ship sets course for the south cape of Athos, cruising the following monasteries of the west coast: Ag.Pavlou, Dionysiou, Grigoriou, Simonos Petra, port Dafni, Xiropotamou, Panteleimonos or Russian monastery, Xenofontos, Dochiariou. At 13:00 the cruise ship stops in Ouranoupolis for two hours. Here you will have time to take the lunch, buy some souvenirs and walk the town. The last part of the journey lasts about an hour and a half, so that at 17:00 p.m. you will arrive in Ormos Panagios. During the return trip you may enjoy the program with the live orchestra and the folkloric dancing.
One ticket is 30 euro, but you can find it with 25 at MeliTours Office in Ormos Panagios.