The peninsula of Athos or Agio Oros is the easternmost of the three peninsulas of Chalkidiki. It is bounded by the Orphanou (Strymonikos) Gulf to the southeast and by the Gulf of Agio Oros (Siggitikos) to the west. It is the only area in Greece, which is entirely dedicated to prayer and the worship of God. That's why it is called Agio Oros (Holy Mountain).
Mount Athos, which overlooks the peninsula, is a huge conical mountain with a height of 2.033 meters. Its barren peak seems to be spearing the heaven and its verdant green slopes with the age old trees, create a sense of unique natural beauty in this enchanting area. The natural landscapes of the peninsula are wonderful, the picturesque hills, the verdant green forests, the steep cliffs and the abundance of running waters.
The monastic state of Agio Oros includes 20 "sovereign" monasteries, sketae, huts, cells, "kathismata" (seats) and "hermitages". All the monasteries are coenobitic, i.e. with common liturgy and prayer, common housing, eating and work for the monks. The person responsible for each monastery is the "Abbot" who is elected by the brotherhood of the monastery for life.
Agio Oros constitutes a self-governed part of the Greek State and it is politically under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Greece, spiritually under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, while the administrative rule is in the hands of the 20 monasteries and it is practiced by the two superior bodies, the Holy Community (Iera Kinotita) and the Holly Administration (Iera Epistasia).
The unique architectural style of the monasteries, with its castle-like arrangement of the buildings, the impressive towers, the admirable bell towers, the carved wood or marble chancel screens, as well as the wonderful decor of excellent murals, holy icons and portable icons, make Agio Oros a living museum of art and history.
One special event for each monastery is the celebration called "panegyri". Each monastery celebrates the name day of the Saint, to whom the monastery is dedicated. In the vineyards of Agio Oros are grown excellent varieties of grapes and local wines are produced.
In this monastic state, the so-called rule of "avato", i.e. the prohibition of entry for women is in effect. This prohibition also applies to all the female animals. Also the entry is forbidden to persons under 18 years old.
There are two villages in Agio Oros: Karyes and Dafni. Karyes is built in an enchanting setting, with abundant running waters, at an elevation of 370 m, and it is the capital of the monastic state and the seat of all the monastic and secular administrative authorities. Here, besides the "konaki" (the representation) of each monastery, there are monastic cells and workshops or stores, which belong to some of the 20 monasteries of Agio Oros. The unique square of the village is a place where smoking is forbidden, as is the crossing on horseback. At the square is located the church of Protaton decorated with excellent frescoes and the historical portable icon of "Axion Esti".
Dafni is located on the southwestern coast and it is one of the two gates of entrance to the peninsula of Agio Oros. The other gate of entrance is in Ouranoupoli. Here there are about 20 old buildings and a few stores, as well as a few state buildings, such as a Customs office, OTE (National Telecommunications Organization), Police station etc.
The historic monasteries, the monastic cells perched in steep rocks, the towers, the domes, the bell towers and the melodious psalmodies, create a unique atmosphere of catanyxis, characteristic of the State of Agio Oros. Without any doubt, Agio Oros is the greatest living museum of art, ethnology and ecclesiastical history.
Holy Monastery of MEGISTI LAVRA
Holy Monastery of VATOPEDI
Holy Monastery of IVIRON
Holy Monastery of HILANDARIOU
Holy Monastery of DIONYSIOU
Holy Monastery of KOUTLOUMOUSIOU
Holy Monastery of PANTOKRATOROS
Holy Monastery of XIROPOTAMOU
Holy Monastery of ZOGRAFOU
Holy Monastery of DOCHIARIOU
Holy Monastery of KARAKALOU
Holy Monastery of PHILOTHEOU
Holy Monastery of SIMONOS PETRAS
Holy Monastery of AGIOS PAVLOS
Holy Monastery of STAVRONIKITA
Holy Monastery of XENOFONTOS
Holy Monastery of GRIGORIOU
Holy Monastery of ESFIGMENOU
Holy Monastery of AGIOSPANTELEIMON
Holy Monastery of KONSTAMONITOU
How you can get here:
There is frequent daily service with KTEL busses from Athens to Thessalonica. From Thessalonica there is daily bus service to Chalkidiki. When you arrive at Chalkidiki, you can take the ferry to Agio Oros departing from Ouranoupoli or Ierissos.
* Prospective visitors of Agio Oros (only men over 18 are allowed) should follow a certain procedure. By calling the Pilgrims' Bureau of Agio Oros in Thessalonica (tel. +30 2310 252575), one can be issued a "diamonitirion" (a type of visa), which should be obtained one month ahead.
USEFUL TELEPHONE NUMBERS
(Calling code for Greece 0030)
Secular administration of Agio Oros 23770 23230 Holly Administration (Iera Epistasia) 23770 23224 Pilgrims' Bureau of Thessalonica 2310 252575, 252578
Pilgrims' Bureau of Ouranoupoli 23770 71421, 252578
Agios Oros Tourist Police 23770 61612
Ierissos Port Authority 23770 22666, 22576 Ouranoupoli Port Authority 23770 71248
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