Famed for its Eastern Orthodox monasteries, Mount Athos is a sacred peninsula in northeastern Greece. It’s known locally as Agion Oros (“Holy Mountain”) and has been inhabited since ancient times, although its monastic traditions date back to the Byzantine era. Today, Mount Athos is home to more than 2,000 monks and around 20 monasteries where rare books, religious artefacts and treasured artworks are showcased.
Things to do in Mount Athos
Whether you explore the Holy Mountain’s monasteries on foot or from the water, Mount Athos is sure to leave you inspired.
Visit the monasteries of Agion Oros. Rising to 2,033 metres, Agion Oros is scattered with monasteries and hermitages and functions as an autonomous monastic republic. It’s only accessible to men, with highlights including the 10th-century Vatopedi Monastery and St. Panteleimon Monastery, which has ties to the Russian Orthodox Church. Surrounding the monasteries are dense forests and verdant hills that offer sweeping views across the Siggitikos Gulf.
Cruise around the peninsula. If you don’t have the opportunity to visit the Athonite State, then a boat cruise around the peninsula is the next best thing. Departing from the coastal town of Ouranoupoli, you can enjoy impressive views of the monasteries while learning about the life of the monks and the history of the Holy Mountain. An added bonus is the pods of dolphins that regularly accompany boats along the way.
Explore Ouranoupoli. Perched on the north-west coast of Mount Athos is the coastal community of Ouranoupoli, which is a popular base for exploring the peninsula. You can relax on the golden sands of Ouranoupoli Beach, admire the Byzantine Tower of Prosphorion and browse the exhibits of the Christian Chalkidiki Exhibition. Its religious icons and wall paintings are on display within a boathouse that was once used by the monks of the Vatopedi Monastery.
Getting around Mount Athos
Mount Athos is around two hours’ drive from Thessaloniki and Thessaloniki Airport Makedonia, which has flights to destinations across Europe and the Middle East. Renting a car is the most convenient way of exploring the peninsula. Ferries connect to Ouranoupoli from Tripiti, Ammouliani and Dafni.