Athos rises majestically at 2033 meters above the sea, covered by virgin forests with a natural beauty that captivates the visitor’s eye. No wonder it is believed by many that this peninsula is the most beautiful of the three peninsulas of Halkidiki!

Civilization has not invaded Mount Athos which is inhabited only by monks. It’s one of the oldest, greatest, and holiest monastic communities on earth – devoted to the worship of God and the Virgin Mary for over a thousand years. In 885, the Byzantine emperor Vasileios I declared it the exclusive property of monks and hermits.

The first organized monastery was founded back in 963. A century later, it was decreed that “no female person” would be allowed to violate the area’s sanctity. This ban is still in effect today and no woman can set foot on Mount Athos. Centuries of isolation and devotion to the Orthodox religion have given Mount Athos a unique and legendary mystical atmosphere, that leaves modern visitor in awe.

In the glorious days of the past, during the 15th century, Athos was home to 40 monasteries and about 40,000 monks. Today, this number has decreased to 20 active monasteries and a population of about 1700 monks.

According to the hierarchical order, the Holy Monasteries of Mount Athos, also called Athonic, which are governed according to their internal regulations, are the following:

Holy Monastery of Megisti Lavra (963)

Holy Monastery of Vatopedi (972)

Holy Monastery of Iberon (976)

Holy Monastery of Chiliandari (1197, Serbian)

Holy Monastery of Dionysios (1375)

Holy Monastery of Koutloumousiou (12th century)

Holy Monastery of Pantokrator (1363)

Holy Monastery of Xiropotamos (11th century)

Holy Monastery of Zografou (1270, Bulgarian)

Holy Monastery of Dochiari (11th century)

Holy Monastery of Karakallos (1070)

Holy Monastery of Philotheus (992)

Holy Monastery of Simonos Petra (1363)

Saint Paul’s Monastery (11th century)

Holy Monastery of Stavronikita (1542)

Holy Monastery of Xenophon (1070)

Saint Gregory Monastery (14th century)

Holy Monastery of Esfimenou (11th century)

Holy Russian Monastery, better known as Agios Panteleimonos (from 1169 it was granted to the Russians)

Holy Monastery of Konstamonitou (1086)

Surrounded by an incalculable wealth of ecclesiastical treasures, rare icons and libraries full of priceless manuscripts, these monks live simply, untouched by the habits of modern lifestyle.

Men who want to visit Mount Athos are admitted only after special permission. The rest will have to be content with ending their journey in Ouranoupoli, where they can console themselves by enjoying a cruise around the stunning peninsula.