the holy mount athos

How To Reach Mount Athos

Only men are allowed to visit Mount Athos, according to the Protocol of the monastic state. A few days before their visit, visitors have to phone Mount Athos offices at Thessaloniki in order to make their booking and receive a code number. This code number is necessary because the number of visitors is limited to 120 men per day.

Visitors can go by road (by private car or by bus) from Thessaloniki to Ierissos, Nea Roda or Ouranoupolis. The distance is around 140 km. These towns cater for tourists which means that there are all kinds of shops, hotels and parking spaces for cars. (In Mount Athos the only cars allowed are the cars of the monasteries and the workers that offer their services there). For this reason, the visitors must leave their cars in the city.

The visitors, before their visit to Mount Athos will have to take their "Diamonitirio" (permit to reside) from the offices of Mount Athos, at Ouranoupolis (on the right side of the port). The visitors will have to be there, at least one hour before departure, around 8.45 in the morning. In order to get "Diamonitirio" visitors must show their identity cards and pay a certain amount in euro.

Foreign visitors also need:

  1. A Letter of recommendation from their embassy in Athens or their consulate in Thessaloniki.
  2. A Permit of entry to Agion Oros from the Greek Foreign Ministry in Athens (Administration Division of Church Affairs) or from the Ministry of Northern Greece in Thessaloniki (Administration of Foreign Affairs).
  3. Passport.

On the "Diamonitirio" are written the identity elements of the visitor, his code number, the date and the number of days (duration of stay). This duration is usually four days, though in case the visitor wishes to stay longer, he can ask for an extension from the Holy Supervision (Ιερά Επιστασία – Iera Epistasia) at Karyes.

mount athos diamonitirio
A sample of Diamonitirio

If a visitor had arrived of invitation of a monk, then he takes special "Diamonitirio" and days of stay may vary. Most monasteries will check the dates of stay, especially during summer and beginning of autumn, as the number of visitors is very high during this period. It is also necessary to call to the monastery of visit before going there as there may be no place to accommodate a visitor during the busy period of the year. The catalogue of monasteries with their phone numbers is printed on the back side of the "Diamonitirio".

From Ierissos the visitors can take the boat to the western side of Agion Oros. From there, they can visit the monasteries: Hiliandarion, Esfigmenos, Vatopedion, Pantokrator, Stavronikitas, Iviron, Megisti Lavra. To visit the other monasteries, they will have to go to the Monastery of Iviron (3 hours by boat) from there to Karyes (1/2 hour by bus) and from there to the monasteries they wish. This itinerary from Ierissos takes place only in the summer.

boat mount athos
The boat "Agios Panteleimon" reaches Mount Athos

From Ouranoupolis, there is another boat that sails to the eastern side and stops over at the monasteries of: Dohiarion, Xenofon, Panteleimon, Gregorion, Dionysios, and Saint Paul. For the rest of the monasteries, visitors will have to go to the port of Daphne (2 hours by boat) and from there to Karyes (1/2 hour by bus).

The public transport in Agion Oros is not always satisfactory. For that reason, besides boats and buses, visitors can get local taxis to get to their destination. For the most part, visitors should be prepared for long walks.

Moving around in Mount Athos

In 1963 the first unpaved access road from Dafni to Karyes was open. Then a whole system of unpaved access road communicating with almost all the monasteries, skites and kelia was created due to high danger of fires. It also made easier the reconstruction works in the monasteries.

Nowadays monks use different types of cars according to their needs and there are local buses from Dafni to Karyes and also local taxis. They are minivans with capacity 10-12 people and can bring the visitors to all the destinations. The cost often is high.

There is possibility to reach some of the monasteries by boat. Paying their visits from one monastery to another one nearby, a visitor would usually walk. The suggested by monks time to reach the next point of destination, would probably need to be multiplied twice as monastic way of walking is rather speedy one.