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Mount Athos: General travel information

zondag, oktober 31, 2010 · Category Western Europe · comments 2

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In order to visit mount Athos the first step is to get a visitors permit or "Diamonitirio. This is not an easy task. They typically grant four-day passes. You can order a visa at the Pilgrim's Bureau office. The Mount Athos Office is open: from Monday to Saturday from 9:00a.m. to 01:00p.m. The address is: 109 Str. Av. Egnatias – 54622 Thessalonica Greece. Tel.:0030-2310-252578 and fax: 0030-2310-222424. You also need to email (piligrimsbureau@c-lab.gr) a copy of your passport along with the VISA request form. Once your date of entry has been confirmed, you must reconfirm your plans, still with the Mount Athos Pilgrims' Bureau, two weeks before your planned visit. This can be done by email.

Who grants the visa?

The Diamonitirio is issued by the highest officials of Mount Athos or "Aghion Oros", the "Sacred Community" and is issued only after they receive note of the main police station at the capital "Karies" or "Kariyes". The Diamonitirio is signed by the Head-supervisor and the other supervisors of the holy land. The Diamonitirio is than sealed with the small or large seal of the "Sacred Community", depending on who the visitor making the request is or whom recommended the potential visitor.

Who can visit Mount Athos?

Basically any Christian is admitted, but in reality it is mostly Orthodox Christians arriving to Mount Athos. On average 1 visa is granted to a Non-orthodox visitor compared to some 30 to Orthodox Christians. 

Where to stay

Once you have your permit it is necessary to make arrangements for your stay. Usually your Diamonitirio permits you to travel around for 4 days and you need to make arrangements with the monastries you wish to visit. Without prior arrangements you may be allowed into the monastry anyway, but changes are the is no place left or you end up sleeping in the hallway as happened to us. Here is a list of all monastries including telephone numbers (PDF document)

Getting to Mount Athos

If you are visiting from abroad the best way is to find a flight to Thessaloniki Macedonia Airport. In my case I choose one of my favorite airports - Dusseldorf, Germany - which is only an hour and a half away from my home. The straight flight is conducted by Aegean Airlines with return ticket prices starting from E 200,00. If you want to pay a lot more you can fight similar flights with Lufthansa and other major airlines. From Macedonia airport to the centre of Thessaloniki a taxi ride costs about E 15,00 - E 17,00. There are also buses going straight into the centre for less than E 1,40. To get to Ouranoupoli from Thessaloniki, you begin by taking a taxi to a bus station on the edge of the city called KTEL-Halkidiki. (KTEL is the name of the bus company, and the name of this particular KTEL terminal is Halkidiki, which is the area of Greece that its busses service.) This is the bus schedule service (PDF)

Staying at Thessaloniki

Usually you will have to stay one day in either Thessaloniki or the harbour town of Ouranoupolis, some 140 kilometres further south-east. In Thessaloniki I have stayed at different hotels and I can absolutely recommend the "Ilisia Hotel" where you sleep in a renovated, modern room for E 40,00 including breakfast. Apart from a beautiful museum (for which one probably has no time) Thessaloniki has little to offer in my opinion. The city was bombed and completely distroyed in the Second World War and now consists of 4-8 stories high apartment buildings.

Staying at Ouranoupolis

Another option that I would definately recommend is to go straight to the harbour town of Ouranoupolis. It is from here where you can go to the Holy Mountain by boat and as far as I know this is the only way to arrive. From Thessaloniki to Ouranoupolis one can find buses early in the morning (around 05:30 hours) that take about 2 1/2 or more hours depending on the driver. Contrary to Thessaloniki, in Ouranoupolis you will feel like your "pilgrimage" has started. It's buzzling with pilgrims, monks and small pensions, "rooms" or "zimmer", has some nice cozy restaurants and shops.

Boat trip from Ouranoupolis to Dafne

The main boat starts in Ouranoupolis and goes as far as Dafne, the main port. The name Dafne or "Laurel" comes from the large number of laurels (Dafne in Greek) growing here. The boat will stop at all monastries on route. At the port you will find the "Serdaris" (policemen) and customs officers awaiting visitors at the pier. If you want to travel further down south, you have to take the second and smaller vessel or "Deutsches Schlauboot" towards Agia Anna.

Travelling around Mount Athos

Besides the boat one can travel from Dafne towards Karies (the capital) by mini-bus and from there you will find mini-buses going to the nearest monastries. The best way to travel and see, feel and "beleven" the holy mountain of Athos is by foot. Put on some strong walking shoes and travel lightly with a bagpack. Don't take to many clothes with you and towels are provided at the monastries.

If you need more information, please feel welcome to contact me.

Comments

1. by pilar about 4 years

what is the name the boat tour athos for womens? I will go to Ouranopolis in december.
Thank you

2. by Bart about 4 years

Hello Pilar, Unfortunately Athos is not accessable for women.

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