Mount Athos

  • Mt Athos - Along the Peninsula From Mt Athos - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Athos - Toward Agia Anna - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Athos - Kavsokalivia skete - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Athos - Kavsokalivia Church - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Athos - ? From Kavsokalivia - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Athos - ? From Kavsokalivia - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Athos - Back over Kavsokalivia - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Athos - Cliff-face Hermitage - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Athos - South coast vegetation - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Athos - South coast vegetation - © William Mackesy
  • Grand Lavra - © William Mackesy
  •  Grand Lavra Walls - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Athos - Grand Lavra Entrance - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Athos - ? From Grand Lavra guesthouse - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Athos - ? From Grand Lavra - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Athos - Grand Lavra refrectory - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Athos - Grand Lavra - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Athos - Path above Grand Lavra - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Athos - Kerasia skete terrace - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Athos - Above Kerasia - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Athos - ? From Panaghias - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Athos - By Panaghias - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Athos - By Panaghias - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Athos - Panaghias Chapel - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Athos - ? From Panaghias - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Athos - Above Panaghias - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Athos - Way Above Panaghias - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Athos - Return Walk - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Athos - ? From Lower Slopes - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Athos - Above Agia Anna - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Athos - Above Agia Anna - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Athos - Agia Anna - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Athos - ? From Agia Anna - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Athos - Agia Anna - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Athos - ? From Agia Anna - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Athos - Back to Agia Anna - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Athos - Pavlou, Mt Athos behind - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Athos - West Coast Path - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Athos - Dionysiou - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Athos - Dionysiou - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Athos - Dionysiou - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Athos - Back to Dionysiou - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Athos - Coastline South From Dionysiou - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Athos - Grigoriou - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Athos - Grigoriou Entrance - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Athos - Grigoriou Courtyard - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Athos - Grigoriou Courtyard - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Athos - Grigoriou Courtyard - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Athos - Grigoriou Courtyard - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Athos - Grigoriou Courtyard - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Athos - Grigoriou Quay - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Athos - Grigoriou From the Sea - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Athos - Grigoriou From the Sea - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Athos - South Coast From the Ferry - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Athos - South Coast From the Ferry - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Athos - South Coast, straight up to Athos From the Ferry - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Athos - South Coast From the Ferry - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Athos - Dionysiou From the Ferry - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Athos - Dionysiou From the Ferry - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Athos - Back to Athos, From the ferry - © William Mackesy
  • Mt Athos - Back to Athos, From the ferry - © William Mackesy
  • Ouranopoli - © William Mackesy

Key information: Mount Athos

    • The mountainous monastery peninsula of Mt. Athos protrudes, as the easternmost finger of the Halkidiki Peninsula, some 60km into the northern Aegean Sea. It is home to a multitude of Orthodox monastic houses, fortified against the raiders of history, which perch on crags and slumber in sandy coves. They shelter beautiful, ancient buildings, paintings and other treasures.
      • Walk on the ancient paths, contouring cliffs and crossing the wooded hillsides, that link the monasteries. Enjoy big views of the rugged mountains and the sea and the beautiful and varied vegetation.
        • Only men are allowed on the peninsula. Access is limited and permits are hard to get.
        •    

Walkopedia rating

(Top 100)
  • Walkopedia rating91.5
  • Beauty31
  • Natural interest13.5
  • Human interest15
  • Charisma32
  • Negative points0
  • Total rating91.5

Vital Statistics

  • Length: Variable
  • Maximum Altitude: 2,033m
  • Level of Difficulty: Variable
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Mt Athos - Toward Agia Anna - © William Mackesy

WALK SUMMARY

Mount Athos is a last living vestige of the Byzantine world, a unique, self-governing, monastic statelet, the eastern finger of Greeces Halkidiki peninsula. It is now a world heritage site.

 

Women and, famously, beardless youths and female animals are excluded, and only monks live here permanently. It is tough getting there. Athos is only accessible by sea, so access can be regulated - and you have to have a pass to be allowed in. A mere 10 non-Orthodox visitors can enter each day, and you have to apply for entry exactly 6 months ahead.

 

Nestling in Athos' gorges and forests, or looming on seaside crags, are a plethora of monasteries and lesser houses, many of them living museums housing priceless icons, paintings, books and other treasures, which shelter nearly 2,000 Orthodox monks. In its heyday there were tens of thousands here. Many still live in scattered hermitages and sketes groups of monks living idiorrhythmic, self-regulating, lives.

 

Remember: Athos is sacred, an Orthodox monastic place of retreat. Don't go unless you will  go in a spirit of enquiry and respect. You can only stay in the monasteries and sketes, and it will be wrong not to attend services while there. Most houses now require advance booking, so plan ahead. Some are very small and only have a few places.

 

You can get round much of the peninsula by bus, but the traditional way is what will appeal to Walkopedians: on foot along the many remaining ancient paths and mule tracks, to Athos' remotest places. While this can be done throughout the peninsula, the only truly untouched area is in the wild south, below the great marble peak, at 2,030m the highest point for miles around.

 

This will mean taking a bustling little ferry from Ouranopoli just north-west of the boundary wall, getting off at your chosen destination.

 

There are many possible routes, but the best and most varied in the time available (a maximum of 3 nights for non-Orthodox visitors) would be to land below the Kavsokalivia skete and walk to the Grand Lavra, the oldest (and grandest!) monastery on Athos. The track contours the cliffside through gorgeous maquis.

 

The second day is a long march westward across the forested lower slopes. This is ravishing walking, though perhaps not as extravagantly furnished as yesterday's trail high above the sea. There is something delightful and deeply moving about the destination, the Kerasia skete, where we are to spend the night. The contrast with the grandeur of the Lavra could not be greater.

 

 You will need to be up early for the big climb of Mt Athos, which is a demanding toil, but produces amazing views of the whole peninsula. There is a choice about where to spend that night, depending on how fit you are: St Anna, the mountain's oldest skete, is probably the nearest and has the sort of view that could cost hundreds a night on the Amalfi coast.

 

The last day follows glorious paths high above the west coast, visiting dour Pavlou and beautiful Dionysiou and Grigoriou. You can get a ferry at Grigoriou, or press on to the port of Dafni - but that will make for a long walk with a tight deadline to get the last ferry out.

 

The scenery on Athos is superb - precipitous mountains, pinnacled cliffs and sea - as is the vegetation; a marvelous mix of forest, much of it still virgin, in the south particularly; and bright and varied maquis of bush and shrub.

 

WILLIAM MACKESY'S ACCOUNT
of this walk

In May 2009, after interminable preparations, four middle-aged Englishmen made the pilgrimage-journey to Mount Athos, the sacred eastern finger of the Halkidiki peninsula in northern Greece.

 

It was an arduous process even getting there: they laughed the year before, when I tried to obtain diamonitiria, entry visas, in February for a May visit. Only 10 non-orthodox visitors (and 100 Orthodox) are allowed in each day, and you now have to apply 6 months in.....

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Other accounts: share your experiences

Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION

We have a lot of helpful practical information and tips about this walk, covering everything from the best books and maps, to timing and weather, geting there, possible problems, whether you need a guide and where to find them, and useful websites. This section is only open to members.

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Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk.

Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.

Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.

Mt Athos - Grigoriou - © William Mackesy

OTHER ACCOUNTS
share your experiences

Add your experiences, suggestions and photos. We would be delighted to receive your writing and ideas (which will be attributed appropriately where published).

Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.

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Mt Athos - Grigoriou Quay - © William Mackesy...
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