Unique Mount Athos

By | Category: Travel destinations

The word “unique” is overused. Like the words “undiscovered,” and “paradise.” But Mount Athos in the Halkidiki region of Greece may be just that.
Because no women are allowed onto Mt Athos, a religious geography of twenty different monasteries, umpteen hermitages, pilgrimage sites and sanctuaries only occupied by monks. Because some of the buildings have not changed in a thousand years. Because no meat is allowed and the 2, 500 monks fish for their own food, grow their own crops and herbs, ferment their own wine and refuse to allow photographs of themselves and more often than not, the inside of their monasteries. Because you need to assert your faith and complete countless forms before males are allowed to enter the area. Women have to stay outside the area in five star hotels (or other grades) down in the beach area or lounge on visiting cruise ships that anchor in the pristine bays whilst the men enter the monk’s cell-like life of contemplation, sanctity and peacefulness. One website even referred to the area as being “untouched by civilization.”
Yet despite what many would consider an old fashioned and outdated approach, over a million people visit the area each year.
Mount Athos is found on one the of the three arms in the Halkidiki region where the nearest city (and airport) is Greek’s second largest, Thessalonika. Called the Holy Mountain, it has largely survived because it isn’t the easiest place to get to and when you do, transport is often on foot, horseback or, in complete contrast, four wheel drive vehicles which are needed to cope with the tracks (rather than roads) which can be dangerous, treacherous or off-putting to say the least.
Apart from the monasteries and religious sites, down from the mountain, there is what many holidaymakers would expect to see in Greece. The villages border the clear-blue waters; the beaches are sandy and child-friendly and the food is local, fresh and organic. For visitors who want to stay here there are over fifty hotels and you can either bask in the sunshine, bicycle or walk along the trails or spend time visiting the other remnants of the Greek past. And like nearly all of the Mediterranean, there are festivals as each village celebrates, even a sardine one so you’ll find plenty to do. If you can stir yourself from the beach!

For more information see the Mt Athos website

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