Mount Athos (Agion Oros)
Mount Athos is situated in the entire third, eastern and most beautiful peninsula of Halkidiki, called the peninsula of Athos. It is the only place in Greece that is completely dedicated to prayer and worship of God. For this reason, it is called the Holy Mount. It is about 50 Km in length, 8 to 12 Km in width and it covers an area of about 350 square kilometres. Mount Athos is the oldest monastic republic still in existence.
The borders of the monasterial city are defined on the ground by an imaginary line that starts from the location "FRAGOKASTRO" in the West coast and reaches the cape "ARAPIS" in the opposite end. The natural beauty of the peninsula is extraordinary. The Mount Athos that dominates is a huge cone of 2.033 metres in height. It's a naked, treeless crest that seems to lance the sky and its slopes are fully covered by ancient evergreens. All these help to create an area of incomparable natural beauty.
The Holy Mount is a self-governed part of the Greek state, subject to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in its political aspect and to the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople as regards its religious aspect. Mount Athos was officially established in 963 when a monk named Athanasios the Athonite built the Monastery of Great Lavra. However, even prior, monks and hermits had begun to retire to that area. Today, it is divided into twenty self- governed territories and the total number of monks does not exceed 1,700. Each territory consists of a cardinal monastery and some other monastic establishments that surround it (cloisters, cells, cottages, seats, hermitages). All the monasteries are communes (of a convent nature) which mean that there is common liturgy, prayer, housing, nourishing and work among the monks. The Superior of the monastery, being elected by the monks for life, is responsible for the affairs of the monastery. The Superiors of the monasteries are members of the Holy Assembly and exercise legislative authority. Moreover, every year the monastery elects its representative to the Holy Community which exercises administrative authority, while the Holy Supervision exercises executive authority and consists of 4 members, elected by the 5 hierarchically preceding monasteries. The administrative centre of Mount Athos is the village of Karyes.
It is also worth noting that time on Mount Athos runs according to the Julian calendar, abandoned by most of Western Europe in favour of the present-day Gregorian calendar during the sixteenth century. This means that dates in the monastic republic are ten days behind the rest of us. An Edict issued in 1060 AD by the Byzantine Emperor Constantine Monomachos, laid down strict conditions as to who might be admitted, and forbade females from ever crossing its border. This prohibition is still enforced, and no female may set foot on Agion Oros. Men wishing to visit the Holy Mountain are admitted by special permit only. The rest must be content to end their journey at Ouranoupolis. It is quite a large sophisticated resort and is known for its aquamarine waters and delightful beaches. Cruises around the Athos peninsula depart daily from Ouranoupolis. Further north still is Nea Roda. A couple of kilometres along the road from Nea Roda is the tiny port of Tripiti where you can get the ferry to the island of Amouliani, an attractive resort with adequate accommodation and camping facilities.