Efforts to enter the country are rewarded with an unforgettable stay
If you want to visit Mount Athos in northeast Greece, you still have to be male. This should be said in advance, since women have always been denied admission to the monastic republic.
Strict entry requirements – worthwhile effort
Mount Athos is located in the Macedonia region and is part of the Chalkidiki peninsula. Three so-called fingers run from the peninsula into the Aegean Sea. Athos is the easternmost “finger” and, as a monastic republic, is the spiritual center of the Eastern Orthodox world.
The mountains of the monks are also a particularly popular travel destination. To this day, there are still strict entry requirements for non-Orthodox people visiting Mount Athos. First of all, a residence permit is required, which must be applied for before the visit. As this takes a few days before the local police give you the license you want, you should plan ahead during your stay in Greece. The reason for the long processing time is the fact that a maximum of twelve people of non-Orthodox faith are allowed to visit the monastic republic every day. It is worth the effort once the travelers have gotten to know the world of the monks on Mount Athos. In addition to the 20 monasteries, there are other so-called Skiten, village-like monk settlements. A visit to a monastery includes an overnight stay. If you want to stay longer in a monastery, you also need a permit here. This is given by the abbot of the monastery.
Get to know everyday life in the monastery, monasteries and nature
Orthodox Christianity has been lived here by the monks in their seclusion for more than 1,000 years. Visitors can only get to know a fraction of the life of the monks themselves. And yet this is a very special experience. Not only do you experience the everyday life of a monk yourself, but you can also get to know the many different monasteries and skiing on the peninsula on your hikes. The Greek mountain landscape with its untouched nature is an experience that is offered to pilgrims by the way.
Monasteries of the Meteora
The floating monasteries in Thessaly
Not far from the city of Kalambaka in Thessaly are the Meteora monasteries. The total of 24 monasteries and some hermitages are built on a sandstone rock and are enthroned high above the area. And when the air is hazy, the monasteries seem to float. The first buildings of this type date from the 11th century. Six monasteries are still inhabited today.
Visit to the Metéora monasteries
The monasteries that are still inhabited can be visited. Rest days are distributed in turn, so that the tourist always has enough choice available – no matter which day he chooses for his visit. Most of the still inhabited monasteries date from the 14th to 16th centuries. With their buildings and their hardly changed originality, they provide deep insights into history. Many guests here, far above all worldly events, have the impression that time has stood still.
Study trips to the inhabited monasteries
The monasteries that are still inhabited and can be visited are in detail:
- Agios Nikólaos Anapavsás
- Agia Triada
- Agios Stéphanos
The sometimes strict dress code must be observed when viewing. In general, shorts, mini skirts and off-the-shoulder tops are not desirable. In most monasteries it is also welcomed when women wear skirts instead of trousers. It can happen that a woman with trousers is asked to wear an apron that has been given to her beforehand.
Climbing and caving
In addition to the monasteries, the area east of the Pindos Mountains is also known and famous as a climbing destination. There are also numerous caves in the Meteora rocks; including the famous Theopetra Cave, in which the oldest structure of mankind is located. It is a stone wall that is around 23,000 years old.
Anyone traveling in the northeast of the Greek Peloponnese peninsula cannot ignore Epidaurus. The huge impressive archaeological site with several well-preserved ancient buildings is one of the most visited sights on the peninsula. Epidaurus has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site for several years. On the entire complex, which is dedicated to the Greek god of healing, Asklepios, antiquity comes to life again.
Impressive amphitheater and excavations
By far the most impressive building in Epidaurus is the completely preserved ancient amphitheater from the 5th century BC, which can still accommodate 14,000 spectators and which offers impressive acoustics. Among other things, the big theater festival of Epidaurus takes place here every summer. The remains of the 23×11 meter temple of Asclepius can also be seen on the site. Next to the temple is a small museum where visitors can get exciting information about the region’s eventful history. The so-called Tholos is also a real eye-catcher for the countless visitors from all over the world. The sacred rotunda from antiquity with a total of 40 columns has been reconstructed since the beginning of the 21st century. In addition to the large-scale excavations, extensive reconstruction work has also been taking place on the entire site for many years. Epidaurus is open daily from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. A day pass for adults costs six euros. Admission for children and young people is free.