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Cut off from the other Macedonia and the entire world, natural and spiritual paradise with indescribable grandeur and beauty, is the eastern peninsula of Chalkidiki, HOLY MOUNTAIN, the coast of the ancient Greeks, the divine ATHOS, paddock of HOLY MARY, as the monks call it, where for centuries are leading a monastic life in the twenty large monasteries in cloisters, in retreats and hermitages. 

It is the monastic state of Mount Athos, with historical astromonastira, cells hidden inside caves or hanging rocks, towers, domes, spiers, chanting ... a mountain-temple with the sky as a dome, thousand years old Ark of Christian Orthodoxy. 

Athos (altitude 2,033 m) overgrown, secret, impressive - particularly in the south - with fearsome cliffs, majestic emerges from the North Aegean and raises the spear form top, often covered with clouds, two thousand thirty-three meters high in the skies. From the church of the Transfiguration of the Savior, which lays its Cross at the top, between heaven and earth, when the atmosphere is clean, you can gaze almost half of the Aegean with the lands that surrounds him, up to the coasts of Troy east and the peaks of Olympus in west.

Some monks with practiced eye see the dome of Agia Sophia as a divine apparition hovering away the magical East. Today on Mount Athos there are 20 large monasteries and 12 hermitages. 

Mount Athos is a living museum of history and art. The architecture of all of the monasteries has the typical Byzantine monastic regimen. All built by divine hand, have fortress provision because they were permanently targeted by pirates and conquerors. The buildings, like fortresses at the base, with the cells - eagle nests – on the top, are towering in natural safety positions in most places, fortified with walls and towers. In the middle of the building complexes there is a courtyard with monastery’s catholic, altar and chapels. The story of creation is not entirely known and often confused with traditions and legends. 

According to Greek mythology, Mount Athos is connected with the fierce battle between   Giants   and the Olympian gods, leader of the first was Athos. Athos threw a massive rock against Poseidon from Thrace, but he missed and the rock fell into the sea, creating the term, which was given his name.

According to another legend, ancient Greek God   Apollo   fell in love with   Daphne, daughter of the king of   Arcadia. Daphne, in order to keep herself pure, found refuge in the main port of Athos, giving her name to it. From this myth seems that since ancient times the region was associated with the fight against the flesh.

In   368 BC Peninsula and cities became part of the State of Philip II. Some years later his son   Alexander the Great   became king of   Macedonia   and subjugated throughout Greece. It is said that at that time an architect, Deinokratis, proposed to Alexander to transform the mountain and across the peninsula in a huge statue, which would portray Alexander keeping a populous city in his hand. Alexander replied that he must leave the area in its quiet.

Mount Athos applies inaccessible, meaning women are prohibited to enter. All the monasteries are communes. The life of the monks is strict, ascetic, with constant prayers, liturgical celebrations, vigils and fasts, mental and manual labour. The “knotrope” is the inseparable companion, means to gather their thought on "constantly praying" and exaltation in heaven. Each knot is formed by nine crosses, symbols of the nine orders of Angels. 

First Signs monastic life 
Exactly when Christianity was spread in Athos is not known. In a Russian tradition Mother of God   appeared in the region and the residents embraced Christianity. Specificly Mary with John the Evangelist were sailing along Athos, going to Cyprus to visit Lazarus and because of bad weather they reached ashore where today the Holy Monastery of the Iberians lies. There “Theotokos” admiring the place, a voice was heard from heaven saying,  This place will be from now on yours, orchard, paradise and port salvation for those who want to be saved.

Establishment name 
In the considered first formal ratified by the Emperor   John Tzimisces , Athos simply was called "Mount" which perhaps was then the usual name of the site.

The prevalence of the name "Mount Athos" seems to be made during the first half of   12th century , particularly in   goldsignatured   document of Emperor Alexios I Komnenos to the Holy  Great Lavra   on   1144 , which finally and officially recognized and enforced the new name as indicated in Him: "From now on the name of Athos will be Holy Mount Athos despite everything."

Mode of transport

The entrance to Mount Athos is carried only by the sea. The unique gates is the port Daphne on Sigiticos Bay and the arsenal of the monastery Iberians on Strimonikos Gulf. The number of visitors each day is limited.

The Greeks can visit Mount Athos freely, after contacting the Pilgrims Service Desk in Thessaloniki or Ouranopoli for issuing permits of which they will receive in Ouranopoli or lerissos before boarding the boat.  In the harbor there is a special office.

From Daphne or arsanas Iveron visitors are guided with a bus to Karyes. In the monasteries hosting is provided free of charge. The “Archontaris” welcomes  every single pilgrim in guest quarters and arrange for his hospitality.

The monasteries open their gates to the sunrise and closed by sunset. To visit Mount Athos (men only), you must follow a specific procedure.   Phoning the Pilgrims Office of Mount Athos in Thessaloniki (tel. 2310 252575) will issue the proper papers, which must be requested one month ago. 

To visit the monasteries on the western side, you should head to Ouranoupoli. If you wish to visit the monasteries of the east side, you must go to Ierissos or Nea Roda. From there by boat you can get to the arsanas Of Iberians monastery.

A full day cruise to Mount Athos is an amazing idea to feel the greatness of Christianity up close. Daily cruises are organized by travel agencies from Ormos Panagias and the Ouranopoli.From the bay of Ormos Panagias starts at 9:00 (be there half an hour early for boarding), and then after going  arround Athos, stops at Ouranopoli for about two hours and return to Ormos Panagias around 17:00. From Ouranopoli cruise lasts around 2.5 hours.Close tickets a day earlier at the reception.

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