The sacred land of Mount Athos

The sacred land of Mount Athos

Today, Greece’s most sacred land is located at the easternmost leg of the Halkidiki peninsula, which is none other than Mount Athos.

Greece undoubtedly is known for its beautiful and rich ancient history and mythology. Yet, it is also a land of bountiful Christian traditions and history. Today, Greece’s most sacred land is located at the easternmost leg of the Halkidiki peninsula, which is none other than Mount Athos.

The mountain has a long history of holiness and monastic traditions. Currently, the mountain within the Christian Orthodox community is known as the Holy Mountain or the Garden of the Virgin Mary.

Before Mount Athos became the Holy Mountain, it was recorded as an essential part of the ancient Greek civilization. It was a passageway for Greece’s conquerors, such as the Persians.

Foremost, the name itself of the mountain comes from Greek mythology. Athos was the name of one of the giants that fought during the battle with the Greek gods. Mythology says Athos threw an enormous rock on Poseidon during the fight, which then fell into the ocean and become the mountain as we know it today.

However, most of the mountain’s early history got lost through time. Later, according to Athonite tradition, the Virgin Mary embarked on a journey to go to Cyprus to visit Lazarus. But due to strong winds, she ended up arriving at Mount Athos. Mesmerized by its beauty, she blessed and asked her son to have it as her garden.

Then, Jesus’ heavenly voice said loudly and clearly, “Let this place be your inheritance and your garden, a paradise and a haven of salvation for those seeking to be saved.” Since then, the mountain was declared as Virgin Mary’s Garden, and all other women were banned from entering.

Until today, the mountain is a monastic community of only male monks, and only other men can visit. However, there is a restricted daily number of visitors, and they have to have a special entrance permit.

Nevertheless, Mount Athos is still visited by thousands of orthodox men who are enamored and curious about the monks’ simple holy life. Also, the incredible scenery of the mountain, forests, Mediterranean sea, and the graphic monasteries and churches.

Access to the area is only by boat from Ouranoupoli.

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Mount Athos is the easternmost peninsula of Halkidiki. It is usually known as the spiritual center of Orthodox Christianity since medieval times. Its 20 monasteries scattered throughout the peninsula are popular pilgrimage sites. Yet, Mount Athos is unique in other ways, too. Take its splendid nature as a reference. It features hills, forests and the sea crashing against the mount's rocky base. In short, Mount Athos is a place unlike any other. Flora of Mount Athos Mount Athos has delightful nature, which is the reason for its "Garden of the Virgin Mary" epithet. There are many endemic plant species inhabiting the region because of many reasons. The uniqueness of the terrain and a variety of micro climates are a few of them. Kassandra and Sithonia, the nearby peninsulas, have the Mediterranean climate. Athos combines elements of the Mediterranean and Continental climates among some others. Due to the fact, you can find a wide variety of plants there. The olive tree, holm oak and the lentisk are some representatives of the Mediterranean vegetation. Some sub-continental species found in the area are the chestnut, fir and the pine. Even semi-desert plants inhabit the Holy Mountain, such as the arboreal euphorbia. And so on. Wildlife of Athos Since around 90% of Mount Athos's surface is untouched, there are many animal species inhabiting the region. While wandering around, you may find traces of various mammals and spot birds. Some mammals found on the Holy Mountain are jackals, red foxes, gray wolves, weasels and monk seals. The Garden of the Virgin Mary is also an excellent destination for birdwatching. Among other birds, you may see golden eagles, black storks, eagle owls, short-toed eagles and gulls. Landscapes of the Holy Mountain Pilgrims constitute the biggest part of Athos's visitors. Getting from one monastery to another is usually carried out on foot via stone-paved paths. Along the way, pilgrims traverse wooded areas with occasional clearings revealing magnificent landscapes. Fields and grooves encircle some monasteries, while others boast forested settings. Some of them are true islands in the sea of greenery.

Nature of Mount Athos, Halkidiki, Greece

Mount Athos is the easternmost peninsula of Halkidiki. It is usually known as the center of Orthodox Christianity since medieval times.

Learn More