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Before your arrival in Mt. Athos

The Protocol of the monastic state dictates that only men are allowed to visit the Holy Mountain of Athos. Visitors must, a few days prior to their arrival, call the offices of the Pilgrim Bureau in Thessaloniki, make a booking and get a code number. This number is necessary as there is a strict quota, limiting visitors to 120 per day. The offices of the Pilgrim Bureau in Thessaloniki are open 08:30 to 14:00 on working days and 10:00 to 12:00 on Saturdays. The telephone number for permits (diamonitirio) is 2310 252578 and Fax number 2310 222424). Visitors may travel by road (using their own vehicle or by bus) from Thessaloniki to Ierissos, Nea Roda or Ouranoupolis. The distance is roughly 140 km. and there are direct national bus services from all major Greek cities to Ouranoupolis. All of these destinations are cosmopolitan, tourist resorts which means that there is an abundance of shops, hotels, restaurants, as well as parking for your vehicles. The only cars allowed on Mt. Athos are those of the monasteries and of the workers working on the mountain. Thus visitors must leave their cars in the city. Prior to their departure for Mt. Athos, visitors must have their permits to reside (diamonitirio). They shall get these from the offices of Mt. Athos in Ouranoupolis (on the right side of the port, tel. 23770 71421). Visitors must be at the offices at least one hour prior to departure. In order for the permit to be issued visitors must show their police ID and pay a fee. Especially for foreign visitors the following are also required: A reference letter from their country’s embassy in Athens or from the corresponding consulate in Thessaloniki; a permit of entry to Mt. Athos from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Athens (Ecclesiastic Affairs Directorate) or from the Ministry of Northern Greece in Thessaloniki (Foreign Affairs Directorate) and their passport. The visitor’s personal information is recorded on the permit to reside, their code number and also the date of entry and the duration of stay. This duration is usually four days, however, should a visitor wish to prolong their stay, they may ask for an extension from the Holy Administration in Karyes. From Ierissos visitors will take the boat to the eastern side of Mt. Athos, from there they will be able to visit the following monasteries: Hiliandarion, Esfigmenos, Vatopedi, Pantokrator, Stavronikitas, Iviron, Megisti Lavra. For all other monasteries they must disembark at Iviron monastery (3 hours by boat) and then take the bus to Karyes (1/2 hour by bus) and from there they shall be able to visit any monastery. The Ierissos itinerary is available only in the summer. The other boat sails from Ouranoupolis. This one goes to the western side and stops at the monasteries of: Dohiarion, Xenofon, Panteleimon, Gregorion, Dionysios, Agios Pavlos. For the other monasteries, visitors must travel to the port of Dafni (2 hours by boat) and from there make their way to Karyes (1/2 hour by bus). Transportation on Mt. Athos is not adequate or satisfactory. For this reason, besides boats and buses, visitor may also get a taxi to drive them to their destination. For the most part, though, visitors should be prepared for long walks.

More in this category: Visiting a monastery »