Mount Athos is an autonomous self-governed part of Greece and considered to be an important center of Orthodox monasticism. Mount Athos is located on the third peninsula of Halkidiki Greece (Athos peninsula), which is the most mountainous one and is connected with the rest of Halkidiki with Xerxis isthmus. Athos peninsula is covered by mount Athos in all its area, which reaches a height of 2033 meters.
Mount Athos (or else Virgin Mary 's garden) includes 20 big monasteries, which operate as holy men priories. There are also smaller men' s fraternities, called ascetics and hermits, which live in cloisters, cells and holly seats. Mount Athos accommodate approximately 1600 monks, mainly Greeks, but also monks from other Orthodox nations, as well as from countries of the west and middle east.
Only men are allowed to visit Mount Athos, as it is dedicated to Virgin Mary, the only woman allowed to be there. Men can visit any of the monasteries, learn about their history, the way of life there and enjoy the unique natural environment that surrounds them. The visitor will get a little taste of ascetic life and feel the tranquility of the devout atmosphere. Chatting with a monk there will give a new perspective to everything, provides valuable advice and blessings. You will also have a chance to taste their frugal but pure diet, with traditional handmade bread and excellent wine. Apart from big monasteries, there are also smaller hermitages, cloisters and also cells, built inside caves.
Both women and men can see Mount Athos from the outside, by taking part on a cruise trip along its coastline. In this cruise, you will see the monasteries, standing imposingly on high cliffs, looking like castles, with towers, high walls and loopholes, serving as protection from pirates and other enemies. Fortresses and belfries can also be visible from the sea.
Mount Athos Monasteries have been declared by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites. Mount Athos has many relics, like artworks of Byzantine and meta byzantine era, paintings, writings, utensils, needlecraft works, ceramics, architectural works and much more.