Mount Athos is the spiritual capital of the Orthodox Christian world, consisting of 20 monasteries. The “Garden of Virgin Mary” is the paradise of the eastern peninsula of Halkidiki. The Monastic State of the Holy Mountain is known to be the main carrier of Orthodox Christianity and holds spiritual glory and great history. It is a religious community with 1.000 years old monasteries and t is listed as UNESCO world heritage site. Even though women are not allowed inside Mount Athos, all visitors (men and women) can admire the magnificent monasteries by cruising along the west coast of Athos peninsula. Mount Athos boat cruises depart daily more than once a day from Ouranoupolis port.
The boat starts sailing coastal towards the southwestern part of Mount Athos peninsula. In 15 minutes reach the first Russian cloister and after sailing by unique beaches, it arrives in the area of the first monastery, Iera Moni Dochiariou and follows other 7 monasteries, as well as the Holy Mount’s central port, Daphni, and finally the cloisters, small villages, where groups of monks live in every house. During the cruise visitors have the chance to admire the untouched nature and the unique architecture of Mount Athos monasteries. There is an audio guide tour in different languages (Greek, English, Russian, Serbian, Polish, Bulgarian and German).
First Monastery that you will see on cruise is the Monastery Dochiariou, located in the northern area of the western side of the Athos peninsula, it was founded close the port of Daphni in the end of the 10th century by “dohiaris, a student of Athanasios Athonitis. Therefore, the monastery was later called Dohiarios. Though, it was destroyed by pirates, the monks struggled to rebuilt it. It is said that the high tower was also constructed in the early 17th century. The monastery is dedicated to the Archangels Michael and Gabriel, celebrated on the 8th / 21st of November.
Xenophontos Monastery stands by the sea, on the western shore of the Athos peninsula. It was built in the tenth or eleventh century. The monastery is dedicated to St George and has 11 chapels inside and 6 outside. The main church was built just prior to the Greek Revolution of 1821 and is in the neo-classical style. It is perhaps the largest on Mt Athos and has perfect acoustics. A large cross is suspended above the inner sanctum and the choirs of the monks do some of the best traditional Byzantine chanting in the whole peninsula; Vatopedi and Gregoriou may be its only rivals.
The Monastery of Saint Panteleimon, also known as the Russian monastery, is built next to the sea, in the middle of the western coast of Mount Athos. When the monastery was founded in the 11th century, it was located at the eastern area. The present building complex, consisting of monumental buildings with a lot of floors, high vaults and big bells was built in 1765, when the old monastery of Agios Panteleimon was transferred from Paleomonastiro. It is dedicated to Agios Panteleimon, celebrated on the 27th of July / 9th of August.
Xeropotamou Monastery is in the middle side of peninsula. The monastery ranks eighth in the hierarchy of the Athonite monasteries. It was founded in the 10th century.Frescoes Xeropotamou houses numerous relics, the most prominent being the largest extant piece of the True Cross. For this reason, the monastery also celebrates a patronal feastday on September 14, the feast of the Elevation of the Holy Cross.
Simonopetra Monastery is located in the southern coast of the Athos peninsula, between the Athonite port of Dafni and Osiou Grigoriou monastery. While the southern coast of Athos is quite rugged in general, the particular site upon which the monastery is built is exceptionally harsh. It is built on top of a single huge rock, practically hanging from a cliff 330 metres over the sea.The monastery currently houses 54 monks.
The Monastery Grigoriou is an imposing building standing out above the rocks of the southwestern side of Athos between Simonos Petra and the Monastery Dionysiou. It was founded in the 14th century while is dedicated to Agios Nikolaos is celebrated on the 6th /19th of December. The Holy Monastery was founded in the 14th century by the ascetic monk Gregorius Sinaitis. The present “Katholicon”, the main church was built in 1768, under the Athonite architecture. The Monastery possesses 279 manuscripts, other documents and approximately 4,000 printed books.
The Monastery Dionysiou (14th century) stands on a bluff cliff in a deep wooded ravine at the western coast of Athos. The monastery was founded by Agios Dionysios, it is dedicated to the Holy Prodromos and celebrates on June 24th and July 7th. Also, more than impressive is the Refectory of the monastery which has a nice wooden door and interesting wall paintings.
The Monastery of Saint Pavlos, located in the southern area of the western side of Athos peninsula, is composed of ten smaller monasteries which are built nearby the sea, surrounded by several castles and towers. Moreover, it is the only monastery that is close to the mountain Athos. The monastery is built around the 10th century by Monk Pavlos Xiropotaminos.