Bureaucracy Mount Athos needs to protect its seclusion, without which it would lose its raison d'être. For this reason it has to impose strict entry regulations. The bureaucracy may at first glance appear formidable; and so it is. The regulations are also subject to change, often at short notice. The present online version of the Pilgrim's Guide is regularly updated to keep abreast of changes as they occur. Athonite pilgrimage is recommended for many purposes, not least as one of the best ways to relieve stress. The better informed the pilgrim is, the less stressful his pilgrimage will be, and the more chance he has to achieve spiritual refreshment. In our experience the following procedure is a reasonably sure way to gain entry with a minimum of stress.
Making Reservations at the Mount Athos Pilgrim's Bureau Finite numbers of male visitors are admitted daily to the Mountain for a four-day (three-night) stay: for the Orthodox the number is 100 (Orthodox clerics are exempt from the daily quota), for non-Orthodox 10. Women are never admitted. The quota is administered by the Mount Athos Pilgrims' Bureau:
Address and Hours The Mount Athos Pilgrims' Bureau
109 EGNATIA STR.
546 22, Thessaloniki
M-F 9:00 - 16:00 (9:00 am to 4:00 pm)
Sat 9:00 - 14:00 (9:00 am to 2:00 pm)
closed on official holidays
Contact Information From Telephone No. Fax No. UK 00 30 2310 252578 00 30 2310 222424 USA 011 30 2310 252578 011 30 2310 222424 GREECE (for Greek citizens): 2310 252575 e-mail: email@example.com
Intending visitors to the Holy Mountain should first telephone or email the Bureau (contact information above) to specify the day on which they wish to enter and ask if there is a place in the quota for that date. For purposes of reservations at the Pilgrims' Bureau as well as at the monasteries, the normal calendar is observed (the Gregorian calendar), not the Julian calendar observed on Mount Athos that runs 13 days behind. The more notice you can give, especially in summer and around the time of major feasts, the greater your chance of success. Reservations can be made any time up to six months before your planned departure but cannot be accepted more than six months in advance. Since entry to Mount Athos can be either from Ouranoupolis (the traditional and main point of departure, on the west side of the peninsula) or Ierissos (on the east side), you must specify your preference when making your reservation. You will be issued a special entrance document (a "diamonitirion") which will be waiting for you at your specified point of entry. (See below, Entry from Ouranoupolis and Entry from Ierissos).After the reservation has been made, you should email or send by post (not fax) a photocopy of that page of your passport which gives your identification. If you have made your reservation well in advance, you will receive a letter of confirmation from the Pilgrims' Bureau within about two weeks with further instructions. If you give an email address and request a response by email, you will probably receive a quicker confirmation. If you have not received a confirmation after two weeks have passed, you should follow up with a telephone call to request confirmation. Again, it is recommended that you provide an email address for the confirmation. In the instructions which come with the confirmation, all travelers are requested to confirm their reservations by telephone or email two weeks before the date of the intended visit specified in the reservation. If you are unable to travel on the date that you have reserved, you are asked to inform the Pilgrims' Bureau so that someone else may take your place. Failure to do so will be noted, and any request for a new reservation may not be respected. Visitors in holy orders of whatever denomination, including all Orthodox clerics, must also obtain in advance the written permission (Evlogia) of His All-Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch by writing in good time to Rum Patrikhanesi, 34.200 Fener-Halic, Istanbul, Turkey.
Address and Hours Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople
web site: http://www.patriarchate.org/
(Greek and English language options)
Contact Information From Telephone No.
UK 00 90 212 525 5416 00 90 212 534 9037 USA 011 90 212 525 5416 011 90 212 534 9037 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Making Reservations at the Individual Monasteries In addition to reserving a travel date with the Mount Athos Pilgrim's Bureau, most of the monasteries now require an advance reservation if you wish to stay there over night, and some specify the information required for reservations. The monasteries and sketes known to FoMA as requiring specific information for reservations are listed immediately below (click on the monastery name to view its requirements). FoMA members and other pilgrims are encouraged to provide updated information for this list by contacting FoMA at the address given at the bottom of the page.
Obtaining Your Travel Papers Pilgrims are no longer required to visit the office of the Pilgrims' Bureau office in Thessaloniki to register and receive their papers; they now proceed direct to the point of entry that they specified in their reservation (Ouranoupolis or Ierissos). There they will find their papers ready for them, as described below, Entry from Ouranoupolis, Entry from Ierissos.
OVERVIEW: THE STANDARD TRAVEL PLAN
Assures arrival at destination monasteries in time for vespers services. For costs, see our Costs page
- from Thessaloniki: inter-urban bus (KTEL Chalkidikis line) to Ouranoupolis
Arrival coordinated with ferry boat (no. 4 below), with time for steps 2-3 below.
in Ouranoupolis: get diamonitirion (visa) at Pilgrims' Bureau office
- get ferry boat ticket at Athoniki office
- from Ouranoupolis: take ferry boat to Daphni (port of Mt Athos)
Arrival coordinated with Mt Athos bus (no. 5a below) and with the south coastal boat (5b)
- from Daphni:
(a.) take Mt Athos bus from Daphni to Karyes (capital & travel hub of Mt Athos) (with stop at Xeropotamou)
(b.) tale small boat (Mikra Agia Anna) along south coast (to Simonopetra, Grigoriou, Dionysiou, St Paul's, St Anne's, New Skete, Karoulia, Kafsokalyvia)
(a.) continue (after a lunch break) on Mt. Athos bus from Karyes to Iviron
Arrival at Iviron coordinated with arrival of small boat (karavi) (7a below)
(b.) walk (to Koutloumousiou, Pantokratoros, Stavronikita) or take mini-bus to more distant destinations.
- from Iviron:
(a.) take the coastal boat (karavi) on down the NE coast (to the Arsanas Karakalou, on past Provata to the Megisti Lavra)
(b.) walk to a nearby destination (Karakalou, Philotheou, Kaliagra)
- from Thessaloniki: inter-urban bus (KTEL Chalkidikis line) to Ouranoupolis
KTEL Chakidikis Contact Information Phone: 2310 316555; 2310 316575.
web site: www.in-ktel.gr (web-site languages: Greek or English).
Click on "Ouranoupoli" to view departure times for Ouranoupolis, Ierissos, and other stops on the route.
It is a good idea to call ahead to double check current times and rates. The new Chalkidiki station is located quite a ways from the Thessaloniki city center, so the taxi to get there from the center will cost nearly as much as the bus itself and will take about 15 minutes from the center at that early hour. There is also a city bus that runs from the town center area to the Chalkidiki Station. It is the number 45 and it departs from the Makedonia Bus Station every 20 minutes beginning at 4:40am, arriving at the center of town 10-15 minutes later. It makes stops at only 3 of the regular central stops on Egnatia Street: Kolumvou, Aristotelous Square, and the Kamara (Arch of Galerius). From the central city area it should take 15-20 minutes to arrive at the Chalkidiki KTEL Station in the early morning. For bus 45 schedule: www.oasth.gr, click on itineraries button (icon of bus, top right) enter bus route number (45) in search window; or dial 185 from any phone in Greece. Tickets may be purchased at a discount one day ahead of use from most Thessaloniki street kiosks. On the bus, if you don't have the exact coins, the ticket machine will not give change.A taxi can also be hired to make the entire trip (see our costs page). Travel time by taxi will be a little under two hours.
Taxis Contact Information, Ouranoupolis & Ierissos In Ouranoupolis: taxi stand at street kiosk, parking area by the Tower Museum
Kostas: 0030 6944 277477 (UK) / 011 30 6944 277477 (USA).
Gregory: 0030 6944 454318 (UK) / 011 30 6944 454318 (USA).
- Location & Hours: The Pilgrims' Bureau office is conveniently located just off the main road into Ouranoupolis, a few short blocks before the ferry boat dock, on a side street leading down toward the beach. The bus from Thessaloniki stops there for all pilgrims to disembark. It is open from 7:30 am to 1:00 pm.
While in the Pilgrims' Bureau office, be sure to look around and pick up information that is provided for you there, including the "Useful Information" sheet (ΧΡΗΣΙΜΕΣ ΠΛΗΡΟΦΟΡΙΕΣ), the rules regarding photography on the Holy Mountain, and occasional special announcements on such subjects as closure of monasteries for renovations.
FoMA members: please forward such information to your membership secretaries to assist us in keeping our information up to date.
Ferry Boat Reservations by Telephone: From Telephone No. UK 00 30 23770 21041 USA 011 30 23770 21041
Minibuses: Contact Information From Telephone No. Fax No. UK 0030 23770 23266, 0030 6944 302451 0030 23770 23879 USA 011 30 23770 23266, 011 30 6944 302451 011 30 23770 23879
Persons needing to stay overnight in Ouranoupolis who are uncertain of where to stay might consider the Hotel Xenios Zeus which is conveniently placed between the harbour and the Pilgrims' Bureau:
Xenios Zeus Contact Information: From Telephone No. Fax No. UK 00 30 23770 71274 00 30 23770 71185 USA 011 30 23770 71274 011 30 23770 71185 email: email@example.com website: http://www.ouranoupoli.com/zeus/
Some helpful tips:
- The boat is a beige-and-brown, box-shaped vessel with lots of windows. Usually it is parked in the very last row (on the breakwater) with its square back-end (almost all window) facing out. As you are walking down from the bus, the boat may start to pull out. Don't panic; they often try to move into a closer spot for ease of boarding.
- The boat captain will have your name and reservation number, though this number is rarely needed. The boat fare depends on your destination and is paid after you are on board.
- There is not much in the way of shelter at the harbor, which is no problem unless the weather is bad. The Athos Hotel is about a 3-minute walk from the boarding site and, although currently closed, would still provide some shelter from bad weather.
Boat Reservations by Telephone or Fax
(M–F: 8:00am–6:30pm; Sat.: 8:00am–4:00pm; Sun.: 8:00am–2:30pm)
From Telephone No. Fax UK 00 30 23770 21041 00 30 23770 21061 USA 011 30 23770 21041 001 30 23770 21061 Reservations by e-mail
If you need to stay overnight in Ierissos, several hotels there are accustomed to helping pilgrims to the Holy Mountain:
Ierissos Hotels Hotel Telephone No.
(+30: from UK: 00-30; from USA: 011 30 )
Fax Hotel Markos +30 23770 22518 +30 23770 23163 firstname.lastname@example.org Hotel Alkionis +30 23770 22577 +30 23770 23994 Hotel Gkeea +30 23770 22533 +30 23770 24141 email@example.com
A contingency plan in case of bad weather.The sea on the northeast side of the peninsula can occasionally be rough in the summer following storms, and more often during the winter, causing the Ierissos Coast Guard to cancel the boat for that day. The Coast Guard decision will be announced by 7:30 am.
Sources of information about the status of the Ierissos boat :
- (by 7:30 am) Ierissos Coast Guard Station: (23770 22576)
- (by 8:00 am) The boat captain: (mobile phone: 6974 060747 [add the +30 country prefix from a foreign mobile phone]).
In Ouranoupolis, when you go to Agioritic Lines office to buy your ticket for the ferry boat, tell them you had a reservation on the Ierissos boat. This will give you a priority for a place on the ferry, though there is rarely a problem with space, especially midweek.
What to take The best advice, especially if you intend to walk, is to take as little as possible. At each monastery you will be provided with food and drink, a bed with adequate bedding, and a towel, so it is not necessary to carry these things with you. On the other hand, packed lunches are not normally provided (though the monks in the refectory, if asked, will usually give you a selection of whatever they have), and if you are walking long distances during the day you are well advised to take some basic supplies (e.g. nuts and dried fruit) and a water bottle. The most important item for walkers is a good map. A number of tourist maps are available locally or via the internet, but these are not recommended. The best map of Athos is the bilingual (English/Greek) Mount Athos Pilgrim Map, entitled Mount Athos: The Holy Mountain, compiled by Roland Baetens, Dimitris Bakalis, and Peter Howorth (© Peter Howorth 2015). This map owes its origins to the FoMA footpath-clearing project and is based on data from the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission as well as other sources and GPS data collected by the footpaths team. The map team is currently preparing editions of the Mount Athos Pilgrim Map in Russian, and other languages are projected for the future. (for information, see our map page), or order directly from the Filathonites.org order pages. To supplement the map and help in planning your route and estimating walking times, you may want to bring copies of FoMA's footpath descriptions or even download our GPS tracks, available on our Footpaths pages. In addition, guidebooks in several languages are available in Daphni and Karyes. Other things worth taking include a torch (many monasteries do not have electricity; those that do, often turn it off at night); matches (to light candles and oil-lamps); stout walking shoes or boots; casual clothing (formal attire is not necessary; shorts should not be worn at any time; clergy of non-Orthodox denominations are recommended not to wear clerical garb); a first-aid kit; any medication you may need; a hat. There are a few shops in Karyes and Daphni for souvenirs, books, and basic provisions; but these should not be relied on for more sophisticated items such as film, pharmaceuticals, insect repellent, etc. In Karyes there is also a bank where money may be exchanged or withdrawn. A word about mobile phones.
Unlike some other electronic devices, mobile phones are not forbidden on the Mountain and in fact some monks use them a lot, even though reception is at best patchy. They may indeed be helpful for accessing digital maps and GPS tracks on the footpaths, but they should always be turned off when inside a monastery. The best way to communicate with the outside world is by text messaging. Pilgrims who need to keep in touch with family members or have other needs for communication with the outside world are advised to look into purchase of pre-paid mobile phones or sim cards which work with Cosmote, the only service provider whose service is confirmed by our members' experience to be mostly reliable. Online Resources http://thessaloniki.pbworks.com/Visiting-Athos/
Credits and Appreciation
The information provided in these pages for your convenience is, of course, subject to change. Boat schedules and hours of service of the offices mentioned above may change from season to season, or even within the course of a season. FoMA is especially appreciative of the contributions from Fr Matthew at Vatopedi Monastery who has assembled and provided updates for much of the information on this page. We also depend upon information from the experiences of our own members and others who have used these pages. FoMA attempts to keep this information up to date and will issue travel advisories as the need arises. You Can Help Your Fellow Pilgrims
You can help us and your fellow travelers by advising us if you find that the procedures or schedules have changed from those described here. We appreciate your cooperation in our efforts to keep this information current.
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