To visit or see Mount Athos is one of the most sought after experiences for those traveling to Halkidiki. In this article you can find information on how to make a day-trip by boat or cruise and the procedures for permission to enter the semiautonomous republic.
Mount Athos cruises or private boat tours
The easiest way to experience this ancient wonder is to make a day-trip by boat. Since women cannot get into the republic, their only option to see Mount Athos is by boat tour. A variety of tours exist to suit everyone’s budget and taste. So what are the options that we recommend and how can you book your tour?
Mount Athos Cruise ship tours
This is a day-trip that begins early morning and returns by evening. There are different types of boats to choose from a simple tour boat to a glass bottom boat or even a pirate’s ship! Most offer refreshments, a meal and entertainment. It’s a fun filled day of relaxing on the boat, maybe seeing some dolphins and experience Greek entertainment.
From Sithonia, they leave from Ormos Panagias, but if you have a car you can find more budget options that leave from Ouranoupoli at the northern end of the Athos peninsula, just a short drive from Sithonia. Below we will list some options that we recommend from both ports of departure.
From: Sithonia, Ormos Panagias
Menia Maria III – Pirate boat tour.
Contact Katerina at Ormos Travel. They specialize in tours on the Menia Maria III and would be happy to give discounts for groups.
If you would like an idea of the tour itself, you can read about it on this page.
From: Athos peninsula, Ouranoupoli
Glass bottom boat cruises
You have two options: one focuses just on Mount Athos and the monasteries in a 3h excursion.
The same company offers another tour that lasts 5 hours and also includes a swimming stop at Ammouliani Island.
These more budget friendly options are ideal if you don’t want to spend the whole day on a boat, but just see the monasteries. Refreshments are not included but overall it gives really good value for the price.
For further information and to book the 3h trip, click here.
For the 5h trip, including a stop by beautiful Ammouliani island, click here.
Private boat tour to Mount Athos
This is a private boat that seats 7 persons – It includes Mount Athos, Sithonia islands and Ammouliani Island. It departs from marina Lagonisi, not far from Ormos Panagias.
Spend the day alone with your friends in an 8 hour tour that includes some of Sithonia’s best: Portokali beach and Diaporos island. The speedy boat then brings you across the gulf to see the Mount Athos monasteries and Ammouliani Island.
It costs more than the big boat tours, but you avoid the crowds and you have flexibility to stop at beaches of your choice or even to stop by the stunning Drenia Islands for lunch. For further information and to book, check here
How to enter the Mount Athos Monastic Republic
Visiting Athos is not a simple procedure. First of all only men are permitted to enter the Mount Athos region, conveniently excluding half the population. For a thousand years no woman has been able to visit Mount Athos or the monasteries except from a distance.
Permits are issued daily for 10 non-orthodox visitors and 100 Greeks and orthodox visitors. They are valid for a four-day visit and for specific dates. If you want it extended, it can only be done at the registration office in Karyes on the Athos peninsula.
All applicants must be over 18 years of age. Applicants younger that 18 must be accompanied by their father or as part of a group having the written permission of the parents and this letter should be notarized.
Procedure to obtain the permit
Everybody, whether orthodox or not, must obtain a permit called a “Diamonitirion” to enter the Athos peninsula.
Make a reservation up to six months in advance, the earlier the better. This can be done by phone, fax or e-mail. You will be required to send a copy of your passport. Include from which port you plan on entering, Ouranoupolis (west) or Lerissos (east). In a couple of weeks you will receive a letter with further instructions. All reservations will need to be confirmed by telephone two weeks before your intended visit.
If you decide to change your reservation, please do this in advance so as to avoid a negative reaction that could affect your entering at a future date.
In addition to receiving the permit, advance reservations must now be made if you wish to stay overnight at one of the monasteries.
Visitors to Mt Athos are no longer required to personally visit the Pilgrims’ Bureau office in Thessaloniki to register and receive their papers. You now proceed directly to the agreed upon point of entry and your papers will be ready for pick up. There is a cost of 30 euros.
The Mount Athos Pilgrims’ Bureau
109 Egnatia St.
546 22, Thessaloniki, Greece
Phone: +30 2310-252578
Fax: +3- 2310-222424
Monday – Friday 9:00 – 16:00
Saturday – 10:00 – 14:00
Closed all holidays