Welcome to Mt Athos
An enormous World Heritage site, 56km long and 8km wide, Mt Athos is formally Greek, though ecclesiastically it's under the Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople (İstanbul). Athos has 20 working monasteries, and skites (monastic dependencies), plus kelli (ascetic hermitages). The north is thickly forested, and the more inaccessible south is dominated by soaring Mt Athos (2033m). With neither industry nor hunting in the region, it’s essentially a nature reserve.
Legend attests that the Virgin Mary visited and blessed Athos; considered the Garden of the Virgin, it's dedicated to her – there’s no room for other women. Though controversial to European human-rights activists and frustrating to would-be women visitors, the 1000-year-old decree has stood firm.