Mount Athos – A Graceful Land Where Only Men are Allowed to Visit

Do you know that there is a place in Greece that only adult men are allowed to visit? Men over 18 years of age and only after obtaining a special visa? Well, there is! This is Mount Athos or else the Agio Oros (Holy Mountain) that is found in the Region of Halkidiki.

Mount Athos is the third most eastern “leg” of the Halkidiki peninsula, called the Peninsula of Athos. This is the exact location of Agio Oros. Protruding 50 kilometres into the Aegean Sea. Covering an area of 335.637 square kilometres. Mount Athos has steep, densely forested slopes reaching up to 2,033 metres and overall benefits of a graceful nature.

Mount Athos Halkidiki
Mount Athos Halkidiki

Known widely as Agio Oros (Holy Mountain) this is a self-governed part of the Greek state. Politically is subject to the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs. And to the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople as regards its religious aspect. This is known to be the oldest monastic republic still in existence.

And as mentioned previously this is the only place in the whole of Greece that can only be visited by men of over 18 years of age and only after obtaining a visit permit.

The presence of women is not allowed since the monks believe that it alters the social dynamics of the community and therefore slows their path towards spiritual enlightenment.

And this prohibition has also a name. It is called “Avaton”. Avaton is known since ancient times, wherein ancient Greek religious sites, the avaton was a place where entry to the uninitiated was forbidden.

Sunset on Mount Athos
Sunset on Mount Athos

In 2003 a resolution of the European Parliament requested the lifting of the ban for violating “the universally recognised principle of gender equality” but till today it has not been enforced and no female is allowed to visit the area.

The strangest thing of all is, that female animals like chickens, cows, ewes, nanny-goats, mares, and sows are also banned except for female cats, female insects and female songbirds… go figure!

Today in Mount Athos exist 20 monasteries where more than 2000 monks live permanently.