MOUNT ATHOS is a UNESCO world heritage site.
Also called the Sacred Mountain, Mount Athos is the center of monastic orthodoxy, an isolated place inhabited exclusively by monks and completely dedicated to faith, situated in the North of Greece (province of Makedonia), in the Halkidiki peninsula.
Mount Athos has been inhabited by monks ever since the 3rd-5th centuries. Twenty orthodox monasteries are here, along with twelve sketes and other forms of monastic life.
Women are denied any access to Mount Athos, and men’s access is also very restrictive. The number of visitors is limited – a special permit needs to be requested in advance.
According to Athonite tradition, Virgin Mary set foot on the mountain during her travels alongside St John from Joppa to Cyprus, in order to visit Lazarus. Due to bad weather conditions, they had to lay anchor in the vicinity of the Klement port, near the current monastery of Iviron. Enchanted by the beauty of the mountain, the Virgin blessed it and she asked her son Jesus to turn this mountain into her garden. A voice from the sky is said to have been heard then: “May this be your inheritance and garden, a paradise of salvation for those who want to be saved.” Since then, the mountain has been considered the Virgin’s garden and access has been denied to any other woman.