The first step to arrange a visit to Mount Athos is to secure accommodation either at a monastery or at a skete.
After setting the date of the visit, pilgrims must obtain a “diamonitirio” [entry permit]. For the issuing of a diamonitirio, interested parties must contact the pilgrims’ office in Thessaloniki (located at 109, Egnatia St., phone no. +302310252575, fax no. +302310222424) well in advance – depending on the time of year, even a month earlier. The diamonitirio is personal and pilgrims can pick theirs up from the pilgrims’ office in Ouranoupoli or from the boat at Ierissos on the date of entry into Agio Oros, according to previous arrangements. Entry permits are valid for four days; in the event of no boat service due to inclement weather, the same permit is valid for the next day. All Greek citizens and foreigners have the right to obtain a diamonitirio. Entry is banned to women, and underage boys must be accompanied by an adult. Visitors must be dressed modestly in long trousers and may not bring video cameras.
The pilgrims’ office in Ouranoupoli (phone no. +302377071422) is located next to the municipal car park, which is open 24 hours a day and where you can leave your car safely for a reasonable price. The pilgrims’ office is open from 7:30 am and to pick up your diamonitirio you will need your ID card or passport and pay 20 Euros.
You can only arrive at Mount Athos by sea. There are two ports serving pilgrims; one is Ierissos for boat routes serving the eastern side of the peninsula, and the other is Ouranoupoli for those visiting the west side.
Most pilgrims travel through Ouranoupoli because, especially in the winter, boat departures are rarely cancelled due to inclement weather, unlike Ierissos which, in the winter, is exposed to strong northeastern winds that may cause the cancellation of some routes. On the contrary, boat service from Ouranoupoli is only cancelled due to southern winds, which are rarer.
The process of visiting Agio Oros is fairly straightforward. Once you settle on the dates of the visit, contact the pilgrims’ office in Thessaloniki (+302310252575) to arrange for a diamonitirio. This contact must occur several days before the planned visit (especially in the summer months), because the number of pilgrims allowed to enter Mount Athos every day is capped at 120. Ideally, you should contact the pilgrims’ office a month before the planned visit. If the number of visitors for those dates has been reached, propose alterative earlier or later dates. You will be asked to provide the following information: full name, father’s name, date of birth, ID card or passport number and issuing authority.
The diamonitirio is a document issued by the Holy Epistasia (supervisory authority) for a four-day (three-night) stay on Mount Athos. The diamonitirio states the pilgrim’s information, a code number, the date of entry and the length of stay. If a longer stay becomes necessary, an extension may be granted by the Holy Epistasia, which is based in Karyes, the capital of Mount Athos.
Once the initial stage, obtaining the diamonitirio, is accomplished, you must reach out by phone to the monasteries you wish to visit, because accommodation availability is limited.
On the day of the visit, between 8:00 and 9:30 am, you must pick up the diamonitirio from the pilgrims’ office in Ouranoupoli (ID card or passport is necessary) and buy a ferryboat ticket. Boarding is from 9:30 to 9:45 am, which is the departure time for Daphne. This sea route, approximately two hours long, is presented below in photographs, with the corresponding time of arrival at the arsanas (port) of each monastery along the way. The arrival times are ± 5-10 minutes, depending on the boat operating the route.