The history of ancient Ouranoupolis commences in the 4th century BCE, when Alexarhos built over the ruins of ancient Sani a new city named “Ouranoupolis” or “Ouranidon Polis”, meaning city of the heavens. The location of ancient Ouranoupolis has been identified from the antiquities found in the nearby village of Nea Roda, in fields in the wider area. Of note is the sanctum that has been found and identified as the Temple of the Sun God. There are also indications of ancient habitation at the site of present-day Ouranoupolis.
During the 9th or 10th century CE, the renowned Zygou Monastery was established in the area. The only Mount Athos monastery that lies outside the territorial confines of Agion Oros and for this reason is accessible to the public.
Beyond the Zygou Monastery, Ouranoupolis is also known for the magnificent Byzantine Tower at the entrance to the town’s port, which is one of the most famous towers in Grece and a local landmark. The famous Tower of Prosforio was named after the “Vatopedi metochion of Prosforion”, which protected from looting raids.
Present-day Ouranoupolis was built shortly after the destruction of Asia Minor in 1922. The first inhabitants were refugees, and the settlement was called Prosforion, and later Pyrgos [Tower]. In 1960 it was renamed Ouranoupolis, thanks to the discovery of a coin from the ancient city of the same name.
There are also interesting day cruises that circumnavigate the Athos Peninsula in modern boats, mostly for women who, due to the “avaton”, are not allowed to enter Agion Oros. Visitors can admire the miracle of nature unspoiled by human intervention: unique beaches and the savage beauty of verdant mountains, deep chasms, and steep rock faces.
Ouranoupolis remains the entryway to the “garden of Panagia”, since it is the last secular center before pilgrims leave the modern world behind and become transported to a world that appears frozen in time in the Byzantine era, immutable and unchanging through the centuries.