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The Athosian Alternative

Darius lost an invasion fleet here on his way to defeat at Marathon. The hordes of Xerxes cut a canal across the base of this rocky peninsula on their way to frustration at Thermopylae then to defeat at Plataea and Salamis. Greek Monks held this place through more than half a millennium of Ottoman rule. Today, it has one of the most interesting and lovely coastlines in the Aegean.

Tip of the Mt. Athos Peninsula

It’s called the Mount Athos Peninsula. A trip around it by boat on a sunny day is well worth your time. The land itself and twenty Eastern Orthodox monasteries scattered along the steep shoreline offer a unique, colorful and rewarding vista.

The whole thirty mile long peninsula forms a sixteen-century-old, autonomous religious enclave. At the seaward end, Mt. Athos shoots up more than 6,000 feet above your boat to its often snow-capped peak. For far more than a thousand years, Greeks have called it Holy Mount. UNESCO calls it one of their World Heritage sites, and rightly so.

An Eastern Orthodox Monastery

You should know that the monks are very serious about their calling. Only a few male visitors are allowed ashore. No women. For my wife and I  that was fine. We were there for the scenic historical experience, and that is incomparably better from the sea looking landward.  

On the day we first had a chance to sail along this shoreline, the water was calm, but a thick blanket of fog shrouded our view. Even vague outlines of things on shore were invisible out beyond 500 yards. Not a good start for a photographer eager to turn some delicious morning light to his advantage. By mid-afternoon though, the fog was gone and I was ecstatic. Photos in this post are from that trip off the peninsula’s southwest-facing coast.

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To me, this website offers the best introduction to the area (no ads!).

  1. April 15, 2011 at 3:02 am

    What a beautiful place… One of my favorite trips 🙂

    Check out some photos from Mount Athos if you wish http://boilvino.wordpress.com/2010/10/25/mount-athos/

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