Skete of Agia Anna - Peak of Mount Athos

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Skete of Agia Anna - Peak of Mount Athos

Walking on the peninsula of Mount Athos is nice, but climbing the peak of Athos is definitely a lifetime experience. This is a challenging route that takes an average of 6 hours to complete and you should be well prepared. Best time to hike this trail is from April to mid- October and is highly recommended not to attempt the ascent alone. Keep in mind that Mount Athos can only be visited by men and there are no exceptions to this rule. The number of visitors permitted on the peninsula at any time, is tightly restricted and you are allowed to stay for a maximum of 4 days. To enter the peninsula, you will have to request a permit, if possible, weeks in advance. Athos is served by two ferry lines which run itineraries from Ouranoupoli (south border) or Ierissos (north border). The boat from Ouranoupolis sails along the southwest coast of the peninsula twice a day all year round.

The peak rises more than 2,033 meters (6,670 feet) over the northern Aegean Sea, and whatever the temperature at sea level, it will be much colder at the summit. Winter snow makes the ascent much more difficult and suitable for only very experienced climbers. Wind and rain can be a hazard at any season, and there is often low cloud on the upper slopes. The best starting point to climb to the peak of Mount Athos, is the Skete of Agia Anna. To enter Mount Athos, you have first travel to Ouranoupoli, Halkidiki. The boat to the skete of Agia Anna leaves early in the morning and the journey lasts approximately 3,5 hours. Upon arrival, hike to the skete (300 meters) and have a rest. It is advisable to stay there overnight and start the ascent early in the morning, next day. From the skete, the path rises steeply and leads to Stavros (600 meters), where there is a water fountain. Stavros is a crossroad for several paths heading to different directions (Agia Lavra Monastery, Kerasia, Karoulia, Katounakia and Panagia). The latter is the only path leading to the summit.

It is an easy-to-follow path, that climbs through woods with occasional views of the Aegean and the mountains of Thessaly far on the horizon. Soon after you exit the forest, you will come across the chapel of Panagia on a grassy slope which serves as a refuge too. Panagia sits at an altitude of 1,500 meters above sea level and offers panoramic views. From the Skete of Agia Anna, is possible to reach the summit in one day and even go down again, but it may more comfortable to break the journey at this point. The refuge features all the basic facilities; it has a dormitory with a number of old bunkbeds, a saloon with a fireplace, a kitchen and a small chapel. There is a well inside the refuge but water is not drinkable, however it can be used for cooking and washing. For your own convenience, you can leave non-valuable and necessary stuff at the refuge, to make the ascent to the peak much easier.

The final ascent is roughly 500 meters and very steep. At the summit there is a chapel dedicated to the Transfiguration with an iron cross atop. On clear days you should be able to see from Mt. Olympus on the west to the islands of Northern Aegean on the east. The view is truly breathtaking. Many of the hikers spend the night here and start descent, the day after. Returning to the skete is much easier, yet a sharp descent that needs extra caution. Don’t leave late and try to reach the monastery by evening.