The autonomous monastic republic of the Holy Mountain is a self-governed area with 20 Orthodox monasteries. It occupies almost the whole leg of Mount Athos
and only male pilgrims can visit it.
The monasteries on Mount Athos can be reached only by sea with a ferry departing from Ouranoupoli. According to legend, Mount Athos was a place where Virgin Mary found refuge during a storm and called it the Gardens of the Virgin Mary. No females are allowed to step on the territory of the Republic although in the history of the Holy Mountain there were several cases the presence of women - during the Greek civil war Greek women found refuge there, and in 2008 five illegal Moldovan citizens, including women, departed on the monastic territory by mistake. The only time a woman deliberately violated the prohibition was in the 30s of 20 century, when the Greek woman Aliki Diplarakou dressed like a man and sneaked into the Republic.
Today the monks of Athos live together with workers who take care of the public order and coast guard. There are two main settlements, Karyes (the capital) and Dafni, the port where the boats with pilgrims arrive and where you can find hotels with the most fundamental conditions of stay.
To visit and stay in the Holy Mountain, you need a special permit called diamonitirion, issued in Thessaloniki. Every day a fixed number of permits is issued and it is necessary to call the office in advance. The office from which the permits are taken upon departure is in Ouranoupoli. Furthermore, all visitors must be aged 18 years and if they are younger they must be accompanied by a parent or a person authorized by the parents. The cost of the permit is EUR 35 for non-Orthodox visitors, EUR 25 for Orthodox and EUR 18 for students. In the monasteries you do not pay for your stay but donations are welcomed and most of them prefer their guests to make bookings for stay in advance.