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Ouranoupoli is a village of 825 people (2011) in Greece. It is near Mount Athos and is mostly used as a jumping off point for there, or a place for women to stay, since they are not allowed in the monasteries.

Tower at Ouranoupoli
Ouranoupoli main street

Understand[edit]

Because of its relative isolation, Ouranoupoli has not been affected by mass tourism. It was founded in 1922, when approximately 50 families, Greek refugees from Asia Minor, arrived under the auspices of the League of Nations, looking for a new home. The land was provided by Mount Athos and each family was given an one-bedroom house, an arid plot of land and ten sheep. Without a road to connect it to the rest of the world the village remained isolated and life was hard. In 1947 the locals took shovels and spades and cut a crude dirt-track road which ended the isolation and brought the very first adventurous tourists to the village.

Mount Athos-related trade and pilgrimage is the biggest source of income for the village.

Get in[edit]

Ouranoupoli can be reached by bus, car or taxi from Thessaloniki.

Most travellers reach Ouranopoli by bus from KTEL Chalkidikis Bus Station, south of Thessaloniki. Single bus fare is €13.70 per person (as of Nov 2023). The bus trip takes 2-3 hours and there are 5-6 departures per day. [1] Tickets can be booked in advance from the KTEL Chalkidiki website (search for "Thessaloniki" to "Oyranoypoli").

To get to KTEL Chalkidiki this bus station, you can take bus 45A (single fare €1.80) from the commuter bus station adjacent to the Thessaloniki Train Station, or alternatively from the Kamara bus stop adjacent to the Arch of Galerius: the KTEL Chalkidiki Bus Station is the final stop. From the airport, take bus 79 to IKEA and then transfer to bus 36, which will take you to KTEL Chalkidiki. It is also common to take a taxi from Thessaloniki city centre or Thessaloniki Airport to KTEL Chalkidiki (typical fare €10-20). (Last updated Nov 2023)

Get around[edit]

Most places in the village can be reached by foot. There is also an extensive network of unpaved roads leading to the hills overlooking the village.

See[edit]

Post Byzantine Aqueduct
  • Mount Athos border: includes a fenced border preventing access to Mount Athos by land, the Arsanas with the police post, and Frangocastro, the castle of the Franks. Crossing the border is forbidden.
  • 1 Post Byzantine Aqueduct. From the city centre about 30 minutes walk along the sea, you reach the aqueduct. While walking along the main unpaved road along the sea, you will see a yellow sign at a junction; turn left and continue straight through the olive orchards until you reach the aqueduct. You can see a restored archway through which the water was fed into the city. Only this piece from the 16th century remains. It was almost completely destroyed by heavy rains in 1945. The information board has almost completely faded from the sun.
  • 2 Byzantine Tower. The tower also known as the Tower of Prosforio, it was built in medieval times by monks of Mount Athos to protect the area from enemy raids. There is a museum inside with an admission fee of around €3. The tower is in the town centre. Buses to and from Thessaloniki park directly in front of the tower. Tower of Ouranopolis (Q1523761) on Wikidata
  • 3 Monastery of Zygos (Frangokastro). The monastery can be reached at the end of the unpaved costal road leading from the town center of Ouranoupoli to the Mount Athos border. It is located right by the border fence. The admission fee is around €3. Inside the complex, you can see monastery ruins and frescoes protected by glass. An overgrown trail goes uphills to the unpaved roads on hills overlooking Ouranoupoli. Monastery of Zygos (Q1523377) on Wikidata

Do[edit]

If you do not plan, or are not allowed, to enter Mount Athos, you can take a sightseeing tour of the Holy Mountain by boat. This is the only available option for women who may want to get a glimpse of the monasteries. Inquire in the village, as many agencies perform the service.

Pilgrims to Mount Athos usually spend one night at Ouranoupoli. They will then present their pilgrim's permit (diamonētērion) that they had picked up at the Thessaloniki Pilgrims' Bureau in order to be allowd permission to board the ferries to Mount Athos.

  • The Mount Athos Pilgrims' Bureau (Γραφείο Προσκυνητών) at Ouranoupoli is right next to the main pier where ferries depart for Mount Athos. Look for an office with large golden signs that say Γραφείο Προσκυνητών. The office is usually open M-F 07:30 to 13:00, with shorter hours during the weekends. Be sure to check office hours before arrival; as is typical of Mount Athos bureaucracy, opening hours can change with little notice.

Buy[edit]

Souvenirs are mostly of religious nature. The following is an incomplete list of items you may buy to take with you:

  • Icons (all prices and sizes)
  • Prayer ropes (known as komboskini in Greek or chotki in Russian)
  • Books about Mount Athos
  • Maps of Mount Athos
  • Books about lives of the Saints
  • Frankincense
  • CDs or cassettes of monastic choirs (the most renowned from the Holy Mountain being the one from Simonos Petras)
  • Walking sticks (engraved with Mount Athos emblem)
  • Flags of Mount Athos
  • Wine produced at Athos' vineyards
  • Loukoumi (sweets) made at Mount Athos

SIM cards can be bought at the Niki Market near the police station.

Eat[edit]

Many restaurants are available along the main road and the beach. English and Russian are commonly spoken at many of the restaurants, as well as some of the shops.

Drink[edit]

Many restaurants are available along the main road and the beach that offer drinks, but they do not keep open until late.

Sleep[edit]

There are several pensions (budget inns) in Ouranoupoli.

Connect[edit]

An Internet cafe is available in the village's main road.

Go next[edit]

  • Mount Athos: only allowed for men who make the corresponding arrangements. Women are not permitted.
  • Ierissos: the other village, in the peninsula's northern coast.
  • Thessaloniki: the biggest city near Ouranopolis, well worth a visit.
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