Executive summary by darmansjah
Mount Athos is a mountain and peninsula in Greece. A World Heritage Site and autonomous polity in the Hellenic Republic, Athos is home to 20 stavropegial Eastern Orthodox monasteries under the direct jurisdiction of the patriarch of Constantinople. Today Greeks commonly refer to Mount Athos as the "Holy Mountain" In Classical times, while the mountain was called Athos, the peninsula was called Akté.
The number of daily visitors to Mount Athos is restricted, and all are required to obtain a special entrance permit valid for a limited period. Only males are permitted to visit the territory, which is called "Garden of the Virgin" by the monks, with Orthodox Christians taking precedence in permit issuance procedures. Residents on the peninsula must be males aged 18 and over who are members of the Eastern Orthodox Church, and must be either monks or workers.
Entry to the mountain is usually by ferry boat either from the port of Ouranoupoli (for west coast monasteries) or from Ierrisos for those on the east coast. Before embarking on the boat all visitors must have been issued a diamonētērion, a form of Byzantine visa that is written in Greek, dated using the Julian calendar, and signed by four of the secretaries of leading monasteries. Clergy of the Orthodox Church are required to obtain permission of the Patriarch of Constantinople. For laymen there are generally two kinds of diamonētēria: the general diamonētērion that enables the visitor to stay overnight at any one of the monasteries but only to stay in the mountain for several days (more in winter, when there are fewer visitors, than in summer), and the special diamonētērion which allows a visitor to visit only one monastery or skete but to stay as many days as he has agreed with the monks. Laymen are required to have short hair and any non-cleric arriving on Athos with long hair has his hair cut. The general diamonētērion is available upon application to the Pilgrims' Bureau in Thessaloniki. Once this has been granted it will be issued at the port of departure, on the day of departure. Once granted, the pilgrim can contact the monastery where he would like to stay in order to reserve a bed (one night only per monastery). The ferries require reservations, both ways.
The duration of the general visa can be extended by several days by personally applying at the main office in Karyes or, as is done typically for someone seeking to become a monk, by a request from a monastery.
Most visitors arrive at the small port of Dafni from where they can take the only paved road in the mountain to the capital Karyes or continue via another smaller boat to other monasteries down the coast. There is a public bus between Dafni and Karyes. Expensive taxis operated by monks are available for hire at Dafni and Karyes. They are all-wheel drive vehicles since most roads in the mountain are unpaved. Visitors to monasteries on the mountain's western side prefer to stay on the ferry and disembark at the monastery they wish to visit.