Ive wanted to do this 3 hour boat trip for a few years now and I am excited to tell you that it was all that I expected to see and more. If you ever travel to Thessaloniki, make sure you take a trip to Ouranoupoli to see these wonderous monasteries. We travelled in late September and the weather was still quite warm and the seas were still pleasant for a boat cruise. There are a few different cruise boats that you can take when you get there. We had a family friend drive us to the port (a couple of hours by car, but you can get a bus) The views to get there are also fantastic. The village where the port is located, is quite cute, you can easily spend a couple of hours just browsing the quaint little shops and there is plenty to see and do, and there are a few different restaurants to try some wonderful Greek food. We took the cruise which left the port at around 10 - 10.30. Cost was 20 Euros per person. We didn't pre book our tickets as you can buy these from the office at the port - best get there at least 10-20 mins before the boat leaves. It was worth every cent. Advised to take your own food and snacks on board as the cost of eating on these boats can be expensive for a family, but drinks are reasonable price. When first entering the boat, you are greeted by a captain and they take a photo of you (souvenirs - they cost around 3 euros per photo if you want to buy but they don't hassle you if you don't want it). The boats are comfortable and also have an indoor section with comfy cushion seats for elderly people. Wheelchair access is also available. Most people sit at the front or at the rear of the boat to get the best views. Most seating is similar to restaurant style (tables and chairs)... once the boat had gotten a kilometer or so away from the port, the captain announced that there were dolphins swimming and playing with us... the captain has a narrative tape which he turned on and off as the boat got to certain points of interest. These tapes are in several languages. The staff onboard are pleasant also.
If you see seagulls hovering you can hold out some bread and they fly past and take it from your hands... be careful, I tried this and one of them bit my finger as the bread piece was too small for him to grasp it... quite an experience I must say!
For obvious reasons, the boat didn't go too close to the coast but with a good camera or a phone which has 8 mega pixels or more, you can get some really great pics of the monasteries. Mount Athos had a fire about a year or so ago and therefore most of it isn't as green and lush as it used to be, but the mountain itself is still glorious. If you have binoculas, it is a good idea to bring these along. The monasteries are works of art. Some enormous and others quite smallish in size, truly a wonderful sight to see. I suggest if you are to take this boat cruise around Mount Athos, it would be wise to perhaps take some time to read up on it before your trip - otherwise it will just seem like just another cruise around a mountain with beautiful buildings. It is important to gain an understanding of why these boats cannot also travel close to the peninsula, there is an obvious reason in orthodoxy culture, and to understand this you need to understand the religious aspect of true Orthodox christianity. It is an amazing holy and sacred place and why so many monks live their monastic life on this mountain. This trip is a must and I recommend it to anyone of any age.
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