Mount Athos Pilgrimage Hike

June 1-6, 2008

Photographs and essay by G.R. Davis



The Icon Painter's Terrace, Agia Anna







Monk waiting on the dock at Agia Anna







Evening at Agia Anna








Butterfly on wildflower

Trail from Vatopediou to Iviron









Dock at Agia Anna







Agias Annas from above







Peter Schmunk anticipating
the ascent of Mt. Athos along the trail
through the "desert" from
Magistis Lavras to Kerasia







Donkey train descending from the 6600 ft summit of Mount Athos





View to the northeast
from the Summit,
Mount Athos








Looking down the switchback trail on Mount Athos

The blue beyond the clouds is the Mediterranean Sea!








GR at the Summit, Mount Athos

Photo by Peter Schmunk







Flowers sheltered like cenobitic monks in a crevice
at the summit of Mt. Athos







Trail to Agias Anna from
Summit of Athos






Fountain at the Monastery of Iviron






Dome of the Fountain at Iviron






Catholicon at Monastery of Iviron






Font along interior wall by gate of Iviron








Window through a window,
Monastery of Iviron







Dome and Walls, Monastery of Iviron







Font at entry to trapeza (dining hall) at Iviron







Courtyard at Iviron








Gateway from the Courtyard at Iviron







Doing God's work at Magistis Lavras








Porch Light
Monastery of Magistis Lavras







At the Port of Magistis Lavras








Port at Magistis Lavras # 2







Stavronikita Monastery (lower left) and Mount Athos








View of Mount Athos from the North







Pantocrator monastery

Hiking partner Peter Schmunk along shore.


Olive and cypress trees from guest house balcony at Kerasia








Domes and roofs at Kerasia







Port and Monastery of Simonas Petras







View to the Northwest from the balcony of Simonas Petras








Stone masonry at Vatopediou Monastery









Stavronikita Monastery








Disparate Origins, Common Destiny.
Skiti Agia Andrea






From disparate origins to a common destination.

G.R. Davis (far left), Peter Schmunk (center), and Dave Whisnant (khaki pants)
with Orthodox pilgrims George and Dmitri at Vatopediou Monastery.

Hiking distances based on Dusty Dave's pedometer calibrated against known distances from Friends of Mt Athos web site:

Day 1: Karyes to Vatopediou = 7 miles
Day 2: Vatopediou to Iviron 12 miles (Should have been less but Dave and I lost the trail at Kalaigra and had to follow the road.)
Day 3: No long-distance hiking; the three of us rode the bus from Iviron 17 miles to Magistis Lavras.
Day 4: Magistis Lavras through "the desert" to Kerasia = 7 miles
Day 5: Kerasia to Mount Athos summit to Agias Anna = 8 miles
Day 6: No long-distance hiking for GR & Dave who took the ferry from Agias Annas to Simonaspetras. Peter hiked that segment alone.
Day 7: Simonapetras to Dafni = 5 miles

Total for GR and Dave: 40 miles

Estimated total for Peter who hiked the segment from Agias Annas to Simonapetras on Day 6: 47 miles


Other photos by G.R. Davis from summer 2008: Rome Greece Atlanta Utah


A Pilgrimage to Mount Athos
Chapter 1

"Have you had a metaphysical experience?" the monk asked bluntly.

The question caught me unprepared. Not expecting an affirmative response from my two hiking companions, I replied optimistically "Not yet!" There was still time. We were four days into a seven day pilgrimage hike on the Holy Mountain, or Agios Athos as it is called by the Greeks, a rugged spine of land eight miles wide jutting 35 miles southward from the mainland of eastern Greece into the Aegean Sea. At the southern tip the peak of Mount Athos penetrates the clouds. Tomorrow we would attempt to reach the rocky summit at 6660 ft. Yes, there was still time for a metaphysical experience, and I suppose I'd like to have one, though I hadn't consciously considered that to be the purpose of this trip. But now confronted with the question, what was it that had drawn me to the Holy Mountain where 18 active Eastern Orthodox monasteries persist among the ruins of nearly 200 sites once occupied by as many as 2000 monks?

Folded in my pocket was my diamonitirion, a permit issued in the Ecclesiastical Office in Ouranoupoli and required of all pilgrims who board the ferry that provides the only access to the Holy Mountain. Only 110 pilgrims, all men, are permitted to arrive on the Holy Mountain each day, and of this number, only 10 visitors may be non-Orthodox. No women or children are allowed, nor are females of any species except wild birds and a few cats.

"What is your confession?" the guestmaster at Vatopediou Monastery had asked four days ago when we arrived at our first monastery.

Read more of this essay as an Microsoft Word document or as a webpage.


With special thanks to

Peter Schmunk, my long-time traveling partner who organized this trip, and
"Dusty" Dave Whisnant who shared his maps and good judgment and pedometer information.

The three of us pursued our mutual love of art, the outdoors, and photography
on this "pilgrimage hike" on the Holy Mountain.

With heartfelt thanks to

Tia Palmisano-Davis, my lovely bride of 27 years, who,
though weary of seeing my innumerable "pictures of peeling paint"
nevertheless supports me in innumerable ways and is largely responsible for my happiness.


More photographs of Mount Athos by David Whisnant

I used a Nikon D70 body with two Nikon lenses; a 20 mm and a 28-105 mm.
Because we hiked with backpacks about 40 miles over mountainous terrain, I didn't bring a tripod. I wish I had, but my shoulders are glad I didn't.


photos by G.R. Davis from summer 2008: Rome Greece Atlanta Utah

Homepage for G.R. Davis