You’ll see the lesser-trodden side of Greece on holidays to Ouranoupolis. It’s backed by tree-cloaked hills, and the beaches are more peaceful than the main tourist traps.
Avenue to Athos
Ouranoupolis has a small and friendly feel to it, but it’s actually one of the most-visited parts of Halkidiki’s eastern peninsula. You’re not allowed to reach nearby Mount Athos by land, because of the orthodox monks who live around it, so Ouranoupolis has become the go-to place for boat trips past the famous peak. Tavernas and souvenir shops service sightseeing visitors, but the town’s retained a traditional charm nonetheless.
Old and new
One of Ouranoupolis’ most eye-catching features is the beachfront Byzantine Tower, which was built in the 14th century to protect the town. It’s practically intact today, and you can see it from any of the surrounding sandy beaches. Stroll into the centre, and you’ll find a handful of more modern additions. Old-style tavernas are dotted along the streets, punctuated by terracotta-topped villas and souvenir shops.
Mount Athos is one of Greece’s most prized attractions, and was fittingly made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988. It’s often referred to as the Holy Mountain, and there are 20 monasteries and more than 1,700 Eastern Orthodox monks living on the protected peninsula around it. You need a permit to get past the strict border, and there’s still an age-old rule forbidding women from living here, or even visiting.
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