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The Natural Environment


Athos is the eastern-most and most mountainous of the three peninsulas of Halkidiki, about 60 km long and 7–19 km wide. It has almost no natural harbors and no lowland areas. The peninsula is traversed by a huge, densely forested mountain mass, which terminates in the rocky summit of Mount Athos (2,033 m high) near the southernmost tip of the peninsula. The mountain mass is cleft by deep ravines, along which flow deep torrents and countless streams. It is only at the southern end of the peninsula that water is scarce.

A view of Mount Athos

The whole peninsula is covered with dense vegetation, which harbors numerous ecosystems. There is a zone of Mediterranean evergreens, including pine, holm-oak, cypress, wild olive, lentisk, laurel, arbutus, and heather; higher up are deciduous forests of oak, chestnut, lime, and black pine; and higher still is the low vegetation of high mountain ranges. The flora is exceptionally abundant, because no grazing of sheep and goats is allowed on Mount Athos.

Nature close to the Monastery of Karakallou

The coast is rocky and steep, with no natural harbors. The sea is usually rough and in the winter stormy, so that there are many days of the year when it is difficult, if not impossible, to approach the shore.

Nature near the skete of St Anne

The climate is generally mild, though it varies from one locality to another. The east coast, particularly in the north of the peninsula, is lashed by northerly winds in winter, while the west coast is more sheltered and enjoys higher temperatures all year round. Near the southern tip of the peninsula, the weather is very changeable.

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