1. Ouranoupolis is a small town of about 800 inhabitants. It is located just before the border of Mount Athos, perhaps the last secular point of its visitors. In the center dominates the tower of Prosfori, while from the port in front of it depart daily the boats that carry pilgrims or ordinary excursionists for it and also there are some other points of interest very close. It took its name from the city it founded in 315 bc. the Alexarhos, son of Antipater and brother of Cassander. It was built on the ruins of ancient Sani which was a colony of the inhabitants of Andros and which was completely destroyed by Philip II. Coins bearing the inscription ‘ΟΥΡΑΝΙΑΣ ΠΟΛΕΩΣ ‘(HEAVENLY CITY) and others “ΟΥΡΑΝΙΔΩΝ ΠΟΛΕΩΣ” have been saved, as well as a representation of the Celestial Venus, which on one side sits on a sphere and on the other appears a radiant sun with eight rays.
After the Asia Minor catastrophe and the exchange of populations, refugees from the Marmara Islands to the Propontis came to this area and settled in the tower, in the nearby buildings and in tents. The first houses of the village were built in 1926 by a German company, some of which are still preserved. Later the inhabitants built the church, the school and a community started to be organized with the name “Prosforion”, later it was renamed “Pyrgos” and around 1960 it finally got its final name as “Ouranopolis”.
During your stay in Ouranoupolis do not miss to visit some of the below points of interest (sights – momuments):
2. Take a day trip to Mount Athos. The vast Byzantine museum. The orchard of the Virgin Mary. The largest but also the most important monastic state of the Orthodox East. An overnight place, full of mystagogy, spreads on the eastern peninsula of Halkidiki. It is the second most important religious – pilgrimage destination after Jerusalem, for more than 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide. It is a self-governing part of the Greek state, while religiously it belongs to the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
For men there is the possibility to visit it and see it from the inside after following the procedure provided by the rules of the Mount Athos to obtain the entry permit (diamonitirio) and residence in a monastery. For women and not everyone can enter it there is the opportunity to admire it up close with some of the routes made daily by boats departing from the port in front of the Tower.
3. Visit the Tower of Ouranoupolis, a Byzantine building which originally belonged to the Monastery of Vatopedi along with other buildings from the metochi Prosforion of the area. Historical sources report information about the building from 1344 but according to other reports it is probably older. In 1379, Ioannis Paleologos, the despot of Thessaloniki, who lived in Pyrgos, exempted him from taxes. During the earthquake of 1585 the tower was severely damaged and in 1858 repair work began which resulted in its current form. After 1922 the refugees from Propontis who came to the area inhabited the tower, while in 1928 its inhabitants were the Anglo-Australian couple Lock who had its care and maintenance while offering social work to the inhabitants of the area. Today the Pyrgos complex belongs to the Ministry of Culture of Greece and a museum operates on its premises and exhibitions are organized from time to time.
4. Walk to the Monastery of Zygos (place also known as Frangokastro). It is an ancient Mount Athos monastery which was founded in the middle of the 10th century and was destroyed shortly before 1198. It is located about 2 km east of Ouranoupolis, Halkidiki, just outside the borders of Mount Athos.
It seems that the monastery of Zygos (which was built on a site where pre-existing facilities existed from the 4th century BC to the 6th century AD) already existed before 991, but the first clear evidence for its foundation dates back to 996. Although throughout the 11th century the Monastery was one of the most important Athonite monasteries, in 1199 it was already deserted and was granted, as a shareholder, by the emperor Alexios III Angelos to the re-established monastery of Chelandari. Around 1206 (2 years after the Fourth Crusade and the beginning of the Frankish rule), a Frankish lord settled in the castle of Zygos, who rebuilt the walls and the monastery into a castle and used the castle as a base to plunder Mount Athos, until, around 1211, with the intervention of the Pope of Rome, he was expelled from the area. For this reason the ruins of the Monastery are known today as “Frangokastro”. During its operation the monastery was dedicated to the Prophet Elijah.
Parts of the great representation of Evangelism are preserved in the area, there is a one-piece representation probably of Agios Nikolaos, there are also marble deposits of the 11th century, in satisfactory condition. The archeological dig has also brought to light many finds, such as three 11th century lead bulls, a medal engraved with the representation of Agia Paraskevi, book shutters, thimble seals, 11th and 12th century coins. etc., while the excavation and restoration works are in progress.
5. Visit the Medieval Cemetery in Ierissos, a necropolis with more than 600 recently discovered tombs, the search for which began only in 1973. The cemetery was used from the Archaic to the Roman period, and then on vacation until the 17th century. e.g. It extends in the coastal area of Ierissos with many types of graves in at least two or three layers parallel to the coastline where adults and children were buried according to the customs of antiquity in the same area. The tombs are rectangular, simple or lined, with or without decoration, as well as burials in jars. The tombs contain finds similar to the burial customs of other cities in Macedonia and Thrace.
6. See the Grove of Aristotle in Stageira. An unique theme park in which there are interactive instruments that operate according to the natural laws mentioned in the writings of this great teacher.
7. Walk to the Αncient Stageira, the ancient city in which Aristotle was born in 384 BC and who is considered the father of Western philosophy. It is probably the most important historical site of Halkidiki, located in the Liotopi Peninsula near today’s Olympiada. Ionians from Andros in 665 BC they founded the city about which Strabo in the “Geographical” gives him a lot of information.
8. Visit the shrine of Megali Panagia about 1.5 km east of the village of Megali Panagia, in a green place where there used to be a chapel dedicated to Constantine the Great. First it built in 1863 and rebuilt again after the earthquake of 1932. It has a magnificent catholic church with a wood-carved iconostasis from 1870 by two Bulgarian craftsmen who worked for seven years. According to tradition, the miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary was found at this point in 1860 after a vision had been seen by an old woman, named Gerakina. Due to this event, the former community of Revenikia changed its name to Megali Panagia. The miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary no longer exists because it was stolen in 1978 and has not been found since. Outside the courtyard of the monastery there is under the church the area with the Blessing of the Virgin Mary with running water.
9. Pass by the church of Agios Stefanos in Arnaia, a mountain village of Halkidiki with a very strong traditional architectural style. The metropolitan church of Agios Stefanos has something unique. In other words, while it operates normally for the needs of the faithful, it is at the same time a visitable site of historical and archaeological interest, because it is built on important invaluable antiquities which are almost entirely visible to visitors. The church is a three-aisled basilica dedicated to Agios Stefanos due to a part of the Mount Athos monastery of Konstamonitou (its katholikon is dedicated to Agios Stefanos) that existed in the area. It was built in 1812, while during the revolution of 1821 it burned completely like the whole village. Later, the residents, after rebuilding the village, also built the church in which a uniquely made wooden iconostasis and icons donated by the monastery of Konstamonitou were placed.
On the night of September 5, 2009, a large fire, the causes of which remain hitherto unknown, completely destroyed the temple with all the priceless relics that were in it. During the restoration works started by the Ministry of Culture and the 10th Office of Byzantine Antiquities, three older buildings were discovered, many finds, older burials, thus revealing a historical aspect of the area. With the end of the works in 2009, the monument is now open and accessible to everyone.
10.Take a walk to the waterfalls of Varvara in a beautiful forest landscape of orchards, lindens, alders, hazelnuts, beeches, etc. mixed with rocks, a landscape of earthly paradise. The waterfalls are located on the border of Olympiada and Varvara on the road from Olympiada to Varvara, a beautiful forest route that is easily accessible to all.
11. Imagine the Xerxes canal, perhaps the largest technical project in Halkidiki in ancient times. Today it is buried between the villages of Nea Roda and Tripiti, it was 2 km long, 30 m wide and about 15 m deep. According to Herodotus and Thucydides during the Median wars in 480 BC the Persian king Xerxes, in order to avoid the voyage of Mount Athos and not to have the fate of Mardonius, as happen 10 years ago, ordered Artaxeis and Bouvaros to open a canal to connect the bay of Ierissos with Syggitikos and thus pass through security his fleet.
In 2008 research by Greek and British engineers showed the exact location of the canal which is visible from a great height since several points inside it have subsided. Also in the local community there is for the beach in Nea Roda, from where the canal started, the name “provlakas” (prin to avlaki – before the canal) as well as walls in the sea.