Welcome to Ouranoupolis - a hospitable land blessed by nature. We live there where Aristotle was born and propounded his philosophy; there where the largest independent monastic state in Christendom was born and has survived for 11 centuries now - on the Mount Athos (Holy Mount).
Ouranoupoli is just one step away from Mount Athos. Every day boats leave the tiny harbour in the shade of the Tower, carrying pilgrims, who have previously secured the relevant permit from the "Pilgrims' Bureau", to Daphne, the harbour of Mount Athos.
Ouranoupolis is named after the Alexandrian city that was founded in 315BC by Alexarhos, son of Antipatros and brother of Cassandros. This city was built on the ruins of Sanis, an Andrian colony which Philip II had razed to the ground. Surviving coins bear the inscription "OURANIAS POLEOS" or "OURANIDON POLEOS" [city of the skies]. Other coins depict Aphrodite of the Skies seated on a globe on one side, and the eight-rayed sun on the other.
The first monasteries were founded on the Athos peninsula in 10th century. Among them was Zigou Monastery, otherwise known as "Frangocastro" [Frankish Castle]. It is near Ouranoupolis and is the place where Osios Athanasios the Athonite, founder of Megistis Lavras, was secluded for approximately one year. This monastery is still being excavated and significant finds keep coming to light. It also has the great advantage of being the only monastery that is not on the Holy Mount; it is therefore permissible for women to visit it.
The Byzantine Tower that dominates the southwest extremity of the village was built by the monastic community of Vatopedio at the beginning of 14th century to protect the monastic dependency. It is the largest and best conserved in Halkidiki (especially since its recent restoration). Its top floor was destroyed by an earthquake in 19th century and was subsequently repaired, giving the tower its present form.
In the aftermath of the Asia Minor Catastrophe, refugees from the Marmara islands in Propontis congregated in this area and sheltered in the Tower, the adjacent buildings or in tents. The first houses of the village, some of which are still intact, were built in 1926. Later, the residents built the church and the school, and the community, initially called Prosforion and subsequently Pirgos, began to develop in an organised way, acquiring its permanent name of Ouranoupolis around 1960. In 1928 Mr and Mrs Lock settled in the Tower and bound their lives with the life of the village. The couple used designs copied from monastic codes and worked with people from the village who were familiar with the craft of rug making to lay the foundations of a local industry that provided a livelihood for many a family.
Today, Ouranoupolis is regarded as one of the most important resorts in Northern Halkidiki. It has abundant restaurants, tavernas, hotels, clubs, bars, and popular art and craft shops, providing good food and a comfortable stay. During the summer months, there are daily cruises from the village harbour to the western slopes of Mount Athos, and the monasteries on these slopes can be seen, albeit from a distance. It is also possible to enjoy the clean beaches and take a trip to the Drenia isles across the bay.
Nature lovers will enjoy the many footpaths over the nearby hills, thickly covered with olive and pine trees. There is also the possibility of a visit to the Serviko area on the northern flank of the peninsula or to Zigou Monastery which lies a mere two kilometres from the village.
In the village itself, the Byzantine Tower, one wing of which houses an exhibition of Byzantine antiquities and icons, is well worth a visit. In the popular arts and crafts shops you will find the renowned rugs with Byzantine designs and goat hair rugs as well as specimens of Byzantine hagiography and jewellery made from natural materials. You may also buy organic farming produce such as oil, wine, honey, tsipouro, oregano, a variety of teas and much more. Try fresh fish from the Singitikos in a taverna in the evening and take pleasure in the leisurely pace. If you are lucky, you might take part in one of the cultural events that take place on moonlit August nights.