Greece has many monasteries and convents, with most of them occupying historic buildings in exquisite locations. While only a few of them offer overnight accommodations for guests in xenones, a night spent this way is worth seeking out to add an entirely new dimension to your trip to Greece.
Things to Know
- While some monasteries and convents accept visitors of all faiths, many will require that the guest is Greek Orthodox and may request a letter from a priest in your home country. The monasteries of Mount Athos accept only men and require an application be submitted well in advance, but they do allow a certain number of places for non-Orthodox visitors. But even the non-Orthodox may find that connecting with a Greek Orthodox priest at a local church back home and getting a letter of recommendation may make staying in a monastery in Greece much easier.
- August is both a vacation month for urban Greeks and the celebration of Mary; monastery accommodations are limited at best, but it will be even harder to secure a spot in August, around Pentecost, or at Easter.
- Some may have gender restrictions.
- Families with children may or may not be welcomed.
- Curfews may be strict—so strict as to be unbreakable. This is one time when lateness may have a direct price—you may need to scramble to find another place to stay the night without your safely cloistered luggage.
- Accommodations are usually limited to a night or two, depending on the monastery.
- There is generally no specific fee for staying overnight, but donations are welcomed and a typical amount may be mentioned in an inquiry.
This thriving convent offers limited accommodations for overnight guests. Booking is done via fax or telephone, with fax preferred. Foreign guests can stay for two nights; most pilgrims are limited to a single night at this monastery dedicated to a native saint of Greece, Agios Nektarios.
Mount Athos, Greece
The monasteries of Mount Athos accept male visitors for overnight stays but this must be arranged in advance and are mainly intended for Greek Orthodox pilgrims visiting all of the monasteries on the peninsula, but many non-Orthodox men also visit. England's Prince Charles is a repeat visitor—though he has a familial royal connection with Greece via his father, Prince Philip.
Subtitled "A Contemporary Greek Nunnery as a Pilgrimage Site," this academic dissertation by Mari-Johanna Rahkala, M.Th. of the University of Helsinki offers a detailed look at the modern practices of pilgrimage. While her experiences took place at a specific convent in Northern Greece, to spare the nuns unwanted publicity, she has renamed it in her study. The dissertation is free to download and makes for interesting reading.
Fanermomeni Convent, near Salamina, Salamis
This active convent has a few guest rooms for visitors. The island of Salamina is neglected by tourists and is an active, working island in the Saronic Gulf. You will find shipyards and other industries, but it also has areas of great natural beauty. The convent complex is located near the sea in a pastoral area. The island and the monastery both vigorously celebrate a long festival in August.
This extensive site has information on the monastic establishments of Greece, along with articles on monastic practices and contact information for most of the monasteries. In twelve languages (choose your flag) but not all pages are translated, and you may need to copy and paste into Google translate or another automated translation service to get the information you need.
This website has extensive information on the churches of Greece, aimed at the Greek-speaking and Greek-reading population. This site is now available in English.
Monastery of the Holy Agathon, Oiti
This monastery in the Oiti area of Fthiotida provides some guest accommodations. Oiti is sometimes spelled Iti.
Leimonas Monastery, Lesbos (Lesvos)
Situated in a meadow (leimonas), this beautiful and peaceful spot is well worth visiting for a day, but it also offers some overnight accommodations for pilgrims. Call in advance.
Women are not permitted in the main church but can tour the ecclesiastical museum and the rest of the complex.
Here is more on monasteries and churches on Lesbos.
Monastery of Agiou Raphael, Lesbos
This monastery complex on the Greek island of Lesbos also offers overnight stays to pilgrims.