The Monastery of Panachrantos is a Byzantine monastery which lies approximately 600 metres above sea level on Katafygio mountain overlooking Chora, the capital of the island. The monastery clings to the side of the mountain and from below has the appearance of a fortress. You can visit the monastery all year round during daylight hours. Given that it is a place of worship, the advice is to wear conservative clothing if possible.
From Chora, you can reach the monastery by either driving through Aladino and Fallika, ascending via a steep convoluted road up the mountainside. Alternatively you can approach from the south through Vouni.
If you want to walk to the monastery, then there are Andros Routes walks that will lead you here. It will involve plenty of uphill if you choose to get there this way.
The road up to the monastery is narrow and has sheer drops. If you suffer from vertigo you might want to avoid looking down!
The main entrance to the monastery is right at the top, so keep ascending when you see the side of the monastery as shown below:
The way in to the monastery is seen below:
Once through the door below, one of the monks will come and greet you. When I visited in October 2016, we were taken thorough to a dining room in which we were offered Greek coffee and a traditional sweet. This is quite a large monastery and it only has about 5 resident monks making it feel almost deserted. Some of the monks speak basic English and after they have offered you coffee, they will show you to the rest of the monastery.
The view out to Chora below is quite impressive.
The monastery is free to visit, however once you are inside the church then you can make a donation in the donation box if you want. We visited with a box of chocolates from England which seemed to go down quite well with the Abbot of the Monastery, father Archimandrite Eudokimos Frangoulakes. Interestingly, father Eudokimos is actually known for his culinary skills and has published his own recipe book.
Note that you do not need to book the monastery in advance, you can just turn up.
The exact beginnings of the monastery are unclear. From what is documented, around 960 AD two monks living on the opposite mountain, saw a light each night at the place near where the monastery today is built. Seeing this, they decided to investigate the phenomenon and as the story goes they then found the sacred icon of the Panagia Panachrantou (“The Immaculate One”) below a cave, near to where the monastery is today. This then eventually led to the development of the monastery.
The central courtyard to the monastery is seen below:
On our way back to Chora, we stopped in Aladinou for a picnic on a bench near to the river. As you can see below, we attracted some extra guests. If you want to do something else after visiting the monastery then Aladinou cavern is on the route home. This is best booked in advance by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
All in all, the monastery makes for a fascinating few hours. Regardless of whether you are religious or not, the monks are warm and hospitable and the view from high up in the monastery makes the excursion well worthwhile.