The Holy Mountain was founded in 963 with the construction of the Great Lavra Monastery by Saint Athanasios. Soon after, the rules of the Avaton were imposed: women were not allowed to enter this part of the world. After this, 19 more monasteries were built in this remote, mountainous and sparsely populated area of the Byzantine Empire. In its heyday, perhaps a few thousand monks and laymen lived on the Holy Mountain, in less fortunate times there may be only a few hundred monks left. As I walked the beautiful trails of the peninsula, I often wondered if there could be an area of this remote and almost uninhabited part of the world, where no human has ever been. When I first saw monk T’s drone footage of the Réma Dontá Valley, I was pretty sure this was the place I was looking for.
The place is not far from Dafni, but if you want to visit the Dontas winery, which is at the beginning of this valley, you have to leave the road that leads to Simonospetras and take a dead end road, so not many pilgrims (or monks) go there. And looking at the rocks and waterfalls in the Réma Dontá Valley, I think my idea that no one has ever been to this part of the world, could be true. Thanks to monk T’s drone footage, we now have the opportunity to see this pristine territory of the Holy Mountain!
I hope to visit the Dontas winery this year after being part of the FoMA footpath team eand during my 14th Athos pilgrimage.
Wim Voogd, 17-4-2023