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Monastery of Saint Panteleimon. Mount Athos or Agion Oros, as it is locally known, is the oldest surviving monastic community in the world. It dates back more than a thousand years, to Byzantine times. It is a unique monastic republic, which, although part of Greece, it is governed by its own local administration. Halkidiki is a peninsula in the shape of a hand with 3 fingers (Kassandra, Sithonia, Athos), in the north of Greece. The peninsula is lined with 550 km of white sandy beaches which are backed by rocky forested hills and the clear blue and turquoise waters of the Aegean Sea.