Majestic, mystical and almost divine. These are adjectives commonly used to portray the esoteric site of Meteora in Greece. It is speculated that approximately one thousand blocks of rock of marine origin emerged as the sea withdrew about 60 million of years ago, giving life to sandstone pillars of almost surreal appearance. Weathering, abrupt temperature changes and earthquakes further contributed in shaping the rocks sculpting them into the intriguing mass formations admired by many today.
Located on the northwest margin of the plain of Thelassy in northern Greece, Meteora is a powerful orthodox religious center encompassing several monasteries. The name Meteora literally means ”suspended in air” or better, ”in the heavens above.” Perched atop spectacular rocky pillars, indeed not surprisingly, Meteora attracts a vast array of hiking, climbing and mountaineering enthusiasts each year.
UNESCO has nominated Meteora as a ”monument of Humanity”. Historically, monks and hermits escaped to Meteora so to feel spiritually closer to God. Originally twentyfour and today only six, Meteora’s monasteries remain, for the most part still inhabited. The monasteries are reached through marked trails, stairs cut into the rocks, and bridges. The atmosphere remains mystical, quiet and sacred. Following are the monasteries that can be still visited as of today:
Agios Nikolaos built by Dionysius in the 16th century is located on a narrow rocky spur.
Agios Stefanos offers a nice view of the town of Kalambaka below. Its church is home to the skull of Saint Haralambos given as a gift to the nuns by Prince Vladislav of Wallachia.
Aghia Triada: this monastery founded by the monk Dometius offers a spectacular view of the plains below, however not many travelers have enough stamina to climb its 140 steps carved in stone.
Gran Meteoron is located on the highest rock and was built by Athanasios, one of the most respected figures in Orthodox monasticism.
Roussanou monastery can be reached by crossing a small bridge from another peak
Varlaam monastery, founded by Theophanis and Nektarious Apsaradas, is home to relics, wood crosses, icons and interesting frescos.
The monasteries close down for lunch time. A small entry fee applies.
Meteora, Varlaam Monastery
History of the monasteries
It is believed that the first monks who lived here were 10th-century ascetics seeking to lead a solitary life by living in caves. Their climbing abilities and faith at that time must have been remarkable, considering the fact that back in the days, monks were taken up the pinnacles via baskets and ropes. There is history of a nervous pilgrim in particular which inquired about the safety of the rope used. ”Is it ever changed? He asked. ”Yes, whenever it breaks” he was replied, to help put his mind at ease! As a Turk invasion took place, monks and pilgrims settled higher and higher up the peaks. More hermits and monks were attracted to the site until the 14th century when St. Athanasios decided to create the Gran Meteron Monastery.
How to get to Meteora
It takes about three hours of travel to reach the town of Kalambaka beneath Meteora. The trip involves lots of curves for over 200 kilometers. The road is in good shape overlooking gorges and ravines and the landscape is virtually isolated, offering a haven for wild life and nature in general. Day trips to Meteora are offered from Thessaloniki, Chalkidiki, Athens and the North Sporades.
Best time to Visit
The peaks, already attractive on their own, become stunningly appealing in the winter when immaculate snow caps the Pindos range. The mist swirling around the embedded monasteries further adds a mysterious, almost magical touch. Temperature can be freezing cold during this time.
In the fall, trees become strikingly ablaze with autumn colors. Spring is mild and pleasant with fewer crowds. Summers are typically abundantly crowded.
Strict dress codes apply for those interested in visiting the monasteries. The site is not recommended for those who suffer from vertigo and fear of heights as well as those who suffer from agoraphobia (fear of open spaces). The climb to the monasteries involves steep and slippery flights of rocky stairs and bridges..
Do the cliffs appear familiar? This intriguing landscape surrounding the monasteries and the Agia Triada Monastery in particular, were employed for the production of the Bond movie ”For Your Eyes Only”.
Worth visiting whilst in the area is the Theopetra Cave , located about 10 kilometers away from Kalambaka. Stone tools and clay objects from prehistoric times where found in this cave.
Where to Stay
The nearest town is Kalambaka, located right at the base of Meteora offering overnight accommodations for millions of travelers each year. Alsos House offers clean and comfortable rooms with breathtaking views of the pinnacles located right next to the hotel.
5, Kanari Str.
Kalampaka ΤΚ 42200 Greece
Phone number : +30 2432024097
Where to Eat
Located in the heart of Kalambaka, Restaurant Fagopoti offers a nice array of meats, fish, pasta, local dishes and wines.
Omogeon Amerikis 4,
Phone number: +30 6986189186
When first seen from a distance, the eerie rock formations of Meteora almost appear to be part of another planet. The floodlit rocks at night against the full moon appear quite surreal. Meteora is definitely one of the most spectacularly striking attractions of Greece.
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