Meteora in Greece is undoubtedly one of the most evokative places I’ve ever visited.
I’m not a very religious person, but I have to admit that in this remote place, right in the heart of Tessaglia, on the mountains of Greece, nature and faith come together in a perfect bond. The mysticism of Meteora, albeit a little faded than in the past, is still tangible. The monasteries built on the rock pinnacles are truly a wonderful sight which left me speechless.
Who would ever imagine that continental Greece sheltered such a gem?
When staying in Kalambaka or Kastraki, one can realise how incredibly majestic Meteora is and how, at the same time, nature and civility can coexist benefitting from one another.
This is why Meteora, an UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the most visited areas throughout the whole Greece.
Listed below are all the necessary tips to visit Meteora.
Not-to-be-missed tours to visit Meteora
Meteora is beautiful, but visiting it and its monasteries alone means to organize well with movements and times. I want to suggest you some tours completely in ENGLISH that will allow you to enjoy meteora both during the day and also especially at sunset:
- CLICK HERE for 8 km of trekking through the rocks until you reach the monastery of the Great Meteora. Perhaps the best way to visit Meteora in Greece!
- CLICK HERE for a tour to discover ALL the monasteries.
- HERE instead to discover Meteora at sunset, something exceptional! The colours of this place in mainland Greece are indescribable.
Kalambaka: Where to eat and where to stay
Kalambaka is the village at the foot of the mountain of Meteora, ideal as a starting point. It is also very good to stay in Kastraki which is simply the next village on the road to the monasteries.
Both Kalambaka and Kastraki aren’t large cities, on the contrary, they are just small towns which have developed as a consequence of the mass tourism involving Meteora. Do not expect them to offer you what any other major Greek city would, a couple of taverns and that’s basically all Kalambaka and Kastraki have.
About the food: I ate well at the Paramithi Tavern. While to sleep I wanted to recommend a hotel that I consider perfect to start the visit, especially if you want to go trekking. I slept at Alsos House (click to se the hotel). It’s a clean hotel with apartments. A derisory price for the size of the accommodations. It is located right at the foot of the hiking trail that leads to the monastery of Agia Triada.
If you want to evaluate other places to stay in Kalambaka, CLICK HERE to see all available hotels.
Come si sono formate le Meteore
How did Meteora form and its first hermits
Let’s begin with the definition of the term “Meteora”. In Greek literally means “in the middle of the sky” or “suspended in the air”. That’s exactly how you will feel when you get to Kalambaka looking at huge monolithic pillars and rounded boulders that stand out against the sky.
As for how they have formed precisely, there are a couple of different theories.
One of the most widely held theory is that, once, Meteora’s pillars were simply sediments deposited. As a consequence of a series of earth movements, the seabed was pushed upwards and created many vertical fault lines in the layer of sandstone. With the passing of the time and weathering, the huge rock pillars were formed on the vertical faults.
Another very popular theory suggests that the rock pillars are, in reality, the consequence of a strong earthquake which radically changed this area by creating these many different rock formations.
The first hermit monks started moving up and inhabit the rocky pinnacles from the 9th century AD. It’s only towards the 14th century that the monks began establishing the first monasteries to protect themselves from the frequent Turkish attacks on Greece.
This is why the access to the monasteries was deliberately very difficult. To enter the building, the monks used either long ladders lashed together or large nets to haul goods and people. Some of these fundamental mechanisms to access the monasteries are still visible today. But getting up is now a lot simpler thanks to steps carved into the rock back in the 1920s.
How to get to Meteora in Greece
I personally believe that the best way yo get to Meteora is by renting a car and driving. This is because the car will enable you to visit this UNESCO World Heritage Site with much more autonomy. You’ll be choosing how long to stop for and how long you’d like to spend visiting a particular place or monastery that captured your attention.
Once I got to Athens, it took me about 4 hours by car to get to Kalambaka. However, if you’re looking for the shortest drive, you should depart from Salonicco as it only takes around 2 hours and 40 minutes straight.
An alternative is to opt for the public transports. On the website, Visit Meteora, you can find all the necessary information you need to get to Meteora, including timetables and routes. It’s a very accurate and well-organised website.
How to visit Meteora
Exploring Meteora is very easy. But, if you want to be more “relaxed” in your visit to Meteora, I recommend these tours in English -> Excursion to the monasteries during the day or the Sunset Tour (Highly recommended)
If you chose to go for a rental car, you have the possibility of visiting each single monastery in Meteora by driving along the 15km-long road that intertwines among the rocky pinnacles. I’m talking about the road that starts from Kalambaka, passes through Kastraki and reaches each monastery, before reconnecting to the main road which leads to the city centre. I think this is definitely one of the best ways to visit Meteora.
As an alternative you could:
- Use the buses: every day, there are 3 different buses which connect Kalambaka to the Great Meteoron Monastery. All of them stop at each car park (4 in total).
- Ride a bike or a rental scooter: if you opt for the bike, well…good luck you sportspeople! If, instead, you decide to go for a rental scooter, this could be a great option unless the weather is bad. I’d recommend going by bike only if you are accustomed to cycle for kilometres and kilometres and you may have set your mind on spending the majority of your journey cycling. Bear in mind that from one monastery to another there are hundreds of stairs that you’ll have to climb.
- By walk: there are several different hiking trails that enable tourists to have a good look at Meteora from places that are unreachable by car. One of these trails, starts from the Great Meteora and leads to the main road. Another one, which I’d love to have taken if I had had time, starts from Kalambaka and reaches the Agia Triada monastery. On the map the hiking trails are indicated with black traced lines and dots. I think this is the perfect solution if you have two or more days to spare to visit Meteora. On the first day you could visit Meteora leisurely, whilst on the second, you could look for the hiking trail which suits you best. The hiking alternative allows you to visit some hidden monasteries, some of which are left to fall into ruins.
- Take a taxi: the costs can vary. I’d recommend informing yourselves on the fares once you’re there.
When and how long does it take to visit Meteora?
If you’re using a rental car or any public means of transport, I’d definitely say that a full day is more than enough to visit all the monasteries in Meteora.
I personally believe them to be spectacular in every season. During the year, at all time, Meteora presents different traits and colourful hues.
As for my experience, I visited them in November, in full autumn and I think the classic colours of this season contributed in making Meteora even more beautiful.
Can you imagine visiting it with the snow in winter? And what about admiring its amazing landscapes whilst enjoying a summer sunset as well? Wouldn’t it be fantastic?!
Instead of worrying about when and in which season to visit Meteora, I’d worry about the amount of people you may encounter. In order to enjoy a less crowded Meteora, I’d try to avoid the high season which means less queues outside the monasteries and panoramic views.
The only issue regards the closing days and timetables. From the 1st April to the 31st October, the monasteries close later on during the day than to the rest of the year. In addiction, during the winter season, many monasteries close for two days instead of the typical one-day closure in summer. If you visit Meteora during winter, please let me tell you to avoid doing so on Wednesday. In this day three monasteries will be closed to the tourists.
As for what concerns the weather, well…you just have to be lucky. And, surprisingly enough, I was! On the same day, I was lucky enough to see Meteora in three different situations. First, during a heavy shower, then in the midst of the fog and at last, with some low clouds that left room for the sun rays to pass through, what an infinite beauty!
I have to admit that at the beginning I felt a bit discouraged by the weather. The rain doesn’t actually make Meteora shine in all its beauty, yet it does underline its feeling of isolation. The sky then opened up. The atmosphere rendered by the clouds and the sun became magical, even better than seeing Meteora under just a “simple” sunny situation.
So, if you’re visiting Greece, pay attention to the weather. It will undoubtedly affect how you’ll perceive these gorgeous places.
Meteora Monasteries: how many, how much do they cost, timetables and regulations
Originally, the monks built a total of 24 monasteries. Of these 24 buildings, only 6 are still functioning and opened to the public.
All the monasteries but Agios Stefanos, are accessible thanks to a series of steps carved in the rock during the 1920s. You might think about these steps as being old and tricky to climb, but they’re actually not. I guess that as a consequence of a recent restoration, the steps are large, low and well-shaped so they don’t present a threat for tourists and visitors.
The car parks are free and the entrance ticket to each monastery is 3 euros per person.
When I visited Meteora, I managed to see only two monasteries and in both of them I felt like I was in a heaven of peace and tranquillity. I also noticed that the paintings inside the chapels are still very bright and well-kept. Might it be because of a recent restoration to please tourists even more?
Inside the monasteries, the visitors are kindly asked to maintain an appropriate behaviour: taking photos is prohibited and women are allowed access only if their shoulders and knees are covered (scarves and cloths are provided outside each monasteries to cover yourselves).
The monasteries which can be visited are:
- Megalo Meteoro -> Great Meteora
- Agios Nikolaos
- Agios Stefanos
- Agia Triada
As for what concerns the opening times, you can find detailed information on the website of Visit Meteora.
For the people who love to take photographies, Meteora is a very interesting photo shoot. You’ll be inspired to take a shot of every single gorgeous corner of it. Indeed, in Meteora there are many different panoramic viewpoints where to stop to snap a picture. You could even carry with yourself a tripod if you’d like to take better photos.
Along the 15 kilometers road, there’s a spectacular panoramic viewpoint I’d like to suggest. At the fork to get to Varlaam and the Great Meteoron Monastery, turn right towards the other monasteries. After a few turns, you’ll see a parking lot: this is the panoramic viewpoint I’m talking about. Park your car here and enjoy the stunning view that opens up in front of your eyes.
Just a little final warning: it’s highly advisable to pay a lot of attention in not hurting yourselves when visiting Meteora. The majority of the panoramic viewpoints, for example, do not have any sort of delimitation or safety net. Please, be very careful!