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When you visit Greece there is one place you shouldn’t miss, the Meteora Monasteries. Situated in the prefecture of Thessaly, Meteora are a place of unique beauty. It is also one of the most important religious complexes in Greece. As you approach the town of Kalambaka, the nearest big town near Meteora, you will see a complex of giant sandstone rock pillars that climb up into the sky. On top of them you will spot the famous Meteora monasteries.
Let me tell you a few historical facts about the monasteries of Meteora. At the 9th century AD, a group of monks moved into the area and lived in caves on top of the rock pillars. They were after complete solitude. During the 11th and 12th century AD, a monastic state has been created in the area. By the 14th century there were over 20 monasteries in Meteora. Now only 6 monasteries have survived and are all open to the public.
How to Get to Meteora
There are many ways to get to from Athens to Meteora:
- Guided tour
There are a number of one day to multiple day excursions available from Athens and other major cities in the country that include the monasteries of meteora.
Suggested tours to Meteora from Athens
- By rail (please note that the train is not always punctual here) – More info about the tour
- If you have more time you can easily combine Delphi and Meteora on this 2 day tour – More info about the tour
- Hire a taxi
Another way to go is by hiring a taxi for as many days as you want to drive you around Greece and Meteora.
- Rent a car
You can rent a car and drive yourself to Meteora from any town around Greece. You only need a GPS or google maps enabled on your smart phone. From Athens it’s 360 km and from Thessaloniki 240 km.
- Take the train
You can take the train from Athens and other big cities in Greece to the nearest town of Meteora called Kalampaka. For more information regarding the routes and timetable check here.
- By public bus (ktel)
You can take the bus from many cities around Greece like Athens, Thessaloniki, Volos, Ioannina, Patras, Delphi to Trikala and then change the bus to Kalampaka. For more information regarding the routes and timetable check here.
Now once you arrive at the town of Kalampaka you can:
- take a taxi to the monasteries
- or book one of the everyday tours available to the Meteora monasteries with Meteora Thrones Travel Center.
The Monasteries of Meteora
As I already mentioned there are only 6 remaining monasteries. I managed to visit 5 out of 6 on my last visit because the 6th was closed on both days of my stay.
- Great Meteoron Monastery
Founded in the 14th century AD by a monk from Mount Athos, the Great Meteoron Monastery is the oldest, largest and tallest (615m above sea level) of the six surviving monasteries. There are many important things one can see in the Monastery. Inside the church of Transfiguration there are fine icons and frescoes dating from the 14th to 16th centuries. There is also a nice museum open to the public. In the kitchen, the wine cellars and the sacristy of the monastery, there are bones of old residents stacked on the selves.
Opening hours and days: April 1st to October 31st – the monastery stays closed on Tuesdays. Visiting hours 09:00 – 17:00.
November 1st to March 31st – the monastery stays closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Visiting hours 09:00 – 15:00.
- Holy Trinity Monastery
The Holy Trinity Monastery is widely known from the James Bond film “For your eyes only”. Unfortunately, that was the only monastery that I didn’t get the chance to enter as it was closed the days I was there. It was built-in the 14th century and the access to the monastery until 1925 was only by rope ladders and the supplies were transferred by baskets. After 1925, 140 steep steps were carved on the rock making it more accessible. It was looted during the World War II and all its treasures were taken by the Germans. There are some frescoes from the 17th and 18th centuries that are worth seeing and a Gospel Book with a silver cover printed in Venice in 1539 that survived from the loot.
Opening hours and days: April 1st to October 31st – the monastery stays closed on Thursdays. Visiting hours 09:00 – 17:00.
November 1st to March 31st – the monastery stays closed on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Visiting hours 10:00 – 16:00.
- Roussanou Monastery
Founded in the 16th century, Roussanou is inhabited by nuns. It is settled on a low rock and it’s easy accessible by a bridge. There are some nice frescoes to see inside the church.
Opening hours and days: April 1st to October 31st – the monastery stays closed on Wednesdays. Visiting hours 09:00 – 17:45.
November 1st to March 31st – the monastery stays closed on Wednesdays. Visiting hours 09:00 – 14:00.
- St Nikolaos Anapafsas Monastery
Founded at the early 14th century the monastery is famous for the frescoes of Cretan painter Theophanes Strelitzas. Today, only one monk occupies the monastery.
Opening hours and days: April 1st to October 31st – the monastery stays closed on Fridays. Visiting hours 09:00 – 15:30.
November 1st to March 31st – the monastery stays closed on Fridays. Visiting hours 09:00 – 14:00.
- Varlaam Monastery
It was founded in 1350 by a monk named Varlaam. He was the only one to live on the rock so after his death the monastery was abandoned until 1517 where two rich monks from Ioanina ascended the rock and founded the monastery. They renovated and built some new parts. It is impressive that it took them 20 years to gather all the materials on top by using ropes and baskets and only 20 days to finish the construction. Inside the monastery there are some beautiful frescoes, a museum with ecclesiastical objects and also an impressive water barrel that used to hold 12 tons of rainwater.
Opening hours and days: April 1st to October 31st -the monastery stays closed on Fridays. Visiting hours 09:00 – 16:00.
November 1st to March 31st – the monastery stays closed on Thursdays and Fridays. Visiting hours 09:00 – 15:00.
- St Stephen’s Monastery
Founded in 1400 AD, it is the only monastery visible from Kalampaka. It is also inhabited by nuns and it is very easily accessible. There are some nice frescoes you can see and a small museum with religious objects.
Opening hours and days: April 1st to October 31st – the monastery stays closed on Mondays. Visiting hours 09:00 – 13:30 and 15:30- 17:30.
November 1st to March 31st – the monastery stays closed on Mondays. Visiting hours 09:30 – 13:00 and 15:00- 17:00.
There are two ways to reach Meteora the first one is through Kalampaka and the second one is to pass the town of Kalampaka and enter Meteora through the village of Kastraki. The latter one is the most impressive road to take.
If you are limited in time, you must absolutely visit the Grand Meteoron Monastery. It is the biggest and has many areas open to the public. In most monasteries, beware that you have to climb some steep steps in order to access them. Also, you should be properly dressed. Men shouldn’t wear shorts and women should only wear long skirts. That is why in all monasteries women are given a long skirt to wear before entering.
Apart from visiting the monasteries, there are many things to do around Meteora. First of all you should relax and enjoy the magnificent view. There are also a lot of outdoor activities available in the monasteries like rock climbing, hiking one of the many paths, mountain biking and rafting.
Where to Stay in Meteora
Where to Stay in Meteora (Kalambaka)
Most of the hotels in Meteora are old, but there are a few ones I can recommend.
The Meteora Hotel at Kastraki is a beautifully designed hotel with plush bedding and a spectacular view of the rocks. It is slightly out of town, but within a short drive.
The Hotel Doupiani House also has incredible views and is located steps away from the Monastery of Agios Nikolaos Anapafsas. It too is on the outskirts of town at Kastraki.
The traditional, family-run Hotel Kastraki is in this same area, under the rocks in the village of Kastraki. It is slightly older than the two previous hotels but recent guest reviews confirm that it remains a comfortable and inviting place to stay.
In Kalambaka, the Divani Meteora is a comfortable and spacious hotel with an on-site restaurant and bar. They are located in the centre of town along a busy road, which may deter some people, but it’s a convenient location to walk into town.
Finally, the best hotel in the area is nearly 20km away from the rocks of the Meteora monasteries. The Ananti City Resort is a luxurious hotel and spa on the hills in the outskirts of Trikala. For travellers here to see the rocks specifically, this may not be ideal, but Trikala is the largest town in the region and a popular destination for a long weekend. Ananti City Resort is a great place to stay if you have a car.
Where to Eat in Meteora
Panellinio restaurant is a traditional tavern located at the central square of Kalampaka. I ate there a few years ago on a previous visit to the Meteora monasteries. I had a dish of mousaka that I still remember. On my recent visit a few days ago, the hotel staff recommend me to eat in Kalampaka and again the food was great and the prices were very friendly.
Have you been to the Meteora monasteries?
What did you like the most?
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