The word ‘Meteora’ means “suspended in air,” and that’s an apt description for the six Eastern Orthodox monasteries perched on top of the towering Meteora rock formations in Central Greece.
Meteora is a must-visit destination because of the monasteries and because of the landscape. Ancient Greeks believed Meteora was the site of the battle between the Olympians and the Titans, and it’s easy to see why the area was thought to be a mystical place.
If you’re in Mainland Greece, then Meteora needs to be on your itinerary!
So here’s the ultimate guide to the Meteora Monasteries!
History of the Monasteries
History of the Monasteries
Monks began construction on the monasteries in the 14th century. Their choice to build on these intimidating rock formations was two-pronged. The cliffs offered protection from Turkish attacks and were a perfect place to achieve isolation. For monks, the cliffs represent humanity’s struggle for spiritual elevation.
There used to be 24 monasteries, but only six are still standing. Meteora is a UNESCO World Heritage Site under two categories – nature and art. It’s one of the only places in the world that qualifies for more than one category.
Fun facts: Meteora was in the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only, and the TV show Game of Thrones wanted to film here, but the monks didn’t grant their permission.
What To Do
Obviously, you’ll want to visit the monasteries when you’re here. To visit all six, you’ll need at least a couple of days.
There’s also a 21 mile/35 kilometer-long network of hiking trails below (and sometimes up to) the monasteries. These trails take you to the hermitages – caves that housed the original monks while the monasteries were being built.
There are also incredible viewpoints along the roads to and from the monasteries. From some of these angles, you can see a majority of the monasteries at the same time. And the Meteora rock formations make for the most extraordinary backdrop.
How To Get Here
The Meteora Monasteries are near the town of Kalambaka in Central Greece. Kalambaka is about four hours (by car) north of Athens and approximately two and a half hours from Thessaloniki.
Kalambaka has a train stop with direct trips to and from Athens and Thessaloniki every day.
The most common way people visit Meteora is as a day trip from Athens. This is a long day trip, and you’ll only get to visit a couple of the monasteries and viewpoints. But if you only have a day to give to the Meteora Monasteries, then this still one of the Best Day Trips from Athens. And a trip here will enhance any Athens Itinerary.
Where To Stay
The best option for visiting Meteora, if you have time, is to spend at least one night in Kalambaka. This would give you at least two days here – one day visiting the monasteries and one day exploring the base of the rock formations and the hermitages.
Another option is to combine Meteora with another day trip. The most popular day trip from Athens is Delphi, which is in the general direction of Meteora. So if you were already planning on going to Delphi, consider tacking Meteora on to the same trip.
Many tour companies offer a two day one night trip to Delphi and Meteora. You would still only get one day at each site, but you would get longer days at both places.
When To Go
Greece’s peak tourism season from June – August gives you the best chance of good weather at Meteora, but the crowds and prices will be triple what they are the rest of the year.
The shoulder seasons from April to May and September to October are the best times to visit because your chances of good weather are still high, and costs and other tourists will be more manageable.
The off-season from November – March will have the lowest prices and very few tourists, but the Monasteries can become inaccessible due to Winter weather. Many of the hiking trails are also closed during these months.
At least one monastery is closed every weekday, and the monasteries aren’t open for as long in the Winter. So if there’s a specific monastery you want to visit, make sure you plan accordingly. Here are opening and closing times for all six monasteries year-round.
Know Before You Go
Entry to each monastery is 3 euros. None of the monasteries accept credit cards, so you need to have cash for all the monasteries you want to visit.
Dress conservatively. Women must wear a skirt or dress that goes below her knees, and her arms must be covered. If a woman doesn’t come with the proper attire, she’ll be required to cover up with one of the communal skirts or shirts available at each monastery.
Men must wear pants (not shorts) and a long-sleeve shirt, or you’ll also be required to cover up.
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