Meteora Greece: visit the Monasteries from Kalambaka
The Monasteries at Meteora, Greece, are a must visit during a holiday in Greece: they may not be as famous as other attractions, but they’re worth the trip. Originally there were 24 monasteries, where today only 6 remain. Keep reading on for our guide to visiting Meteora Monasteries, including when is the best time to visit, which monasteries to see, where to stay, places to eat, and many other tips to organise the perfect trip to the Meteora Monasteries from Kalambaka.
History of Meteora
The formation of Meteora dates back millions of years. The name “Meteora” means “suspended in mid-air”, and the name was coined by monk Athanasios in the 14th century. He came from Mt. Athos and founded the first monastery on a rock he named the Megalo Meteoron (Great Meteoron). It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, an archeological site and a holy place!
Things to know before going
These are a few things to know before you go, so to make sure your trip is planned at its best
- You’ve to pay a fee to entry each monastery: in 2019/2020 the entry fee is 3€ and you have to pay by cash at the entrance of each site;
- Dress code is important when visiting the Monasteries at Meteora: women have to cover their shoulders and wear a long shirt, men cannot wear shorts. At the entrance of every monastery skirts and long scarves are available for free;
- Tours are unavoidable: Meteora calls for road trip from Athens and this means there are buses coming and going from very early in the morning till sunset. Unfortunately there’s not much you can do, but if you hike to reach every Monastery instead of taking a car the experience is just sensational and you can easily skip the crow;
- It may not be that obvious, but Meteora inspired the backdrop for Game of Thrones when Tyrion is being held in the Eyrie (if you’re a Game of Thrones fan it will not be difficult for you to recognise the scene!)
Meteora Monasteries Quick Info
This is a recap to get you started:
Duration: 3 full days, mostly spent hiking
Recommended accommodation: Hotel Tsikeli (Adults Only) in Kastraki. Such an amazing hotel with an unbeatable view over the mountains, stilish rooms and amazing people at the reception. It may not be the most affordable in the area, but it’s worth every penny;
Recommended dining: We loved eating at Taverna To Kalami in Kastraki: Home cooked and delicious food, huge portions, and the owners are amazing. For a list of things to eat in Greece, click here.
When to go to Meteora, Greece
Meteora can be visited all year round: March-April is a good time because the weather is nice, it’s not too hot and one can hike without suffering too much. Buses are there but they don’t have a big impact on independent travellers. We’ve heard September-October is also a good time, and for sure the high season must be avoided.
Where to stay near Meteora
We booked Hotel Tsikeli in Kastraki, an amazing adult only hotel with lots of amenities, an incredible view and stylish rooms. It may not be the cheapest in the area, but if you want comfort, cleanliness,, and a kind and prepared staff for us this is the best choice. It is located very close to one of the paths that lead to the Meteora Monasteries.
How to get to Meteora, Greece
We drove straight from Athens. The drive was easy and took approximately 8 hours, considering we did stop in Delphi for a few hours. If you don’t want to a car, there are public transportation options from major cities like Athens and Thessaloniki.
How to get around Meteora
Once you are in the area, you can book a day trip, rent a scooter or simply hike your way through the Monasteries (which is what we did!). Remember: hiking is the best way to enjoy Meteora if you like the mountains but to make the most of your time in the area you can also do a mixture of driving and hiking.
Hiking in Meteora
One of the most frustrating things when visiting Meteora is that locals tend to recommend hiking guided tours and there are very few signs that clearly indicate the hiking paths. We did solve the problem by consulting Google Maps pretty much all the time: if your connection doesn’t work, make sure you save your maps for consulting them offline and activate the GPS so that Maps can always understand where you are and give you indications.
Hiking in Meteora can be tiring, you need to wear comfortable shoes and bring water with you: if you’re a hiker, you will certainly find easy to hike Meteora. The good thing is that you can go off path and eventually make it harder, in order to accomplish your goals. The steep rock formations of Meteora are also an irresistible destination for rock climbers, no questions asked.
The Monasteries of Meteora
Originally, there were a total of 24 monasterie s in Meteora but today there are only 6 standing: St. Nikolaos Anapafsas, Great Meteoron, Roussanou, Holy Trinity, Varlaam and St. Stephen’s. They are closed on different days of the week and have different visiting hours. With 3 days, you will be able to
visit all of them so there’s no need to specify which one are unmissable because, in total honesty, all of them are.
Great Meteoron Monastery
The Great Meteoron Monastery is the biggest and oldest one of all. It was called the monastery that was “suspended in the air” (meteoro), because of the formation of the gigantic rock on top of which it was built.
The Monastery of Varlaam is the second biggest monastery. It is located opposite of the Great Meteoro Monastery and it was founded in the mid 14th century by the exercitant Hosios Varlaam.
Monastery of Roussanou
The Monastery of Roussanou has received the name of the first probable hermit who settled on the rock. The main cathedral was founded at the end of the 16th century and was decorated thirty years later.
Saint Stephen’s Monastery
This is the most accessible monastery, where instead of steps you simply cross a small bridge to reach the entrance. The beginning of monastic life on the rock of Agios Stephanos dates back to early in the 12th century.
Agia Triada Monastery
The Holy Trinity Monastery (Agia Triada) is the most difficult to reach, but once you get to the very top the panoramic view of the surroundings is amazing! You have to follow a pathway that directs you to the foot of the rock, before you can start walking up about 140 steps.
Saint Nicholas of Anapafsa
The Monastery of Saint Nicholas of Anapafsas is the first Monastery that we encounter on our way to the Holy Meteora and was founded at the end of the 14th century.
Every monastery is closed on a different day of the week, except Fridays where two monasteries are closed. The following table will help you in planning your visit at its best:
|Monastery||Summer opening hours||Winter opening hours||Closing Day|
|St. Stephen||9-13:30, 15:30-17:30||9:30-13:00, 15:00-17||Mondays|
|St. Nicholas Anapfsas
Meteora’s Hidden Secret: Aghio Pnevma
Although you’re planning a visit to Meteora Monasteries, you may end up hiking in places tourists don’t know about. One of these is the incredible rock of Aghio Pnevma (Holy Spirit) which is located in the middle of the valley that extends from the village of Kastraki.
When we did hike there, we were completely blown away. On its top a plateau is formed, and there’s a chapel dedicated to the Holy Spirit: his tiny monastery was the oldest one in the region of Meteora, dating to the 10th century. If you’re brave enough, climb the ladder and enjoy the absolutely breath-taking view from the top.
Sunset at Meteora
One of the most amazing things to do when in Meteora Greece is watching the sunset. There are a few panoramic view point but we specifically recommend Psaropetra, past the Roussanou Monastery: the view is mind blowing and if you’re a photographer you can easily find your protected spot from where to watch the sunset. The lookout near Varlaam is one of the most famous. Of course, you may end up not seeing the sunset but the view is always worthwhile.
Guided tours of Meteora, Greece
We don’t take part to guided tours and we drove to Meteora but if you prefer to do a guided tour here are a few options departing from Athens or other areas in Greece.
Full-Day Meteora Trip by Train from Athens – This tour includes round-trip train tickets from Athens to Kalambaka and back, Customized 4-hour tour of Meteora, Panoramic view of all 6 monasteries and a local guide. It doesn’t include hotel pick-up and drop off in Athens and entrance fees to the monasteries (€3).
Majestic Sunset on Meteora Rocks Tour from Kalampaka – This tour is for people already in the area and includes hotel pick-up and drop off in Kalambaka or Kastraki, local tour leader and a view of all 6 monasteries built atop the rock pillars.