A visit to the monasteries of Meteora, Greece will take your breath away. The landscape has been carved by wind and rain over thousands of years to create massive stone spires reaching to the sky.
Atop these magnificent monoliths are ancient monasteries dating back to the 9th century. Back then, the hermit monks who first settled Meteora couldn’t walk up stairs or over bridges to access the monasteries. No, they had to reach their secluded and safe retreat by scaling the walls with ropes and ladders reaching as high as 500 meters (1500 feet). By the 14th century the community grew to 24 monasteries suspended in the sky. Monks would hoist themselves up the towering rocks by putting a basket on a rope and hand cranking the person up to safety. It was a life of solitude and reflection.
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Today, six monasteries remain and tourists can visit the magical region of Meteora which translates to “suspended in air. ” We were invited to witness the majesty of this beautiful region by VisitMeteora. A company that is passionate about Greece and its little known region of Meteora. It won’t be long until travellers flock to see the stone forest in the centre of the country. Many people simply take a day trip to view the monasteries, but four days is required to truly take in the awe-inspiring views, to hike through the monasteries and visit the chapels high in the sky.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Meteora stands above other sites in Greece. It’s a surreal landscape housing the oldest known man-made structure on earth dating back 23,000 years ago. And you thought the Acropolis was old? Meteora is an ancient land dating back to the Paleolithic and Neolithic eras. Not only is it protected for its unique and fascinating culture, Meteora has also been designated a Natura 2000 Ecological Zone by the Greek Ministry of Environment. It houses rare species of birds and flowers that can be viewed when taking a hike through the natural wonder.
Meteora is filled with fascinating Monasteries, visit another in Ireland at Skellig Michael
Our tour of Meteora brought us through several monasteries like the Great Meteoron Monastery where we walked up the steep steps (you no longer need to be winched up by hand) and explored the peaceful and picturesque grounds. We viewed the old kitchens, the inside of the church and looked out among the views. When standing on top of these magnificent rocks, one can understand why the monks chose this as their refuge. It feels like a little slice of heaven.
There are six monasteries left in Meteora today and visitors can tour all of them if they choose. A winding road connects the monasteries, but one of the most fascinating ways to tour Meteora is to hike through the landscape. You can hike with VisitMeteora and their professional local guides who tell interesting personal stories as well as in depth information of Meteora’s history and culture.
See our Video of Hiking Meteora!
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Each monastery contains holy relics, painted frescos, and historic manuscripts. Often times photos are not allowed within the chapels, but you are allowed to take photographs of the grounds and other rooms inside the monasteries.
The hike offered unique views and perspectives of the monasteries and let us enjoy quiet moments in nature away from the tour busses and crowds. There are some abandoned and ruined monasteries that you are not able to view from the road and there are different angles that cannot be caught from a tour bus. We love to inspired people to get out from the organized tours to explore, and Meteora is the place to do that.
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However, having a rental car or private guide is highly recommended as getting out at sunrise and sunset offers stunning moments to view. The tour buses from Athens have yet to arrive and you have uninterrupted views of this ancient landscape all to yourself. Many of the rocks and cliffs are high, so be careful not to get so involved in the view that you fall off the ledge. The drops are vertical and deadly.
There are many other things to do in Meteora than just exploring the monasteries. There is a thriving community filled with friendly Greek traditions. We danced to Greek musicians playing guitar at the Archontariki Restaurant, we ate countless incredible meals celebrating our favourite Greek cuisine and enjoyed beautiful views of the monoliths from Meteoron Panorama Restaurant and we savoured gastronomical delights as we sampled an entire 6 course meal of mushrooms served in every possible way from the spirits to the desserts at Neromilos Restaurant after our visit and tour of the fascinating Mushroom Museum.
Other recommended eats in Meteora:
Interested in Greek Cuisine? Read our Greek Food Guide to Zante.
Important Meteora Information
Tours can be booked with VisitMeteora
Travel around Greece by car is easy. We had a rental car from AvisGreece – www.avis.gr that we booked in Athens at the airport. Rentals are affordable, and to truly explore the country, highly recommended.
A great start to your trip in Athens is at the Divani Meteora Hotel. Spend a few days there before driving up to Meteora.
The Divani Meteora Hotel is situated in the heart of the Meteora mountains right at the base of the massive Meteora Rocks. It’s located in the town of Kalabaka and is walking distance to many restaurants. It also has a pool, fine dining and bar.
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Meteora in Pop Culture
For film and TV lovers, Meteora has been featured in two popular franchises. James Bond went to Meteora in For Your Eyes Only and Game of Thrones used Meteora as its backdrop for the Eyrie castle in the sky. Remember the castle above the clouds where Tyrion had his cell in the sky? Meteora was the inspiration for that setting and was digitally mastered into the series.
Meteora was truly a magical destination that everyone should visit when traveling to Greece. It is unlike anything you will ever see. We have witnessed similar landscapes in Yanghuo, China or even Krabi Thailand, but to have the monasteries perched above the stone pillars reaching to the sky is one of the most unique sights you will ever see. There is a reason Meteora is growing in popularity, get there soon before the entire world finds out about this one of a kind destination.