The Meteora monasteries of Greece will take your breath away. They are one of the most awe-inspiring sights we have ever seen and a visit to Meteora should be at the top of any Greek vacation. Located just four hours from Athens, the fascinating monoliths jutting out of the Meteora Valley is a must visit on any trip to Greece.
Carved by wind and rain over thousands of years, Meteora’s landscape is unique with massive stone spires reaching to the sky. Atop dozens of magnificent rock monoliths are ancient monasteries dating back to the 9th century.
The hermit monks that first settled Meteora couldn’t walk upstairs or over bridges to access the monasteries of Meteora, they had to reach their secluded and safe retreat by scaling the walls with ropes and ladders. The Monasteries of Meteora reach as high as 500 meters (1500 feet) above the ground. Today, visitors can take bridges and stairways to view the Monasteries in Meteora, but that doesn’t make it less thrilling!
Monasteries of Meteora Greece
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By the 14th century, the community of Meteora grew to 24 Greek Orthodox monasteries suspended in the sky. Today, six Meteora monasteries remain and tourists can visit them and this magical region whose name translates to “suspended in the air. ”
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. Planning on Travel to Greece? Enjoy Our Photography Guide to Santorini or check out our Greece Travel Guide
Visit Meteora Greece invited us to witness the majesty of Meteora and its Monasteries. Owner George is as passionate about Greece as he is his home right here among the monoliths. It won’t be long until travelers flock to see the stone forest in the center of the country.
6 Meteora Monasteries to See
We recommend spending 4 Days to really experience Meteora. Many people only take a day trip to view the monasteries from Athens, but we suggest four days to truly take in the awe-inspiring views.
There are six remaining monasteries in Meteora and we explored them all. You can hike through the monasteries and visit the chapels high in the sky all while enjoying the Greek hospitality of Meteora. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Meteora stands heads above other sites in Greece.
Great Meteoron monastery
The Great Neteoron Monastery is the largest among all of the monasteries in Meteora and stands at the most imposing location. There is no doubt you will visit this monastery of Great Meteoron when visiting the region. To get to it, you will have to hike up steep steps (thankfully you no longer need to be winched up by hand) to explore the peaceful and picturesque grounds.
Also known as the Holy Monastery of the Metamorfossis, the Great Meteoron Monastery was built in the 14th century by Saint Athanasios who founded the monasteries of Meteora, it is also the oldest of all the monasteries.
Holy Trinity Monastery
The Holy Trinity Monastery is the most recognizable of the Monasteries as it is the most photographed of all the monasteries in Meteora. Also known as Agia Triada it stands high on a perch creating a dramatic scene.
The Monastery of the Holy Trinity was built by the Monk Dometio in 1488. You must walk up 140 steps cut into the rock but it is worth it as you will see the church of Saint John the Baptist and will be treated to paintings on the walls dating back to the 18th century.
Fun Fact – The Monastery of the Holy Trinity was featured in the James Bond film, For Your Eyes Only.
Holy Monastery of St. Nicholas Anapausas
Often overlooked by visitors to Meteora, we had the chance to encounter the Holy Monastery of St. Nicholas Anapausas on our walking tour of Meteora. It is located just 1km from Kastraki village. Standing 80 meters high on a large rock St. Nicholas monastery is surrounded by the ruined monasteries of Saint John Prodromos.
There are frescoes that date back to the 16th century and are considered one of the important Byzantine paintings, as they are the oldest known, signed work of Theophanes (The aristocratic monk chronicler.)
Holy Monastery of Roussanou
The Holy Monastery of Roussanou is unique in the fact that today it is a nunnery. Established in 1988 there are about 15 sister nuns that live in the monastery. The Monastery itself dates back to the 14th century, with the cathedral being built sometime in the 16th century.
St. Stephen Monastery
The Monastery of St. Stephen is the most accessible of the monasteries with all bus tours stopping here. It is the only monastery that is accessible for wheelchairs and mobility.
This is a good monastery to visit when it is raining as it houses two cathedrals. One dates back to the 16th-century and another to the 18th century. they were both damaged during World War II but they still contain holy relics.
Each monastery contains holy relics, painted frescos, and historic manuscripts. Photos are not allowed within the chapels, but you are allowed to take photographs of the grounds and other rooms inside the monasteries. Time stands still in Meteora and the old kitchens look exactly as they did years ago. You can imagine what life was like for the Monks in Meteora during the 14th and 16th centuries.
Fittingly located next to the Great Meteoron Monastery, Varlaam Monastery is the second largest monastery in Meteora. It was built in the 14th century but was abandoned after the monk Varlaam died. It wasn’t until the 16th century that two priests rebuilt the monastery. Inside you will find beautiful frescoes on the walls and ceilings.
Meteora’s surreal landscape houses the oldest known man-made structure on earth. Civilizations dates back 23,000 years in Meteora. This ancient land dates back to the Paleolithic and Neolithic eras.
Plus, rare species of birds and flowers can be found in the area causing the Greek Ministry of Environment to designate it a Natura 2000 Ecological Zone.
Hiking the Meteora Monasteries
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. The hike offered unique views and perspectives of the monasteries. It 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.
Getting Around Meteora
A winding road connects the monasteries, but one of the most fascinating ways to tour the Meteora monasteries is to hike through the landscape. We recommend using a rental car or private guide to tour the Meteora monasteries and surrounding villages.
It is highly recommended to get out at sunrise and sunset for stunning moments free from crowds. 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.
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.
Stay at Divani Meteora Hotel – It 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 within walking distance to many restaurants. It also has a pool, fine dining, and bars.
Meteora in Pop Culture
Two popular franchises featured Meteora. Game of Thrones and James Bond both shot in Meteora. You’ll recognize it as Eyrie castle in the sky on Game of Thrones (Remember the castle above the clouds where Tyrion had his cell in the sky?) and in scenes of For Your Eyes Only.
Meteora is a magical destination that everyone should visit when traveling to Greece. Get there soon before the entire world finds out about this one-of-a-kind destination. When standing on top of these magnificent rocks, one can understand why the monks chose here as their refuge. Meteora feels like a little slice of heaven.
We have witnessed similar landscapes in Yangshuo, China, Vietnam’s Ha Long Bay, and even Krabi Thailand, but monasteries perched above stone pillars reaching to the sky took it to another level. There is a reason Meteora and its monasteries are growing in popularity, they are awe-inspiring.
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