Meteora is just a unique and an out of this world place! Simple as that!
The stunning and unique rocks of Meteora, which embrace Kalambaka, are included in the UNESCO World Heritage List and it is the largest monastic city in Greece after Mount Athos!
It’s located about 25 km from the city of Trikala, in Central Greece. According to geologists, these ”weird” tectonic formations were created 30 million years ago when the sea which covered the area, began to decline. The way that these rocks stand for thousands of year creates a magical landscape. This was the reason that led the monks to find the “right” isolated place for their monasteries.
They were built around 14th and 16th century by monks and before that, they were just living in caves. They had to build them by hand (!) carrying all the materials back and forth using ropes, baskets and ladders!
Originally, there were over 20 monasteries in the Meteora area, but today, from the numerous monasteries of Meteora are operated only six, which are: St. Nicholas Anapafsa, Megalo Meteoro, Varlaam, Roussanos, Agia Triada and Agios Stefanos.
Megalo Meteoro or Metamorphosis: This the largest and oldest monastery in the Meteora. Located literally on top of a huge rock which is connected with a small strip of land on where you park your car. The monastery is like a real fortress! The entrance is through a small portico opened in the solid rock. Inside the monastery, you can start your visit to the chapel observing some very old paintings and pictures. Also, continue to the museum where you will see artefacts from the battles of the Greeks from the revolution of 1821 AC, like uniforms, weapons, manuscripts and prints. It’s needless to say the amazing view that this monastery offers.
Varlaam Monastery: It is located just below Megalo Meteoro one is less crowded. So, take a look to the beautiful chapel with frescoes (like the one by the well-known post-Byzantine iconographer Frangos Katelanos) and rare images and the huge wooden barrel of 120.00 litres where the monks used to store their wine! I cannot imagine who was drinking so much wine!!
Agia Triada (Holy Trinity): It was built in the 17th century by two brothers of the Venetian Zangaroli family on the site of a pre-existing church and it was used for the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only! The monastery It is decorated with wall paintings from the 18th century by the brothers Antonios and Nikolaos. Until 1925 the entrance to the monastery was only possible by rope ladders and nets! Only in 1925, the monks built a staircase of 140 steps, which is carved in the rock!
Monastery of Agios Nikolaos Anapafsas was built in the 16th Century by Dionysius, the Metropolitan of Larissa and named after an old Patron. The Katholikon is decorated in wall paintings by the renowned Cretan Iconographer Theophanis Bathas-Strelitzas. This monastery is open every day from 9 am to 6 pm.
Roussanou Monastery: It was founded in 1545 by Joasaph and Maximos, two brothers from Epirus who built it on the ruins of an older church. In 1988 the monastery was converted to a convent. Nowadays, you can get into the monastery with a small bridge, but in the past monks either climbed or used rope ladders and nets, exactly like the monks from the Monastery of Holy Trinity.
Agios Stefanos (Saint Stephen):. It is not known when the old church was built but the katholikon dedicated to Saint Haralambos was built in 1798. Apart from the katholikon, the monastery has a small museum, a kitchen, a guest house, a library and workspaces for painting, decoration and other artistic endeavours.
The nearby town of Kalambaka is organized with decent hotels, rooms and camping and it’s an ideal base for walks in the village of Aspropotamos and also Doupiani is the most famous climbing area!
Tip: Even if the whole year Meteora is an amazing destination, probably Easter is a perfect time to visit due to the mystic atmosphere in the Meteora monasteries.
How to get there
From Athens there are many ways to get to Meteora Monasteries:
- By train: From Larissa station, you can get the train to Kalampaka (see online tickets here). Kalampaka is a terminal station, meaning that if you get on a direct train you get off at the last station. If you want, you can make a daily trip and select this daily trip. I will highlight that it is quite tiring (Around 4,5-5 hours each way!) but I think that when you get off the train and see Meteora you feel calm and amazed! There is also a tour that is more relaxed and the total duration is two days, see more information here.
- By Bus: Liosion Coach Terminal is the bus station you need to be in order to take a coach to Meteora. You can book the coach here.
- By car: Driving to Meteora from Athens is quite straightforward and it is highly recommended that you have a GPS onboard so there is no way of getting lost.
Here you will find a map with all the monasteries!