Visiting the monasteries of Meteora on the Plain of Thessaly, with hotels in Kalambaka and guided tours available.
Photo by Vangelis Batsikostas on Unsplash
To witness, for the first time, the precipitous rocks of
Meteora soaring above the plain of Thessaly is an experience both powerful and
At first the grey-black masses appear to be sculptures put
there by some Greek God who dabbled in pottery, but as you get closer you see
there is something even more striking about them: built into the sides, or on
the summits, are clusters of monastic buildings, with no visible means of access,
as if they too had been dropped from heaven.
Photo by Martina Bäcker on Pixabay
The rocks are in fact made of sandstone and were formed
about 30 million years ago when the plain was originally a sea. The pounding of
the water turned the sandstone into these surreal Daliesque shapes, which were
left when the sea eventually retreated.
Photo by Siggy Nowak on Pixabay
The name Meteora means 'rocks in the air' and how the
Meteora monasteries were built is still open to speculation: wooden
scaffolding, a network of ladders, ropes floated over the tops on kites to gain
the first footing, or a combination of these.
Photo by Tasos Lekkas on Pixabay
What is known is that the first of the monasteries dates from
1336, by which time the rock faces had already been scaled by hermits seeking –
and certainly getting – seclusion. The first hermit is thought to have been a
man named Barnabas who came here in about 985AD.
At one time there were 24 monasteries and today there are 13,
but only six are open to the public, and not all at the same time. This is to
help maintain some sense of peace and privacy for the handful of monks and nuns
who still live in five of the monasteries. For this reason visitors should
dress appropriately: wearing shorts or having bare shoulders may result in
admission being refused.
Photo by Alexander Nachev on Unsplash
The Megalo Meteoro or Metamorphosis monastery is the
highest, oldest and one of the grandest of the monasteries. It was founded by a
monk named Athanasios who came to Meteora from Mount Athos, and the cave in
which he lived can still be seen just outside the entrance to the monastery,
which stands at 1752 ft (534m).
At Varlaam you can see one of the original ascent
towers in which both visitors and supplies were hauled up by rope before steps
were carved into the rocks. The travel writer Patrick Leigh Fermor was visiting
the monasteries one time and looked dubiously at this arrangement. He asked the
monk who was showing him round how often they replaced the rope. 'Every time it
breaks,' was the reply.
It's vital to check locally to find out which monasteries are open to visitors and what their hours are. You can also check on the Visit Meteora website.
Kalambaka, near Meteora
Photo by Richard Mcall on Pixabay
Accommodation is available in the nearby town of Kalambaka,
or the village of Kastraki, which is even closer but much smaller. From here it
is a few minutes' drive to the monasteries. Alternatively you can walk or join
an organised tour to visit the monasteries.
Where to Stay for Meteora
Central Greece and Thessaly pages
Arachova is a mountain town in the Parnassus Mountains of Greece and a good base for visiting the ancient archaeological site of Delphi, a 15-minute drive away.
Central Greece and Thessaly has many Greek visitor attractions, like ancient Delphi, Meteora, the Pelion and Ossios Loukas monastery.
Trikala is a city in Thessaly, noted for its traditional architecture with lots of things to see and a good base for visiting the monasteries of Meteora.
The city of Volos has several museums and is a major port, and also the gateway to the charming Pelion peninsula with its traditional villages and beaches.
The Pindus Mountains range runs along the border between Epirus and Thessaly, includes two national parks and some of the highest mountain peaks in the country.
The Parnassus Mountains rise behind ancient Delphi and the mountain village of Arachova, and the Parnassus National Park is one of the two oldest in Greece.
Ossios Loukas is a Byzantine monastery that stands between Athens and Delphi and is the burial place of the Greek hermit, Blessed Luke.
The Bradt Guide to Northern Greece is a detailed guide to Thessaloniki, Halkidiki, Macedonia, Thrace, The Pelion, The Sporades and the rest of Northern Greece.
Mount Olympus is the highest mountain in Greece and is in the Mount Olympus National Park in Macedonia, with Litochoro being the best base.
This beautiful drive along the northern shore of the Gulf of Corinth (Korinthiakos Kolpos), goes from Delphi to Missolonghi via Galixidi and Nafpaktos.
Visiting the ancient site of Delphi and its archaeological museum in the Parnassos Mountains of Central Greece.
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