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Travel to Meteora – Unbelievable phenomenon in remote, hidden world

Meteora is seriously one of the rarest sights in Greece, if not in the whole world! You will find it in the northern part of Greece – with towering pinnacles abruptly rising in the landscape. This otherworldly beautiful landscape is included in the World Heritage List of UNESCO. These rocks were, according to studies, formed by water and earthquakes 60 million years ago. 
 

Travel to Meteora Monasteries, Thessaly, Greece

And as if the landscape of Meteora was not impressive enough by itself, on top of the rocks sit the Meteora monasteries, most of them built during the Byzantine times. Even though, only 6 of the 11 monasteries are operating today, they still form the second biggest monastic community in Greece, second only to Mount Athos in Chalkidiki. 

What to see in Meteora? 

Travel to Meteora Monasteries, Thessaly, Greece - Photo by Fauve Othon
Meteora Monasteries Greece – Photo by Fauve Othon

Meteora is one of the most-visited places in Greece, receiving millions of visitors each year. Both hiking in the surrounding nature and climbing the tall, vertical rocks are some of the best activities in Meteora. 

The monasteries of Meteora 

Monks started building the traditional monasteries on top of the huge pinnacles from the 12th century and onwards for around 500 years. Here they have remained untouched until today, though most of them in decay. Religious tourism in Meteora is very popular. Each year thousands of travellers go to Meteora to experience the six stunning monasteries on the top of the rocks. From a total of 25 monasteries constructed in Byzantine times, today only the six are still in operation and open to the public. The most popular monastery in Meteora Greece is the Grand Monastery, which is also the biggest. It has a unique architecture and a stunning view to the valley below. If you want to experience a more monastic atmosphere you should visit the much quieter Monastery of Agios Stefanos. 

Meteora Monasteries - Monks praying
Meteora monasteries – monks praying

Today you can visit the following six monasteries at Meteora: 

  • Monastery of Agios Stefanos – constructed in the 15th century, the only female monastery working today in Meteora 
  • Monastery of Grand Meteoron – founded around 1340 A.D. by monk Athanasios. This is the largest monastery on the highest point of Meteora 
  • Monastery of Varlaam – built by two monks in the 15th century. You need to climb 195 steps to reach this monastery which is the second largest in Meteora 
  • Monastery of Agia Triada – dates to the 12th century. This was first serving as a refugee for monks, saving themselves from the Ottomans. (Scenes from the James Bond movie “For your eyes only” were shot at this monastery) 
  • Monastery of Roussanou – founded around 1545 and built on a rock in lower position than the other Meteora monasteries. 
  • Monastery of Agios Nikolaos Anapafsa – constructed in the 16th century. You can see it on the way to Grand Meteoron Monastery. 

The monasteries are not the only reason to visit Meteora, many travellers go hiking and climbing in a landscape perfect for nature exploration. 

Just below Meteora lies the town of Kalambaka, where you can stay during your days of exploration at the rocks of Meteora. In the town of Kalambaka you will find accommodation, restaurants, shops and all kinds of facilities. You should also pay a visit to the Museum of Natural History in Kalambaka. It opened in 2014. You will find it in Kalambaka town centre presenting a large collection of birds, mammals, and mushrooms from the region of Meteora. 

How to get to Meteora? 

Travel to Meteora Greece - Vertical limestone rocks - photo by Olivier Guillard
Vertical limestone rocks at Meteora- photo by Olivier Guillard

You can travel to Meteora by bus or car. Let your hotel organize your transfer and local transportation or rent a car for a period to get around. From Athens and Thessaloniki as well as Chalkidiki you can go on organized tours to Meteora for a few days. 
 

Reach Meteora by bus 

To reach Meteora by bus you first need to travel to Trikala in order to reach Kalambaka with another bus. From Athens you will have to take the KTEL bus departing from Liosíon bus station. Find info here  

Go to Meteora by car 

If you choose to travel to Meteora from Athens by car, you will follow the National Greek Road on the route Athens – Livadía – Lamía and continue to Kalambaka. If you do not have your own car it is a good idea to rent a car in Athens for your trips around the country. 

Reach Meteora by train 

There is one more option for your transportation which is by train. You can reach Meteora by train from several places on the Greek mainland – for example from Athens, Thessaloniki, Larissa, Livadiá, and Paleofársalo. You will reach the train station in Kalambaka and from there you can reach Meteora by locally rented car or by taxi. Find info about routes, tickets and timetables here 

Flights near Meteora 

The closest airport to Meteora is the Nea Anchialos National Airport in Volos. This airport operates during summer and serves a few low-cost flights from abroad. The best solution to arrive by plane is to Athens and Thessaloniki, where Eleftherios Venizelos and Makedonia Airport both are operating all year. And to use the above-mentioned transportation options from there. 

Meteora – things to do 

Hiking at Meteora, Greece - Photo by Jason Blackeye
Hiking at Meteora Greece – Photo by Jason Blackeye

The obvious activity at Meteora is of course to explore the magnificent landscape walking from the bottom of the rocks all the way up to the monasteries on top of them. Climbing the huge limestone rocks is a great way to avoid the crowds and to explore this exceptional example of nature. Choose a path, many of them leading to the monasteries start from the towns of Kalambaka and Kastraki. If your goal is to enter the monastery at the end of your walk, make sure of the opening hours, which vary from one monastery to the other.  

Sport activities near Meteora 

River rafting in Greece

Rafting near Meteora

The wild landscape around Meteora is filled with long rivers, steep cliffs and tall mountains all giving great opportunity to practice different kinds of sports. Over the last years many sport organizations have been established in the area, one of which is rafting. Usually rafting in Greece is best during the winter months from October to May when the rivers of Acheloos, Aliakmonas and Aspropotamas are full of water. The levels of difficulty in these rivers vary from 1 to 5. 

Mountain biking 

Mountain biking in Greece

Mountain biking is yet another option on the routes in Meteora, through wild forests and streams, past lakes and caves. A popular route for bikers is to cross the Antichasia Mountains in order to reach the preserve of Vlachava. 

Trekking and hiking 

Trekking is another activity many visitors enjoy. Usually they use the routes interconnecting the Monasteries of Meteora. You will also find some rural paths around the town of Kalambaka with only very little traffic from cars. 

Skiing near Meteora 

skiing in Greece

Close to Meteora you find the Pertouli Ski Center placed in between the mountains of Koziakas and Loupata. It is quite popular during winter, and if you prefer to stay overnight, you will find a few chalets. 

Rock climbing at Meteora 

The vertical rocks of Meteora also provide a perfect spot rock climbing. This activity is by far the most popular among visitors. During autumn and spring, you will find many climbing expeditions taking place there. The exceptional rock formations attract climbers from all over the world. Except for the rocks where monasteries are built, there is a local agreement between climbers and the monks to respect the monastic privacy. You can find more information about the rocks and the many available routes at the Alpine Club of Kalambaka, being a tactical member of the Hellenic Federation of Mountaineering and Climbing. 

Weather and climate in Meteora 

From December to March the weather in Meteora is wet and cold with pretty heavy snowfalls. The best months with comfortable weather conditions are May and June, before it gets too hot for climbing the steep rocks. The heat in the dry summer months can be unbearable and at higher altitudes storms are a common thing. 

What does Metéora mean? 

The Metéora (“suspended rocks”, “suspended in the air” or “in the heavens above” – etymologically like “Meteorite”) is one of the largest and most important complexes of Eastern Orthodox monasteries in Greece, second only to Mount Athos. The six monasteries are built on natural sandstone rock pillars, at the north-western edge of the Plain of Thessaly near the Pineios river and Pindus Mountains, in central Greece. The nearest town is Kalambaka. The Metéora is included on the UNESCO World Heritage List under criteria I, II, IV, V and VII. Only six of the monasteries remain today. Of these six, four were inhabited by men, and two by women. Each monastery has fewer than 10 inhabitants. The monasteries are now tourist attractions. 

Natural history of Metéora 

Studies suggest that the pinnacles were formed about 60 million years ago during the Tertiary Period. Weathering and earthquakes then shaped them into their present shape.

Beside the Pindos Mountains, at the western region of the Thessaly plain in the middle of northern Greece, these sandstone rocks rise from the ground. The rocks are composed of a mixture of sandstone and conglomerate. They were formed about 60 million years ago. Continuous weathering by water, wind and extremes of temperature turned them into huge rock pillars, marked by horizontal lines which geologists maintain were made by the waters of a prehistoric sea. Greek historian Herodotus wrote in the 5th century BC that local people believed the plain of Thessaly had once been a sea. If this was accurate, there was most probably an inundation at the end of the last Ice Age, around 8000 BC. However, he failed to mention the rocks of Metéora, and nor are they recorded in the writings of other ancient Greek authors. This has led to the belief that the pinnacles did not exist 2000 years ago; a theory dismissed by modern geologists. 

The cave of Theopetra is located at the foot of the cliffs. Excavations and research and have discovered petrified diatoms, which have contributed to understanding the Paleoclimate and climate changes. Radiocarbon data evidences human presence dating back 50,000 years. The cave is closed to the public.