- Photo Essays
In Greek, Meteora (Μετέωρα) means “suspended rocks”, or “suspended in the air”.
What was once the ocean floor are now magnificent towers of smooth sandstone: sculpted by millions of years of tectonic shifting, erosion and other geological changes.
Just as incredible as these massive rocks are the monasteries built into them and together they are make up the strange and beautiful UNESCO listed heritage site of Meteora.
In northern Thessaly on the Greek mainland, ancient Byzantine monasteries cling to these high rocky spires and really do seem to be ‘suspended in the air’.
Around the 11th century, hermits took refuge in caves within these rocks seeking a life of simplicity and religious introspection. As monastic life evolved and the threat of invasions grew, these hermits headed higher up the mountains until eventually Meteora became what it is today.
Unfortunately Meteora is now overwhelmed by tourism and the main car park at the top of the mountain is usually bumper-to-bumper with tour buses and heaving with tourists.
However, all is not lost! There is a network of secluded ancient paths that are a fabulous way of exploring this area of Greece: twisting canopied tracks that are wild and overgrown allow you to explore Meteora and almost feel like you have it to yourself.
You can hike from the town of Kastraki to the top of the mountain along the main road but it is much nicer to take the marked trail that cuts through forest and up the mountain to the monasteries.
As you ascend, the steep track takes you past one of the monasteries balanced on a lone outcrop and if you are like us you will be endlessly distracted by offshoots and end up exploring other trails.
The monastery of Agios Stephanos is accessible from the parking area and there are only a few stairs to negotiate. Visiting any of the other monasteries means tackling a lot of winding, uneven stairs.
If stairs aren’t your thing, you could simply opt for taking in the impressive views from Agios Stefanos back towards Kastraki and across to the other monasteries.
Personally, I think the views of these monasteries built into the rocks and wandering through the countless trails through the mountains is more extraordinary than seeing the inside of the monasteries themselves.
There are now 6 active monasteries. Check the opening times before you go as not all of them are open every day. Trains run from the Larissa station in Athens to Kalambaka and it takes about 5 hours. I would suggest staying in the neighbouring town of Kastraki – it is smaller and closer to the rocks.
Travel Info: Visiting the Monasteries
If you do want to visit the monasteries there is a €2 fee. To enter the monasteries women must wear skirts below knee length (we all know how terribly offensive knees can be, right!?). Men must wear long pants and shirts. Sarongs are provided.
There are now 6 active monasteries. Check the opening times before you go as not all of them are open every day.
Trains run from the Larissa station in Athens to Kalambaka and it takes about 5 hours. I would suggest staying in the neighbouring town of Kastraki – it is smaller and closer to the rocks.