The Monasteries of Meteora

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“Suspended in the air.”

That's the literal translation of Meteora, one of mainland Greece's most popular destinations. And this UNESCO World Heritage site certainly lives up to its name.

Here, rising from the plains of Thessaly a few miles from the town of Kalambaka, ancient rock formations reach for the heavens. And, perched atop these stone spires sit a collection of Eastern Orthodox monasteries. Suspended in the air.

Meteora, Greece

Monastery of St. Stephen in Meteora, Greece

Meteora was originally settled by monks in the 11th century, who originally lived in caves in the area. However, as the Ottomans pushed further and further into Greece, the monks moved higher and higher up into the peaks — until they built their monasteries as high as God would allow.

Monastery in Meteora, Greece

When you look at how sheer these rock faces are, you'll realize what an amazing feat this was.

Those 11th-century monks hauled up everything from people to building supplies using baskets and pulley systems — there were no roads, pathways, or even steps here until the 1920s.

Monastery in Meteora, Greece

At one point, there were as many as 24 of these precariously-perched monasteries at Meteora. Today, however, only six remain. Of those six, four are still in use.

Meteora, Greece

While it is possible to hike to most of the remaining monasteries, I took the lazy way out.

I visited Meteora as part of my Busabout tour through the Balkans, and our bus drove right up to the highest monasteries, dropping us off outside of The Holy Monastery of Varlaam. All we had to do was climb a bunch of steps to explore this wonder in the sky.

Holy Monastery of Varlaam in Meteora, Greece

Meteora, Greece

Monastery in Meteora, Greece

And what a wonder it was — what wonders they ALL are.

This is definitely a place where the photos severely pale in comparison to how incredible the site is in person.

Meteora, Greece

Meteora, Greece

Meteora, Greece

Unlike Athens, Meteora is one place in Greece that I absolutely loved.

If You Go…

Think you'd like to visit Meteora? Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Bring the sick bags. I know it's gross to talk about, but if you're driving up to the monasteries (and especially if you're doing so in a bus), take some motion sickness tablets if you are prone to it — or bring the sick bags. The drive is twisty and turny and very high up; more than a few people on my bus got sick from the nauseating ride.
  • Pay to enter. Each monastery costs a couple Euro to enter (at Varlaam, it was 2 Euro). In the grand scheme of things, though, it's not that expensive. And the experience is absolutely worth it.
  • Dress respectfully. Since most of these monasteries are still functioning, be sure to cover up for your visit. Women should wear a long skirt or pants and have their shoulders covered (I brought a scarf for this purpose). Men should also dress modestly.

Meteora, Greece

You can also check out these Meteora tours:

Would YOU want to venture to Meteora?

 

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Visiting the monasteries in Meteora, Greece

 

*Note: I visited Meteora as part of a discounted 9-day Classic Balkan Trek tour with Busabout. All opinions, however, are my own.

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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28 Comments on “The Monasteries of Meteora

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  1. Wow, that is absolutely awesome! Putting them on my list.

      It’s a really incredible place! And I’m willing to bet most people have never heard of it!

    You can imagine how I felt when I first saw them – I had no idea what to expect! And I hiked to all of them when I was writing my book about Eastern Europe.

      Kudos to you for hiking to all of them! It sure is a special place, isn’t it?

    Oh wow. Imagine living and working in a place like that! I’d heard of the monasteries but hadn’t actually seen photos until now. Just wow.

      Yeah, it certainly would be an epic place to call home. Though I’m not sure I would have liked being pulled up in a basket back in the days before they had roads/stairs!

    Such an incredible place eh? Just wrote a post about it myself – LOVED every minute of it. But I look the difficult route and hiked between the monasteries. As stunning as those views were I almost sweat myself to death in the midday Greek sun! I think you had the right idea with Busing it around!

      Oh geez. I can’t imagine hiking between the monasteries – especially since it was also unbelievably hot when I was there, too! Good for you, though. I’m sure it made the views that much more rewarding!

    Wow, what a beautiful place! I would love to explore Meteora

      If you ever get the chance, definitely go! It’s well worth it.

    Very cool, and great photos! Looks like an absolutely epic area to explore… monasteries right smack bang on the top of a cliff…just how it should be 🙂

      I wonder if the monks ever considered how epically photogenic their site would someday be? 😉

    Wow – incredible photos! Reminds me of Mt Popa in Burma, but on steroids!

      Thanks! It was a very cool place to visit; I was so glad that it was on this itinerary!

    Such a beautiful place! I guess, it wasn’t easy to build all these on top of the rocks!
    thanks for the tips! A sick bag – check!

      I can’t even imagine how tough (and dangerous!) it would have been to build those monasteries. Makes them all that much more incredible!

    I absolutely loved Meteora and your photos reminded me of just how beautiful and awe inspiring it was. I was staying with a CouchSurfer in nearby Trikala and he drove me around the monasteries for the day. Very cool place. 🙂

      I’m glad to hear of so many others having been here! It’s definitely a cool place worth spending some time in.

    Okay off the start I thought this was some sort of Sci-Fi post… still a good post though lol

      Hahaha. I’m sorry to have misled and/or disappointed you. 😉

    That was my favorite part of mainland Greece. You had a much better day than I did though. The bright and sunny is nice, though I am not upset with my pictures of the monasteries rising out of the fog.

    I get why most people do it as a bus trip, but it was awesome on my own. Plenty of time to see each building. And Kalampaka is actually a very cool little town.

      It was one of my favorite parts of mainland Greece, too. One of the best stops Busabout adds in on that route, I think.

    Beautiful 🙂
    Took the taxi all the way up to the Great Meteora Monastery and from there I just walked down to visit others… It was great, but the sunlight was piercing strong. Burned like microwaves.

      Yes, it was SO HOT there! Loved getting to see it, though.

    The beauty of Meteora is really on a whole different level, isn’t it? Seeing those monasteries perched at the top of the rock pillars is really incredible. I had the chance to visit it during sunset and the view is just spectacular!

      It is indeed an incredible place!

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