In the middle of the mountains in the heart of the Greece lies the world famous monasteries of Meteora. These iconic buildings perched up on a rocky cliff have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1988 and are among the most fascinating monasteries in the world.
Whether you’re here to embrace your spiritual aura, take breathtaking picture, or to just soak up the amazing views like the monasteries forefathers intended, think no further about planning your trip. The pictures here will give you serious FOMO, but don’t worry as everything you need to know about visiting Meteora will be covered in this post!
- 1 History of the Meteora Monasteries
- 2 How to get to Meteora
- 3 Getting around Meteora
- 4 Where to eat in Meteora
- 5 Where to stay in Meteora
- 6 Best time to visit Meteora
- 7 How many days do you need in Meteora?
- 8 When are the Meteora monasteries open?
- 9 How much does it cost to visit Meteora
- 10 Best Photo Spots in Meteora
- 11 The Monasteries of Meteora
History of the Meteora Monasteries
The Meteora monasteries emerged from hermitages in crevices, which according to tradition go back to the 10th century. The first monastery, called Doúpiani, dates back to the early 13th century, but only a chapel remains, which is still used and preserved.
The religious bloom of the monasteries did not take place until 1334, when the monk Athanasius fled from the monastic republic of Athos to the Meteora monasteries before the Turkish rule. At that time he founded the largest monastery to this day called Metamórphosis and wrote the first rules of monastic life. The monks in the Meteora monasteries lived in the coenobite system, that is, without possessions, in community and isolated from the outside world.
In the following decades, more monasteries were built, most of the founders of which have not been recorded by name. Due to their difficult accessibility, the wealthy monasteries were never looted or raided and the monks were able to go about their business in peace.
How to get to Meteora
Meteora is in the northern part of Greece located roughly 2.5 hours outside of Thessaloniki. As it is such a popular part of Greece, it is easily reached from Thessaloniki and there are even multi day tours from the capital city of Athens.
Meteora really goes to show how diverse and amazing Greece is. Having spent months traveling through the beautiful Greek Cyclades and Ionian islands, I couldn’t pick a more different looking place in Meteora!
The easiest and quickest way to reach Meteora is to fly to Thessaloniki and rent a car. Car rentals are very cheap in Greece and I was able to rent a car for only 10 euros a day (manual of course).
From the airport, you will drive west past the city of Thessaloniki until you hit the main freeway. You will pass through stunning mountsinous terrain with mount Olympus along the way. The trip in total is 2.5 hours. Keep in mind Greece has a lot of tolls and there are a few on the way to Meteora. Thankfully, they all accept credit card.
There are daily bus services from Thessaloniki and Athens to Meteora. These buses are not direct but go via Trikala. This means that you have to go from Athens to Trikala and then take another bus to Kalambaka. Buses depart from Trikala to Kalambaka almost every hour. From Kalambaka, you can go to the Monasteries of Meteora by taxi or by bus (bus works only in summertime).
The bus from Athens to Trikala/Kalambaka departs from Liossion KTEL Bus Station. To go there, passengers have to take the metro line to Attiki Station and then take the bus/taxi to KTEL Liossion. The walking time from Attiki to KTEL Liossion is about 30 min. The bus trip from Athens to Trikala lasts for 5 hours and the trip from Trikala to Kalambaka for 30 min.
There are also daily buses from Thessaloniki, Volos and other Greek towns to Trikala. After you arrive in Trikala, you have to take another bus to Kalambaka/Meteora. The bus trip from Thessaloniki to Trikala is 3 hours and from Volos to Trikala 2 hours.
By Day Trip
There are countless day trip options from Thessaloniki that will take you to Meteora. The day normally starts early in the morning around 6:30am so you can arrive at the monasteries for the first opening hours (9:30am). These tours are usually conducted in big charter buses to keep costs low but there are other options for smaller groups.
The downside to these day trips are that you will miss the sunset since you need to leave around 4pm to make it back to Thessaloniki at a respectable hour.
Getting around Meteora
Once you are in Meteora, how do you actually visit the monasteries? They are located up on mountains far from the main town after all.
Thankfully, there are easy ways to get to and from the Monasteries without a car. There is a bus that goes from the city center in Kalambaka and will drop you off in front of the Grand Meteoron. From here you can walk to the other monasteries nearby like Vaarlam.
Meteora is not as big as you think. The area from the Great Meteoron monastery in the west to the st Stephen’s monastery on the east. There is a nice paved road trip that connects all monasteries. It is roughly 5km or about one hour to walk this entire road. Of course you’ll want to stop at the other monasteries around but it can totally be done on foot.
The monasteries themselves are all easy to enter. For some reason I had thought these monasteries are located on standalone rock peaks but they are in fact all connected to the main road. Most monasteries will require climbing a few stairs but it is not like you are starting from the ground and climbing up hundreds of meters!
Bus from Kalambaka to Meteora
Buses depart from Trikala to Kalambaka almost every hour. From Kalambaka, you can go to the Monasteries of Meteora by taxi or by bus (bus works only in summertime).
Booking a Bike tour to see Meteora
A great way to see Meteora is by bike. I saw many people riding bicycles around the roads connecting the monasteries. This is a great way to get exercise and with the distances being relatively short, a very convenient way to do it.
From Kalambaka, there are a few bike rental shops that will rent regular and electric bikes. The bike ride from Kalambaka up to Meteora is hilly, but not that difficult for normal bikers. WIth an electric bike, no problem at all.
I ended up booking an Airbnb experience for a sunset electric bike ride. My guide was incredibly informative about the history and details of Meteora that I learned more than I ever could have otherwise. The bike ride was also very enjoyable on the e-bike and in the end, the views for the sunset were superb.
Where to eat in Meteora
Meteora has no shortage of amazing restaurants. Like the rest of Greece, which I have experienced so much of, the food here is superb and you can expect the freshest ingredients when dining at the many tavernas nearby.
It’s the one cuisine that I can eat for weeks and months on end without tiring of it. My consistent regimen of Greek salads, souvlaki, Tzatziki, lamb chops, moussaka, feta etc. is one of the main reasons I come back to Greece.
For grilled meats, come to this place in the main Kalambaka town. They have a open grill and the souvlaki style meats are roasting on a horizontal spit over charcoal. Their lamb souvlaki was to die for.
This restaurant is located in the main street in the Kalambaka town. It offers small Greek meze type meals which is a change from the typical taverna fare. It was packed with locals on a weekend evening so you know it’s good.
Where to stay in Meteora
Meteora is not an actual town in Greece. It’s just the name of the area that encompasses all of the historical monasteries, mountains, and beautiful terrain that you have seen. The towns nearby to Meteora are Kalambaka and Trikala.
Kalambaka is the main town at the base of Meteora where you will find all the grocery stores, shops, restaurants, hotels, bars etc. It’s not particularly charming but it is also not that busy. It was mostly destroyed during WW2 and even the “old” part of the town is relatively new.
Trikala is located further up the mountain and is about half way between Kalambaka and the monasteries of Meteora. It is a charming old town that did not get destroyed during the way. It is very small, with only a thousand residents. It’s home to many tavernas and bakeries which service the many tourists that visit the area.
I chose to stay in Kalambaka in the old part of town. I got an apartment that had dead on views of the mountain side and the Holy Trinity Monastery. It was very close to the walking path to hike up to that monastery which I took advantage of during my stay.
Best time to visit Meteora
Meteora is open year round. The monasteries have different opening hours depending on the time of the year but it is open for you to visit regardless. Different times of year will mean different types of views and landscapes. Most people visit in the summer as it is warmer.
However I think the best times to visit Meteora are the shoulder seasons of April to May, and September to October. Not only is the temperature more bearable,albeit still warm, but you won’t see huge crowds of people. I was told thst Meteora has become a sort of mega tourist spectacle in recent years and I don’t doubt it.
I’ve also seen some otherworldly pictures of Meteora in the winter months with snow on its peaks which would just be out of this world. I wouldn’t hesitate to visit Meteora in the colder months as well.
How many days do you need in Meteora?
Meteora is not a crazy big place where you need a week to explore. It’s essentially just a 5km stretch of road with 6 different monasteries along the way.
I think for the average tourist, you won’t need more than two days to explore all the monasteries. Of course, if you are a devout Orthodox Christian or just revel in Medieval monasteries, then you may way to spend more days here and really explore the monasteries.
However, I think two nights is more than enough. You can spend one full day visiting 3-4 monasteries, and the following morning visiting the remaining. You could feasibly visit all the monasteries in one day if you started early.
Of course, if you want to just relax, soak in the views, and enjoy your time, then 3-4 nights is perfectly acceptable as well.
When are the Meteora monasteries open?
There are six monasteries in Meteora for you to visit. They all have different opening hours and days that they are open. Some monasteries are closed on certain days so you will want to plan your trip accordingly. Thankfully, no monasteries are closed on two consecutive days so if you have at least two days, you’ll be able to see all of them.
So without further ado, here are the opening hours for each monastery. The three bold entries are my favorites and must sees.
|MONASTERY||OPENING HOURS||CLOSED ON|
|Holy Monastery of Great Meteoron||09:00 to 15:00||Tuesdays|
|Holy Monastery of Varlaam||09:00 to 16:00||Fridays|
|Holy Monastery of Rousanou||09:00 to 17:00||Wednesdays|
|Holy Monastery of St. Nicholas Anapausas||08:00 to 16:00||Fridays|
|Holy Monastery of St. Stephen||09:00 to 13:30||15:30 to 17:30||Mondays|
|Holy Monastery of Holy Trinity||09:00 to 17:00||Thursdays|
The hours are slightly modified during the Winter months (November 1 to March 31):
|MONASTERY||OPENING HOURS||CLOSED ON|
|Holy Monastery of Great Meteoron||09:00 to 14:00||Tuesdays, Wednesday, Thursday|
|Holy Monastery of Varlaam||09:00 to 15:00||Thursdays, Fridays|
|Holy Monastery of Rousanou||09:00 to 14:00||Wednesdays|
|Holy Monastery of St. Nicholas Anapausas||09:00 to 16:00||Fridays|
|Holy Monastery of St. Stephen||09:30 to 13:30||15:00 to 17:00||Mondays|
|Holy Monastery of Holy Trinity||09:00 to 16:00||Thursdays|
How much does it cost to visit Meteora
The cost for visiting the monasteries is 3€ each. This means if you want to visit all the monasteries, you will need to pay €18 in total. Payment is cash only so make sure to visit the ATMs in the main town.
Each ticket is only good for the day so if you really like a monastery and want to return be next time, you’ll have to pay again.
Dress code in Meteora
The dress code in the Monasteries of Meteora are the following:
- Women must wear dresses and cover the shoulders
- Men must wear pants
If you don’t have a dress, the monasteries usually have clothes you can wrap around your legs so you won’t be turned away. For men, I saw some people wearing shorts at times so it’s not as strictly enforced. Nonetheless, make sure to wear pants (even if the weather is hot!)
Best Photo Spots in Meteora
Meteora is the ultimate photography lovers spot. Literally everywhere you look is a picture beckoning to be taken. Whether it’s taking a photo of the surrounding landscape, the beautiful views of Kalambaka town, the dramatic meteors, or the monasteries themselves, you’ll have no shortage of options.
- The road between Vaarlam monastery to holy Trinity has a few very amazing view points. At the beginning of this road you will have a beautiful view of the Rousseanou monastery surrounded by other mountain peaks.
Further down this road are the two sunset spots. These viewpoints face west and is where everyone comes to enjoy the sunset. From here you can see the sun magically setting over the mountains and with three monasteries in the distance. You can come here and take pictures at all times of the day however.
After this, you’ll come close to the Holy Trinity. Before you get there, there are areas where you can get a picture looking dead on to thr monastery perched up on the rock like it’s floating in space. I think this is actually the most unique and stunning part of Meteora. It was certainly the first picture I saw that really drew my attention.
Can you fly a drone in Meteora?
Drones are totally allowed in Meteora and there are no restrictions (yet). I flew my drone on multiple occasions. I even flew the drone from inside the monasteries and no monks gave me a hard time.
The Monasteries of Meteora
Those six monasteries, in which monks and nuns still live today, are open to visitors. The monasteries are closed again and again, but all on different days, so that some of them can certainly be visited during a visit.
If you are short on time and can’t (or don’t want to pay to) visit all the monasteries, here are my favorites in order.
- Holy Trinity
- Great Meteoron
- St Stephen’s
- Agios Nickolas
Of course these are just my opinions and you might feel differently. If you have the time, just go ahead and visit all of them and decide for yourself!
One thing to note is that the bathroom situation in the monasteries are old school drop toilets. Some are nicer than others but the only monastery with a modern toilet is the Varlaam monastery. If you are scared of drop toilets like many Westerners are, then plan accordingly!
With an area of 60,000 square meters, Metamórphosis is now the largest monastery on the Meteora cliffs . The monastery, which was built in 1334, lives up to its name “Floating”, because until 1923 it could only be reached via rope ladders or a net that could be pulled up.
A stone staircase with 143 steps now leads into the interior of the monastery to make it easier to visit the founding monastery. The hermit cave of the monastery founder Athanasius can still be seen at the monastery entrance and in the monastery church you can admire ornate frescoes from 1552.
Agia Triáda – Holy Trinity Monastery
The spectacular Holy Trinity Monastery was built in the middle of the 15th century and, like the Megálo Metéoro, could only be reached via winches and rope ladders. Here, too, a staircase was built in 1925, which requires quite a bit of stamina.
In addition to the centuries-old frescoes , the main church of Agía Triáda is impressed by a silver- wrapped gospel from 1539. The real reason for the worldwide fame of the monastery, however, is its role in the James Bond film “On a Deadly Mission” as the fortress of the villain .
Agios Stéphanos – St Stephen’s Nunery
The first hermit allegedly lived on the spectacular cliff as early as 1192 and the monastery was founded around 1400. His nickname “The Royal” recalls the visit of Andronikos III, King of Byzantium, who was so enthusiastic about the hospitality of the monks that he made generous donations to them.
A monastery was built here in 1518 after a hermit had lived on the rock for many years. At that time, the place was not accessible to women. Today it is the second largest of the Meteora monasteries and the only monastery church with two domes. Remnants of the elevator, which consisted of rope and net, can still be seen.
Varlaam is probably my favorite monastery. It is the most beautiful in my opinion as the monastery grounds are superly maintained. To me, it’s the “poshest” monastery in Meteora with the most upscale decorations. You can definitely tell this monastery is well funded by the Orthodox church.
Agios Nikólaos Anapavás
The monastery merges directly into the rock and is one of the most impressive buildings on the Meteora cliffs. It can be reached via the nearby village of Kastraki. The complex is, so to speak, the crypt of the Meteora monasteries , because the skulls of former monks are kept in the Church of John the Baptist. The frescoes and paintings are also worth seeing.
It is not known exactly when the Rousánou Monastery was founded. Its peculiarities are also in the artistic wall paintings. The monastery was renovated in the 1950s and is now exclusively reserved for nuns. Rousánou offers a spectacular photo opportunity from a rock in the valley.
Most of the remaining monasteries have fallen into ruins. Also worth mentioning are Filakaé Monakón , according to tradition, a rock cave into which monks who did not obey the monastery rules were sent, and Moní Ypsilotéra , also called Kaligráfon because of the manuscripts he wrote there. The ascent to the uninhabited monastery ruins is very difficult and in some places dangerous. Entering the ruins is prohibited due to the risk of collapse.
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