If you think Santorini is beautiful, wait till you see the raw beauty of Meteora. I wrote a Meteora travel guide because this is one of my most treasured destinations in Greece. If you are looking for serenity and mindfulness in the most unexpected way, you need to add Meteora on your list. Situated in Northern Greece near the town of Kalampaka, Meteora is one of the largest monastery complexes in Greece and a Unesco Heritage site. Monastery after monastery, your day of visiting Meteora will be overtaken with spiritual adrenaline and the desire to elevate your connection to the higher power of the unknown. These rock pinnacles were created 60 million years ago and Meteora is a residual mass of sandstone. Their creation has something to do with fluvial erosions and earthquakes, and the result is truly out of this world. Greek monasteries are built on the rock pinnacles that can go up to 1800ft high, which is equivalent to a 166 story condo. So if you’re afraid of heights like I am, this is a challenge you will be glad you put yourself through and conquered because the views are just spectacular. Read below, everything you need to know about visiting Meteora.
Meteora Travel Guide
How To Get Around Meteora
Since Meteora covers a surprisingly expansive area, it’s important that you work out how you plan to get around there. The right option for you will depend on how much time you have there, but also how you prefer to sightsee. For your first trip to Meteora, the main ways to get around are either by tour, driving, or walking.
With a Tour Guide
If you have limited time in the area and want to see the most important sights as easily as possible, then taking a tour is the way to go. I have not taken a tour before but there are various options of guided tours to choose from in Meteora. Some of the tour also offer a Meteora sunset tour with the best sunset spots.
I came to Meteora by car, and it was the best option because you can leisurely drive and enjoy the beautiful landscape of Meteora. The roads curve quite a bit but it is a really easy drive from each monastery. Each monastery has its own parking, same with all the different scenic lookouts.
Hiking Around Meteora
For the perfect Meteora itinerary, hiking is a great way to connect with nature and ground yourself. If you have lots of time to spare, and depending on what time of the year you visit Meteora, I highly recommend you do a Meteora hiking tour. There are hiking trails from both Kastraki and Kalambaka up to each of the monasteries. I have personally not hiked to the monasteries but I have read that parts of the hike are quite steep so you do from time to time need to switch to walking roadside. There is also rock climbing available in Meteora, so if that is an activity you love definitely look into it.
Best Time to Visit Meteora, Greece
I visited Meteora in October, and it was the perfect time. On every Meteora Travel Guide you read, you will notice that they all say that there is no way to avoid tour buses. This is true, but it also depends on what time of the year you are visiting Meteora. If you want the monasteries to not be overcrowded the best time to visit is late spring (March to May) or autumn (September to November). Meteora is one of Greece’s top draws. In summer, expect crowds and greater competition for hotel rooms and restaurant seats. Try to visit in late spring or autumn. You’ll have Meteora more to yourself and you can take advantage of lower shoulder-season rates and mostly pleasant temperatures (although it can be rainy, cold, and foggy).
How Much Time to Spend in Meteora
In terms of how long you should spend in Meteora, I recommend between one to three nights. You could do Meteora in a day and not stay over, but I don’t think that is enough time to enjoy all the monasteries. There is so much to do and see not just in Meteora but around the area, that you don’t want to rush through it.
Where to Stay in Meteora: Kalambaka or Kastraki?
You are probably trying to decide if you should stay in Kalambaka or Kastraki. I recommend staying in the little village of Kastraki. Kalambaka has more accommodation options and is where the train and bus terminals are. Kastraki, is a smaller village with few restaurants but beautiful accommodations that are right by Meteora.
Pyrgos Adrachti Hotel
The family-run hotel is located in the BEST spot of the old settlement of Kastraki and the highest points, and it is right below the rock named “Adrachti” and beautiful views of the Pindos Mountains. The views from Pyrgos Adrachti are out of this world. You are able to see the rock formations from any window or balcony of the hotel, so regardless of what room you get, you will not be disappointed with the views. It’s only 1km from the centre of Kastraki and it’s only about a 5 minute drive or 1km away if you decide to hike from the monastery of Saint Nikolaos Anapafsas.
Recently renovated, Triskeli Hotel is another beautiful spot to stay in the picturesque village of Kastraki. If you are looking to relax and find a quiet place you will be happy to hear that this is an adults-only hotel! Very cozy rooms with helpful staff and an eco-friendly hotel that is keen on preserving its traditional architecture. There are many hiking paths close to the hotel, and they also offer e-bike rentals.
Divani Meteora Hotel
If you are looking for a more upscale stay then Divani Meteora Hotel is a great choice. Located in Kalambaka, Divani Meteora feels more like a resort with multiple pools and recreational facilities on site. This hotel belongs to the Divani Collection which is a well-known luxury chain of hotels in Greece.
Located on the outskirts of town, if you are looking for a panoramic view of Meteora during your stay, then Doupiani House is the perfect choice. It was recently renovated and its furnishings stay true to the traditional architecture of Meteora giving it a cozy chalet feel.
Monasteries to See in Meteora
No Meteora Travel Guide without a little history. Before heading out to the Monasteries read a little bit about their history below. There were originally 24 monasteries built, but only 6 have survived to this day. The Holy Monastery of Great Meteoron is the biggest and oldest one dating back to the 14th century. Dedicated to all saints, the Varlaam Monastery dates back to the 16th Century, while Monastery of Roussanou is dedicated to Santa Barbara, and dates back to the late 16th Century. The St. Nikolaos Anapafsas Monastery was built at the end of the 14th century while Monastery of St. Stephen was inhibited by monks in the 12th century.
1. Monastery of Great Meteoron
The Monastery of Great Meteoron is a great start to your Meteora tour. The oldest and largest of the Meteora monasteries. This monastery sits on top of the tallest freestanding sandstone pinnacle. To reach the top where the monastery is built, you have to walk through a series of tunnels dug inside the rock, so it kind of feels like a fortified village at times. In the past, monks used ladders and ropes to climb up and down the stone and to this day you can see the ladders hanging from the rock. There are three chapels at the Monastery of Great Meteoron: chapel of John the Baptist, the chapel of St Constantine and St Helens, and the one dedicated to St Athanasios who was the first monk to climb up the rock. In the chapels, you will witness the best samples of Greek Byzantine art that is truly captivating. Even if you are not very much into history or religion, I highly recommend you take a few minutes to stop by the Monastery’s museum. Here you will witness preserved manuscripts dating back to the 15th century, but also rare incunabula and classical ancient texts of Homer and Aristotle.
2. Varlaam Monastery
Visiting Meteora requires a lot of walking, and the second-largest monastery, Varlaam is quite a hike to get to. Built-in the 16th century by two brothers, Theophanis and Nektarios Apsaradas who were both monks, but originally the rock was occupied by hermit Varlaam around 1350. This is a male monastery and one of the best-preserved. There are about 195 steps carved in the rock, but its architecture is so unique. until the 1930’s a rope-basket was used for bringing up the monks and any supplies they needed, which is still seen at the edge of the rock. Varlaam Monastery is also impressive because of its late-Byzantine frescoes done by Byzantine iconographer Frangos Kastellanos.
3. Roussanou Nunnery
Compared to the pinnacles where the rest of the monasteries are built in Meteora, Roussanou Nunnery has a lower elevation. For this same reason, it is one of the most photographed monasteries. It is surrounded by the spectacular sandstones and you can see it from almost anywhere when you are visiting Meteora. Originally founded by monks, the monastery suffered damages during World War II, and in 1988 it became a convent. When you are visiting Meteora you will notice that most of the Greek Monasteries still have visible traces of the war.
4. St Nicholas Anapafsas Monastery
St. Nicholas’ Anapafsas Monastery sits on a narrow pinnacle, and it was built sometime in the 15th century. What I thought was interesting about this monastery is that the monastery looks like it grew out of the rock. You really can’t tell where the building starts and where the rock ends. The main church at the St. Nicholas Anapafsas Monastery was built in the 19th century and is dedicated to Agios Charalambos. The church has a timber roof and beautiful ornate wall paintings done by priest Ioannis from Stagoi. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take photos. Outside there is a little belltower and a rooftop viewing terrace from which you can see Kastraki and the Roussanou Monastery.
5. Monastery of the Holy Trinity
The Monastery of Agia Triada (Holy Trinity) is standing on its own on a high cliff sandstone, where you need to climb 140 steep steps to get to it. If you are wondering if visiting Meteora is worth it, the answer is 100% YES. Despite all the steps, you need to visit Meteora! Holy Trinity has received multiple renovations over the years, and it overlooks the breathtaking town of Kalambaka. Agia Triada was also used as a film location for the 1981 James Bond film For Your Eyes Only. The monastery also has beautiful frescoes in its small 17th-century chapel.
6. Monastery of Agios Stefanos
Monastery of Agios Stefanos faces Kalambaka and is also the only convent in Meteora. It is also the most accessible monastery since all you have to do is cross a bridge. No steps. Like the rest of the monasteries, it suffered a lot of damage during WWII and was sadly abandoned shortly after. It wasn’t until the 1960s when it the Monastery of Agios Stefanos was restored as a nunnery. A reason to visit this monastery is its views. Monastery of Agios Stefanos faces the vast valley of Thessaly with the spectacular Pindos mountain range as well as Pinios river. When you are in the old cathedral pay close attention to the paintings because you can actually see some of the bullets from WWII.
Tips for Visiting Meteora
- Each monastery has different opening hours. Check the hours of the monastery you are visiting before making your way there.
- Keep in mind all the monasteries have a small entrance fee.
Don’t Forget About The Lookouts in Meteora
No travel guide is complete without panoramic views. There are a lot of panaromic and spectacular looksout in Meteora. For a panoramic break while visiting the monasteries, visit the clifftop Psaropetra Lookout. This is located about 650 metres south from the fork in the road from Varlaam Monastery.
What To Wear At The Meteora Monasteries
Before visiting Meteora, just keep in mind that Greek monasteries do have a dress code. You need comfortable shoes as some paths are steep and there are lot of stairs as well. So good walking shoes are a must especially if you decide to hike. Please keep in mind that monasteries in Greece and some churches as well have strict dress code. If you are a woman remember to wear a skirt, some monasteries will not allow you to go in if you are a woman and you are wearing pants. Very oldfashioned, but this is the norm for Greek Monasteries. Please be respectful of the rules as these are still a place of worship. Some of the monasteries do have wrap skirts at the entrances that you can borrow but depending on crowds, just to be safe come prepared.
From Santorini to Meteora, Greece has so many beautiful places to add to your itinerary. Visiting Meteora is definitely on my top 10 list of places to see in Greece. The sandstone peaks are incredible, and even though the photos look spectacular, there is nothing like the feeling you get when you see them in person. Hope you enjoyed reading my Meteora Travel Guide!
*Originally posted in 2015. Updated in 2020.