It is one of the most visited tourist destinations in mainland Greece and a unique place in the world, characterised by its incredible floating monasteries. In this guide to visit Meteora, we will share with you all the information you need to get to know this wonder of humanity.
In the skies above Thessaly in northern Greece, six monasteries are suspended in the air. These buildings are built on top of rocky masses of stones carved by wind erosion, at a height of approximately 600 metres.
This place has been inhabited by monks since the 14th century, who chose this site in order to be closer to God.
Today, the Meteora Monasteries have become one of the main attractions of Greece due to their peculiarity. Let’s start with this guide to visit Meteora and all its monasteries.
🔝 If you are going to travel around Greece, this article will definitely be useful for you: Driving around Greece in 5 days.
📜 TABLE OF CONTENTS
How to get to Meteora from Athens?
Meteora is located 375 kilometres from Athens and both sites belong to the classical Greek tourist route.
There are several options for travelling from the Greek capital to Meteora, and you can choose one of them depending on the trip you have planned.
If you plan to base yourself in Athens, there is the possibility of take a full day excursion where the transfer to Meteora by train and the guided tour of the different monasteries is included (the visits are outside the monasteries, however, and do not include admission to the monasteries).
Although it is a good option for travellers who have little time, you should bear in mind that the visit may be a little too short to get to know each monument in depth.
On the other hand, there are also two-day excursions from Athens to Delphi and Meteora and back to the capital.
Another option for visiting Meteora is to rent a car. This is perhaps the most convenient way to travel as you are not dependent on transport timetables and have the freedom to make different stops along the way.
We arrived in Meteora by car, after a several-day drive through mainland Greece. The scenery a few kilometres before you arrive is fantastic, with the large rocks that surround the villages of Kastraki and Kalambaka looming overhead.
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Alternatively, there is the option of taking a train from Larisis station in Athens, which takes about 4:30 hours and goes directly to Kalambaka station.
This is cheaper than hiring a car, but you should be aware that there is an outward and a return timetable, so you will need to consider this when planning your trip.
Finally, there is the option of travel to Meteora by bus. The price is quite similar to the train fare and there is a direct bus line from Athens to Meteora.
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🔝 Visit the Greek capital? Here’s things to do in Athens in 3 days.
Where to stay in Meteora?
If you want to tour Meteora and plan to spend more than a day here, you may be wondering where to sleep.
For overnight stays, the closest villages to the Meteora Monasteries are Kastraki and Kalambaka. There you will find different types of accommodation with a variety of prices. Kastraki is located only 1 kilometre from Meteora and Kalambaka 2 kilometres.
In the surroundings of these two villages you will find natural and historical sites to visit as well as the famous Meteora Monasteries.
Our recommendations for where to stay in Meteora are as follows:
- Hotel Meteora: located among the rock formations of Meteora, is excellent value for money. Run by its owners, it has a full breakfast and excellent service.
- Hotel Meteoritis: modern facilities and location in the middle of nature. It has a large garden surrounding the property and rooms with a terrace and mountain views. Ideal for relaxation.
- The Holy Rock: good atmosphere, excellent cleanliness, spacious shared rooms and the bus stop to the monasteries is very close. It is an ideal hostel for backpackers or young people.
- Archontiko Mesohori Suites & Apartments: located in a fantastic setting, surrounded by the high rock formations and with a garden with plenty of green space to relax and contemplate the scenery. Excellently decorated rooms. Ideal for couples.
🏨 Looking for other options? Find here the best hotels in Meteora.
Tips for visit Meteora and touring its monasteries
Based on our experience and having visited the site, here are some specific tips you will need to know before visiting Meteora and touring its monasteries.
1) It goes without saying that in all six monasteries you will find treasures worth admiring and that you should give each one the time it deserves.
Therefore, we advise you to take the time to select the order in which you want to visit them before you get there. Also taking into account that some accesses are more complicated than others. Maybe you can vary the level of difficulty so it doesn’t become too hard.
2) The best way to see all the Meteora Monasteries at your leisure is to stay one or two nights in the nearby villages and spend two or three days touring.
Each monastery has opening and closing times. Opening times are all at 9 am, and closing times vary between 15hs, 16hs and 17hs. It is for this reason that we recommend you start touring Meteora early in the morning to arrive in time to visit several monasteries.
At the same time, all monasteries have different days of rest on which they are closed. The only days all monasteries are open are Saturdays and Sundays. So if you have the possibility to plan your itinerary to visit Meteora during the weekend, all the better.
3) Wear comfortable clothes as there are many stairs and the paths between one monastery and another can be long and difficult.
It is important to wear good footwear and have a water bottle handy for hydration.
4) Please note that although there is parking space at each of the monasteries, sometimes you may not be able to find a parking space. In this case you can park on the side of the road.
How many days are needed to visit Meteora?
As mentioned above, many tourists choose to visit Meteora in an afternoon.
In our opinion, only 4 or 5 hours will not be enough time to see the countless wonders of this site.
On the one hand because of the number of monasteries and trails to be explored. And secondly, because each monastery deserves the time to admire its paintings, relics and manuscripts.
As Meteora is a place so rich in history, set in a natural setting of breathtaking beauty, we feel it is important to take the time to make this clarification.
From our point of view, we believe that 2 to 3 days would be best. to be able to visit all the monasteries and to have enough time to do other interesting things to do in Meteora such as visiting the Tzoumerka National Parkthe Geological Museum or the Meteora Museum of History and Nature.
Things to do in Meteora Tour of its 6 monasteries
Perhaps the question “things to do in Meteora” has answered itself throughout the article. As already mentioned, what makes this place so peculiar are the monasteries suspended in the air.
So here we will tell you briefly what each monastery is about and how you can access them.
📷 One of the recommended excursions is to visit the monasteries of Meteora at sunset to see how the last rays of sunlight reflect on the monasteries and the sky turns orange.. For those who like adventure, it is possible to hike through the monasteries of Meteora.
1) St. Nicholas Monastery
The Monastery of St. Nicholas is the first temple leaving Kastraki for Meteora and the smallest of them all.
The difference with the rest of the monasteries is that this one rests on a small area on top of the rock. Its construction is vertical and has no cloister.
On the first floor is the church dedicated to San Nicolás, a square-shaped church built in the early 16th century.
2) Monastery of Roussanou
Roussanou Monastery is the first nuns’ monastery on the route from Kastraki and is located 1,630 metres from Varlaam Monastery.
Although it is not clear who founded it, its name is attributed to its founder, Rousanos, who is believed to have inaugurated it around 1388.
During the Second World War it was the most damaged monastery and its inhabitants abandoned it.
To the good fortune of their preservation, a woman from the village of Kastraki continued to do guardian work. Thanks to his honourable work, a new cult was reborn in 1988. Today it is occupied by a female monastic order.
Access is via a bridge and it is one of the easiest monasteries to reach.
3) Holy Trinity Monastery
The Holy Trinity Monastery is 550 metres from the Roussanou Monastery.
It was built in the 15th century and is one of the most difficult monasteries to reach.
The most striking features of the Holy Trinity are the frescoes in the chapel of St. John the Baptist.
Many of its manuscripts and precious stones were looted by the Nazis, but it still houses treasures worth admiring.
It is a very photogenic monastery, so much so that it was featured in a James Bond film “For Your Eyes Only“.
4) Great Meteor Monastery
One of the most visited Meteora Monasteries is the Great Meteora, located in the highest part of the complex at 613 metres above sea level.
It is the largest of them all and because it is located on top of the highest rock in Meteora, its views are unparalleled.
Inside is the Byzantine Church, a work of art worth visiting for the relics and frescoes that tell the story of the Christian persecutions.
We recommend that you can contemplate the landscape from the terrace of the monastery.
5) St. Stephen’s Monastery
The Monastery of San Esteban is 510 metres from the Monastery of the Holy Trinity.
It is the second monastery inhabited by nuns. Access is not at all complicated, as there are no stairs and it can be reached by crossing an 8-metre long bridge.
Although it is a very small monastery, St. Stephen’s has two churches inside it. One of them dates from the 16th century, the other from the 18th century.
6) Varlaam Monastery
Varlamm Monastery is 730 metres from the Gran Meteoro Monastery.
It was built in 1541 at a height of 373 metres. It is the second largest monastery, with a surface area of 7,000 square metres.
To access this monastery you must follow a stone path and then climb a long and steep staircase.
I assure you that you will want to stop and admire the frescoes of the monk Fragos Castellanos.
We hope this guide to visit Meteora and its monasteries has been helpful in planning your trip.
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