Meteora is both a natural wonder and a spiritual fortress with monasteries in Greece. Visitors often compare it to the Grand Canyon for its stunning rock formations. It is the second most sacred place for Orthodox monks after Mount Athos. UNESCO has recognized Meteora as a World Heritage Site since 1989 for its unique beauty and cultural significance.
Meteora’s distinctive character comes from the breathtaking monasteries that seem to defy gravity on the top of the towering dark rocks. These rocks overlook the city of Kalambaka and have been the refuge of monks since the 11th century. The monasteries invite the visitor to experience a journey through time. They preserve the ancient traditions and treasures of Orthodoxy behind their gates.
The first people who dared to live on these “magical” rocks were the monks, who mastered the art of survival by climbing. The unique geological features of the area forced them to dig tunnels in the rocks to reach the monasteries. For many years they relied on rope ladders, ropes, and pulleys to communicate and get supplies.
Nowadays, Meteora attracts climbers from all over the world who want to challenge themselves and conquer the majestic rocks.
Meteora: The history of the monasteries
The history of the monks in Meteora dates back to the 11th century when ascetic monks left Mount Athos to practice ascetics in the caves of the rocks, in the heart of Thessaly. Saint Athanasios Meteoritis formed the first organized commune in the 14th century at the monastery of the Great Meteoron. The community grew over time and reached 24 monasteries. The monks have lived in these monasteries for centuries and have preserved their way of life to this day.
Today, there are 6 renovated monasteries in Meteora that are open to visitors. These are: Agios Nikolaos Anapafsas, Transfiguration of the Savior or Great Meteoron, Varlaam, Roussanos, Agia Triada and Agios Stefanos.
Kalambaka is a well-groomed town that spreads at the feet of Meteora. The square stands out, which “looks” straight at the imposing rocks. It is at the same time the commercial and tourist center of Meteora that provides you with all the comforts you will need. Just below Kalambaka is Kastraki, the village of the rocks with its taverns, cafes, and many nice hotels – many of them renovated.
Places to visit: The 9+1 secrets of Meteora
The monastery of the Transfiguration of the Savior is also known as Great Meteoron and is the largest monastery of Meteora.
In the nunnery of Agios Stefanos stands out the impressive wood-carved iconostasis. This is the most easily accessible monastery while a small stone bridge connects the entrance of the monastery with the modern road.
The steepest rock of Meteora nestles the monastery of Agia Triada. Visitors approach the monastery through steps carved into the stone, which adds to the unique experience of visiting this monastery.
Walking the route Kalambaka-Agia Triada (duration 30 minutes) you will have a truly panoramic and extremely charming view of the whole landscape of the rocks.
In the nunnery of Roussanou, the visitor will enjoy the route through the verdant path and whenΩ he reaches the monastery, the wonderful frescoes of the small church will steal the show.
At the monastery of Varlaam stands out the valuable surviving frescoes of the hagiographer Frangos Katelanos.
You can find, In the monastery of Agios Nikolaos Anapafsas “Starring” the frescoes of the famous hagiographer Theofanis Kris. The monastery is literally a stone’s throw from the huge rocks.
A walk in Sarakina. Located about 8 km from Kalambaka (towards Trikala) it considers a historic community. The main attraction here is the famous six-arched bridge of Sarakina. It was built in the 16th century by the metropolitan of Larissa Vissarion II.
Visit the cave of Theopetra which is one the historically interesting caves in Greece, and it is situated a short distance from Kalambaka, just 3 km away from Meteora, at the westernmost edge of the plain of Thessaly. Located at an altitude of about 100 meters it is above the surface of the plain and 280 meters above sea level. In front of it flows the river Litheos, a tributary of Pinios. It was created 137 to 65 million years ago!