22 Facts That Will Make You Want to Visit the Meteora Monasteries in Greece

This post may include affiliate links, including Amazon Associate links. I may earn money if you click on one at no extra cost to you.

Meteora is home to six mountaintop monasteries and is home to adventure-seeking monks. They’re worth a visit even if you’re not religious. I found them absolutely fascinating.

The Meteora Monasteries are a site that is about so much more than just travel, it is all about a complete experience. An experience that will have you coming back for more. Meteora has an otherworldly appearance. It doesn’t look as if it belongs on this earth, and perhaps it doesn’t.

One of the 6 remaining monasteries of Meteora, Greece

The name Meteora comes from the word Meteor that means suspended, which is what the monasteries atop the natural sandstone massifs appear to be.

One of the remaining Meteora monasteries.

Recommended Reading: Hiking in Greece: The Top 9 Places

Here’s what you need to know about Meteora’s Monasteries:

1)Meteora is the second most important site in Greece. The Acropolis is first!

2)It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site under two categories – nature and art.

It’s one of only a few UNESCO sites in the world that qualifies for more than one category!

3) At its peak, there were 24 active monasteries in Meteora. Now there are 6. There are now only 20 monks and four nuns remaining. The decrease in monasteries is due in large part to the increase in tourism, which is less than ideal for a monastic lifestyle.

Me feeling very small in front of the huge sand-stone towers.
Me feeling very small in front of the huge sandstone towers at Meteora.

You can book your tour to Meteora here.

4) Monks came to Meteora in the 14th century searching for a safe place. Back in the day, there were only two ways to reach the monasteries: by rock climbing the vertical sandstone columns or being hosted up 373m in a basket made of rope.

Seriously, what a choice!  Regardless either qualifies as an adventure, don’t you think? 

Recommended Reading: Crete White Mountains Hiking Tour

In former times the only way to reach the monasteries in Meteora, Greece was to either rock climb or be hoisted up in rope baskets.
It’s either this or rock climbing, either way, it’s over 300 vertical meters! Brave volunteer Zim demonstrated how it worked but only made it 1 meter.


5) There were no staircases in the Meteora monasteries until the 1920s! This fact alone makes me believe that the monks were thrill-seekers, especially after seeing for myself how high the monasteries are. 

6) Meteora is the second largest monastic community in Greece. The first is Mount Athos.

Meteora monasteries were built to keep intruders out.

7) A typical day for the monks and nuns involves waking at 4:00 am. Then it’s 3 hours of praying. Both in private and in church. Then the monks and nuns carry out their assigned duties in the Meteora Monasteries.

8) If you get lost in Meteora, you can find your direction by looking at which direction the altar is facing.

It always faces east to meet the rising light.

9) Everyone is welcome to attend religious services. However, if you’re not Greek Orthodox, you can only attend the pre-temple. You also won’t be able to take part in communion.

chapel in one of the Meteora monasteries in Greece.

10) There are two types of monasteries in Meteora –  communal and living as a hermit. Which would you prefer?

The communal ones all seem to have cats, so that would be my choice!

heretic monasteries

11) There are 41 hermitage spots in Meteora, but they are difficult to impossible to find on your own as there are no signs. I highly recommend going with one of the fantastic guides from Visit Meteora.

You can book one of their tours here. Pictured above is one of the long-abandoned hermit caves on the Rock Forest Hike!

heretic monastery in Meteora, Greece

12) There was even a monk jail in the Meteora monasteries. Each monk had his own separate “cell”. You can see what a monk jail looks like here.

hermitages.

13) St. George is the most famous hermitage site in Meteora. According to Visit MeteoraIn the 17th century, a local Muslim landowner cut some trees from the sacred forest that was dedicated to Saint George.

The Saint then caused the paralysis of that man’s hand, but he was cured after he offered to the Saint his wife’s veil, a most valuable gift according to the Muslim religion.

To symbolize that act of donation honoring Saint George, believers hang colorful scarves once a year on a rope supported by trees, near the cave’s entrance.

Young men from the neighboring village participate in an annual climbing competition and carry down the old scarves which they then keep at home as a token of good health.

Recommended Reading: Greek Cyclades Islands of Tinos and Naxos Hiking Tour

St George Hermitage with the scarves that are replaced every year.
St George Hermitage with the scarves. They are replaced every year.

14) Women were not allowed in the Meteora monasteries until the 1920s. And that was only because local village women helped put out a fire!

15) Queen Marie of Romania was the first official woman visitor in 1921!

there are 64 bolted climbing routes in Meteora Greece

16) Meteora is a land of legends! One of my favorites happened in the 15th century. The monks were at service, and when they came back, a family had moved into their monastery.

It’s believed that the monks were unable to recapture it because it was a large family with lots of boys and weapons. The family remained in the monastery for 87 years!

Finally, the monks were able to take it back, but nobody knows how. There was no law and order back then!

Meteora monastery built right into the rock

17) Meteora appeared in the James Bond film, For Your Eyes Only. Look familiar?

18) Meteora means suspended in space.

19) Every rock in Meteora has a name. It made life easier for the locals, just as street names do today.

Meet me under the Spindle? Or should we say Devil’s Tower?

Holy Spirit mountain in Meteora, Greece
Holy Spirit Mountain

20) Meteora has a 35 km long hiking trail network that includes great views of hermitages. I LOVED my hiking tour to Holy Spirit Mountain (pictured above), which also included a visit to a monk jail.

There are no signs, so you do need to go with a guide, but you’ll also want to.

Storytelling is alive and well in Meteora.

Be sure to check out this video of hiking in Meteora by my friends Dave and Deb, from The Planet D.

ancient hiking path in Meteora, Greece

21) Do you know the song, Sweet Home Alabama? In Meteora, it’s Sweet Home Kalambaka!

Kalambaka, Greece
Kalambaka.

22) Many visitors think a half-day is enough to visit Meteora. They couldn’t be more wrong. I know, because that’s what I did on my first visit to Meteora.

Yes, the Meteora monasteries are incredible, but so are the hermitages and those you can only visit on foot. Give yourself 3-4 days in Meteora to let the legends come alive!

caves of Meteora, Greece

Travel Tips for Visiting the Meteora Monasteries

  • While it’s possible to drive or take a bus up, for a truly special experience hike up at dawn to catch the sunrise. It’s safe to do on your own without a guide.
  • Every monastery has its own opening hours. Many close for 2-3 hours in the afternoon during summer, so ask your hotel in Kalambaka (the nearest town) for the schedule of all the monasteries.
  • If you want to see all six Meteora monasteries, allow yourself six days. If you don’t have time to see all six, see these three:
    • The Holy Monastery of Varlaam (the one I visited).  It’s the second-largest found at Meteora and was built in 1541.
    • The Holy Monastery of St. Nicholas Anapausas (built in the middle of the 16th century)
    • Holy Monastery of Rousano (founded in the middle of the 16th century)

Where to Stay in Meteora?

Top Pick: Divani Meteora Hotel

I stayed at the Divani Meteora Hotel.  It’s a contemporary luxury hotel with views of Meteora, located in Kalambaka! I especially loved the lobby. There were so many cozy spaces, including one with a fireplace. I spent a lot of time hanging out there.

Where to eat in Meteora?

I enjoyed each of the restaurants mentioned below. I’m a sucker for saganaki and didn’t think it could get any better, but it did.

Restaurant Meteora

Here your eyes do the choosing! Guests meander to the kitchen and choose the dishes. Each day they vary. It’s been run by the Gertsou family since 1925. At the time of writing it’s ranked the #1 restaurant on Trip Advisor in Meteora. Address: Town Hall Square, Kalambaka.

Taverna Gardenia

>

Taverna Gardenia is where the Greeks go to eat! It’s known as one of the best places in Meteora to experience authentic Greek cuisine. Address: Near the church, Kastraki, Kalambaka.

Meteoron Panorama

Meteoron Panorama may be the most romantic restaurant in Meteora. It has a large terrace offering the best views in town. It is slightly on the expensive side, but it’s a restaurant that I would return to over and over again for the ambiance. Reservations recommended. Address: 54, Patr. Dimitriou, Kalambaka.

Archontariki Restaurant

Friendly service where staff is happy to recommend Greek dishes to you. Both indoor and outdoor seating is available at this Greek tavern. Address: Trikalon 13 | Riga Fereou Square, Kalambaka.

Taverna Panellinio

A traditional Greek tavern that serves delicious food at reasonable prices in a comfortable atmosphere. Address: Vlachava 3 | Town Square, Kalambaka.

Paramythi Tavern

A family classic Greek tavern where you can listen to traditional live Greek music and possibly even learn how to dance Greek-style – SO much fun – Opa! Address: Patriarhou Dimitriou 14, Kalambaka

Mushroom Meal

You won’t find this mushroom meal on the internet because it’s so new. The Mushroom Museum in Meteora in conjunction with Neromilos Restaurant can arrange a museum tour, along with foraging for mushrooms, AND a meal made entirely from mushrooms.

I confess to not particularly enjoying mushrooms before this experience, but this meal was a  game-changer. I couldn’t believe all the creative ways you could cook with mushrooms.

It was one of the most memorable meals of my life and that’s saying a lot consider all the food I sample when traveling.

Currently, it can only be organized for groups, but that may change. Inquire beforehand and beg if necessary!

Adventure travel in Meteora Greece

What tours can you take in Meteora?

You’ll find a list of tours that you can do here. Most of the hiking paths are unmarked, so you’ll need a guide to find cool places. Greeks are incredible storytellers, and there are so much history and folklore that you’ll want a guide even if you’re not regularly a guide person.

Where is Meteora located?

You’ll find Meteora near the middle of Greece, just north of Trikala.

How do you get from Athens to Meteora?

It’s easiest if you drive or take the train. It’s 355km and takes just over 4 hours when driving. Alternatively, you can fly into Thessaloniki, and either drive or take the train. It’s located 229km away and takes just under 3 hours.

You can also take a train from Athens, then meet your guide in Meteora. Be sure to check out these Greek quotes that are perfect for a road trip to Greece!

Have extra time?

Consider exploring Mount Olympus National Park or the mountains of Epirus! Both of these regions are stunning and not what I expected from Greece.

Note: Many thanks to Visit Meteora for making my visit possible. As always, all opinions expressed are my own. They did not require me to rock climb or take a basket to visit the monasteries, they kindly drove me.

4 thoughts on “22 Facts That Will Make You Want to Visit the Meteora Monasteries in Greece”

  1. This is fantastic coverage about one of the unique destinations in Europe. I have visited Meteora twice, and I’ve been stunned by the beauty. Thanks for sharing and for making me want to revisit Meteora.

Comments are closed.

Hiking for Beginners Online Course >>

FREE TODAY ONLY!

hiking for beginners

Use Code "MONKEYSANDMOUNTAINS" at Checkout