What to see in Greece
Tourist attractions Meteora
Extraordinary rock formations, situated at the northern edge of the Plain of Thessaly, Meteora has to be seen to be believed. In the heart of Central Greece, these monolithic rock pillars are the result of thousands of years of erosion, but it’s not just the geology that tempts people to travel to Meteora. Perched upon these gravity-defying peaks are six UNESCO World Heritage protected monasteries, attracting travellers from all over the world to admire their amazing architecture and remote, otherworldly location.
Appearing to rise out of the rock pillars, visiting the Meteora Monasteries is sure to be a highlight of any tour of Greece. A trip to Meteora is a journey through a fusion of unique topography and spiritual heritage, making it one of the most incredible places to visit in Greece. At one point, a total of 24 monasteries teetered atop the clifftops of Meteora, and although only 6 remain, they are all active monasteries, home to dedicated nuns and monks.
Many travellers visit Meteora as part of a day trip from the major cities of Athens or Thessaloniki, although the nearby town of Kalabaka offers lots of options for overnight accommodation. Sightseeing at the different monasteries is the most popular thing to do in Meteora, although hiking enthusiasts can enjoy the enchanting landscapes on foot on a series of marked walking trails, reaching all the way to the hilltop monasteries. If you take a trip to Meteora, be sure to stay and watch the sunset over the rock formations.
Of course, the best thing to see in Meteora is the six incredible ‘Hanging Monasteries’. Established between the 12th and 16th-centuries, the remote and inaccessible location of these monasteries was chosen in order to escape the political and religious upheaval of the Middle Ages. Perched high on the clifftops, the monks were also protected from the expanding Turkish occupation.
The largest monastery and the most popular place to visit in Meteora is the Monastery of Great Meteoron. This is also the oldest of the Meteora monasteries and is home to an interesting museum where visitors can learn more about the unique history of the site. Visit in the late afternoon to enjoy spectacular sunset views over Kalabaka.
Just next door is Varlaam Monastery, the second-largest and home to a large community of monks. Here you can admire the Athonite-style architecture and see a series of beautiful 16th-century frescoes inside the All Saints Chapel.
Although these are the two most popular monasteries to visit on a trip to Meteora, you could easily spend an entire day or two exploring the varying architectural styles of all six monasteries. Furthermore, the Monastery of Rousanou and the Monastery of St. Stephen are home to a flourishing community of nuns. In the past, the only way to transport goods and people up to the clifftop monasteries was by using long ladders, ropes and baskets, but today a series of staircases have been added to allow easy access if you travel to Meteora.
Once you’ve explored the soul-stirring landscapes and historic monasteries of Meteora, head down to the nearby town of Kalabaka, in the shadow of Meteora’s towering rock pillars. A great choice for an overnight stay, Kalabaka has a number of its own important religious buildings and is considered one of the most beautiful places in Greece.
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