‘Suspended in the air’ is the literal meaning behind Meteora in Central Greece. Meteora is listed as a cultural UNESCO World Heritage Site and is famous for its beautiful monasteries built on top of rock formations. The more time we spent in Meteora, the more special it became. Meteora is a definite dream come true as we ticked it off our bucket list. We have honestly never experienced a place like this before.
The charming town of Kalampaka and quieter Kastraki Village (both at the foot of Meteora) are the go-to choices for lodging when visiting Meteora. Instead of doing just a day trip from Athens, we decided to stay at the delightful, Tsikeli Hotel in Kalampaka for 3 nights. The staff not only provided great service, but the location is also a great base point to explore Meteora. Everywhere was easy to get to from here on our scooter that we rented. It also felt safe and easy to be on a scooter. The roads were mostly pretty quiet, and there is only one main road that leads to the town centre and the monasteries.
The extraordinary monasteries of Meteora are ones to impress. Built on top of rock formations during the Middle Ages by monks, they were constructed with the purpose of achieving total isolation with man’s aim of connecting with God. The architectural significance in itself is magnificent. And did you know that women weren’t allowed in the monasteries before? This rule changed when a fire broke loose in one of the monasteries, and women went to help put out the fire.
There were twenty-four monasteries in the past. Today only six monasteries remain active in Meteora:
Holy Monastery of Great Meteoron – oldest, highest and biggest
Holy Monastery of Varlaam – second biggest monastery
Holy Monastery of Holy Trinity – where the James Bond Movie, ‘For Your Eyes Only’ was filmed
Holy Monastery of Rousanou – functions as a nunnery
Holy Monastery of St. Nicholas Anapausas – famous for its frescos by the painter, Theophanes Strelitzas
Holy Monastery of St. Stephen – closest monastery to the town of Kalampaka
To make the most of our time, we only visited one monastery. We chose the biggest one of course! The Holy Monastery of Great Meteoron is not only the biggest, it is also the oldest and highest (soaring more than 615 meters from the valley below).
It costs 3€ per person to visit each monastery. Each monastery has its own designated opening and closing times and days that are closed. Be prepared for a lot of walking (so wear comfortable shoes!). Also, remember to dress modestly. Women should wear tops with sleeves that cover the shoulders and don’t forget to cover your knees too! But don’t worry if you wear shorts or pants, as you will be able to borrow wrap skirts at the monasteries to cover up. Yes, we noticed even ladies that wore long pants had to wear the wrap skirts on top. Men should wear long pants to cover the knees.
Another thing not to be missed in Meteora is its amazing sunsets. The sun setting with the rock formations at the forefront is similar to something you’d see in a sci-fi movie. We went to one of the famous sunset spots, known as Sunset Rock. It’s a popular area, so we arrived at least 2 hours before to secure a spot to watch the sun go down. A cute dog greeted us there, as if he was welcoming us to his home.
There are also spots that are little quieter to watch the sunset. We’ve seen a number of great spots along the road leading up to the monasteries where the sunset is just as good as the popular spots. These spots also give a different perspective, which is always great!
Watching the sunrise is less popular in Meteora (so a lot quieter!). However, it is still beautiful and worth the early wake up call. When the sun rises up from hiding behind the mountains, you will see golden light gently gracing the Meteora rocks and monasteries. We were able to enjoy this all to ourselves.
We did two different hikes while we were here. Our first hike was a morning hiking tour with Visit Meteora. We explored hidden trails, enjoyed incredible views, learned a lot about the history of Meteora and also visited the hidden Monastery of Ypapanti. We saw hermit caves within the mountain as well from afar. We had the local dogs tag along on our hike too!
The second hike, which we did ourselves, was to the rock of Agio Pnevma (Holy Spirit). This path started at the middle of Kastraki Village and ended at a chapel devoted to the Holy Spirit. It is literally a tiny church in a cave, which is pretty cool! The views from here don’t disappoint either.
All that hiking and exploring sure got us hungry! Good thing they have delicious food here! The restaurants here also tend to be pretty affordable. The food in Meteora can be quite different compared to the islands too.
Our favourite dishes were the Meatballs in Tomato Sauce (with rice) and Lamb Cooked in Parchment Paper at Meteoron Panorama Restaurant.
We also really enjoyed the Eggplant Saganaki, Pastitsio and Veal & Onions (with rice) at Meteora Restaurant.
Meteora is truly captivating and feels like a totally different planet. It is honestly a place where we were continuously in awe of. It has captured our hearts by its natural beauty and impressive rock formations. We will definitely be back!
By Jing and Aquilla from @the_honeymoonlusters