This incredible monastic eyrie, perched atop great rock formations, has to be seen to be believed. The sheer rock fingers atop which the monasteries are perched in magnificent holy isolation are natural monuments formed millions of years ago. The monasteries on top have been a refuge for ascetics since the 11th century. Of the 24 original cloisters, just seven still operate.
The Meteora heights are the edge of the Trikala mountain massif just west of the town of that name. A particularly attractive village in those mountains is Pertouli, built amphitheatrically at a height of 3,400 feet. You can also ski there in the winter. Farther north, the Agrafa Mountains are a serious challenge for those who consider themselves hardy souls.
Meteora is a formation of huge dark colored rocks that constitute a geological phenomenon of unique beauty as well as an important monument of the Orthodox religion.
The rocks are virtually ‘suspended’ (the meaning of the Greek word: meteora). Some of them reach 400 m above the plain, and on their peaks there are orthodox monasteries.
It is one of the largest complexes of monasteries in Greece, second only to Agion Oros (Mount Athos).
In 1989 the UNESCO included Meteora in its World Heritage List, as a place of special cultural and physical significance.
The word ‘Meteora’ came from Saint Athanasios Meteoritis, founder of the monastery called ‘Metamorfosis tou Sotiros’ (The Transfiguration of Jesus), or else Great Meteoron. St Athanasios Meteoritis gave this name to the ‘large stone’ on which he climbed, for the first time, in 1344.
The first monks arrived there in the 12th century and lived isolated in rock caves. The first monastic communities were founded in the mid 14th century.
In many monasteries you will admire masterpiece hagiographies and you will see treasures, manuscripts, jewels, Gospels and ornaments.
One can reach Meteora from Kalampaka, which is 20 km far from Trikala.
In the past the inhabited monasteries on Meteora were 30, to many of which the access was through rope ladders. Today there are only six monasteries that are inhabited and some smaller ones.
The 6 monasteries that remain today are:
• The Holy Monastery of St Nicolaos Asmenos or Anapausas. (inhabited by men, built in 1150)
• The Holy Monastery of Rousanos (or Arsanis) (built in 1288)
• The Holy Monastery of Great Meteoron (or Metamorfosis tou Sotiros) which was built on the biggest rock called: “Large Stone”. In Great Meteoron the visitor can see St Athanasios’ retreat.
• The Holy Monastery of Varlaam or Agion Panton Monastery (meaning the Monastery of All Saints) that is the second biggest monastery of Meteora. (built in 1350).
• The Holy Monastery of Agia Trias (The Holy Trinity) that was founded by the monk Dometios in 1438.
• The Holy Monastery of St Stephanos (St Stephen) that is inhabited by women.
One can also visit the following monasteries:
• The Holy Monastery of Ipapanti.
• The Holy Monastery of St Nicholaos Badovas, on the site ‘Kofinia’.
• Doupiani, today’s church of Zoodohos Pigi (The Life-giving Source), which was founded by the monk Nilos.
• The Holy Monastery of St Georgios Mandilas.
• The Holy Monastery of the Holy Spirit (or else the Archangels Michael and Gabriel monastery) that is the oldest monastery of Meteora.
• There are lots of tourist camps, let rooms, guesthouses and hotels in the area.
• The area is connected to the rest of Greece through railway and bus service.
• A unique, sacred and untouched landscape that retains its Orthodox authenticity.
• A marvelous natural setting due to the extraordinariness of its giant cliffs.
•A variety of food and accommodation choices.
• Visit Meteora on a weekday so as to avoid crowds.
• Spend the night in one of the monastery guesthouses and have the unique experience of monastic life.
• Experience the rituals of the Easter Holy Week, where Resurrection has a real meaning.
• See the woodcut chancel screen, a real masterpiece, in the catholic church of the St Stephanos monastery.
• Visit Kalampaka, and see the church of ‘Kimisis tis Theotokou’ (Virgin Mary’s Dormition) that was built in the 11th century and is of a byzantine architectural style.
• Taste the local cuisine at the traditional little taverns in Kastraki.
And for the young (and the young at heart):
• Ascend climbing routes of different climbing grades on Meteora rocks.
• Walk through the rocks, on the paths where the monks used to walk.
• Go mountain cycling, hiking or try rappelling (abseiling).
•Go slope parachute jumping, landing in front of St Stephanos monastery.
Climbing in Meteora
Mountaineers will find about fifty massive towers of rock and approximately eighty peaks worth climbing amongst the four groups found in the central area of Meteora. The extensive wall of Great Saint-Grosse Heilige(Aghia) facing Kalampaka rises to the greatest height – well over 300 meters.
There are many climbing routes in Meteora.
The routes have a reasonable minimum of safe-guards in order to make climbing a responsible sporting activity rather than a hazardous game for all those able to tackle the existing difficulties. Standing and abseiling rings as well the intermediate bolts are trustworthy (stainless anchors for climbing 10 – 12 – 16 mm, and chemical-ampoules). As the surface of the rock is smooth and compact, it is unsuitable for attaching normal pitons or other kind of protection.
Recommend: respect the ethics and standards of the climbing area.
There is an Alpine Club here, too. The Alpine Club of Kalambaka established at 10/10/1989. A.C.K. is a tactical member of Hellenic Federation of Mountaineering and Climbing.
Hiking in Meteora
There are many hiking routes and footpaths here in Meteora and neightbouring mountains. There is a Hiking Club here called “Hiking Club of Meteora & Aspropotamos” (SOMA in Greek).
How to go to Meteora
Meteora is very close to Kalampaka and Kastraki. You can access Kalampaka from Ioannina, Thessaloniki, and Athens by bus or train.
Kalampaka’s bus station telephone number is: Tel. +30 2432 022432
Trikala’s bus station telephone number is: Tel. +30 2431 073130
Kalampaka’s railway station telephone number is: Tel. +30 2432 022451
Trikala’s railway station telephone number is: Tel. +30 2431 027214
Sources: inthessaly.gr, meteora-greece.com, e-meteora.com