The Meteora and the Meteora Monasteries are perhaps Greece's most iconic and visited parts. From the original 24 Orthodox Christian monasteries, you can find (and visit) six here today. You will have an experience of a lifetime if you visit these magnificent buildings. Monks built monasteries in the heart of Greece. Monks and nuns lived in the abbeys, and you can still meet them today. A couple of my friends even have selfies with them.
Meteora refers to the neighbourhood and the monasteries and means "floating in the air."
The abbeys are all located on 100-200 meters of typical sandstone columns. Meteora, or Meteora monasteries, have become the second most visited place in the mainland of Greece. Even today, few can enter the innermost, closed world of Greek monasteries. Just a 4-hour drive from Athens, you will find a fairytale world where the boundaries of earth and sky don't exist.
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But before I go into details like the admission fees, parking, accommodation, and opening hours, let me show you the area better.
Meteora - Where to find it?
Meteora is located at Kalambaka [Google map] in central Greece. You can easily reach with a three-hour drive from Thessaloniki and a four-hour drive from Athens. The monasteries balance on the 100-200 meter high cliffs surrounding the city.
- On the other side of the Meteora is the smaller village of Kastraki [Google map]. Kalambaka and Kastraki are only a 30-minute walk from each other.
- If you are coming from Athens or another town (by bus or train), get off at Kalambaka. However, if you stay here for the night, you can also stay in the quieter Kastraki. There are local buses or shuttle buses to Meteora from both cities.
Meteora - What do you need to know?
So let's see why this group of monasteries has deserved the UNESCO World Heritage title since 1988.
- The monasteries were built in the Middle Ages. Before that (a good few million years ago), the vast columns were covered with sea. The dry rocks became the perfect places for Greek monasteries with the sea retreat.
- Before anyone could have used the stone stairs (20th century), monks used rope ladders to reach the valley's top. The staircases began, and then roads, viaducts, and bridges were built. Today, you can climb hundreds of stairs to reach the temples that offer an outstanding view.
- At Meteora, the nuns had separate monasteries, while the monks had different monasteries. Over time, wealthy believers have supported Meteora, which offered safety as a refuge in case of danger.
- The monks living here lived a restrained, simple life. They spent most of their day praying, finding their spiritual growth, gardening, beekeeping, dealing with herbs, and maintaining the monastery for the rest of their time.
- The region promises a unique, fabulous sight even without the monasteries. Tourists visiting here come to see not only the monasteries but also the colossal rock towers. An average daily program consists of visits to monasteries and rock formations.
- Many hiking trails in the area are suitable for hiking (which does not necessarily lead to monasteries). Unfortunately, most of these are not up on the internet, so you must be cautious when hiking. You may want to visit the local information centre to help you with local hiking trips.
Why were the Meteora monasteries built on rocks?
There is no uniformly accepted answer to this question. There is evidence that hermits and ascetics lived in the surrounding caves. Later, it was probable that monasteries were founded one after the other over the centuries, modelled on this. Some believe the reason for building towers is to make holy places in a place isolated from the noise of the world. Others think it's much more practical: they want to defend themselves against frequent enemy attacks in this way.
Meteora monasteries: 6 + 1 monastery
- Great Meteora Monastery
- Varlaam Monastery
- Roussanou Monastery
- St. Nicholas Monastery
- St. Stephen's Monastery
- Holy Trinity Monastery
- Ypapanti, a hidden monastery carved in stone (plus)
Itinerary: How many days is it worth going?
What should the daily program contain?
Of the Meteora monasteries, it is possible to visit roughly 2-3 monasteries in one day. The Great Monastery of Meteora (Megalo Meteoro) is the furthest away, so it can be your starting point and move backwards. After the first temple, two other monasteries can fit into your time.
If you plan to visit all six monasteries, you may want to stay in Kalambaka or Kastraki and spend a night there. While the world of Meteora is genuinely fabulous, it doesn't complete a one-week program. Most tourists spend two days here.
You can follow the program below if you want to tour the monasteries alone instead of joining a guided tour. Of course, you can tailor your route.
- Great Meteora Monastery - The largest monastery
- St. Nicholas Monastery - The closest to the village of Kastraki
- Roussanou Monastery - Nun's monastery
- Holy Trinity Monastery - with the most beautiful views from the highest point
- St. Stephen's Monastery - The lowest, most accessible route
- Varlaam Monastery - The second largest building
Of course, the route plan is free to shape; as you can see on the map, the Meteora monasteries are not far apart. Just make sure you look at a monastery that is open that day!
Great Meteora Monastery (Megalo Meteoro)
It is the largest, tallest, and oldest monastery. The Great Meteora Monastery is not only the main church; there are also three chapels and a museum inside. This monastery began the monasticism in the Meteora region, founded by St. Athanasios in the 14th century.
- Address: Kalabaka 422 00, Greece
- Phone number: +30 24320 22278
- Summer opening hours: 09:00 to 15:00. Closed on Tuesday.
- Winter opening hours: 09:00 to 14:00. Closed on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.
- You can reach the Great Meteora Monastery on foot or by car. It is about 1.5 hours on foot from the tourist centre and 12 minutes by car.
- The nearest monastery is the Monastery of Varlaam. [Google Maps]
You don't have to go far from the Great Meteora Monastery to come across the second-largest monastery. You only have to walk half an hour from Kastraki and climb 195 steps. Like the others, its name was given to the monk Varlaam after its founder. The magnificent Chapel of All Saints is decorated with beautiful frescoes. There is also a new tiny museum inside. You can learn about the monastery's history and see how the monks travelled in the past with the help of nets and ropes.
- Address: Kalambaka 422 00, Greece
- Phone number: +30 24320 22277
- Summer opening hours: 09:00 to 16:00. Closed on Friday.
- Winter opening hours: 09:00 - 15:00. Closed on Thursday and Friday.
- You can reach Varlaam Monastery on foot or by car. It is about 1.5 hours on foot from the tourist centre and 12 minutes by car.
- The nearest monasteries are the Great Meteora and the Roussanou Monastery. [Google Maps]
In contrast to the previous two, the Roussanou Monastery lies on a lower cliff. You only need to climb 150 steps. The monastery was severely damaged in World War II and was declared a monastery again only 32 years ago. You will also find a small souvenir shop with beautiful flowers in the garden. From this, we can also guess that only nuns live in this monastery, quite precisely 15 deaconesses. Even after hundreds of years, the frescoes will enchant you with bright colours during your visit.
- Address: Μετεώρων, Kalambaka 422 00, Greece
- Phone number: +30 24320 22649
- Summer opening hours: 09:00 to 17:00 (09:30 to 17:00 Sunday). Closed on Wednesdays.
- Winter opening hours: 09:00 to 14:00. Closed on Wednesdays.
- You can reach Roussanou Monastery on foot or by car. It is about 1.5 hours on foot from the tourist centre and 12 minutes by car.
- The two nearest monasteries are the Monastery of the Great Meteora and Varlaam.
Holy Trinity Monastery (Agia Triada)
The Holy Trinity Monastery offers the most beautiful view. For this view, you must climb 140 steps, so the most challenging hike awaits you. You may have seen this monastery in the final scenes of the 1981 James Bond movie - Strictly Confidential, which took place here.
- Address: Meteora, Pallini 153 51, Greece
- Phone number: +30 24320 22220
- Summer opening hours: 09:00 to 17:00. Closed on Thursdays.
- Winter opening hours: 10:00 to 16:00. Closed on Thursdays.
- The Holy Trinity Monastery is about 11 minutes by car from the tourist centre and about 1.5 hours on foot. [Google map]
- The nearest monastery is the Monastery of St. Stephen.
St. Stephen's Monastery (Agios Stefanos)
Reaching St. Stephen's Monastery is the most relaxed hike of all the Meteora monasteries. All you have to do is cross a slightly shaky wooden bridge. No stairs are waiting for you here. You can explore two cathedrals and a great view of the Thesally Valley, the Pinios River, and Mount Pindos.
- Address: Kalabaka 422 00, Greece
- Phone number: +30 24320 22279
- Summer opening hours: 9:00 to 13:30 and 15:30 to 17:30. Closed on Mondays.
- Winter opening hours: 9:30 - 13:00 and 15:00 - 17:00. Closed on Mondays.
- You can reach St. Stephen's Monastery on foot or by car. It is about 1.5 hours on foot from the tourist centre and 12 minutes by car. [Google Maps]
- The nearest monastery is the Holy Trinity Monastery.
St. Nicholas Monastery (Agios Nikolaos Anapausas)
You can find the temple only one kilometre from the village of Kastraki. You must walk 300 stairs to admire St. Nicholas Monastery, the smallest temple. It offers a unique view of the valley surrounded by rocks. Its chapel is decorated with Byzantine icons.
The less crowd will win you over. St. Nicholas Monastery has a more personal, traditional, and charming character. You can get into the monks' room, meet them, and get insight into their daily lives.
- Address: PJFF+HV Kalabaka, Greece
- Phone number: +30 24320 22375
- Summer opening hours: 08:00 to 17:00. Closed Friday.
- Winter opening hours: 09:00 to 16:00, Sunday: 09:30 to 16:00. Open daily.
Many leave the Meteora without seeing or even hearing about the Ypapanti Monastery. The monastery is unique because it is carved into the rock. It can only be approached by hiking or cycling! Few know about the monastery, as it is not part of the route of the "typical" 6 monasteries. So, if you desire something unique, check out the Ypapanti by hiking or biking. At the bottom of the article, you will find the information you need for a bike tour.
- The closest monastery is the Great Meteora.
- The Monastery is 1 hour on foot and 25 minutes by car. [Google Maps]
Meteora Observation Decks
The roads between the Meteora temples have many ideal observation and photographic points. Although missing them on the route is almost impossible, I have collected the ones offering the best views (according to Google Maps).
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The opening hours of the Meteora monasteries are characterized by the fact that a monastery is closed every day, even in the summer high season. Opening hours can change occasionally, or monasteries can even close in extreme weather. It is, therefore, always worth checking it out on the official website of Meteora.
Meteora summer opening hours
Summer Opening Hours
1st Aprril - 31st October
|09:00 - 13:30 / 15:30 - 17:30
|09:30 - 17:00
|09:00 - 15:00
|09:00 - 17:00
|09:00 - 16:00
|08:00 - 16:00
Meteora Entrance fees
For Meteora, you only have to pay an entrance fee of 3 euros per monastery, and you can reuse them on the same day. You can buy tickets on the spot by card but have cash with you for safety. You cannot book tickets online, and you cannot buy them in advance.
The tap water is drinkable in all cities of Greece. The same is true for the tap water of Meteora. You may want to ask locals if they recommend drinking tap water.
What to wear in Meteora?
Ladies are not allowed to enter either in pants or shorts! Women can only enter with covered shoulders and wearing long skirts. Men can enter in trousers that reach below the knee. If you are wearing pants, bring a big scarf, like a skirt, which you can put onto your hips. Be prepared for the Meteora.
When is the best time to go?
The best time to visit the Meteora monasteries is spring and autumn. It's better to start your day early in the morning. Tourist buses arrive between 10:30 and 11:00, so you might want to be there sooner.
You can visit Meteora even if it's raining. However, it should not discourage you from visiting the monasteries but pay close attention to the slipperiness of stairs and bridges.
Meteora in winter
Meteora is also open in winter, although their opening hours are shorter. If you plan to visit the monasteries from December to March, your reward will be a fabulous snow-covered landscape. A real desolate, lonely sight welcomes you at this time of year - although very few people visit Meteora during the winter.
It's important to know that even in winter, ladies need long skirts! Also, in winter, expect fewer restaurants and stores to be open for shorter periods.
What can you do in the area?
The uniqueness of the area is all about the untouched rock walls. They offer incredible views of the fabulous landscape around them. Therefore, when planning a visit to Meteora, admire the surroundings. Take a hike, ride a bike, or try the unique rock climbing of the Meteora. Local tour agencies are offering organised trips.
There are two notable hiking trails around Meteora. You can take the more gentle, half-day Eastern Trail from Kalambaka to St. Stephen's Monastery - about a kilometre long. It's an hour and a half walk from Kalambaka.
If you want to make your whole day even more exciting, the western route is even more adventurous. So you can see the Great Meteora Monastery, the Dragon Cave, Varlaam, Roussanou, and St. Nicholas Monastery. At the end of your journey, you will find yourself in the village of Kastraki.
Both tours require some physical endurance (medium difficulty). You can go this route alone or on a daily group tour of Meteora. Hiking trails are available all year round, and group tours are open every day of the year.
It's similar to hiking, but in this case, you need to use more of your hands. If you are physically active, this will not be a problem. There are places where the trail is only 60 centimetres wide, bordered on one side by a chasm. If you're not afraid of heights or want to overcome that phobia, you can be part of a great adrenaline-filled tour.
The secret Ypapanti Monastery - bicycle tour
There are 20 km of bicycle routes in the area. On this route, you can also see the hidden Ypapanti monastery, then continue along the road with the Vlahavas statue and Theopetra Cave.
- Full-day bike tour (12 hours) = 30 euros
- Half-day bicycle tour (6 hours) = 20 euros
- Bicycle rental (per hour) = 4 euros
Of course, you can also ride an electric bike or even pay for a mountain bike tour! Local operators around Meteora offer child seats.
Meteora wine tasting
If you are a wine lover, visit the village of Diava, where you can enjoy the house wines of the Loudas family. Their wine is considered the best in the region for over 15 years. It will give you an even better taste of the Greek culture and its wines.
Option 1: from Athens or Thessaloniki
If you are looking for accommodation near Athens or Thessaloniki, choose the most convenient solution, the one-day bus or train Meteora program. This program includes:
- A bus or train ticket (return)
- Guided tour
- Transfers between the monasteries
- Admission to 3 monasteries
- Panoramic tour (viewing of all six monasteries from the outside)
- The one-day trip is about 93 euros per person.
- The two-day trip is about 139 euros per person.
Option 2: from Kastraki or Kalambaka
If you do not want to drive and discover the area by yourself, a local tour is also possible. This program includes:
- Hotel pick-up
- Tour guide
- Panoramic trip
- Entrance to 3 monasteries
- The tour excludes the train ticket. There is also a sunset tour and a panoramic minibus tour.
- The price of this is only around 25-30 euros.
Meteora Information Office
The Meteora Information Office (tourist) is in Kalambaka [Google Maps].
- Address: Βλαχάβα 1, Καλαμπάκα, Kalampaka 422 00, Greece
- Opening hours: 9 am /8 am - 4 pm /9 pm
Meteora - Accommodation
In Kalambaka and Kastraki, you will find more than 300 accommodations based on booking.com.
Most of the accommodations here have over eight ratings, with good quality, clean, high-standard apartments or hotel rooms. At least 200 hotels have parking and more than 50 on-site restaurants.
Meteora - Restaurant
Unfortunately, not all restaurants in the area provide a high standard of service, but one of the most praised restaurants is Valia Calda. If you have the opportunity, be sure to check it out, as the owner himself greets all the guests in person at the table. H also tells you how your favourite childhood dishes got on the menu.
Shops and supermarkets
Kalambaka's largest store is Lidl, where you can shop even for several days. To my knowledge, there is no larger store in Kastraki. You can find smaller local traffic in both cities.
How do you get to the monasteries?
Athens - Meteora
From Athens, more precisely from Larissis station, you can take a four-hour bus ride through Trikala or to Kalambaka by train.
- I recommend the train (15-40 € https://tickets.trainose.gr/dromologia/) as it's beautiful. A single train leaves at 08.20 and comes back from Kalambaka at 17:32.
- From there, the easiest way to get to the monasteries is by taxi.
- If you want to do the same by car from Athens, you must pay a toll of 20 euros in one direction. Parking is possible at the monasteries, but finding a place between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. can be challenging.
Thessaloniki - Meteora
You can also go from the Halkidiki Peninsula and the area around Thessaloniki (CIKK) by bus, train, and car. There are two buses and trains a day from Ioannina.
Kalambaka - Meteora
Meteora buses run from April to October to any of the monasteries, although there are only three buses daily. Planning your trip well lets you quickly get around the area. A local bus ticket is ~ €2 one way.
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