Meteora’s stunning monasteries atop towering rock formations are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and provide visitors with an in-depth view into Greek history and spirituality – while photographers find Meteora an absolute paradise.
Monasteries were first constructed during the 14th century CE when Athanasios Koinovitis introduced cenobitic monasticism into monastic life.
Meteora is an incredible landscape of rock pillars towering high above the plains of Thessaly. These towering monoliths of sandstone average over 1,000 feet (30 metres), making this monastery complex one of the most visually striking sites in Greece and an absolute must-see when visiting this amazing country. Furthermore, its monasteries provide an invaluable way to discover Greek Orthodox spirituality history.
Monasteries were originally established by hermits seeking peace and solitude amongst nature, living alone on isolated homes on cliff tops. Beginning around 9th or 10th century CE, these hermits began inhabiting fissures or small caves as their dwellings – as word spread of their spiritual qualities they brought more hermits with them until by 12th century CE, there had been 33 monastic dwellings built here.
These hermit monks were not only living alone in seclusion but were also hard at work supporting themselves through farming, including cultivating grapes for wine production – an integral component of Greek and Mediterranean culture. Special baskets were used to press the grapes before being put in barrels for fermentation – with monks selling this product to nearby villages or monasteries for sale.
Each monastery at Meteora had a church and numerous ancillary rooms such as kitchen, carpentry workshop, hospital and library – in addition to monks who engaged in other trades like pottery making or carving sandstone – during its peak years between the 15th and 17th centuries, these monasteries attracted monks from across Greece.
Modern monasteries are now home to only a small population of monks; The Grand Meteoron being one of the few still active. Visitors to other monasteries can view impressive frescoes that cover their interior walls as museums.
Monastery of Aghia Triada, located on one of its towering pillars, has been transformed into a folklore museum that displays old clothing, appliances and tools from its surrounding region. Here visitors can learn about monk life – their daily routine and role they played within society.
Meteora monasteries stand out with their stunning architecture, which blends elements from both East and West influences. Constructed on steep hillsides using innovative construction techniques and boasting distinctive sculptural features that complement their surrounding rock formations, the resultant monasteries create an architectural wonderland with deep spiritual roots.
Meteora’s complex of monasteries stands on towering sandstone rock pillars that tower more than 1,000 feet (300 meters) above its surrounding plain, formed over millions of years through erosion by wind and water, producing an amazing natural spectacle that seems suspended in midair. Monasteries were built atop these rock pillars for even greater awe-inspiringness – testaments to early Christian monks who chose this remote location for their monastery.
Monasteries not only have an eye-catching appearance, but their architecture also conveys the rich cultural heritage of their surroundings. Byzantine elements can be seen in domes and frescoes depicting religious scenes; Ottoman influence can be found in ornate details of monks’ living quarters; while an ossuary indicates monks were mindful of mortality by remembering their dead in an ossuary.
One of the world’s most impressive monasteries, founded by Athanasios in 14th-century Crete and named the Great Meteoron – meaning “hanging from nowhere”. Monks would climb up rocks using ladders and ropes or be winched up by basket.
Today’s monasteries may be more accessible by car or foot than ever before, yet still present a considerable challenge when travelling on foot or by car – their paths consist of weathered conglomerate that can become dangerously slippery when wet. When planning to visit these monasteries be sure to wear appropriate footwear and bring water with you for safety purposes.
Meteora’s six monasteries have been recognized by UNESCO as World Heritage sites, offering visitors the chance to immerse themselves in Greek Orthodox culture while experiencing monastic life spiritually.
Visiting Meteora Monasteries
Athens or Thessaloniki are excellent bases from which to explore Meteora by joining one of the many guided tours available from Athens or Thessaloniki. These will offer an organized itinerary with transportation between monasteries. There are both daytime and sunset tour options, making sure there’s something suitable for every schedule and budget.
As another option, renting a car in Trikala or nearby Kalambaka and driving between monasteries at your own pace is also available. Each monastery features parking areas so getting from one to another shouldn’t be an issue.
One of the most visited monasteries in Meteora is the Great Meteoron, an impressive 14th-century monastic complex which first began operation. Comprised of a church and museum, this large monastery offers stunning examples of Byzantine art; furthermore, Domenikos Strelitzas of Crete painted frescoes can also be seen here!
Varlaam, a male monastery established in the 14th century, boasts an exquisite katholikon and exquisite frescoes that can be seen all throughout this monastic complex. Additionally, it was featured prominently in James Bond film “For Your Eyes Only”.
As your next stop, visit Agia Trias – a smaller female monastery dedicated to Saint Trias that dates back to 14th century. Famous for its exquisite sandstone pillars sculpted into various shapes. Even featured in James Bond films! Definitely well worth a visit.
Meteora Monasteries offer an unforgettable experience. Their striking sandstone formations and longstanding monasteries will enchant visitors. Each year, thousands of tourists make the pilgrimage here for spiritual inspiration as well as visual splendor – so plan your visit carefully so you can maximize this unique destination.
Meteora monasteries should be on every traveller’s bucket list. The massive rock formation crowned by centuries-old monasteries built atop dizzying cliffs is a UNESCO World Heritage site and should not be missed! Out of 24 monasteries initially constructed, only six remain active monasteries, though each deserves its own visitation – truly astounding how monks managed to build homes atop these towering boulders with minimal construction materials!
Joining one of many organized tours from Thessaloniki or Athens to reach monasteries is by far the simplest way of arriving there. These day trips typically include bus or train transport to Kalambaka followed by hiking uphill toward the monasteries – for optimal results join one early in the morning so as to arrive during their opening hours!
Budget travelers will be pleased to learn of an abundance of affordable inns near Meteora monasteries. Most accommodations here are family-run and offer warm Greek hospitality as well as comfortable beds to rest their heads after exploring. Some offer dining facilities as well, allowing visitors to sample local fare while enjoying their stay near these ancient monasteries.
Bed and breakfasts offer an intimate and personalized lodging experience in Meteora. Most inns feature limited guestrooms to provide attentive service and quiet serenity after an intense day exploring Meteora monasteries.
Great Meteoron was established by Athanasios in 14th century and can be reached via 300 steps carved into rocks carved out from rock faces. Other notable monasteries are Varlaam, Roussanou and St Nicholas in this region.
Kalambaka and Kastraki are ideal places to stay when visiting Meteora monasteries, both being easily accessible via foot or bus and offering plenty of restaurants, hotels and other accommodations that make for a convenient visit.