A walk in the clouds of Meteora

There are no words to describe the beauty of Meteora, a timeless world suspended in the air, high above the small town of Kalambaka in central Greece. My visit to this magical place is something I will never forget and, whenever life tries to pull me down, this is where I escape to – I close my eyes and relive the wonderful feeling of freedom, love and peace I experienced as I walked in the mystical clouds of Meteora.

On top of the world, Meteora in Central Greece. (Credit: www.grooveisintheheart.co.za)
On top of the world in Meteora, Greece.

While most people know about Greece‘s beautiful islands and incredible remains of a once glorious ancient civilisation, few are aware of the spectacular tall sandstone rock formations of Meteora where hermit monks found their refuge more than a thousand years ago.

Great Meteora views, Greece. (Credit: www.grooveisintheheart.co.za)

The word “méteora” is Greek for “suspended in the air” or “in the heavens” and it really is not hard to understand why the monks felt so drawn to the solitude and mystery of this place.

Great Meteoron, the oldest and highest monastery in Meteora. (Credit: www.grooveisintheheart.co.za)
Great Meteoron, the oldest and highest monastery in Meteora.

When you stand at the foot of these rock towers and look up, you feel very small and in awe of God’s creation. And, when you stand at the top of this otherworldly landscape, and are shrouded by clouds in the early morning, or admiring the endless views over the fertile valley far below, time comes to a complete standstill.

Great Meteora views, Greece. (Credit: www.grooveisintheheart.co.za)

The monasteries of Meteora

The first monks took refuge in holes and fissures in the vertical rock formations and very few people knew of their existence. In the 14th century, the first monastery was built and, as the Turkish occupation of Greece expanded, more followed.

Meteora in Central Greece. (Credit: www.grooveisintheheart.co.za)

Meteora served as the perfect refuge – the tall rock pillars were very hard to access and the hermits were left alone. It is said that there once was a total of 24 monasteries. Today, however, there are only six functioning monasteries left, while the rest lies in ruins.

Stairway to heaven: the many steps leading up to a monastery in Meteora. (Credit: www.grooveisintheheart.co.za)
Stairway to heaven: the many steps leading up to a monastery in Meteora.

It is mind-boggling how the monks could have managed to build anything on these tall smooth sandstone rock towers. Some of the rock formations are up to 550m (1,800 feet) tall. Until the early 1920s, you could only reach the monasteries via ropes and removable ladders. Food and anything else was transported in big baskets that were lowered from the monasteries. In the 1920s, steps were carved into the rock to make the monasteries a bit more accessible.

A cross at a Meteora monastery in central Greece (credit: www.grooveisintheheart.co.za)

Walking in the clouds of Meteora. (Credit: www.grooveisintheheart.co.za)
Walking in the clouds of Meteora.

Exploring Meteora on foot

The best way to experience the magic of Meteora is on foot and I recommend starting at the highest monastery and slowly working your way down. You can get to the top via a hike from Kalambaka town (or the nearby small village of Kastraki), a Meteora-bound public bus which operates from May to September, or a taxi ride.

Meteora in central Greece (credit: www.grooveisintheheart.co.za)

Meteora in Central Greece. (Credit: www.grooveisintheheart.co.za)

Since I wanted to enjoy the magic before the arrival of other tourists, I took an early morning taxi (which was surprisingly affordable) to Great Meteoron, the highest, largest and oldest of the monasteries. This early morning experience was incredible – I was enveloped in clouds, the air was cool and it was very quiet – it felt as if I was in another world.

Meteora in Central Greece. (Credit: www.grooveisintheheart.co.za)

Beautiful gardening at a Meteora monastery. (Credit: www.grooveisintheheart.co.za)
The beautiful garden at Roussanou monastery, Meteora.

Meteora in Central Greece. (Credit: www.grooveisintheheart.co.za)

I felt completely safe walking from one monastery to the next and enjoyed stopping along the way to admire the beautiful natural surroundings. Visiting Meteora was an absolute highlight of my Greek holiday. It is a place I simply cannot get out of my mind and I hope to return there one day.

Getting from Athens to Meteora

The easiest way to reach Meteora is by train. It will take you about five hours to travel by direct train from Athens to Kalambaka and three hours if you travel from Thessaloniki, Greece’s second largest city. More information is available on the Greek Railways website. (Click on “en” in the left-hand corner for the English version.)

A peaceful scene in the small village of Kastraki, at the foot of Meteora. (Credit: www.grooveisintheheart.co.za)
A peaceful scene in the small village of Kastraki, at the foot of Meteora.

Meteora accommodation

I recommend staying over in the Meteora area for at least two nights. You can find very affordable accommodation if you book early. Choose from small hotels or B&Bs in the town of Kalambaka or opt to stay in the small village of Kastraki, which is about 2.5km from Kalambaka. I opted to stay in Kastraki as it is really close to the Meteora and away from potential tourist crowds. It is a very charming little traditional village and the perfect place to relax and unwind.

Roses in the small village of Kastraki, Meteora. (Credit: www.grooveisintheheart.co.za)
Roses in the small village of Kastraki, at the foot of Meteora.
Meteora sunset. (Photo by Carlos Pinto.)
Meteora sunset. (Photo by Carlos Pinto.)

Have you ever visited Meteora in Greece? What were your impressions? Would you like to go there some day?

(Pure weekly photo challenge)

20 thoughts on “A walk in the clouds of Meteora

    • December 31, 2016 at 1:27 pm
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      Meteora remains an absolute highlight of my trip to Greece. So glad you could also enjoy the incredible natural beauty… especially at sunset, yes 🙂

      Reply
    • August 29, 2016 at 3:45 pm
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      Thanks, Danu 🙂 It really is a gorgeous place!

      Reply
  • June 20, 2016 at 5:43 pm
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    This is a fantastic post, so well researched, lovely photos and I felt as I was with you and standing on top of the world! Beautiful place and although I have visited some islands in Greece I’ve never been to the mainland nor heard of this place. Oh, I would love to go…some day maybe…but until then thank you for sharing and letting us travel viscerally with you.

    Reply
    • June 20, 2016 at 7:32 pm
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      Thanks, Annika, for the wonderful feedback! I so enjoyed writing this post and reliving the wonders of Meteora. I’m glad you enjoyed the trip too…hopefully you will get to see it with your own eyes one day 🙂

      Reply
    • June 18, 2016 at 5:16 pm
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      Yes, you should 🙂 After my visit to Meteora, I travelled on to Thessaloniki 🙂 Will blog about it soon! Thanks for stopping by.

      Reply
  • June 12, 2016 at 3:52 pm
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    Never been, but I’d love to go. Your series of beautiful shots is so inviting. I was in Greece in the mid-seventies and loved it.

    janet

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    • June 12, 2016 at 6:58 pm
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      Thanks, Janet. It is such a wonderful country. This was my first trip to Greece and I would love to return one day…so much more to see!

      Reply
  • June 12, 2016 at 3:22 pm
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    Great Meteoron looks so much like the little hill town of Civita in Italy…except it looks to be at a much higher elevation. Wow! That stairway…yes – to Heaven. Gorgeous. Love the roses in the rusty olive oil? cans. Beautiful tour. Thank you!
    Pierr Morgan recently posted…Weekly Photo Challenge: PureMy Profile

    Reply
    • June 12, 2016 at 6:55 pm
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      I also loved the roses in the rusty cans…so very quaint! 🙂 Interesting what you write about Civita. I’ve never been but I’m now certain that I would love it! Glad you enjoyed my post…you should try and visit Meteora some day.

      Reply
    • June 12, 2016 at 6:47 pm
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      Thanks, Kate. Yes! It was quite high up but the views were totally worth it 🙂

      Reply
  • June 11, 2016 at 9:42 am
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    I would love to visit Meteora, has been on my list for ever! I didn’t think women were allowed in to the monasteries though, or have times changed?! #Mondayescapes

    Reply
    • June 11, 2016 at 7:31 pm
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      Women are not allowed at Mount Athos in Northern Greece but the Meteora monasteries have been accepting female visitors since 20th century, which is great 🙂 It really is a wonderful place to visit. Hope you can go there too one day! Thanks for stopping by.

      Reply
  • June 11, 2016 at 9:30 am
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    Breathtakingly beautiful!

    Reply
    • June 11, 2016 at 7:37 pm
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      Thanks! It’s a truly spectacular place …

      Reply

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