With scenery that wouldn’t look out of place in J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy epic, The Lord of the Rings, Meteora, near Kalambaka in Greece, is home to some of the oldest Christian Orthodox monasteries in the world. Perched on towering pinnacles of rock, the 6 ancient monasteries of Meteora were founded in the 13th and 14th Centuries and named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988 due to their cultural and religious significance.
The name, ‘Meteora’, literally means ‘elevated’ or ‘lofty’, and presumably refers not only to the monasteries that sit high above the valleys below but also to the monks and nuns who have maintained hermetic communities of religious devotion for almost a thousand years in the area. Today, of the original 24 Orthodox Christian monasteries at Meteora, only 6 remain open for people to visit. Two of the remaining monasteries are convents for nuns and four are monasteries for monks.
Meteora still plays an extremely important role in the church and serves to protect and foster the ancient 2000-year-old Christian Orthodox Creed. Occupying their impressive positions on the enormous rock formations, it’s equally inspiring and uplifting to be amongst such amazing architectural structures while being surrounded by the awesome natural beauty of the Meteora.
How Do You Get To Meteora, Greece?
The best way to get to Meteora is to fly into the Athens International Airport and then travel onwards to the city of Kalambaka. Kalambaka is the ideal place to base yourself during your visit to Meteora because it has numerous hotels, restaurants and shops as well as great transport links to Athens.
Many people like to drive from Athens to Kalambaka. You can easily hire a car at the airport in Athens after which the drive to Kalambaka takes between 4 and 5 hours. The most direct route to Kalambaka is via the E75 freeway and even though the roads are well signposted it’s highly advisable to make use of Google Maps or a SatNav device to make sure you don’t get lost.
Alternatively, if you don’t fancy navigating the Greek freeway you can simply catch a train from Larissa Railway Station in Athens. The train stops at Kalambaka railway station and the trip takes about 5 hours. During the train ride, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to take in the spectacular scenery along the way and if you plan ahead you can even bring a picnic lunch with you.
When Is The Best Time To Visit Meteora, Greece?
The ideal time to visit Meteora is during the late spring, between March and May, or in the autumn, between September and November. At these times of the year, you can avoid the main tourist crowds, take advantage of lower hotel prices and enjoy weather that is much more conducive for sightseeing than during the baking hot summer months.
During the summer the weather at Meteora can often be oppressively hot, with temperatures regularly topping 32 Degrees Celsius with a blistering sun in a clear sky. Temperatures during the spring and autumn are much more pleasant and much better suited to sightseeing, averaging between 15 to 25 Degrees Celsius.
What Is There To Do At Meteora?
Visit All The Meteora Monasteries On A Half Day Tour.
Visiting the Meteora monasteries will give you an incredible insight into the history of the Orthodox church and the remarkable architectural feats that were involved in situating these impressive buildings so perilously in the mountains. Each of the 6 active monasteries is absolutely unique so it’s more than worth visiting each and every one of them. The best way to arrange to see all of the monasteries is to book yourself onto a half-day tour to see the 6 monasteries while stopping off for photos en route.
During the tour, you’ll see each of the monasteries and go inside the Great Meteoron Monastery, the Varlaam Monastery and the Holy Monastery of Rousanos – Saint Barbara. You’ll be shown around each of these 3 main monasteries by an expert local guide and learn about the history and legends that surround each one.
The tour lasts 4 hours and you’ll be driven in an air-conditioned luxury minibus with free Wi-Fi onboard. The tour includes a hotel pick-up in Kalambaka, between 8.40 am and 9.15 am, and you’ll be back dropped off again once the tour is concluded. You can find out more or book your place on the half-day Meteora Monasteries Tour, here.
Explore The Natural History Museum Of Meteora & Mushroom Mushroom.
Located in central Kalambaka, the museum houses over 1000 square meters of permanent collections, including more than 350 taxidermies of mammals and birds and an exhibition of 250 hand-made sculptures of mushrooms. The taxidermies are some of the best examples in Europe and the fine details of the mushroom sculptures are fascinating to behold.
A visit to the Natural History Museum is an ideal day trip for a family with children and anyone who wants to see some of the most incredible examples of taxidermied mammals and birds that you’ll ever see.
Museum Of Greek Education.
This unusual museum is focused on educating visitors about the amazing ancient Greek educational system that produced some of the outstanding minds that shaped the modern world. The museum is located in the center of Kalambaka and aims to promote the values of Greek education and help to expose people to the culture, learning, science and arts of ancient Greece. There are also fascinating periodic exhibitions, cultural events and even scientific conferences that take place in the museum.
The beautiful museum is designed for the whole family and has toys and exhibitions for children to learn about the Greek alphabet as well as more detailed exhibitions for adults and anyone who is interested in delving further into the Greek history of education.
Digital Projection Center Of Meteora.
The Digital Projection Center is a fun way to discover the history, culture and legends of Meteora. The center is located in Kalambaka and has a 105-seat state-of-the-art cinema where you can watch spectacular 3D footage of Meteora as well as some interesting mythological content.
There are four short 3D movies that include explanations of the history and geology of the region. It’s free to visit the Digital Projection Center and is a spellbinding trip for families with children and anyone who would like to relax for a while in the air-conditioned cinema to enjoy the 3D magic on display.
Eat At Panellinio Restaurant In Kalambaka.
This elegant restaurant sits at the foot of Meteora on Vlachava Street in Kalambaka. The restaurant has a beautiful outdoor terrace with a fountain, seating and magnificent views of the peaks above. First opening its doors in the 1950s, the restaurant has gained a well earned reputation for fantastic food, superb service and a sophisticated atmosphere in which you can savor some of the finest cuisine in the city.
The restaurant specializes in traditional Greek and European food with some of the menu highlights including Veal Chops, Stuffed Tenderloins, Chicken Souvlaki and Pork Souvlaki. Of course, you can also try authentic Greek salad, Tarama salad and Fried Zucchini. As well as Greek cuisine the restaurant serves all the international favorites too.