Skip to content

Meteora: incredible rock formations in Greece

Meteora is a very distinctive rock formation found in central Greece. In this guide, I explain how to plan your trip there and what to see.

come visitare le meteore in grecia

Nothing is more strange and wonderful than this fantastic region, unlike anything I have ever seen. In . . . all the mountainous regions I have been to, there is nothing that compares to these extraordinary pillars.

Robert Curzon, English traveler, 1849

Curzon’s words summarize quite well the feelings you’ll get when observing these incredible rock formations for the first time in Thessaly, Greece.

Welcoming the tourists, there is an imposing stone “forest” composed of more than twenty huge rocky pillars towering into the sky, hundreds of meters high. But the most incredible thing is the monasteries built on the top of these rocks.

This is Meteora, a unique and extraordinary combination of rock formations and human labor. The name “Meteora” – from a Greek word meaning “things that stand on high” – refers to this group of isolated rocky pillars and the more than 30 monasteries built on them. The average height of these rocks is 300 meters, but some exceed 550 meters.

How did these rocks form?

meteore grecia come arrivare

Not all experts agree on how these rocks formed.

According to some, there was a huge lake in this area, millions of years ago. According to others, a giant geological cataclysm somehow lifted these rocks. As the Experiment magazine explains, some geologists believe that “these rocks must have taken their present form between 2000 and 1000 ac.”

Meteora: things to see

meteora in greece

Although it’s not known for sure how they were formed, one thing is certain: since the 9th century AD, these rocks have attracted the attention of monks. How they managed to build monasteries atop these almost inaccessible rocks is still a matter of debate among experts today.

How did people in the past climb up and down from their elevated monasteries? Like the book, Meteora-The Rock Monasteries of Thessaly indicates, “they could either climb up wooden ladders brought down from the top of the rocks or be hoisted up by a hoist net lowered down with a winch from the monastery. In either case, the visitor had to trust the good faith and dubious skill of the monks.”

It is said that one of the monks, when asked how often the rope from which the net was suspended was changed, replied, ‘Only when it breaks.’

It was only in 1925 that steps were dug into the rock making more accessible the monasteries.

monasteri a meteora in grecia

Holy Trinity Monastery was built in 1475 and renovated several times in 1684, 1689, 1692, 1741.

The first hermits to climb Meteora were a certain Barnabas, between 950 and 965 E.V., and Andronicus of Crete, in 1020. Other monks from all parts of the Byzantine world followed so that the number of rock-top monasteries reached 33. In the 16th and 17th centuries the communities reached the height of their importance, but from then on their decline began.

Today only six monasteries, two of which house nuns, are still occupied. The rest of the monasteries are abandoned.

meteora grecia

St. Stephen’s Monastery is now occupied by nuns.

Today, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, the Meteora monasteries represent an invaluable cultural heritage. In recent times, the Greek government has been taking care to preserve Meteora’s cultural heritage, and partly due to the fact that they have appeared in several films, Meteora is increasingly visited by tourists.

Meteora: how to get there and visiting times

altri monasteri a Meteora in greeceRousanou Monastery.

When I visited Meteora, I used public transportation to get to the main town. I recommend using buses because trains are not very convenient in Greece. You will have to take a bus to Trikala and change there for Kalambaka. Check the schedule carefully because the buses to Trikala are not very frequent. If you want a little more convenience, however, renting a car is the best choice so you won’t have to spend too much time waiting for your connections.

If you want to visit Meteora, I recommend staying in Kastraki, a pretty village at the foot of Meteora, in one of the many hotels. Look for some offers on Booking.com. If you prefer Agoda here you will find some discounts.

kalambaka at sunset

To visit Meteora you can choose from several options:

  • By foot, as I did (but if you go in the summer, I don’t recommend it)
  • By cab, the driver will be your guide
  • By bus, but only from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm, which stops at the various monasteries and then returns to the city
  • By renting a motorbike, in my opinion, the best compromise between price, comfort, and speed of travel
  • With a guided tour like this one. It costs very little and you will learn a lot more than on a self-guided tour

One important thing to keep in mind if you want to visit the monasteries are the opening hours; some are open only in the morning. These are the closing days instead:

  • Moni Agiou Stefanou: Monday
  • Moni Megalou Meteorou: Tuesday
  • Moni Varlaam: Wednesday
  • Moni Agias Varvaras Rousanou: Wednesday
  • Moni Agias Triados: Thursday
  • Moni Agiou Nikolaou Anapafsa: Friday

When I was there, admission to each monastery was about 2€.

The forces of nature have shaped this landscape in an extraordinary way. If you’ll ever visit Greece, why not include Meteora in your itinerary? You will not regret it.

You can find more photos taken in Meteora here and here you can read an article about Lake Kerkini also in Greece. If you want to visit North Macedonia, don’t miss this travel guide.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.