When I first visited Meteora as a professional, I was transferring three passengers from a cruise ship that docked in Volos, all from L.A. When we took The turn (this specific left turn where the show of nature begins and you can see the rocks) a “WOW” was unintentionally left by them inside my taxi. Since I am not a native speaker, it was my first “wow” in real life, a “wow” that came so naturally, a “wow” that back then seemed like it was the best way to describe what one sees and feels, when you first face Meteora.
Prepare yourself for a lifetime experience. A unique geological phenomenon that would be worth visiting if it was just for the natural beauty of it, but the thing is that on top of those rocks exist wonderful monasteries. Monasteries that look like impossible buildings (like an Esser’s drawing), continue right from where the rock ends. But they‘re very real, standing there suspended in time, in space floating above what is “normal” or “real”.
A little before we arrive at Meteora you begin to see Kalabaka, the beautiful small town that lies at the feet of these majestic rocks. Of course, you cannot miss a rocky formation, a natural wall, already impressive at first sight that hides what’s there to see like a theater curtain.
The first Monastery that we visit is Agios Stefanos convent. It lies at the edge of rock for almost 600 years and was founded by Saint Anthony. It is by far the most accessible Monastery of them all. You just have to cross a bridge, get your tickets and you begin your visit. It is also known for Saint Charalampous’s sacred skull being kept there.
You can visit the beautiful church and the small museum before you enjoy the beautiful garden with the amazing view of Kalabaka. Don’t forget to pay attention to the amazing woodwork inside the church.
Secondly one can visit Agia Triada Monastery (Holy Trinity). This is the most inaccessible monastery of them all! A winding stone road stands before most 250 steps. It is the 3rd monastery ever built in the area and the view is breathtaking. It has been featured in the 1981 James Bond film “For your eyes only”. This monastery has been commercialized more than any other and has been used in the past as the “face” of Meteora.
Then we find Roussanou, whose built-in lower elevation makes it more accessible than others. A convent again with 15 nuns living in it can also be visited by walking through a small path, crossing a bridge, and then you just take down the steps to exit the monastery. The view is breathtaking since you have the sense of being in the middle of the rocky valley. It is built in three levels and is decorated by a very skillful unknown monk!
Varlaam Monastery is my personal favorite. It has been founded more than 650 years ago by a Monk named Varlaam. At first, you walk through a natural rock “corridor” and then you pass a small bridge (don’t look on the left if you are afraid of heights). You climb up around 100 steps and it’s time to visit the monastery! Excellent 16th-century frescos, a beautiful church, a small museum, a huge barrel, and a perfectly preserved winch (a pulley system that was used to lift up literally everything) can be found there. And according to my taste the best view from any other monastery. It definitely deserves a visit if not a Friday (yes, unfortunately, it is closed on Fridays)
The biggest monastery called “The Great Meteoron” was founded by Saint Athanasios the Meteorite in the 14th century. Visiting it involves climbing up a lot of steps and takes more time than visiting others since it is bigger and has more rooms to see. You can see the skulls of monks that lived there, a kitchen of the early days of the monastery, a gallery, a museum, and several more. It is definitely worth your attention, it is the biggest monastery and the place where it all started. Once more the view is outstanding.
Here are a few more photos from the Great Meteoron :
Agios Nikolaos monastery is small and different. The rock it is built in is small, thus the monastery buildings had to be extended upward instead of outward. Parts of it are embedded in the rock and frescoes inside the church have been credited to the celebrated leader of the Cretan school, Theophanes Strelitzas.
Small but gold!
These are the monasteries that can be visited and have monks or nuns living inside them. But that’s not all of it! There used to be many more but due to time passing by, bad construction, war, etc most have collapsed over time. Though you can see from the outside a few more. Those we keep a secret for you when you take the Meteora tour from Volos with us. But we will hint you with Candlemas Monastery, Church of Saint John Mandilas, Saint Nicholas Bandovas.
Visiting monasteries is not the only thing that needs your attention when you take a Meteora tour. It is also about taking photos, seeing what’s off the books, stopping at the right spot, so that you experience what you would’ve otherwise missed. Just mentioning “the sphynx like a lady on the rock”, “the giant ape’s rocky head” and so on.
Meteora is also about food. An excellent gastronomical experience awaits for you to discover. I have extinguished 2 restaurants. One is Elias Garden and the other one is Panorama. The pictures below are self-explanatory, in addition to them I have taken under consideration, quality, value for money, politeness, cleanliness, professionalism, authenticity, and of course taste. My personal favorites are the local “stamna” , black pig steaks and sausages, and lamb cooked in parched paper.
Outside of some monasteries, you can find small outdoor shops selling souvenirs like magnets, booklets, bracelets, etc. If you are interested in buying icons then there are icon workshops on the road to Meteora. They create their own handmade icons from scratch. Prices might vary from a few euros up to thousands of them. I prefer the one in the photo below since they let you use their restroom even if you don’t buy anything at all. It can become part of your overall experience since you can even see artists creating icons on the act of it, or take a look at all those exhibits, that actually represent the continuation and preservation of the religious art of Meteora and the wider area.
You can always take a taxi from Volos to Meteora tour, visit them through another of our services, rent a car or visit by public transport. Here you can find a little more on Wikipedia. I will be back at some point with further information regarding Meteora.
A few more photos :