What began in the 11th century as a quiet place for prayer and reflection for Orthodox monks has evolved into one of Greece’s hidden gems.
Meteora, Greece is a spiritual oasis that draws in thousands of visitors each year to its “stone forests” and monasteries perched high on the steep sandstone rocks. The word Meteora (Μετέωρα) literally translates into “suspended in the air.”
Check out our video: What to See & Do in Meteora, Greece
This list of 10 Things to See and Do in Meteora, Greece came about during my recent travels to this beautiful land, with the help of Visit Meteora. Not only does Meteora boast unique and mesmerizing landscapes, it is also home to Greece’s second-largest Greek Orthodox monastic complexes, second only to Mount Athos. By the 17th century monastic life in Meteora was flourishing with a total of 24 monasteries. Today only six are still in use.
At first glace you may think Meteora is no more than a place for quiet worship by the resident monks, but in fact it is also a playground for nature and adventure lovers who have found ways to enjoy Meteora’s amazing rock formations and sample some of Greece’s most delicious mountain cuisine in the towns of Kalambaka and Kastraki.
Without further ado, here’s my ‘MUST-DO’ list: the top 10 things to see and do in Meteora, Greece:
If you ever choose to travel to Meteora you will likely end up staying in Kalambaka (also written Kalabaka and Kalampaka), Meteora’s main town and home to 12,000 residents. The town is located at the foot of an extraordinary rock landscape, which provides a dramatic backdrop to daily life here. Strolling the cobblestone streets of the Kalambaka Old Town is a great way to take in the charming storefronts and churches dating back to the Byzantine Period.
Kalambaka boasts a number of hotels, restaurants, banks, cafes, and gift shops to cater to every need. Traditional items to buy include hand painted religious icons, embroidered fabrics, and leather sandals. Another great way to soak in the local culture is to visit the Natural History Museum of Meteora and Mushroom Museum.
There is perhaps no better way to experience the ‘rock forest’ of Meteora than to get up close and personal by hiking around the rocks and admiring their monasteries and epic views. There are two main hiking routes. The Eastern Train (half-day hike) that starts at the St. Stephan Monastery 900 feet above Kalambaka.
The trail continuous down the valley for another hour and a half into the town of Kalambaka. The Eastern Trail is relatively easy, but does require one to be able to have good mobility!
The Western Trail is for more adventurous hikers – it takes a full day to complete but takes you through many more sites such as the Great Meteoran Monastery (see below), the Holy Monastery of Varlaam, the Monastery of Roussanou, the Holy Monastery of St. Nicholas Anapausas, and Kastraki village.
A great place to stop and take pictures is Dragon’s Cave (right after the Great Meteoran Monastery). Though a bit more challenging than the Eastern Trail, the Western Trail is not a hike that requires a great deal of hiking experience, just a good attitude and a solid pair of hiking boots!
Why not combine the thrill of a hiking tour with the rare opportunity to see the sun dip down behind the magnificent rock forest? A sunset tour is the perfect way to spend your afternoon and get the best sunset photos during your trip to Meteora.
If you go with a guide you will most probably stop at two lookout points from which to admire the scenery below. Seeing the landscape turn a fiery orange will give you an idea why the monks chose Meteora as the ultimate place for serenity and reflection.
If hiking doesn’t provide the adrenaline rush you seek, try scramble hiking (also known as alpine scrambling). This type of hike is similar to rock climbing but requires less equipment and the hiker’s use of his/ her hands to ascend. Although this type of hiking does require a moderate to high level of fitness, teenagers can participate. Above is a photo of our climbing group scaling the ancient steps that were once carved out of the rock by monks.
Scramble hiking to the top of the highest rock in Meteora is both thrilling and satisfying when you reach the top and get the most epic views of the surrounding rock forest and the town of Kalambaka below.
For newbie and experienced rock climbers alike, Meteora’s rock formations can be irresistible. People have been scaling the rocks here for centuries, so it’s fitting that rock climbing in Meteora has become something of a common sport. In recent years several climbing routes have been bolted, which has drawn the attention of Greek and international climbers who crave the opportunity to climb their single-pitch faces.
As for me, I am not a rock climber, but I did get to see some pros at work. They mentioned that the rocks here are similar to those in Monserrat, Spain. A personal friend of mine and professional rock climber, Aris Theodoropoulos wrote the Greece Sport Climbing Guide and Kalymnos Rock Climbing Guidebook. If you plan to attempt the climbs without a guide, purchase the guidebook here.
Check out our article on Rock Climbing in Kalymnos, Greece
Guided Mountain Biking
In case you haven’t noticed, there is much in Meteora for nature and sports lovers. Meteora’s challenging terrain is why mountain biking is a popular sport year-round. Guided mountain biking tours typically last 2 ½ hours (20 km) and take you through the gorgeous trails that wind through the stone forest. Discover the monastery of Ypapanti constructed inside a large cavity of a rock and it’s considered to be one of the hidden gems of Meteora. The statue the local hero Papathymios Vlahavas stands nearby, a monument to remind all the Greek war for independence and the long history of this place.
A five-minute drive from Kalambaka will take you the village of Diava. Here, the Loudas family has been producing wines since 2006. This family winery is known for its Roditis, Sauvignon Blanc, Xinomavro, Syrah and Merlot varieties. The Loudas Winehouse is a great place to sample some of Thessaly’s best-selling wines.
Email email@example.com to book your wine tasting experience. It is also a great opportunity to purchase gifts for loved ones back home.
For four generations the Gertsou family has kept Restaurant Meteora among the top restaurants in Thessaly. Situated in the main square of Kalambaka, Restaurant Meteora opened its doors in 1925. Diners are welcome into the kitchen to choose from an array of traditional Greek dishes bubbling away on the stove (meat pies, moussaka, meatballs, stews, casseroles, roasted chicken, fried eggplant, etc.) and a selection of side dishes such as local vegetables, potatoes, and rice.
Accompany your hearty meal with a village salad (feta cheese, onions, olives, tomatoes, and cucumbers) and a cold Mythos beer and you won’t be disappointed! Prices are reasonable and you’ll leave feeling more than satisfied with the quality of the homemade food and the family atmosphere.
Great Meteoran Monastery
The Great Meteoran Monastery, or the Monastery of the Transfiguration of Christ, is the highest, biggest and oldest monastery in Meteora, which is why if you choose to only visit one, this should be it. The Great Meteoran Monastery was founded in 1340 by Saint Athanasios the Meteorite, a monk from Mount Athos. Legend has it that he was carried up the rock by an eagle and built a small church dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Throughout the years several other buildings were added including the Katholikon, which can still be seen today. This is the monastery’s central church dedicated to the Transfiguration of Christ.
The Great Meteoran Monastery sits perched on top of the rock 613 meters above sea level. Visitors have to ascend the 250 meters up the 115 steps to enter. Once inside, it is impossible not to wonder how the monks managed to build this vast monastery with just a system of rope ladders and nets. The Monastery is open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is closed on Tuesdays. Admission is 3 euros.
Theopetra Prehistoric Cave
This unique archaeological site is located just 7 km from Kalambaka near the village of Theopetra, and contains remnants from the Paleolithic, Mesolithic, and Neolithic Periods. The cave itself measures about 500 square meters. Since excavations in Theopetra began in the late 1980s several important finds have been made. Among them include stone tools from the Paleolithic Age, Neolithic pottery, human bones, traces of plant seeds, and human footprints dating back 135,000 years.
The continuous timeline of artifacts indicate that the cave was in continuous use for more than 130,000 years, serving as a useful shelter with a good vantage point and nearby access to clean fresh water.
“Its uniqueness from an archeological perspective is that in contains, within a single site, the records of two greatly significant cultural transitions: The replacement of Neanderthals by modern humans, and the later transition from hunter-gathering to farming after the end of the last Ice Age.” -Visit Meteora
The cave is open daily 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. It is closed on Mondays.
Tours: Every one of our top 10 things to see and do in Meteora is a truly special experience. Visit Meteora provides travelers with these same experiences through their affordable and well-guided daily tours of Meteora. Professional English-speaking guides, a longstanding reputation for safety and quality, and an eco-tourism approach make them the go-to source for everything Meteora.
Special thanks to XShot.
Have you ever visited Meteora, Greece? Share your ‘must-dos’ with our readers. Leave a question or comment below!