Meteora is the name of a group of peculiar rock formations over which a complex of Orthodox monasteries is built. It is one of the most famous sights of Greece located very close to the town of Kalambaka
and the village of Kastraki
. The name "Meteora" means "suspended in the air" since some of the rocks look as if they stick out from the middle of nowhere.
Geologists presume that 50 million of years these sandstone rock formations used to be the bottom of a sea or a lake and later, due to wind and sun exposure, they were additionally reshaped. The formations include a couple of high pinnacles and the monasteries are perched on the top of some of them. The history of the religious community dates back to the 9-12th century when there were only rock caves in which hermits and monks lived in full isolation. During the 14 century the construction of monasteries began and gradually twenty-four monasteries were built in extremely difficult conditions with no road access, using only ropes, ladders and nets. Today just seven of the them have remained and five are inhabited by monks or nuns. One of the monasteries, Ipapandis (Candlemas), is closed for visitors and there is no road access to it. Ruins of the old monasteries can still be seen on some of the rocks.
You can reach Meteora by two roads, both from Kalambaka and Kastraki. There are plenty of signboards. On many places panoramic views are revealed with some rest areas to stop and shoot photos. The existing monasteries are well maintained and six of them are open to visitors all over the year. Road access is provided to all of them but you still need to climb up some stairs carved in the rocks. Some of the monasteries use cage lifts and baskets to transport food and monks in order to avoid the stairs.
The six monasteries of Meteora are well organized with parking lots for the visitors, museums exhibiting church articles and souvenirs and working hours which tend to change during winter and summer season. Entrance fee is required for all of them and amounts to approximately EUR 3 per person (information by April 2014). Here is a list of the monasteries:
- The Monastery of the Great Meteoron (also the Monastery of Transfiguration) - the largest and oldest of the monasteries
- The Monastery of the Holy Trinity (Agia Triada) - to get there you need to walk on a cobbled path first
- The Monastery of St. Barbara Roussanou (Agia Varvara Rousanou)
- The Monastery of St. Stephen (Agios Stefanos) - this one has the easiest access with no stairs at all
- The Monastery of St. Varlaam
- The Monastery of St. Nicholas Anapaussa (Agios Nikolaos Anapafsa)