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 popular sights of Greece, located in the country center and very close to Kalambaka and 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.
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How did the monasteries of Meteora appear?
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 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.
Which Meteora monasteries to visit?
The six monasteries of Meteora which accept visitors are well organized with parking lots, museums exhibiting church articles and souvenirs. Entrance fee is required for all of them and amounts to approximately EUR 3 per person. Each of the monasteries has one or two days weekly when it stays closed for visitors and this should be checked in advance. Here are the six of them:
- 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 Agia Varvara Roussanou - small but with nice views
- The Monastery of Agios Stefanos - this one has the easiest access with no stairs at all
- The Monastery of Varlaam - the second largest of the monasteries
- The Monastery of Agios Nikolaos Anapafsa - the closest to Kastraki
How to get to Meteora?
You can reach Meteora via two roads, both from Kalambaka and Kastraki. On many places panoramic views are revealed with some rest areas to stop and admire the landscape. Road access is provided to all of the six functioning monasteries 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.