This geological phenomenon is rightfully a UNESCO World Heritage Site that anyone visiting Greece should make a priority. Meteora, which literally translates to ‘suspended in the air’, has been described as Greece’s city in the sky, in virtue of the ethereal monasteries perched on top of the 24 giant 400m high rocks. Only a 4,5 hour drive from Athens and very easy to get to, it seems almost too good to be true for such a striking natural beauty to be so close and accessible. Perhaps the best way to get to Meteora from Athens is by train: you can book your tickets online. Some train routes require transit while others are direct; average travel time ranges from 4 to 6 hours. Another method of transport is the bus; prices and bus schedules can be found here.
Monasteries Perched on 400m High Rocks - credits: Shujaa_777/Shutterstock.com
These jaw-dropping rock formations are believed to have begun evolving 60 million years ago; the exact explanation for the shape and height of the rocks is yet to be verified by geological experts or scientists. One theory, however, is that the area was once covered by sea and a combination of a withdrawing seabed with extremely strong winds led to the shaping of these pillars. According to legend, the first inhabitants of Meteora climbed the colossal pillars with their bare hands and feet, despite the ruthless weather conditions. For hundreds of years following, the only means of transferring goods up or down was to use nets and rope and haul them up! Although maintaining a living in the city in the sky may have been treacherous at the time, it also provided safety from invaders and raiders. Furthermore, it is believed that during the Turkish occupation, the monasteries safeguarded the Hellenic culture and traditions as they became religious, artistic and academic centers. Thus, if it were not for the monasteries, modern Greece would look far more like Turkey as her roots would have been forgotten.
The exquisite monasteries at the top of these mammoth pedestals are a result of monks’ inspiration to be closer to god, and once you get to the top, you will understand why. The feeling you get looking over one of nature’s grandest views, could be easily interpreted as divine. Pictures truly cannot do it enough justice, as the smells, sounds and fresh breeze all contribute to the magical feeling you get at the crown of the rocks. The monasteries were first built in the 11th century and today, 6 monasteries are up and running. They can be visited all year round with the exception of a few national holidays, but pay attention to the visiting hours.
The six remaining monasteries are as follows: The Holy Monastery of Great Meteoron, the biggest and oldest of them all, has three chapels and a library of books and manuscripts. The Monastery of Varlaam is the second largest, and has been turned into a museum where you can find impeccable religious icons. The Roussanou Monastery is arguably among the most impressive but lower than the rest, thus more accessible along with St. Stefan Monastery(which has no steps) and St. Nikolas Monastery. The Holy Trinity Monastery is the hardest to reach but most definitely worth the effort. The panned view is truly exceptional.
View of Meteora - credits: whitewizzard/Depositphotos.com
Aside from visiting the enthralling monasteries, there are a handful of other things to do in the tiny town of Kalambaka (situated at the foot of the pillars). One activity you have to add to your to-do list in Meteora is a hike. There are multiple hiking trails that will lead you up to the most spectacular views: be sure to bring a good-quality camera with you! Take a look at this insightful article written by a photography blogger, to find a free map of these trails and more details. You can also rock climb and horse ride as other means of enjoying the dazzling surroundings.
Just 3 hours south of Meteora, you will find another part of Greece that visitors from all over the world come to see up close: Delphi. Situated on the mountain of Parnassus, this archaeological complex was the religious and cultural center of the country during antiquity. This famous sanctuary was home to an oracle established by Apollo, the Greek god of future-telling. People from all over the Mediterranean used to gather here bearing gifts and seeking prophecy. Delphi was also home to the most important athletic event in Greece after the Olympics: The Pythian Games. Every 4 years athletes would travel from all over the country to the Ancient Stadium (still there today) to compete in dedication to the god Apollo.
Fun Fact: The name Delphi, comes from the Greek word Delphini which means Dolphin. According to myth, Apollo arrived at Delphi from Crete, riding on the back a dolphin! This sacred place is infiltrated with fascinating and gripping myths and legends that not only take you back in time, but make you feel like a child again.
Visiting Meteora and Delphi are, in themselves, life changing experiences that you will not soon forget. Taking this into consideration, we decided to combine them and developed our unparallelled combination Meteora and Delphi Tour. This tour will take you on a 5-day, 4-night tour of the marvelous Meteora as well as the majestic villages of Delphi and Arachova, ticking two boxes off your bucket list!