The most popular tourist attraction in mainland Greece is the wonders of Meteora. These gems of architecture are part of the UNESCO World Heritage sites in Greece and attract a broad audience. In 2017, 28 million tourists came to this holy place, and people are visiting the Meteora Monasteries throughout the year.
What makes them so spectacular?
They were built on top of and within massive vertical rock pillars that formed over time through climate changes. Most took several decades to complete.
But why would anyone even bother building religious structures on such unreachable places?
The natural formed rock columns and cave formations in Kalambaka, Greece created the perfect hiding spot for hermit monks in the 11th century and onwards to avoid persecution from the Turks occupying Greece. They used long ladders to climb up these rock formations and prevent any passersby from reaching them.
The monasteries of Meteora were built on these vertical rock columns in the early 14th century as monks continued to occupy the Meteora region and lead their monastic life.
They have become so popular around the world that one of them was included in a James Bond film in 1981. More precisely, the Monastery of the Holy Trinity was featured in “For Your Eyes Only.”
How many monasteries are in Meteora?
When the Meteora monasteries were first built, there were a total of 24. Today, only six monasteries at Meteora remain open. Moreover, the Ypapanti Monastery was recently restored and open to the public by the Great Meteoron Monastery.
- Monastery of St. Nicholas Anapausas – Agios Nikolaos Anapafsas was built in the 16th century and is occupied by only one monk today.
- Monastery of Rousanou/St. Barbara – Roussanou is a nunnery that was built in the 16th century.
- Monastery of Great Meteoron – Megalo Meteoro is the largest of all the monasteries, and it was built in the 14th century. There is a dedicated building in the complex to serve as a museum to visitors.
- Monastery of Varlaam – Near the Great Meteoron, Varlaam is the second biggest monastery that was built in the 16th century. It holds the most significant number of monks in the Meteora complex – seven.
- Monastery of the Holy Trinity – The Agia Trias Monastery was built in the 15th century and was featured in the James Bond movie “For Your Eyes Only.”
- Monastery of St. Stephen – next to the Holy Trinity monastery is Agios Stefanos, which was built in the 16th century and it’s the second nunnery within the Meteora complex.
- Ypapanti Monastery – is a monastery recently restored by the Great Meteoron and it’s located in a cave.
In total, there are four male convents and two nunneries. The remaining holy structures are in ruins.
Which Meteora Monasteries to visit?
Deciding which of the monasteries to visit depends on the day of your trip. There is no best Meteora monastery to visit, they are all beautiful and unique in their way. Seeing the stonewall architecture, icons, frescos, and hearing the daily prayers is out-of-this-world experience. Each one captures the remarkable monastic life in northern Greece.
The six monasteries are closed on a different weekday. So, if you plan to enter all of them, you will need accommodation in Kalambaka or Kastraki for at least five nights. Otherwise, a day trip to Meteora can do, unless it’s on a business day.
Visiting the Meteora Monasteries requires proper planning based on their winter and summer working hours. See the monasteries visiting hours and times schedule below to plan your visit accordingly.
Meteora monasteries opening hours and days schedule
The Meteora monasteries entrance fee is €3 per person for each monastery.
How to get to Meteora Greece?
There are three ways to get to Meteora and its monasteries: car, bus, or train. Kalambaka has a bus and train station to connect tourists to major Greek cities like Athens and Thessaloniki.
Getting to Meteora by Car
Meteora, Kalambaka, and Kastraki are easily reachable via highways from all directions in Greece. There are clear road signs leading visitors to the destination even if they don’t have a GPS.
For those that prefer to use a GPS, note that some navigation systems might have Kalambaka written as Kalampaka.
Visit the Meteora Monasteries by Car
The monasteries are easily accessible by car from Kalambaka. You can get to the Meteora monasteries from Kalambaka by following the main Trikalon St. The street will turn into Patriarchaou Dimitriou street leading you to the Kastraki village. From here, on the main road continues around the Meteora Monasteries and back to Kalambaka.
They all have parking in front of each structure or nearby. Visitors can then reach the buildings with a short walk. During summer parking will be limited due to high volumes of tourists. There are even boards urging visitors to avoid getting there by car during high season.
You can get a copy of a road map with a parking location of the Meteora monasteries here.
Getting to Meteora by Bus
You will have to catch a bus from Liosion Station near Kato Patissia (green line). Note: this is not at the Athens bus station. The bus will take you as far as Trikala, where you can catch another bus to the Kalambaka village.
From the central bus station in Thessaloniki (KTEL) you can catch a bus to Trikala. Trikala is the nearest city to Meteora. From here you will need to get another bus to Kalambaka to reach Meteora.
The KTEL bus station is easily reached from the airport via bus line 78 or 78N for the night bus.
Reach the Meteora Monasteries by train
Kalambaka also has a strain station. All major cities in Greece have transit with the Trikala Thessaly region, and therefore connect visitors with Meteora.
Best Time to Visit Meteora Greece
The best time to visit the monasteries in Meteora, Greece would be September. By this time of the year, with school session started, the high volume of tourists will decrease.
This allows you to avoid high levels of crowds. The summer opening hours and times would still apply, giving you plenty of daylight to see each monastery.
Keep in mind that you can visit the Meteora Monasteries in winter too. This is a whole new experience as the green scenery is overtaken by the snow. Due to its location, the place gets cold, so appropriate clothing is a must. Make sure to bring waterproof hiking boots, a warm jacket, a hat, and gloves.
What to wear at Meteora monasteries?
Proper dress code is required to enter each structure because monks and nuns live in the monasteries.
What to wear at a monastery at Meteora for women?
A female should always have their legs and shoulders covered. Females should dress appropriately as not to show the curves of their body. Some religious visitors to the monasteries even go as far as wrapping their hair with a scarf, but this is not mandatory.
What females shouldn’t wear at a Meteora monastery:
- Tanks-tops, strapless-tops, or any shirt that doesn’t adequately cover their shoulders
- Shorts or pants
- Skirts or tight dresses
- Any clothing that shows cleavage
What should men wear at a monastery in Meteora?
Males should always wear long pants and a proper shirt. Do not wear sleeveless shirts.
The dress code in the monasteries is strictly enforced. Tourists will be turned away if they don’t follow the rules of the Western-Orthodox life the Greeks are trying to preserve.
Trips and Tours of Meteora
During your trip to Meteora, you have the option to book various types of day trips. The most notable company to book through in the Trikala region is Visit Meteora Travel. The company offers all kinds of tours, including Full-Day excursions from Athens by train, Half-Day Tours, a Meteora Sunset tour, and even hiking tours.
The Meteora Hiking and Scramble Tour of Great Saint will give you the chance to explore the tallest Meteora Rocks. It combines the Great Saint tour with Meteora rock climbing for a truly unforgettable adventure.
Hiking in Meteora
If you are planning a more extended trip at Meteora, I would recommend hiking around the area. The hiking paths are well stamped off the main road. However, if you don’t feel confident or want to learn more about the history of the hermit monks and the region, consider getting a tour guide.
The tour guides are locals from the area and know the mountains, caves, and rock formations quite well. They will provide insights that only a few people in Meteora would know.
If you don’t have a lot of time but enjoy hiking, don’t miss the opportunity to see the rare monastery of Ypapanti, which is located in a cave. It was recently reopened to the public after being restored by the Great Meteoron monastery. Admission is free, and the spot is only accessible by foot. Ypapanti is open Monday-Friday.
Where to stay in Meteora
If you plan to visit the monasteries of Meteora, finding affordable accommodation won’t be an issue. The two villages around the Meteora region are Kalambaka (variation: Kalampaka) and Kastraki.
Kalambaka Trikala region Thessaly
Kalambaka is a larger town compared to the nearby Kastraki village in the Thessaly region of Greece.
Hotels in Kalambaka, Greece, are easy to find and affordable. Toti Boutique Rooms is an excellent option to stay. The owners are welcoming and warm. The rooms are spacious, and some offer partial or full views of the Monastery of St. Stephan.
Some Kalambaka hotels are in the town center, while others are near the hiking trail to the Meteora Monasteries. Either way, they all offer great views of the Meteora rocks and holy structures.
Kastraki is a more authentic Greek village compared to Kalambaka, which has become a large town due to frequent tourist vacationing. Here you can choose accommodation from Hotel Meteoritis Kastraki or Meteora Central Hostel.
Kastraki is smaller than Kalambaka, but it has plenty of restaurants, taverns, and other places to eat where you can try traditional Greek dishes.
If you prefer Airbnb rentals, then you are in luck. There are rooms and apartments, with nights starting from $30. Save $28 on your next Airbnb booking with our link.
Camping at Meteora
There are two campground sites near Kastraki that will allow you to camp at Meteora. The first is Camping-Rooms Meteora Garden, which is the furthest away from Kastraki and Kalambaka. Meteora Garden campsite is off the main interstate E92.
Campsite Vrachos Kastraki is right off Patriarchou Dimitrious street before the entrance to Kastraki. This is the closest campground location to Meteora.
Where to Eat in Meteora
In Kastraki, on the main road, there are a lot of tavernas to choose from. Here you can get traditional Greek food like moussaka, fresh seafood, gyro, grilled meat, Greek salad, and anything with the famous olive oil.
There are a lot of different dishes to choose from in Kalambaka – from traditional food to pasta and hamburgers. One of the famous and well-received places that I tried and can recommend is the Valia Calda Restaurant. It’s even an excellent option for vegans in Meteora.
At each of the monasteries, there are many travel souvenirs to choose. From handcrafted items, jewelry and fridge magnets to traditional Greek olive oil, cosmetics, and linens. The prices are reasonable for getting something to remember your Meteora visit.
Visiting the Meteora Monasteries in Greece is one of the most remarkable things you can do. The place is truly unique and inspiring. Each of the buildings is special in its own way and gives a new dimension to the visit. Even if you decide not to enter the monasteries, just looking them from afar will make you feel peaceful.
If you decide to go to Meteora during summer, you can combine it with some relaxing too. Sunbathe, swim, and snorkel at these famous Greek mainland beaches. Satisfaction is guaranteed!