Guide to Visiting Meteora Monasteries in Greece

There’s no shortage of historic and religious monuments to visit in Greece, but one of the most astounding is the Meteora Monasteries. Perched on top of massive rock columns, the ancient monasteries are truly a sight to behold. In fact, Meteora translates to “suspended in the air.”

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Not only a spot of great historical significance, Meteora, Greece is also a famous pilgrimage site. The devout have been coming here for many years to pay their respects and see the incredible engineering feat that is the holy monastery complex.

In terms of area coverage, Meteora is the largest archaeological site in Greece. In 1989 it was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the holy monasteries are an official holy site for Greece.

If you’re visiting the Meteora Monasteries, you’re sure to have an interesting and educational visit. You’ll also love exploring the giant sandstone rock pillars surrounding the monasteries of Meteora, which offer incredible views. We highly recommend you don’t skip this amazing sight on your next trip to Greece.

Europe Greece Meteora sunset OM 08891

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How to Visit Meteora Monasteries

Meteora makes an excellent day trip from Athens, but it can also be visited on a multi-day excursion. Either way, you’ll likely be arriving from Athens or another major city. 

Meteora can be reached by train, bus, or car. The train is quicker and less complicated than taking the bus, although slightly more expensive, and you’ll have to make sure to take one headed for Kalabaka, the closest city to Meteora. You can catch one from Athens’ main train station. Kalabaka should be the last stop on the route.

If you’re taking the bus, head to the main bus station near the Kato Patissia metro station in Athens. Buy a ticket headed for Trikala. Once you arrive in this city, you’ll need to switch buses to make it to Kalabaka. For further information about public transportation to the Meteora Monasteries, check the tourism board’s website.

If you’re driving, you’ll want to rent a car in Athens or whichever city you are coming from. Definitely take it for at least two days so you can enjoy the road trip along the way.

The six monasteries of Meteora can also be reached on an organized Meteora tour from Athens if you’re interested in going with a guide and group.

Europe Greece Meteora Monastery 0705

Best Meteora Monasteries

There were originally 24 monasteries built on top of Meteora, but today, only six remain. These six are all actively running, with a small number of monks and nuns in charge. 

Although one day at the remarkable Greek Orthodox monasteries might suffice, it is possible to visit all six of the complexes if you spend at least two days in the area.

Note: Summer times are from April 1st to October 31st, and winter times are from November 1st to March 31st.

Holy Monastery of Great Meteoron

Hours of Operation

Summer
Open: 9am – 3pm, Wednesday – Monday
Closed: Tuesday

Winter
Open: 9am – 2pm, Friday – Monday
Closed: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday

Holy Monastery of Great Meteoron, Meteora, Greece
Holy Monastery of Great Meteoron, Meteora, Greece
Holy Montastry of Great Meteoron
Closer look at the Holy Monastery of Great Meteoron. Photo Credits: Tourist Information Centre Kalambaka/infotouristmeteora.gr

The Great Meteoron Monastery is the largest and most impressive of the six Meteora monasteries. It’s one that you absolutely can’t miss while you’re there. It has undergone many restorations over the years but still maintains its unique old charm. In fact, it is the oldest holy monastery at Meteora, founded in the 14th century by Saint Athanasios the Meteorite. Saint Athanasios is also credited as the creator of systematic monasticism for the region of Meteora.

The main museum at Meteora, Greece is located inside this complex. It’s full of precious holy relics and historical texts that tell the story of Meteora’ past. Since it’s the most popular among tourists, you’ll want to visit this one either first thing in the morning or at the end of the day.

Monastery of Varlaam

Hours of Operation

Summer
Open: 9am – 4pm, Saturday – Thursday
Closed: Friday

Winter
Open: 9am – 3pm, Saturday – Wednesday
Closed: Thursday, Friday

Monastery of Varlaam, Meteora, Greece
Monastery of Varlaam, Meteora, Greece
Varlaam Meteora
Varlaam Monastery. Photo Credits: Tourist Information Centre Kalambaka/infotouristmeteora.gr

Located very close to the Great Meteoron Monastery, Varlaam Monastery is the second largest of the monasteries of Meteora and is host to the largest number of hermit monks of all the monasteries. If you’re lucky, you’ll even get to see some of them as they go about their daily tasks. This monastery was founded in the mid-14th century by a monk named Varlaam.

There is a beautiful church here dedicated to all saints that has a large dome and altar, and it is very much worth a visit. The walls and ceilings of Varlaam Monastery are covered in beautiful wall paintings dating to the 16th century, and the chapel is wonderfully preserved. Another church dedicated to three bishops is also right nearby. There’s also a museum that is located in what used to be the monastery’s dining room.

Monastery of the Holy Trinity

Hours of Operation

Summer
Open: 10am – 4pm, Friday – Wednesday
Closed: Thursdays

Winter
Open: 10am – 4pm, Friday – Wednesday
Closed: Thursday

Holy Trinity Monastery, Meteora, Greea
Holy Trinity Monastery, Meteora, Greece
Holy Trinity Monastery
Holy Trinity Monastery. Photo Credits: Tourist Information Centre Kalambaka/infotouristmeteora.gr

One of the most photographed monuments in Meteora, Holy Trinity Monastery is one of the most challenging to access. This is perhaps the most precariously perched monastery, located smack on top of a gravity-defying tower of rock. For this reason, it is also one of the most picturesque. 

Inside, you’ll find stunning frescos and religious relics. It’s also one of the best places to get a great view of the entirety of Meteora, plus Holy Trinity is only about a 10-minute walk from the Monastery of St. Nicholas

Monastery of Rousanou

Hours of Operation

Summer
Open: 10am – 4pm, Thursday – Saturday
Closed: Wednesday
*the Rousanou Monastery may close at 3pm on days in March and May

Winter
Open: 10am – 2pm, Thursday – Tuesday
Closed: Wednesday

Monastery of Rousanou, Meteora, Greece
Monastery of Rousanou, Meteora, Greece

The Monastery of Rousanou is one of the main monasteries that houses nuns. (The men and women are separated at Meteora.) It is supposedly named after the first hermit-monk who settled on Meteora.

This monastery’s claim to fame is the paintings of the Catholicon, stunning works of art on the walls of the churches here. The building itself covers the entire surface of the cliff, and from a distance, it seems like it was carved out of the rock pillar itself. It is still active, with nuns still living there today.

Monastery of St. Stephen

Hours of Operation

Summer
Open: 9am – 1:30pm and 3:30pm – 5:30pm, Tuesday – Sunday
Closed: Monday

Winter
Open: 9:30am – 1pm and 3pm – 5pm, Tuesday – Sunday
Closed: Monday

Monastery of St Stephen, Meteora, Greece
Monastery of St Stephen, Meteora, Greece
Saint Stephen Monastery
Photo Credits: Tourist Information Centre Kalambaka/infotouristmeteora.gr

St. Stephen Monastery is another one of the Meteora Monasteries run by nuns, and it currently plays host to the largest number of workers of any of the monasteries. This one is the easiest to get to and is the best one to visit if you have any kind of mobility issues. The views from this monastery are unbeatable, and you’ll be looking over the valley of Thessaly, the Pindos River, and the village of Kalambaka from 300 metres above the ground.

Monastery of St. Nicholas Anapafsas

Hours of Operation

Summer
Open: 9am – 5pm, every day
Closed: None 

Winter
Open: 9am – 4pm Monday – Thursday and Saturday, 9:30am – 4pm, Sunday
Closed: Friday

St Nicholas Anapafsas Meteora
Photo Credits: Tourist Information Centre Kalambaka/infotouristmeteora.gr

This holy monastery of St. Nicholas contains the Church of St. Anthony, including a mysterious crypt where the holy monastery’s precious heirlooms are kept safe. It’s the only monastery that was painted by the Cretan artist Theophanis Strelitzas, making it the best monastery to visit for art lovers.

Hiking Around Meteora

Hiking is, in our opinion, the best way to get around at Meteora, as there are some incredible hikes over these bizarre and wonderful rock formations. After taking some gondola rides up to the top where the Meteora monasteries are perched, you can hike on trails that connect one building to the next. The hikes are generally steep and rugged, so make sure you’re prepared with sturdy shoes and some water.

Europe Greece Meteora Oksana 08845

Other Tips/Things to Know

Wear Appropriate Clothing

Modest clothing is required for all visitors to the monasteries of Holy Meteora. Shorts and skirts that end above the knee are prohibited, as are sleeveless tops and dresses. 

Great Sunset Spots

There are a number of truly phenomenal sunset spots near the monasteries. We watched the sunset at Psaroperta and really loved it; it was not crowded and the views were simply perfect

If you have time to spend the late evening, we highly recommend catching the sunset here. This isn’t the only place where you can catch views at the end of the day, so hike around a little bit until you find a great spot facing west.

Europe Greece Meteora sunset 2

The Heat

With very little shade and a closer location to the sun, the Meteora Monasteries can be a seriously hot place to visit. It is best to explore in the morning and then go back to your accommodations when the heat of the day becomes too much, and then come back in the evenings.

There are Great Museums in Kalambaka

If you want to beat the heat of mid-day, there are some excellent museums in Kalambaka where you can cool off. To split the day and avoid the worst of the heat, you can grab lunch then wander through one or two of these museums.

The Natural History of Meteora and Mushroom Museum highlights the ecosystem of the area, with focus on truffles, which Kalambaka is famous for. They even offer truffle hunting tours! Located in the middle of Kalambaka, the Museum of Hellenic Culture houses an exhibit dedicated to the history of Greek education and learning. Several restaurants are nearby, making this a perfect mid-day activity. 

If you’d rather relax and enjoy some air conditioning during the hottest part of the day, the Digital Projection Centre of Meteora’s History and Culture is the perfect spot. Here, you can watch 3D films that explain the geology and history of Meteora. You’ll be in and out in just under an hour, leaving plenty of time to explore.

Best day trips from Athens Greece, Meteora

Restaurants in Kalambaka

Since a visit to Meteora requires at least an entire day, you’ll need to grab a bite to eat. There are several tavernas and cafes in downtown Kalambaka where you can get a wonderful traditional Greek meal. You can easily find vegetarian and vegan options, and places like Qastiro also offer local wines and craft beers to try.

Monastery Hours of Operation

Some of the monasteries are only open until 3 PM or on certain days of the week. They also may be closed due to holiday schedules or religious events, so make sure to check the schedules before visiting.

 

 

Where to Stay Near Meteora

The town of Kalabaka is the closest major town to Meteora, Greece. It’s a lovely place with nice views, good restaurants, and lots of accommodation options.

Alternatively, you could stay in Trikala, a smaller town slightly closer to monasteries. It’s less touristy and has fewer options, but it’s a bit quieter.

Some good options are the Tsikeli Hotel, a lovely eco-hotel right with lovely views of Meteora in Trikala. The hotel offers e-bike rentals and can arrange activities for you, so you can relax and enjoy the view from your beautiful room. Monastiri Guesthouse, is another beautiful option in Kalabaka. The rooms are each uniquely furnished and have a rustic theme, most featuring a private balcony where you can have breakfast and enjoy the scenery.

Guide to Visiting Meteora Monasteries in Greece
Junior Suite. Photo courtesy of Tsikeli Hotel

We hope this guide will help you plan your visit to this amazing historic and religious site. If you’re pressed on time, you can visit Meteora in one day, but we definitely recommend spending at least two so you can visit most of the monasteries and also hike in the area.

Have you visited Meteora before? What was the highlight of your visit? 

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