I am thoroughly convinced that Metoera is from an entirely different planet. How can it not be? If you have never heard of Meteora, don’t feel bad. You’re probably not the only one. There are so many amazing islands in Greece that a city far from the coast could easily be overlooked.
Metoera is located in the northwest of Greece. It’s not the typical Greek destination that one would think of visiting, but I’m telling you now that you should add Meteora to the top of your travel wish list! 100%.
So why visit Meteora? I’m glad you asked…♥
Meteroa means “suspended in the sky“, and as soon as you arrive by train, your jaw will drop as you quickly understand why.
Is this place even real? Have I landed on Mars? Have I gone back in time? All questions I asked myself. And I’m sure you will too.
Meteora is unreal. How on earth is it possible that so many people have never heard of it? Who knows, but I was one of them until last year. One single picture inspired my urge to visit. That’s all it took. BAM.
Oh, and did I mention that Meteora was featured in Game of Thrones season 2? Meteora served as the backdrop to the sky cell that Tyrion was thrown into when he was held as a prisoner in the Eyrie. Since the area is protected, the cast didn’t actually film there, but a team was sent over to get footage, which they digitally integrated into the episodes. TV magic.
Why Visit Meteora?
The Story of Meteora
Meteora is composed of several monasteries perched upon narrow rock pillars, some hovering 1,800 feet (550 metres) above the ground.
Dating back to the 11th century, the monks built these monasteries on the pillars to ensure total seclusion to the outside world. They required a place where they could concentrate on God and not be tempted my life’s evils. Well, I think they #nailedit.
Astonishingly, there were no staircases until the 1920s so monks could control who goes in and out. The staircases were finally built to ensure the safety of the monks, as many had died climbing back up to the monasteries.
Today, there are only 6 active monasteries, 4 with monks and 2 nunneries, most of which are open to the public.
What to do in Meteora?
Besides pinching yourself several times throughout the day to make sure this place is real life, here’s what I suggest you do in Meteora:
1. Learn the History
You don’t have to be a history buff. Heck, you don’t even need to like history. But I guarantee, the history of Metoera will surely grab your attention and impress you!
Please don’t go to Meteora just to take pictures. While I agree that it is a photographer’s absolute dream, it’s so much more!
Study up on the fascinating history beforehand, or book a tour and let the locals’ passion and pride about their city shine through.
Some interesting tidbits about Meteora history:
- Meteora became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988 (for art & nature).
- Why do the pillars have the shape they do today? Well, since I find it difficult to explain in my own words, here is a great explanation taken from Greeka.com:
“Scientists believe that these pillars were formated about 60 millions years ago, during the Tertiary Period. That time, the area was covered by sea but a series of earth movements caused the seabed to withdraw. The mountains left were continuously hit by strong winds and waves, which, in combination with extreme weather conditions, affected their shape. This is why the pillars are composed of sandstone and conglomerate”. Source: www.greeka.com
- Hermit Caves were caves built into the rock where monks were sent for punishment (called “prison of the monks”).
- Monks used wooden ladders and pulleys to reach the monasteries.
- Monks were pioneers of rock climbing in the 14th century.
- For the Varlam Monastery: it took 22 years to bring up all the supplies, and only 20 days to construct it. WOW!
- There are not many active monks today, due to mass tourism.
2. Book a Tour
While I would almost always explore a new destination on my own, there is a time and a place for tours. And this is one of those times, trust me.
A tour will put everything into context and learning about it as you’re seeing it with your own 2 eyes is the best way to learn history (at least for me it is!).
Would you rather read about it in a book…or step on the soil where life changing events actually happened? I choose the latter, and I hope you would too!
3. Go Crazy with Pictures/Selfies/Videos.
You won’t see anything else in the world quite like Meteora, trust me. And you Don’t have to feel awkward taking a million selfie…everyone will be doing it too! Make the memories last!
Meteora from the ground up..
How incredible is this view? I mean, seriously.
Recommended Tours in Meteora
Meteora Sunset Tour
This was my favorite tour I took in Meteora. I’m a sucker for sunsets, what can I say.
The sunset tour lasted a good 4 hours. They pick you up at your hotel a few hours before sunset and take you to a few great panoramic spots. Also included on this tour is a visit to the beautiful Agios Stefanos Monastery and Byzantine church of Virgin Mary.
For the sunset, your guide will take you to a few nice spots to snap some pics. The final sunset spot is on a humongous bolder with a panoramic view overlooking the area. This is the best view of Metoera and you get to see it as the sun gently kisses the landscape. It’s simply breathtaking. It’s one of those moments you will never forget. Truly incredible!
Meteora Hiking Tour
I would only recommend this tour of you’re in good shape. It’s not extremely difficult, but it’s also not easy. I’m a gym rat and like to stay in shape, even when I’m on the road. But even I was struggling with fatigue by the end.
Seeing Meteora from the bottom up was better than I ever imagined. By bottom up I mean you start from the bottom overwhelmed by the towering pillars above you, and you slowly make your way to the top.
Your guide will take you on secret paths and several different lookout spots, so make sure you pack your camera. You will see so many things on this tour that you couldn’t see anyway else beside by foot, so make sure not to miss it!
Note: there is a lot of descending the mountains, so I don’t recommend this if you have any knee problems of shin splints. Also, if you have hiking shoes, I would definitely bring those over tennis shoes. My tennis shoes didn’t have the best ankle support and I was definitely feeling a little strain towards the end.
Meteora Half Day Tour
This tour is a great introduction to Meteora and it covers so much ground. Besides learning ample history and visiting 3 main monasteries, one of the highlights of this tour is a visit to Theopetra’s Prehistoric Caves. Theopatra’s Cave was excavated only in 1987! The deepest level of the cave shows evidence that humans were present 130,000 years ago. It was fascinating to see the digging sites and learn about the history here. Entrance was an additional 4€ (not included in tour price).
The tours offered by Visit Meteora are run by locals to the area, and 2 of the guides were brothers. They were both awesome and so knowledgeable and passionate about their city! All the guides were super professional, courteous, interactive, and had great energy. You guys rocked! Pun…..intended?
Overall, the tours were awesome and I would recommend each one that I did.
How Long Should I Spend in Meteora?
I originally had plans to take a day trip from Athens and come back the same day and I’m so glad I didn’t.
An entire weekend is the perfect amount of time to experience what Metoera really has to offer and I would discourage a quick trip there. You would miss out on so much and there really isn’t enough time to see everything in just one day.
How to Get to Meteora
There is no transport to Meteora actually. But there is transport to the town below called Kalambaka, which is where most tourists stay.
Take a train or bus from either Athens or Thessaloniki. I took the 3-hour train journey from Thessaloniki and it went super smooth.
However, on the way back there was a strike (common in Greece), so I had to catch a bus instead. Annoying, but it all worked out in the end.
Things to Note:
- The entrance fee for the monasteries is a few euros so make sure to bring coins with you. They don’t accept credit cards.
- Some monasteries are closed on certain days, so be sure to check beforehand.
- Meteora is out of this world and it is such a special and different place to visit. It’s one of the most unique destinations you will ever see and I was constantly in disbelief that a place like this could exist. It’s beautiful, it’s touching, it has a fascinating history, and you will come home having some of your best travel photographs ever. I promise you.
Disclaimer: I was invited to Meteora, Greece by Visit Meteora tourism board. My thoughts and opinions, however, remain my own. I don’t bullsh*t and would never recommend a destination or tour I didn’t love!♥
Have I convinced you to visit Metoera yet? Have you already been? What did you think? Do tell!
Like it? Click photo to PIN for later ♥