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The Heights and Delights of Meteora

Not only closer to God, but isolated from the heathens

sunny 60 °F
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I didn't have a travel guide for Greece and didn't even know how long I would stay. While in Albania, I had found an online map of Greece and perused it for a destination that would be within a 4 - 6 hour bus ride and that would help me ease into the country as I wasn't ready for a large city like Athens. I jotted down the names of some possibilities from the map and then looked up the most likely town to see what might be there. Bingo! I was in luck, Kalampaka and Kastraki were medium and small towns located at the base of sandstone rock pinnacles (4000 m.) with monasteries on top. How perfect was that? That meant hiking and climbing with great views not to mention cool old stone buildings. Why hadn't I heard of this place before?
The area is called Meteora-- "suspended in air" or "in the heavens above" and it's a UNESCO World Heritage site. Followers of the Eastern Orthodox religion in their quest to be closer to God came here for solitude. They originally occupied caves and cutouts in the rocks. Eventually more followers arrived and in the 11th and 12th centuries building began. By the 14th and 15th centuries, most of the 24 monasteries had been built on the top or sides of these pinnacles. Today, only six can be visited though the ruins of others are visible from certain viewpoints. Of the six, only two are occupied by a religous community, the other two have just one nun and just one monk in residence.
As per their purpose (hermitage and sometimes escape from foreign invastion and persecution), the monasteries were hard to access. At first ladders and nets were used. Some used a basket and rope to pull themselves and supplies up the steep rock sides. However, this resulted in many early deaths so most found other ways for transport such as steep rock stairs and one even has a cable car for residents use only. However, you can still see baskets dangling from impossibly long ropes that are used for transporting smaller items.


Now there is a very good road that will take you there and you can join a tour group to see them with ease. However, you'd be missing out on the best part which is the hike and the chance to savor the great views at leisure. Also, it is a Natura 2000 Ecological Zone with rare birds and flowers. You can easily hike among all six monasteries in one day. Though if you want to visit the monasteries, note that most close for at least one day each week and the hours are reduced during winter. Locals told me that once you have seen one or two, you have "seen them all". I figured this would be true for me, so I looked to see which ones were open that day. If you want to see all six, get a schedule and plan ahead. Also, you will need to be appropriately covered/dressed to enter; women must wear dresses or skirts that cover their legs. Women hikers wearing pants can borrow a long wrap-around skirt at the entrance if they are adequately covered above the waist.
The map of Meteora was ridiculously vague about the trails so I did the rare thing for me and at the last minute I hired a guide at a very reasonable rate. He was a 50+ year old man from Kastraki that knew all the best trails and view points. His English and my Greek were equally inadequate, but we did quite well with his Italian and my Spanish. He could scramble like a mountain goat and helped me with rocks and routes that I could not, would not or should not have done on my own. It also made the day more efficient (no confusion about the right trail) and I could ask my questions as they occured.


Agios Stefanos the nunnery that I could see from my room's balcony was the only one I entered. It was the last one on the route we had taken and from there it was just a short trail down to town with the path ending just blocks from my room. Halfway to heaven, I lit a candle for my mother, played with the friendly kittens and watched craftsmen painting icons on the wall of the sanctuary. It was incredibly calm and peaceful at this height and the sun was beginning to set.....down below, the Pineas Vally and it's rivers turned silver then gold.


  • Those with religous communities are Agios Stefanos, Agia Trias, Valaam and Megalo Meteora.
  • The two nunneries are Roussanou (with just one nun) and Agios Stefanos.
  • Just one monk occupies Agios Nicolaus Anapafsas.

Posted by jaytravels 02:37 Archived in Greece Tagged greece rtw meteora kalampaka kastraki

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