Hands down, without a doubt, Meteora is one of the most jaw-dropping, breath-taking, heart-flutter inducing (?) places I have ever had the pleasure of exploring and admiring. My photos do not do it justice, and my words cannot explain enough to you just how incredible this part of Greece is, though I will try, as I want you to experience what I have.
Meteora means “suspended in the air” and at hundreds of meters above sea level, you’ll really feel as though you’re hovering above Earth and more-so in the heavens. Located in central Greece and home to just 6 remaining monasteries dating back many centuries ago, this area kind of makes you feel as though time has stood still. To think that monks transported themselves to the highest points of the rock formations merely with rope and baskets to construct the monasteries as places for worship and solitary living will absolutely blow your mind.
So, if you find yourself in Greece running off to island hop in the near future, make sure you have an extra day or two up your sleeve and journey up to Meteora. Please. Do it. You won’t be sorry!
When To Visit
There are always pros and cons to visiting tourist sites during either peak or off-season. Firstly, peak season for tourists in Meteora runs from July through til October, and judging by how beautiful this place is, you can just imagine the crowds during these months. Along with hoards of people killing the peaceful vibe of one of the most beautiful places in Greece, higher prices for accommodation and food will sting you too – no thanks!
So, for me personally, there is no chance I would visit during this time. I was here at the end of November, and while it gets a bit chilly, having some of these views nearly all to yourself is totally worth it, plus it’s a lot cheaper this time of year. However, you will find a lot of restaurants in the town of Kastraki are closed. Don’t worry, you won’t starve – Kalambaka town is still buzzing with locals and food options. As you get into the Winter months, it tends to snow in this area and can get quite rainy, so avoid the months of December through til about March.
How To Get There
This is the means of transportation I took, and sounded like the best way to get there from Athens! Simply get yourself to the Larissa Train Station via the metro or taxi. From here, there is only one direct train to the town of Kalambaka from Athens each day and vice versa. It leaves at 8.20am and takes roughly 5 hours to get there. On the way back to Athens, if that’s the route you’re taking too, the train leaves from Kalambaka at 5.20pm. P.S. don’t forget to initially book a round-trip ticket to begin with on the correct day as it works out to be cheaper and the return trip might sell out which means you’ll have to sit in the cafeteria like me!
If you’re looking for a bit more freedom, then you could easily rent a car from whatever city you’re travelling from to get to Meteora. This is a great idea if you’re looking to tour around the monasteries yourself as it is much easier to drive around up there than walk, that’s for sure!
Tour / Day Trip
I did look into doing a tour at first, but that’s not really my style and wanted to stay a few nights instead of rushing it. Some people do day trips from Athens, which gives you about 4 hours of exploring if you are short on time. Visit Meteora’s website is super helpful and they run amazingly insightful tours, so check it out here.
Where To Stay
There are two little towns you can choose to stay in during your visit. Your train will arrive in the lower, larger town of Kalambaka. Here you will find many bigger hotels and a lot more food options, along with shops and a lively townsquare. However I opted for the smaller town of Kastraki that actually is a lot closer to the mountains of Meteora (the better option in my opinion!) While in November, it was very quiet and many restaurants were closed, the views over Meteora were just insane and access to the mountains is a lot easier.
I stayed in Zozas Rooms, and highly recommend you do so too! The little family run B&B is extremely affordable while offering all the amenities you could possibly need, along with a killer balcony view. The breakfast spread in the morning is enough to keep you full for most of the day, and the kind, Greek hospitality shown by the owner will make you feel right at home. Book your stay HERE!
Where To Eat
I won’t lie to you, I didn’t find much quality food during my stay and the prices were quite expensive for what we got. In Kastraki, as many restaurants were closed in the off-peak season, the prices of the ones open were kind of ridiculous. The photo above with the insane view is from Restaurant Batalogianni. While the Greek salad was off the chain, I can’t really recommend the other food I had…! We did manage to get a few good greek salads and cheap Mythos beer, though! Head down to Kalambaka where you’ll find a souvlaki for less than 2 Euro, delicious bakeries serving up sweet Baklava and cute little coffee shops in the town square.
While there are many different ways to see the area of Meteora, here is how I spent 2 days in this heavenly part of Greece:
After arriving in the afternoon, we hired a taxi driver for 2 hours (35 Euro) who took us to his favourite photo spots as the sun began to set. He picked us up from our hotel at 4pm, explained the area and monasteries to us as best he could and ended up stopping anywhere we wanted along the way. He showed us not only the popular lookouts for sunset photos and views, but some more secluded ones that we had all to ourselves, too! It was a great way to kickstart our time in Meteora and get a feel for the place with a little more freedom than a tour would offer you.
Half-Day Tour of the Monasteries
You can’t come to Meteora and just stare at the monasteries from afar, you have to climb what feels like thousands of steps up and explore inside, too! While we didn’t have our own car, the next best thing was doing a half-day tour, and it ended up being awesome. While I usually am not overly keen on tours, you really do need to have a local guide explain the history of the area and each individual monastery, otherwise you’re just wandering around taking photos and not learning about the place!
We went with Visit Meteora’s half-day morning tour for 25 Euro each, that picked us up at 9am and dropped us off at our hotel at 1pm, took us to several lookout spots for photos and to 3 monasteries. On top of that, the entry fee for each monastery is 3 Euro per person. Note that different monasteries are closed on different days, and while I didn’t get to visit all 6, you can find opening hours for each one in full detail here.
Great Meteoron Monastery
The biggest, oldest and highest monastery in Meteora, and the first stop on our tour.It may look daunting at first (I mean, it does stand at 615m above sea level after all), but I can guarantee the stairs are worth it for the views and beauty inside. Not only is the cathedral in the courtyard still embellished with 16th century frescoes, but here you’ll find the views looking back over the other monasteries and mountains are quite spectacular. Don’t forget to check out the museum and original kitchen, too!
Open: 9am – 5pm + closed on Tuesdays.
By far my favourite of all, not only from afar but inside, too – you really cannot miss Varlaam! It was found abandoned in the 14th century by two wealthy monks after being deserted by its original founder, Varlaam in 1350. What will really blow your mind is looking down from the top and trying to comprehend the fact that these monks brought the construction materials to the top via baskets and rope! To me, the highlight is the pristine courtyard, along with the museum where you’ll find paintings and embroideries.
Open: 9am – 4pm + closed on Fridays.
If you’re not travelling by car, you can most definitely hike up from the Kastraki village if you’re up for it. I can imagine Meteora being a haven for avid hikers! The paths and roads are extremely scenic, and getting to the top to see the views would be all the more rewarding. Otherwise, you can join a guided hiking tour if you want to follow along a set path and learn about the area along the way.