For almost 700 years, these clifftop monasteries in Meteora, Greece have sat perched in the skies, safe from the turmoil on the ground below. High upon the sandstone outcroppings in central Greece, this complex of Eastern Orthodox monasteries has provided safety to the monks who have worked and studied here. Despite invaders from foreign lands coming into Europe, a World War and all the natural and political disasters that happened over 7 centuries, these monasteries remain essentially untouched. What was once an impossible place to reach can now be visited by tourists on a regular basis.
When and How Should You Visit Meteora?
If you want to avoid the bitter cold winter weather and the crowds, plan to visit Meteora in May or June. We offer a Best of Greece tour taking you on a 15 Day Journey across all the Must Do places in Greece. Alternatively, you can fly into Athens and catch a train or bus to a nearby town and just go your own way with our great hotel selection too. Either way, we highly recommend checking this place out if you plan to visit Greece.
This place is called Meteora comes from the Greek words meaning “floating in the air”, which is a great way to describe how these buildings look when viewed from adjacent hills. To people of the past, this place would have looked like something that only the most creative fictional author could have crafted up, or maybe even been believed to be a place where the people could get physically closer to holiness. Setting out to build the complex at Meteora was certainly no easy task to pull off, and must have taken a lot of time and considerable effort.
While Athens may still be the most popular place in Greece for tourists to visit, those who venture a couple hours away to Meteora are in for a picturesque treat. It wouldn’t be hard to imagine how peaceful it must be for monks to carry out their duties in a well-appointed compound that’s virtually untouchable to anyone outside their order. There are a few main monasteries that make up this sprawling complex on the clifftops.
The Monastery of Great Meteoron
This is the largest and oldest of the monasteries in Meteora and by far one of the most popular places for tourists to visit. Despite being so large and previously important, it’s almost completely unused by the monks. This monastery houses a museum, where tourists are given a taste of the history behind the region and other monasteries.
The Monastery of Varlaam
This is the second largest of the monasteries, and one that’s still being used by the Orthodox monks today. The Monastery of Varlaam was constructed shortly after the Great Meteoron, making it the second oldest. Tourists are welcomed here, where there are additional monuments and another museum with more information and artifacts. At this monastery, the priest was well known for their works of bibliography (bookmaking), as well as gold embroidery.
The Monastery of Roussanou
While this was originally a monastery, today it operates as a nunnery and is inhabited by about a dozen nuns.
The Monastery of Saint Stephen
While other monasteries in Meteora are on clifftops, this is the only one that’s positioned with access from the ground. It’s believed by the Germans in World War II that there were opposing forces occupying Saint Stephen, so it was attacked. Luckily, the damage didn’t completely destroy the complex. The attack led to the abandonment of the monastery and was later repurposed as a nunnery, where approximately two dozen nuns live today.
The Monastery of Holy Trinity
While not the largest, this is one of the more photogenic monasteries in the bunch. Due to the rock formation that this monastery is built atop, the Holy Trinity is the most difficult to reach.
The Monastery of Saint Nikolaos
The Monastery of Saint Nikolaos is a very interesting monastery here, even in terms of Meteora. Due to the small rock formation, the construction of Saint Nikolaos is more vertical rather than horizontal. These buildings have more floors in them, compared to the shorter buildings found in other monasteries. This is typically the first monastery that visitors come to when touring Meteora.