10 Priceless Tips For Visiting The Mystical Meteora, Greece
Visiting Meteora, Greece should be on top of your travel list.
The sight of the mystical, hanging Meteora Monasteries, atop the massive, monolith rocks, challenges even the wildest imagination.
However, you need some planning and preparation before venturing on this marvellous adventure.
To help your visit to Meteora be at least as memorable as your first kiss, I’ve gathered these invaluable travel tips and useful information.
Let’s dig in!
Jump directly to:
- 1. Find Out The Best Time For Visiting Meteora, Greece
- 2. Check Out The Meteora Location
- 3. Plan How To Get To Meteora In The Most Convenient Way
- 4. Explore The Map Of The Meteora Monasteries
- 5. Consider The Meteora Monasteries Opening Hours And Closed Days
- 6. Follow The Rules To Make The Best Of Your Visit To Meteora
- 7. Divide The Visits To The Monasteries In Two Days
- 8. Beware How Difficult Visiting The Meteora Monasteries Is
- 9. Research Where To Stay In Kalambaka
- 10. Discover More Things To Do In Kalambaka
- Visiting Meteora, Greece Is An Experience You’ll Never Forget
1. Find Out The Best Time For Visiting Meteora, Greece
Greece has a moderate climate. Hence, the best seasons to visit Meteora are spring and autumn. Winter might be too windy and wet, while the summer heat might resemble a visit to the sauna.
Between March & June and September & November, the weather is neither too hot nor too cold.
If you want to narrow down your choice of best time to visit Meteora even more, pick May or October. The temperatures during the day are warm, but not hot. Moreover, the forest around Meteora has the thickest foliage with the most vibrant colours – different shades of green in May and stunning hues of golden in October.
As for the time of day or order in which to visit the Meteora Monasteries, best consult with the table below for the opening hours and closed days of the monasteries.
2. Check Out The Meteora Location
Located in Central Greece, in the fertile Thessaly Plain, hugged by the Pindus Mountains, and washed by the Pineios River, the Meteora Rocks have been providing shelter to hermit monks since the 11th century.
Between the 14th and the 17th century, 24 monasteries were built on top of the monolith pillars. Today, only six remain active and are open to visitors.
In the nearest town Kalambaka, as well as in the neighbouring village Kastraki, you’ll find plenty of accommodation options and eateries (see the suggestions below).
The monasteries are located around 6 km away from Kalambaka. There are two main streets, which lead you to the Orthodox complex. You can follow them in either direction to drive a full circle.
3. Plan How To Get To Meteora In The Most Convenient Way
You have several options for visiting Meteora, Greece.
Buses and trains connect Kalambaka, the gateway to Meteora, with the major Greek cities. In Kalambaka, you can join a small group tour, rent a car, scooter, or bike, and even trek the hiking trails around Meteora.
While travelling by car is definitely the most comfortable option, it is also the most expensive one. Don’t forget to calculate the toll fees on Greek highways into your overall transportation budget.
To help you plan your trip better, here are the distances from the three largest Greek cities:
- Athens – Kalambaka: 355 km / 220 mi.
- Thessaloniki – Kalambaka: 230 km / 140 mi.
- Larisa – Kalambaka: 83 km / 52 mi.
I cannot recommend joining a large bus tour for this destination. Read on to learn what my concerns are.
4. Explore The Map Of The Meteora Monasteries
The distances between the monasteries are roughly between 500 m and 6 km. The whole area is seven square kilometres large.
The roads are steep and windy but in great condition. Some sections are wide and can accommodate both parked and moving vehicles. In others, it is difficult to squeeze a tiny car past a moving bus.
Parking lots get jam-packed in the late morning hours and remain full until the last minutes of the monasteries’ opening hours.
5. Consider The Meteora Monasteries Opening Hours And Closed Days
Summer opening hours: from April 1st to October 31st
|St. Stephen Monastery||9:00 AM – 1:30 PM and 3:30 PM – 5:30 PM||Mondays|
|The Great Meteoron Monastery||9:00 AM – 4:00 PM||Tuesdays|
|Rousanou Nunnery||9:00 AM – 5:00 PM||Wednesdays|
|The Monastery of the Holy Trinity||9:00 AM – 5:00 PM||Thursdays|
|Varlaam Monastery||9:00 AM – 4:00 PM||Fridays|
|St. Nicholas Anapausas Monastery||9:00 AM – 4:00 PM||Fridays|
Winter opening hours: from November 1st to March 31st
|St. Stephen Monastery||9:30 AM – 1:00 PM and 3:00 PM – 5:00 PM||Mondays|
|The Great Meteoron Monastery||9:00 AM – 3:00 PM||Tuesdays and Wednesdays|
|Rousanou Nunnery||9:00 AM – 2:00 PM||Wednesdays|
|Monastery of the Holy Trinity||9:00 AM – 4:00 PM||Thursdays|
|Varlaam Monastery||9:00 AM – 3:00 PM||Thursdays and Fridays|
|St. Nicholas Anapausas Monastery||9:00 AM – 4:00 PM||Fridays|
I’ve confirmed the correctness of the Meteora Monasteries’ opening hours in summer as of June 2018. No warranty for the winter timetable, though. If you find any discrepancies, please let me know in the comments.
The entrance fee for each of the monasteries is 3.00 € ($ 3.50) and has not changed in years.
6. Follow The Rules To Make The Best Of Your Visit To Meteora
Tourists from all over the world storm to visit Meteora, Greece. Remember, that the mystical, hanging monasteries are active places of worship.
- Dress conservatively. Men should wear long pants and sleeves, while ladies – long dresses or skirts and cover their shoulders. Moreover, female visitors should cover their pants, even the long ones, with a dress (provided at the entrance).
- Take off your headwear when entering a church or a cathedral, not only in Meteora but also in all East Orthodox temples.
- Photographing and taking videos is forbidden in all churches and cathedrals of the Meteora Monasteries.
- Modern, clean WCs, featuring squat toilets, are available for free in all monasteries. The only “toll” you have to pay is at the Rousanou Nunnery, where you need to climb down 20 additional steps to the toilets and then back up to the pathway.
- Water and snacks, as well as souvenirs, are sold at the parking lots of the Great Meteoron Monastery, Varlaam Monastery, and St. Stephen Monastery. The reason is, of course, that these three monasteries are the largest and most visited ones.
- Eateries are not to be found around the monasteries. You’ll have to drive back to Kastraki or Kalambaka for a proper sit-down or takeaway lunch.
7. Divide The Visits To The Monasteries In Two Days
Large bus tours only visit one or two monasteries. Additionally, they stop in the middle of the street to allow people to shoot a few photos of the rocks and the remaining four monasteries.
This is far from satisfying.
If you are flexible with your time and transportation and are wondering how long to spend in Meteora, plan to stay at least two full days in the area.
It is hard to visit more than three monasteries per day. Even if you physically manage to climb all the stairs, your head will spin and you will be mind-blown from all the magnificent sights. You will end up mixing every detail, every sight, every scent, and every moment in an intangible, messy muddle.
Besides, only on weekends, all monasteries are open. And you’ve probably already guessed that it’s not advisable to visit Meteora on a Saturday or a Sunday.
So check the timetable again and plan enough time for visiting AND fully enjoying the Meteora Monasteries.
Calculate Enough Time For Each Monastery
Remember, that the time needed to visit each of the monasteries is between one and two hours. This excludes hiking between the monasteries and only takes into account the climb to the entrance from the road.
The larger monasteries are more crowded, feature more buildings and artefacts to explore. You’ll spend a considerable amount of time walking around and peeking into every corner.
Meanwhile, in the smaller monasteries, you might want to enjoy the peace and silence and fully immerse yourself in the fascinating surroundings for an even longer period.
Below is my advice on how to split the six monasteries in two days.
Depending on the days of the week when you’re visiting Meteora, Greece you may need to swap day one with day two according to the Meteora Monasteries’ opening hours.
My advice is based on driving between most of the monasteries. Hiking from Kalambaka or Kastraki is also possible and the trails are well marked but the focus here is on visiting the Meteora Monasteries, not the rock formations.
Day 1 in Meteora: The Great Meteoron Monastery, Varlaam Monastery, Rousanou Nunnery, and a Meteora Sunset
The Great Meteoron is the most visited of the Meteora Monasteries. The size and splendour of the buildings, as well as the fantastic views, make it easy to understand why.
Try to visit it as early as possible. You cannot avoid all tourists but at least those who come from further away than Kalambaka will not arrive before 10:00 AM.
Buses and cars fill the parking lot and block the whole street between the Great Meteoron, where the road ends, and the Varlaam Monastery.
So if you’re driving, park the car somewhere between the two monasteries and after visiting the former, walk to the latter.
After finishing your visit to the Great Meteoron, proceed as quickly as possible to the Varlaam Monastery.
Since the stairs to these two monasteries – but mostly the views, of course – will leave you breathless, visit the nearby Rousanou Nunnery.
The steps, which lead to what many claim to be the prettiest monastery, are more in number than the ones you’ve just climbed to the Varlaam Monastery. However, they are not as steep and the climb is less tiring.
If you were very quick and only snacked between the monasteries, go for a lunch and a nap now.
Then return refreshed for a majestic Meteora sunset!
Dress warmly as the wind can become fierce in the evening and send chills down your spine, even after a hot summer day.
Day 2 in Meteora: St. Stephen Nunnery, Monastery of the Holy Trinity, St. Nicholas Anapausas Monastery, and a Meteora Sunrise
If you are not happy with your Meteora sunset photos, wake up before everybody else and head for a Meteora sunrise photo session!
You will most probably have the views all to yourself! Not only that, but the sun rays will reflect from the rocks, painting them in gentle pink hues, unlike anything you’ve ever seen.
Eat your breakfast and visit the rest of the Meteora Monasteries.
St. Stephen Monastery is the easiest accessible and the most crowded one. Hence, it is probably best to visit it first. Don’t forget that it closes between 1:30 PM and 3:30 PM.
We made the mistake of visiting this Meteora Monastery shortly before it closed. It was jam-packed with tourists, which partially ruined the experience for us.
The Monastery of the Holy Trinity is reached via a long pathway and a steep staircase. Despite the fact that numerous online sources call it the hardest to climb, that wasn’t our experience. It was also well visited but not as crowded as the others were.
St. Nicholas Anapausas is the hardest to reach in our experience. This explains the fact that it is the least visited of the Meteora Monasteries.
It is also the smallest of them all but it feels extremely cosy and welcoming. If you manage to climb to the top, you will be rewarded with the sight of the ruins of several deserted, inactive monasteries as well.
If you haven’t had enough of the fantastic views from the monasteries’ yards, you can return at any time to any of the numerous observation spots to further marvel at the Meteora Rocks and to photograph the exterior of the monasteries.
8. Beware How Difficult Visiting The Meteora Monasteries Is
I am not going to sugarcoat it for you.
The way to the top of all but one of the monasteries is tiring.
Below are the exact number of steps and comments about the difficulty of the ascent.
- The Great Meteoron: 270 steep and winding steps take you to the top of the plateau. It is rather difficult to climb. Moreover, if you’re not among the first visitors of the day, you’ll have to follow a line of other tourists all the way up.
- The Varlaam Monastery: a little less treacherous to visit than its neighbour, with “only” 150 steps to ascent.
- The Rousanou Nunnery: roughly 200 steps will take you to the entrance. They’re not as steep as the other stairways, though. Also, there are benches where you can rest mid-way.
- The Monastery of the Holy Trinity: despite the long walk to the base of the stone pillar, the 140 steps are not the steepest you’ll encounter in the area. We found it less tiring than climbing to the Great Meteoron.
- The St. Stephen Monastery: the most accessible Meteora Monastery with no steps at all to conquer. Hence, the most crowded of them all.
- The St. Nicholas Anapausas Monastery: I couldn’t catch my breath for long enough to count the steps, I’m sorry. An extremely steep path, alternating with even steeper stairs, leads to the smallest and least visited but unique and surprisingly welcoming of the Meteora Monasteries. Despite being exhausting, if time and your fitness allow it, definitely visit this monastery!
9. Research Where To Stay In Kalambaka
No matter which accommodation you’ll choose in Kalambaka or in the neighbouring Kastraki, make sure it features a view of the Meteora Rocks. After all, that’s what you’ve come here to experience in the first place, right?
Here are several hotels in Kalambaka, Greece, as well as in the neighbouring village Kastraki, which will make your stay memorable (affiliate links):
- Mythos Guesthouse: an authentic, simple guesthouse with hospitable staff and a good restaurant, at the edge of the Old Town of Kalambaka.
- Monastiri Guesthouse: a luxury guesthouse with a pretty inner yard, close to the train station.
- Pyrgos Adrachti: a rustic guesthouse in neighbouring Kastraki, 2 km away from Kalambaka and the St. Nicholas Anapausas Monastery.
- Dellas Boutique Hotel: a modern, posh accommodation, located in the middle of the road between Kalambaka and Kastraki.
- Grand Meteora Hotel: 5-star luxury just outside of Kastraki in an intimate surrounding.
10. Discover More Things To Do In Kalambaka
Of course, the main attraction in Kalambaka is Meteora.
However, the small, picturesque town offers a few other things to do as well.
- Natural History Museum of Meteora & Mushroom Museum: visit this surprisingly diverse collection of stuffed animals and dried mushrooms.
- Greek Education Museum: learn about the Greek school system and the geological formation of Meteora.
- Vissarion Metropolitan Church: marvel at the magnificent stone building, which stands tall at the edge of Kalambaka’s Old Town.
- Panagia Church: visit this hidden gem, tucked between the huge Meteora boulders at the feet of the pillars.
- Church of the Assumption: tour the 7th-century church with beautiful frescoes and well-preserved interior.
- Orthodox Icons: learn about the incredible art of iconography and even buy icons as souvenirs at the craft shops along the road east of Kalambaka.
- Greek Specialties: try delectable Greek dishes in one of the numerous restaurants and taverns. Here are some suggestions:
- Restaurant Meteora: an upscale restaurant in the centre of Kalambaka, serving traditional Greek cuisine. Try their signature veal with onions
- Platanos: an authentic tavern near the old town of Kalambaka, serving home-cooked food to travellers since 1953. Their lunch menu is worth tasting, especially the moussaka.
- Yamas: a traditional Greek tavern at the entrance of Kalambaka when coming from Kastraki, serving simple but delicious meals. The fresh Greek salad served here, is to-die-for.
- Pub 38: a craft-beer pub in the centre of Kalambaka, also serving fast food with a Greek twist.
- Meteora Spirits and Wines: after passing by the perfectly maintained vineyards, you cannot afford not to taste the local produce. You can order them in the above-mentioned eateries or buy some as souvenirs, for example from the Tsinas Wine Shop near the town centre square. The Meteora wines, ouzo, and brandy will satisfy even the most passionate aficionados.
Visiting Meteora, Greece Is An Experience You’ll Never Forget
I will admit to you up-front…
If you visit all of the Meteora Monasteries, watch the sunset, and get up before dawn to awe the Meteora sunrise, you’ll be exhausted as hell and need a vacation from the vacation!
The emotions, the sights, the overwhelming creations of nature and the human spirit will wash over you like a gigantic Tsunami wave.
So before even thinking of visiting Meteora, Greece, do yourself a favour and use these tips to better plan and prepare for your trip. You can thank me later ;)
Do you think you’re ready for the emotional roller coaster, called Meteora? Which tip did you find most useful? Let me know in the comments below!