Overwhelming. This is the first word that comes to my mind when I think of this incredible agglomeration of rocks located in the northern hinterland of Greece.
A worship place, an hangout for climbers and a tourist destination, the meteors are a UNESCO world heritage site known globally for their incredible uniqueness.
While the origin of these enchanting rocks is still unclear, we do know that they are a sacred place not only for locals but for anyone who visits them.
Above the rocks there are these wonderful monasteries that are home of monks and nuns.
Of the twenty-four original convents only six are the ones still intact, inhabited and open to visitors, they are:
– Great Meteoron: the biggest and most spectacular
– Agios Stefanos
– Aghia Triada
– Agios Nikolaos
Their peculiarity lies in their functionality and uniqueness.
Today they are inhabited by monks and nuns who strive to leave the splendour of this sacred place intact, maintaining the traditions of the past.
They also are committed to preserve the authenticity of this place by following sacred religious beliefs.
Keep in mind, in fact, that you must have your shoulders and knees well covered in order to enter, in accordance with the Orthodox religion.
The charm of these convents is unique. Each of them, in fact, is characterized by the maniacal care of the gardens, the incredible architecture and artworks and the breathtaking landscapes.
Wandering from one monastery to another, you will notice these majestic prairies that personally impressed me a lot. Each of them turns out to be flawless.
Sparkling colours stand out among all kinds of flowers scattered in these intimate and pretty gardens.
Everything is very quiet here. In my opinion, all the incredibly well-kept greenery has left me with a deep sense of peace and carefreeness.
Entering inside the convents it is also impossible not to be impressed by the architecture and the artworks.
Their interiors are in fact characterized by splendid paintings and very particular sculptures that will leave you speechless.
When talking about the meteors, one cannot help but appreciate their structure.
Their exposed brickwork composition makes them look like pretty terraced houses with spectacular views, but what stands out is their entrance.
Endless winding steps set into the rocks make their way around these imposing boulders.
Walking along the steep ramps to the entrance of the monasteries, I was then particularly amazed by these ancient wooden staircases suspended in the void which can be seen everywhere near the convents.
These, as you can deduce, were the only method available at the time, along with pulleys, to access the monasteries.
As fascinating as it is frightening and dangerous!
Think of the fact that the older monks or those who were afraid to climb the suspended ramps, in fact, entered in these large nets and were hoisted to the top by their companions.
This cross-linked was also used to transport all the food and various basic necessities.
A true traveller knows: exploring places on foot is the best way to fully enjoy any trip and, in my opinion, setting out to visit Meteora is definitely the best option to visit it!
If you stay in Kalambaka, a town at the foot of Meteora, you can set off directly from the town without having to resort to shuttles/taxis to the top (an option available for those who are not keen on walking or are unable to).
For a complete visit of the six still inhabited monasteries you need to start early in the morning and with a map in hand.
The paths are fairly well signposted but as soon as you enter the bush it can be easy to get disoriented.
I left around seven a.m from “HostElGreco”, the hostel where I was staying in Kalambaka, a very central location for exploring the meteors.
From there, just follow the well-marked signs to begin the climb to the monasteries.
As the altitude rises, the effort is immediately rewarded with thrillinging landscapes and views.
As you rise in altitude, you will be struck by the small and ancient convents now in disuse.
Exploring these tiny natural stone “houses” you will begin to have a small taste of what you will admire at the top.
Impressive, at this point, is the word that will most often enrich your thoughts as you continue along the path and climb the altitude, admiring so much beauty.
Along the paths there are several viewpoints where you can take a break from walking and stop to appreciate the enchanting landscapes of the valley below (I strongly recommend a good picnic at one of these points).
Between an ascent and a descent, rising in altitude, you can start to admire the picturesque monasteries scattered among the rocks together with their enchanting fairytale gardens.
It is worth visiting at least one of them just to get a glimpse of their suggestive interiors (not to mention the view).
However, if you don't fancy a visit to the interior, some monasteries allow partial access to their gardens.
The entrance to the convents costs about three euros (for non-Greek citizens), which I think is a pittance and therefore absolutely affordable considering the splendour they have to offer.
I sincerely think that Meteora is one of those destinations that is quite underrated but really should be on every person's bucket-list.
Ideal for those who need a little escape and want to get away from the daily hustle and bustle, this place can bring peace and serenity to anyone.
Se poi sei un’amante del trekking questo è pane per i tuoi denti!
The route is long and requires a certain amount of physical effort if you want to visit all the monasteries in one day but the incredible views and the surreal context pay off the effort at full price!
I think it's clear. I was particularly struck by the story of these incredible convents literally suspended in the air.
As you venture among the meteors, you seem to enter a new reality. The spectacular views, the enchanting landscapes, the monasteries rich in history, their fairytale gardens, the stairs suspended in the void to reach them.. All this makes this place a truly rare beauty.
The opening hours of the convents are very limited and so it is not easy to visit everything in peace if you only have one day available.
In this case you will have to make some sacrifices in order to visit them (for example, not visiting all the interiors of the monasteries, just admiring them from the outside), as I did.
– As mentioned above, pay attention to clothing: shoulders and knees must always be well covered when entering monasteries.If you are not adequately covered, know that there are clothes for both sexes available at the entrance to each one.
– If you plan to visit the meteors on foot, I recommend that you divide your visit into at least two days: you might be able to explore almost everything in one day but you would still have to give up something so, in my opinion, you won't be able to fully enjoy that atmosphere of peace and tranquillity that you breath in Meteora.
– Explore them at sunset: they are spectacular. The colours that the twilight sky spreads across these imposing boulders is truly painting-like. Get a good picnic meal and stop directly at the top of one of the mountains for dinner, appreciating the suggestive sunset in this magical place.
– Do not take photos inside monasteries: it is forbidden to take photos inside the convents. Each one has a number of uncompromising surveillance guards, so I advise you not to even try.