The towering vertical cliffs of Meteora have provided a protected place to pursue spiritual contemplation for centuries. The first hermit monks lived up in caves, but eventually 24 Byzantine monasteries were built (six function today) atop the imposing rock. Part natural wonder, part manmade marvel, the dramatic site is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a popular attraction in Greece.
Travelers come to Meteora to visit the six operational monasteries and walk the many trails in the area. To get the most out of your visit, book a tour, which will offer historical context. Full-day tours depart from Athens or Thessaloniki to Meteora, or you can make your own way to Kalampaka to enjoy a half-day group, private, or sunset tour. Adventurous travelers can also embark on a hike or do a rafting trip down the River Ionas.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Wear comfortable shoes, bring sunscreen and water, and prepare to walk—all but one of the monasteries is reached by steep steps.
- Visitors to the monasteries must have their shoulders and knees covered, and wraps are provided at the entrance.
- The best options for restaurants and cafes are in Kalampaka, so bring a packed lunch if you plan to spend the day.
- Be sure to check the opening days and times of the monasteries in advance as they vary.
- Plan to visit two or three monasteries on a day tour—to visit all six, you will need a 2-day tour.
- St. Stephen's Monastery (Agios Stephanos) is the only wheelchair-accessible monastery.
How to Get There
Meteora is located in Thessaly, about 220 miles (355 kilometers) northwest of Athens, and is accessible by road from the towns of Kalampaka and Kastraki, just to the south. Guided tours often start from Athens, while direct buses and trains run to Kalambaka from Athens, Thessaloniki, and Delphi.
When to Get There
The monasteries are open year-round, but each is closed on a different day, so it’s important to plan ahead. July to October are most popular, and to avoid the crowds, opt for a morning tour. Out-of-season visitors encounter lower entrance fees and fewer crowds, while hikers might come in May or June, before the heat arrives.
Meteora’s Big Six
Meteora’s cliff-top monasteries were built by Eastern Orthodox hermit monks who settled in the area in the ninth century. Most visitors make a beeline for the Holy Monastery of Great Meteoron, the largest, oldest, and highest, located at around 2,000 feet (615 meters). There’s also Varlaam Monastery, founded in the 14th century by Hosios Varlaam; the dramatically situated Holy Trinity Monastery; Monastery of St. Nicholas Anapausas, renowned for its spectacular frescoes; 16th century Monastery of Rousanou; and the most easily accessible monastery, St. Stephen’s.