Meteora monasteries represent a unique artistic achievement and are one of the most powerful examples of the architectural transformation of a site into a place of retreat, meditation and prayer. The 24 monasteries emerged on the countless summits of the rocks from the 14th until the 16th century, 6 of them remaining to be explored and admired by all. Access back then to each monastery was crazy, a leap of faith, climbing rocks, and ladders lashed together or large nets until the ropes would break.
These monasteries became the centers of the Orthodox creed in the Byzantine era, having produced some of the best pieces of religious art and craft and still possessing a collection of precious manuscripts, which today are on display in their museums. The Meteora monasteries have been included in the UNESCO World Heritage List and the Meteora-Antichassia region has been officially declared a Natura 2000 Ecological Zone by the Greek Ministry of Environment, for the protection of rare species of birds and flowers.
The Meteora provide an outstanding example of the types of monastic construction which illustrate a significant stage in history, that of the 14th and 15th centuries when the eremitic ideals of early Christianity were restored to a place of honour by monastic communities, both in the Western world (in Tuscany, for example) and in the Orthodox Church.
Starting from Athens very early in the morning (suggested 6am as it is apporx 4 hours driving!) and following the highway towards Lamia we make our first stop of at Thermopylae to see the statue of Leonidas, the King of the Spartans, who fell in the battle with all his 300 warriors fighting the Persians of Xerxes in 480 B.C.
Continuing North, and passing through the towns of Domokos, Karditsa and Trikala, we’ll arrive at Meteora precariously perched a top 1,300 feet high sandstone pinnacles. The bizarre but beautiful monasteries of Meteora are centuries old and listed by UNESCO World Heritage. Quite a journey from Athens, with the drive taking more than 4 hours but it is well worth the effort. On arrival you enter what is almost a different world with a strange and unique landscape where huge tall rock formations form towering peaks here and there. Unlike mountains, these stone rock formations more closely resemble pillars and are mostly tall and thin.
You will visit as many monasteries you want this day with a break for lunch at some point.
Overnight at the Hotel Iridanos.
After breakfast, your driver will take you to see more monasteries until lunch time in the afternoon. After lunch we head back to Athens.
If time permits and still have energy, you can visit Theopetra Cave, just 5km from Meteora. Its uniqueness from an archeological perspective is that in contains, within a single site, the records of two greatly significant cultural transitions: The replacement of Neanderthals by modern humans, and the later transition from hunter-gathering to farming after the end of the last Ice Age. The cave consists of an immense 500 square meter rectangular chamber at the foot of a limestone hill, which rises to the northeast above the village of Theopetra, with a very big entrance 17m wide by three metres high.
Alternative Tour Options:
There are so many other things to see in this area. Keep in mind that your driver is at your disposal, so if you would like to adjust the proposed itinerary at all, just let him know!
The monasteries of Meteora are
The Holy Monastery of Great Meteoro. The Great Meteoro (a.k.a. Monastery of the Transfiguration of Christ) is the highest, largest and oldest of the six monasteries of the Meteora. Founded in the 14th century by a monk from Mount Athos, the Great Meteoron is still impressive and important today. If there is only time to visit one monastery in the Meteora, this is the one to choose.
The Holy Monastery of Varlaam is the second largest monastery after the Great Meteoro.Named after a monk who first built a tiny chapel on this rocky promontory in the 14th century,it has an elegant church with 16th-century frescoes by a well-known iconographer and other notable buildings.
The Holy Monastery of Rousanou. It is dedicated to ‘The Transfiguration’ but consecrated to Saint Barbara. Founded in the 16th century, the easily-accessible Rousannou Monastery occupies a lower rock than the others of the Meteora.
The Holy Monastery of St. Nicholas Anapausas. Founded in the early 14th century, Agios Nikolaos Anapaphsas is a monastery in the Meteora notable for its unique construction and splendid frescoes by the 16th-century Cretan painter Theophanes the Monk.
The Holy Monastery of St. Stephen. St. Stephen’s was founded around 1400 and is now a nunnery. Although less spectacular than the others, it is the easiest monastery to visit and the nuns are welcoming.
The Monastery of Holy Trinity is very difficult to reach. Probably the most dramatically positioned monastery of the Meteora. It is perched atop a slender pinnacle and accessible only by 140 steep steps, making it one of the most peaceful monasteries as well. The visitor has to cross the valley and continue high up through the rock before arriving the entrance.
What Makes this Tour Unique?
Meteora is the most important monastic community in Greece after Mount Athos in Halkidiki.
- Comfortable shoes for hiking are recommended for this trip.
- Photography is permitted throughout the tour.
For visits to the monasteries, ladies are required to wear skirts and gentlemen need to be in long trousers.
- Holy Monastery of Great Meteoro:
- Summer: Mon, Wed-Sun 9am-5pm
- Winter: Mon, Thu-Sun 9am-4pm Hours may vary.
- Holy Monastery of Varlaam:
- Daily 9am-1pm, 3:30-6pm (hours may vary). Closed on Fridays in winter.
- Holy Monastery of Rousanou:
- Daily 9am-1pm and 3-6pm (hours may change). Closed on Wednesdays in winter.
- Holy Monastery of St. Nicholas Anapausas:
- Summer: Daily 9am-3.30pm; closed Fridays Winter: Closes by 3pm; sometimes closed completely.
- Holy Monastery of St. Stephen:
- Daily 9am-1pm, 3:30-6pm (hours may vary) Closed on Mondays
- Monastery of Holy Trinity:
- Daily 9am-1pm, 3:30-6pm (hours may vary). Closed Thursdays and sometimes Fridays.
- Theopetra Cave:
- Daily: 8am-3pm
- This tour does not include entrance fees to any archeological site and museum, hotel accommodation, gratuities, or other client personal expenses. Driver’s hotel expenses are not included in the price but if we book the hotel our company use you can avoid this cost. If you wish to book your own hotels then you need to pay a room for the driver.
- Entrance fee to each monastery is 2 Euros pp.
- Free admission for:
- Persons under 18 (with current identification to prove age)
- University students from Greece and the E.U
- Free admission on specific Greek holidays:
- January 1
- March 25
- May 1
- in the morning of Good Friday (April 18)
- Easter Sunday (April 20), December 25 and 26; no tours will be performed on those days.
Did you Know?
The Agia Triada or Holy Trinity monastery was used in the final scenes of the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only the 12th spy film in the James Bond series.