Meteora, Greece - Heaven on earth!
Updated: Mar 13
Meteora, Greece: Monasteries built on the tops of stone peaks? The tallest at 2,011 feet (613 meters)? As soon as I learned about it, I had to go!
Meteora comes from from the Greek meteōros (μετέωρο) meaning “high in the air.” Although it’s now used to refer to the general destination, meteora is a plural word, describing the enormous rock formations that seem to rise up from the earth. The towns that sit at the base of the meteora are Kalabaka and Kastraki. I chose Kalabaka for my two-night stay. (Amusing aside: Greeks are inconsistent in their spelling of words; depending on the person/book/map, I found Kalabaka also spelled Kalambaka or Kalampaka. It comes from the Turkish word meaning “beautiful fortress.”
The landscape alone would be thrilling enough to draw tourists, but what makes Meteora special is that on the cliffs of many of these rocks are Greek Orthodox monasteries which were built in the Middle Ages. Built in such remote spaces to avoid the invading Turks, the monasteries themselves seem “suspended in the air”.
At its peak, two dozen monasteries across Meteora, today only six remain active. It is these six monasteries, along with their monks and nuns that visitors come to see in Meteora.
I’m more than happy to hand arrangements over to some amazing local tours that are reliable and well-reviewed. Those of us who travel solo don’t get to rely on anyone, so I had a huge sigh of relief and happily let them guide me in this magical destination. Below are my top 2 tours that I personally took and highly recommend!
Top 2 Tours:
Meteora secret spots & untold stories: A wonderful insight into Meteora from Dimitrios, am excellent local who really knows his history and culture. We spent the afternoon exploring the wildlife and different viewpoints of the area. Dimitrios showed so much amazing sights that I wouldn't have noticed without his expertise. He cares deeply for the environment and we felt an immediate connection. A true gem of a tour!
Meteora Photo Tour: Cristos who runs and host these incredible photography tours was incredibly kind, knowledgable and brought me to some incredible locations for the perfect photo! You don't need a fancy camera to bring to this tour, though it doesn't hurt. I just brought my iPhone 6 model on this photography tour and DAMN, I learnt so much I didn't know before about my camera and tips on taking breathtaking photos! Honestly, this was the best tour I took on this trip and I really hope everyone considers this tour if you want the perfect shot of Meteora. Christos was not only a fabulous guide but an excellent teacher of photography. Since this was a photography tour, did my photos turn out good? My photos were on fire!!! I received so many compliments on the photos that Christos taught me to take. I made my friends jealous - mission accomplished! <<BOOK NOW>>>
HOW TO GET TO METEORA:
Train to Meteora:
Kalambaka is at the end of the railway line from Paleofarsolas, on the main Thessaloniki-Larissa-Athens rail line. There are two direct trains from Athens to Kalambaka every day (about 4 hours 45 minutes), plus regular trains throughout the day from Athens, Larissa and Thessaloniki with a change of train at Paleofarsolas. For train times from Athens or Thessaloniki to Kalambaka, please refer to www.trainose.gr and use their journey planner.
Flight to Meteora:
There is no airport in Meteora. The closest airport is in Thessaloniki (SKG) that both receive domestic and international flights. There are 91 direct routes that fly into Thessaloniki. For international travellers, you may find cheaper fares by flying into a major European city and then buying a separate ticket to Thessaloniki as a side trip.
For example: Flying from Toronto to London. Staying in London for a few days, then book a new ticket from London to Thessaloniki with Ryanair.
Bus to Meteora:
To go to Meteora (Kalambaka) from Thessaloniki, visitors have to take the bus (transfer via Trikala). The bus trip from Thessaloniki to Trikala is 3 hours, while from Athens to Trikala is 5 hours.
Adrachti Pillar: it’s an atmospheric spot and easily reached if you walk east out of Kastraki past the Holy Tomb of the Assumption Church.
Notes: You would do a disservice to yourself if you don't stay at least 1 night in Meteora. There are day trips but staying overnight would allow you to explore the cute village and hidden gems.
Where to Stay:
Essentially, your choice comes down to just two areas, the town of Kalambaka and the neighboring village of Kastraki. Each sit at one end of the main monasteries of Meteora, so you can drive or walk from either. It’s also worth noting that it’s only about 2 kilometers from the center of one to the other, so it’s easy to get between the two when needed.
Kalambaka is the larger with more accommodation and restaurants, and is where both the buses and trains arrive. Kastraki, on the other hand is a small village with a quaint atmosphere. You’ll still find quite a few restaurants here and plenty of accommodation options, but you will have to make your way over from the bus or train station in Kalambaka.
Where to Eat:
While there aren’t any places to get food up by the monasteries, you’ll find a great selection of eateries in both Kastraki and Kalambaka. Being the bigger town, you’ll find a bit more variety in Kalambaka, as Kastraki generally has only traditional Greek restaurants.
In these restaurants you can expect plenty of Greek staples like grilled meats, saganaki, and salads. All of this goes best with some Greek wine, including some local varieties.
Valia Calda Restaurant
Address: Trikalon 91, Kalampaka 422 00, Greece
Notes: local authentic recipes, flavours of Meteora region and of the surrounding mountains straight in your dishes. High quality ingredients and meats.
Address: Trikalon 2, Kalampaka 422 00, Greece
Notes: nicely cooked home style food with lovely atmosphere. Good vegetarian options.
Address: Trikalon 74, Kalampaka 422 00, Greece
Notes: cheap gyros! cheap eats! fast food and opens until 3am!
More information on Meteora
Language: Greek. But, English is widely spoken.
Currency: Euro (EUR, €)
Modes of Payment: Cash and Credit Card (Visa, Mastercard and AMEX is still the most common)
Electricity Info: 220 volts
Train Travel: www.trainose.gr
Time Zones: GMT+2 (GMT+3 last Sunday in March to last Saturday in October)