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Communing with the Gods in Meteora, Greece

visit meteora greece

If there was one place in Greece I was dying to visit besides the beautiful islands and beaches, it was Meteora.

Greece gets a lot of hype as a summer destination with more little islands and crystal clear water beaches than you can imagine. But I knew there was a lot more to that and I made sure to pencil in some time in central Greece to see some of the dramatic mountains.

Meteora caught my attention ages ago on Pinterest, and I always tucked the image away of beautiful mountaintop monasteries in the back of my already overcrowded mind.

visit meteora greece

After all, I love a legendary landscape, a place so unique no similar one exists. Well, Meteora DEFINITELY fits that bill.

I was again reminded of Meteora when I picked up a copy of Lonely Planet Greece to see it gracing the cover. Fate, right?

That’s when I knew I had to go.

For those who are curious, Meteora meaning “middle of the sky” is a complex of 6 mountaintop Eastern Orthodox monasteries in northern Greece.

Here are my 5 best epic moments and memories from Meteora, Greece

visit meteora greece

visit meteora greece

1. Meteora for George R. R. Martin fans

But for the third time something else last year piqued my interest last year in Meteora, pulling it back to the forefront of my mind when I was plotting out my Euro itinerary. Care to guess what it was?

Think epic. Nerdy. Fictional. Moderately sexual.

Any clue?

Did you know that the Eyrie of the Vale from Game of Thrones is based on Meteora?

visit meteora greece

Source

Totally awesome right?!

Not a Game of Thrones fan? Well let me take this opportunity to tell you that there are few more epic, badass books-turned-HBO-miniseries that deserve your attention. Get reading. You don’t know what you have been missing.

But back to my point. Meteora inspired George R.R. Martin in creating the Vale where the fortress is built high atop the mountains, accessed through a rope and basket system. Talk about faith in the Almighty.

Then it was used in the episode when Tyrion gets taken to the Eyrie and thrown into one of the sky cells. Doesn’t that background look familiar?

Sigh, I’m such a nerd. There really is no hope for me.

visit meteora greece

visit meteora greece

visit meteora greece

2. Climbing the back way to my first monastery at St. Nicholas

As soon as I checked into to the hotel in Kastraki, the closest town to the monasteries, I knew I had to get myself over there asap.

After the low-down on the opening hours and times, the monasteries open and close on different days, I decided to head straight to St. Nicholas, the closest one with the least amount of stairs.

Picking the brains of the owners, I managed to find a back route there through the woods and over some of the rocky pillars, thinking to myself, “oh this will be an adventure.”

WHAT WAS I THINKING?!

visit meteora greece

I swear to GOD there will come a day when I realize that doing things for the sake of “oh hell this will make for a great blog post” is NOT always worth it.

It was 2pm in July, the hottest hour of the day in Greece, and the sky was baked blue, you know that hazy blue you get when it’s hotter than Hades outside?

About halfway up the huge rocky hill behind the hotel towards the monastery I realized several important things. Wearing TOMS was a mistake. I didn’t have enough water with me. Sunscreen would have also been important to use. Oh, and doing this during the hottest part of the day with no shade was not smart.

visit meteora greece

visit meteora greece

visit meteora greece

I’m a hiker and a runner. I also never give up. But after stair 200 of getting to the top of the monastery I lost count and thought to myself, “wow, I really really should have rented a car” and “I wonder what I have to pay a local guy to piggy back me up to the rest of these.”

And that was the easiest and closest of the 6 monasteries! Heaven help me!

Of course after I recovered at the top, drank two bottles of water and stuck my red face under the tap and promptly getting yelled at by a monk-in-training, I realized OF COURSE it was worth it. Seriously beautiful up there, if you don’t believe me just look at the photos.

visit meteora greece

visit meteora greece

Pattering around in a striped apron covering my legs and sweating like a whore in church under my wrap (women must cover up) I took it all in.

What must it have been like to build this on top of a mountain centuries ago? What’s it like in the snow in winter? And how to the monks deal with living there now?

I pestered one of the trainee monks about how they used to get up there, and how safe it is now – you know, they still cross over in motorized cable carts? “So how often were there accidents? Weren’t the afraid?” I asked.

“We used the ropes until the Lord lets them break.” Wow. That’s Faith, with a capital “F”. Or blind stupidity. Not sure which.

Then after climbing all the way down, moaning and bitching about my aching knees, I did the only sensible thing a girl can do in these situations.

This.

visit meteora greece

3. Waking up in Kastraki with this view

Coming to Meteora you’re faced with a few options of where to rest your head. Most people head to the more civilized Kalambaka a bit further down the road, but I wanted to be as close to these majestic mountains as possible, so I picked Kastraki, right at the foothills.

Just a few streets cobbled together with the occasional cat running around, with hot air that smells like farmland and history, Kastraki is unpretentious and simple. Just what I was looking for.

As soon as I discovered the Doupiani House where I was booked in, I fell in love.

Well, I fell in love as soon as I opened the balcony to THIS!

visit meteora greece

Swoon!

Holy crap, just look at that air conditioning unit! EXACTLY what I needed to see after a bagillion hour hot bus ride from hell!

Kidding!

I’m a sucker views and if I can swing a place with a view like this while traveling, I will.

Sitting under the beautiful terrace in the gardens overlooking the stunning Meteora rocks sipping coffee, I was in heaven. And then a kitten wandered over and sat in my lap.

Could it be more perfect?

visit meteora greece

visit meteora greece

4. Riding in cars with strangers

Having breakfast in the gardens, enjoying the views and the trying to mentally prepare for a hot day filled with stairs that never end, I experienced one of those serendipitous moments chatting with an awesome couple from the UK.

Talking about Greece, Europe, world travel, happiness, you know, the usual over an amazing pastry (or three) we realized our plans for the day coincided and we ended up spending the day together driving (there is a god!) to the different monasteries.

It was one of those moments that only happens when you’re traveling, you meet people who just match with your life choices, and you decide to throw caution to the wind and join them on an adventure.

That might be one of the things I love the most about travel actually.

visit meteora greece

visit meteora greece

visit meteora greece

We spent the whole day together visiting the different monasteries, then driving deep into the mountains eating the biggest lunch ever out in the sun with a local family.

Great Meteoron – Varlaam – Rousanou – St. Stephen – Holy Trinity 

It was heaven, you know, in a non-blasphemous way.

It was also one of those great moments as a solo traveler. Sometimes after days, weeks or months alone on the road, you just want to share an experience with someone else, even if you might never see them again.

Meteora was one of those places that inspired me to talk about it. It is fucking stunning, and I am happy I got to share the experience with different people. It cheesily made the the memory more special.

visit meteora greece

5. One of the best sunsets of my entire life

Sometimes I like to pretend I’m a great photographer.

What this really means is that I take way too many pictures with my big fancy DSLR or I even crouch down low for fun new angles. Usually I try to think about light and try to take advantage of sunsets.

Because let’s be honest here, the only time I’m awake for a sunrise is when I’m stumbling home from a discoteca in Spain on the weekend. Or if I have to catch a flight.

visit meteora greece

Well one of the guys who took pity on me and gave me a ride between monasteries on that first day told me about one of the best view points in the area for a sunset.

I feel like I should add that he was about ninety and half my size. I totally could have taken him out if things got weird, but this was just a standard Greek I feel bad for you because you’re traveling alone as woman scenario. Nothing to be concerned over (mom). Also it was over 100 degrees and my face was as red as a tomato. It would have been bad for tourism if a blond foreigner died from a heatstroke there.

But back to the sunset.

visit meteora greece

Perched out on one of the mountains above the monasteries, the clouds looked to dense to offer any decent sunsets, but my Greek savior told me to be patient and wait.

Lo and behold the sun finally peeked through the bottom layer of clouds turning the sky into a marvelous canvas of orange, red, purple and pink.

Quickly I put my camera down and tried to just take it all in. Ignoring all the couples making out around me, I focused on the pure, raw beauty of this part of Greece.

Meteora is still very much untamed and wild. Any trip to Greece would be incomplete without a visit here, that I can promise you, even in July.

Have you been to Greece or Meteora? Is this the kind of place that interests you? Have you been to any similar monasteries or mountain sites around the world? 

visit meteora greece

Many thanks to Doupiani House for hosting me in Meteora. Like always I’m keeping it real – all opinions are my own, like you could expect anything less from me.

 

55 Responses to Communing with the Gods in Meteora, Greece

  1. Erica February 1, 2014 at 12:27 am #

    Hi Liz! You’ve been busy with all these posts lately!! I was wondering if you could tell me what program you’re using to get all the cool text on your photos like in this post?? Thanks 🙂

    • Liz February 1, 2014 at 3:39 pm #

      haha I’ve been inspired to write lately! I just use Picassa and download fun fonts, I’m kind of a font whore 😀

  2. Davide February 1, 2014 at 12:31 am #

    I visited Meteora a few years ago and it is one of my favourite places in Europe. Thanks for sharing your post and those beautiful pictures!

    • Liz February 1, 2014 at 3:40 pm #

      Glad you’ve been there and enjoyed it too!

  3. Trevor Huxham February 1, 2014 at 12:33 am #

    This was such a cool post, Liz!!! I’ve been looking forward to seeing more pictures and stories of Meteora ever since you teased us with them this summer. This whole complex looks magical—thanks for sharing! 🙂

    • Liz February 1, 2014 at 3:40 pm #

      You would really love it!

  4. Caitlyn February 1, 2014 at 12:54 am #

    I cannot believe you walked all the way up! It’s hard enough just walking up the stairs from the parking lots! (I know, I’m terrible.) I love Meteora, I took tours there last year and I would play the Three Tenors on the way up, just to get everyone in the mood, and then Linkin Park’s ‘Meteora’ album on the way down 🙂 Don’t think it would really work the other way…

    • Liz February 1, 2014 at 3:40 pm #

      hahahahahaha

  5. Kaelene @Unlocking Kiki February 1, 2014 at 1:59 am #

    So beautiful! I just love everything about Greece!

    • Liz February 1, 2014 at 3:40 pm #

      Me too!

  6. Clare February 1, 2014 at 7:48 am #

    People use the word “breathtaking” to describe places all the time, but Meteora well and truly looks like the real deal! As for Greece in general? Love it. If you haven’t been – go, go, go!

    • Liz February 1, 2014 at 3:41 pm #

      took the words out of my mouth!

  7. Jen Seligmann February 1, 2014 at 1:15 pm #

    Simple stunning Liz. I have been to Greece a few times now and haven’t been to Meteora so definitely feel, as you said, like my time in Greece is incomplete. It looks equally as beautiful as the islands to me.

    • Liz February 1, 2014 at 3:56 pm #

      It is really beautiful but in a different way than the islands, definitely worth visiting but not in July haha

  8. Heather February 1, 2014 at 4:47 pm #

    I can’t believe you climbed that mountain wearing Toms! I can feel the blisters from here. We really wanted to visit Meteora while in Greece, but since it was our honeymoon, I knew I wouldn’t want to be red faced and sweating with achy knees for half the trip. So we’re saving it for our five-year anniversary trip instead 🙂

    • Liz February 1, 2014 at 7:03 pm #

      good plan 🙂 You’re going to love it!

  9. Rachel of Hippie in Heels February 1, 2014 at 9:50 pm #

    don’t you hate when it’s a million degrees and you have to ADD layers because of religion *sigh by the end of a day in india my scarf is a drenched sweaty mess

    • Liz February 1, 2014 at 11:43 pm #

      Yeah I was pretty gross by the end of the day, not going to lie, I’m surprised people picked me up off the side of the road

  10. Amanda February 1, 2014 at 10:30 pm #

    Meteora is indeed stunning, and you’ve captured it beautifully in your shots! And WOW, talk about a view from that balcony!!!

    • Liz February 1, 2014 at 11:42 pm #

      I know! I couldn’t believe my luck!

  11. Amanda McGough February 2, 2014 at 4:58 am #

    Ah! These pictures are absolutely gorgeous. I’m definitely planning on visiting Greece this year so it looks like I should add the mainland to my itinerary.

    • Liz February 2, 2014 at 10:17 am #

      Definitely visit Meteora, it’s just incredible!

  12. Laura @ RoamFarAndWide February 3, 2014 at 8:51 pm #

    Wow. Looks incredible. Now you’ve inspired me to add one more place to my never-ending list of travel destinations. Thanks!

    • Liz February 4, 2014 at 4:39 pm #

      goal = achieved

  13. Jamie S. February 10, 2014 at 8:55 pm #

    This was a highlight of my visit to Greece! Alongside the fact that things in Greece cost half what they do in other parts of Europe. The shelves with the neatly stacked skulls of the departed monks was probably one of the most touching sights. They lived among the clouds their whole lives and they´ll stay there forever, never to be buried below the ground..

  14. Carlos February 12, 2014 at 8:21 am #

    This was such a refreshing read after visiting Greece last May. I traveled with a regrettable companion so often times I forget how beautiful Greece really is. Our second stop after Athens was Meteora. The hikes were brutally hot but it was worth it when we finally got to many of the viewpoints you photographed. We stayed at kalambaka right at the foot of the mountains so it was very convenient to hike. I know you’re probably busy, but I do travel photography when I can get away from “real life” and perhaps some of my pictures of Greece and beyond may inspire you or get some smiles (www.cdelosangelesphoto.com). Anyways, cheers and happy travels. You’ve made a new reader out of me.

  15. Megan February 12, 2014 at 7:47 pm #

    Glad to hear I’m not the only person dumb/awesome enough to walk around in that heat in July! I seriously thought I was going to die on the walk down that long and lonesome road (and no one wanted to help drive my sweat ass back down…womp womp, sad hitchhiking fail.)Totally, 117% worth it, though! I wish I had stayed closer to Meteora, but Trikala was lovely in a completely different way.

  16. Ariel Barish February 16, 2014 at 5:17 pm #

    I’m half Greek(mom was born in Athens) and have gone on several trips to Greece in my life, always to my family’s village island in the Peloponese and Athens, but never to Meteora. I’ve been wanting to go so badly and finally convinced my parents that we MUST make it a stop this summer when we visit our family. In my 16 years alive, Greece is one of my favorite places in the world and I can’t wait to visit Meteora! This post was so inspiring for me to read and I can’t wait to go!

    • Liz February 20, 2014 at 9:05 pm #

      Yay that makes me happy to hear!

  17. Tess Willard February 23, 2014 at 5:29 pm #

    Meteora looks absolutely beautiful. I have traveled widely in the US and a little abroad. I hope to travel to Greece someday as I am ½ Greek. I would like to visit the famous places of the world and the sites not catered to tourists. I want to go to see the beauty of the world and experience different cultures much as you have done. It fascinates me how cultures perceive things so differently and still have so much in common.
    Your pictures of the sunset are very beautiful. I love watching the sun set and rise. We go on vacation every year to the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan which has some of the most beautiful sunsets – ( http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7f/Pictured_Rocks_NL_sunset.jpg )

    Here is a link to their website – http://www.nps.gov/piro/index.htm

  18. Amelie88 February 26, 2014 at 8:15 am #

    Ugh summer in Greece. You described the heat very well,so well that I was brought back to summers in Madrid. However I love this place’s name and all those rocky ledges/mountains are so gorgeous. If I ever return to Greece someday I will have to stop by this place.

  19. Tom @ Waegook Tom March 11, 2014 at 2:33 am #

    OMG this looks amazing! Meteora has only come to my attention very recently, as it was included in one of those Buzzfeed-type places-you-have-to-see style posts. Your photos look amazing, and I really, really want to go there now. Mostly for the AC unit and the kitten, partially for the views.

  20. Anju March 23, 2014 at 7:00 am #

    Wow. amazing.. Just started following your blog.. Really inspired by you..

  21. Visit Meteora May 23, 2014 at 10:44 pm #

    Loved your post there! Really well written and packed with beautiful shots! Cheers from Meteora, hope to have you back in the future!

    • Liz May 24, 2014 at 8:12 am #

      Thank you! Meteora was one of my favorite places in Greece!

  22. Alex June 28, 2014 at 12:38 am #

    Woo hoo! I’m going in August. And I cannot wait. These photos are absolutely stunning!

    • Alex June 28, 2014 at 12:38 am #

      Also, I snorted with laughter many times through this post. That is all.

  23. Maria Sotirakou November 7, 2014 at 12:18 am #

    Hi Liz! You should visit also Zahorohoria in Epirus und climb over the Camel Mountain to see the Dragon lake! Or go to Nymfeon to visit Arthouros, the wild bears shelter or… a thousand suggestions for mountainous part of Greece!

  24. Mary January 23, 2015 at 2:55 am #

    I’ve visited Meteora about 20 years ago. It was school trip. But, I’d like to go there again, with my family this time. It is one of those places that you have to see, at least once in a lifetime.

  25. nenad January 23, 2015 at 8:58 pm #

    great place to visit. I have to go again.

  26. Gaurav Bhatnagar April 14, 2015 at 7:23 am #

    Stunning. I was in Greece last year in October and saw of that you described above. But, I like the way you write 🙂

  27. Fran April 19, 2015 at 4:53 am #

    Looks amazing! I’m planning a trip to Greece in the fall and I was wondering how long were you in Meteora? Or how long would you recommend to stay there for?

  28. Laura April 22, 2015 at 6:15 am #

    I was planning on renting a car and driving to Meteora from Athens, but most of the trip would be in the dark. Is this a terrible idea? Is the road there pretty scary?

  29. Lori June 25, 2015 at 6:16 am #

    Hi there. We are in Meteora now staying at Doupiani House and would love to know where you went to watch the sunset. Thank you for your post. Beautiful photos. What DSLR do you have?

    • Liz June 25, 2015 at 9:01 am #

      I have a canon 60D and I can’t remember but it’s a famous overlook view point, had a taxi driver take me

  30. Manos March 18, 2016 at 1:17 am #

    Meteora is a truly unique place, the lanscape is breathtaking! I didn’t know that the Eyrie was based to Meteora, thanks for the info!

  31. Dimitris May 5, 2016 at 5:14 pm #

    Really nice article and beautiful pictures! Well done!

  32. Brynne July 11, 2016 at 6:19 am #

    Liz, I know this is awhile ago for you but I wondered if you could give me some input. We are going at the end of June next summer and I’m trying to find out more information about hiking vs cars/buses. We’re a group of reasonably fit 50 somethings that like to hike when we can but still want to have fun and not kill ourselves. Any thoughts?

  33. Ken August 6, 2016 at 3:52 pm #

    Ahhhh, this brings back the memories! My girlfriend and I visited Greece back in 2013 I believe. We still consider that trip to be our best trip EVER! And Meteora was our last major itinerary item and it was freaking awesome to end the trip that way!

    We did all 6 monasteries – hiking and walking strategically all the way through! Then walked to Kastraki and on to Kalambaka. Looking back my girlfriend can’t believe we did that 🙂

    To the commenter above (Brynne), I get asked this question quite a bit. What you can do is hike the path on eastern side (hit 2 monestaries there) one day. Rest up and on next day do the remaining 4. Take bus to highest monastary – Great Meteoron – and work your way downhill from there, walking to and hitting the other 3 on your way into town. Still lots of work and can be tiring depending on your fitness. Otherwise, a hired taxi can take you to all of them as well. You can flag taxis down as you are walking but in my experience, they were very infrequent or already had passengers.

  34. Eva September 24, 2016 at 11:33 pm #

    Hi, how do you get to this beautiful sunset viewpoint?
    Could you send me a pin on google maps?

    Thanks a lot,
    Eva

  35. Chris Georgantzos December 13, 2016 at 11:06 pm #

    The photos are astonishing, specially the one with the skulls. Thank you for this article. Greetings from the beautiful meteora.

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