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Thessaly Travel

Meteora in 24 hours

April 10, 2019
St. Nikolaos Anapafsas Monastery

When faith and nature do miracles… Meteora is a rock formation in central Greece hosting one of the largest built complexes of Eastern Orthodox monasteries. Meteora, after Athos, is Greece’s largest and most important monastery complex and consisted of 24 monasteries during its heyday, six of which are still active Greek Orthodox monasteries. In a region of almost inaccessible sandstone peaks, monks settled on these ‘columns of the sky’ from the 11th century onwards. Meteora is one of the cultural Unesco world heritage sites in Greece.

The first time I visited Meteora was in the middle of the 80’s. Our Greek neighbours at Bastugatan in Stockholm came from Trikala and then it was not far to Kalampaka and Meteora. I visited them one summer and had the opportunity to walk up to the monasteries. At that time, there were most cars on the road and believers who wanted to visit the monasteries. The town Kalampaka was much smaller and the big tourist buses were rare. The monasteries became more famous outside Greece after the James Bond movie For Your Eyes Only was premiered. Some scenes in the movie were recorded at the monastery of Holy Trinity, despite the monks’ protests. Today, the number of monks has declined considerably and moved to the monasteries of Athos to get their call in peace and quiet. Although the tourists have increased significantly, I think that the sunset in the area is wonderfully beautiful and soothing, one must not miss when visiting the area.

How to get here

Meteora is located in the region of Thessaly in the middle of Greece. The nearest town is Kalampaka and the nearest village is Kastraki. I recommend you to get to Meteora by train, buss or car. By train with trainose.gr from Athens or Thessaloniki. By bus with KTEL from every town in Greece, the bus arrives to Trikala which is the nearest city to Kalampaka. Or by car towards Trikala, easiest with GPS of course.

The Monasteries

The Great Meteoron Monastery is the biggest and oldest one of all. It was called the monastery that was “suspended in the air” (meteoro), because of the formation of the gigantic rock on top of which it was built. The Great Meteoro Monastery was founded by Saint Athanasios the Meteorite who was the first founder of the monastery. For this reason, the foundation of this monastery is considered to be the beginning of the organized monasticism in Holy Meteora.

The Holy Monastery of Varlaam is the second biggest monastery. It resides at the opposite of the Great Meteoro Monastery and it was founded in the mid 14th century by the exercitant Hosios Varlaam. The elegant monastery Catholicon was built in the honour of Agioi Pantes in 1541-42, by two brothers and priests from Ioannina.

St. Stephen’s Monastery is the most accessible monastery, where instead of steps you simply cross a small bridge to reach the entrance. It is ideal for visitors who cannot use the steps and yet they wish to have a real experience of a Meteora monastery. The beginning of monastic life on the rock of Agios Stephanos dates back to early in the 12th century.

The Holy Monastery of Saint Nicholas of Anapafsas is the first monastery that we encounter on the way to the Holy Meteora and was founded at the 14th century. There are different stories about how the name came to be Anapafsas. The first one is that the name Anapafsas was attributed by one of the monastery’s founder, while the second explanation has to do with the monastery’s position being the first to be encountered on the way up and probably served to the pilgrims as a resting place before continuing on. Resting translates into Greek anapafsis, literally means Saint Nicholas the one who rests you.

The Holy Monastery of Roussanou has received the name of the first probable hermit who settled on the rock. The main cathedral was founded at the end of the 16th century and was decorated thirty years later. The monastery was initially founded by monks and it suffered severe damage during World War II. It became a convent in 1988.

The Holy Trinity Monastery (Agia Triada) is the most difficult to reach, but once you get to the top the you have a panoramic view. It has been a monastery since 1362. Visitors have to follow a pathway that directs them initially to the foot of the rock, before they start walking up about 140 steps. Part of the Monastery was used as the setting for the final scenes of the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only.


Opening hours

SUMMER TIME     April 1st – October 31st
Great Meteoron Monastery 9-17
Closed on Tuesdays.

Varlaam Monastery 9-16
Closed on Fridays.

St. Stephens Monastery 9-13.30, 15.30-17.30
Closed on Mondays.

St. Nicholas of Anapafsas 8-17
Closed on Fridays.

Monastery of Roussanou 9-17
Closed on Wednesdays.

Holy Trinity 9-17
Closed on Thursdays.

WINTER TIME  November 1st – March 31st
Great Meteoron Monastery 9-14
Closed on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays.

Varlaam Monastery 9-15
Closed on Thursdays, Fridays.

St. Stephens Monastery 9.30-13 15-17
Closed on Mondays.

St. Nicholas of Anapafsas 8-16, Sundays 9.30-16
Closed on Fridays.

Monastery of Roussanou 9-14
Closed on Wednesdays.

Holy Trinity 9-16
Closed on Thursdays.

Note the dresscode for monasteries. For men long pants and for women skirt or dress below the knee.

Activities

There are many things to explore in this area, besides visiting the monasteries. We choosed the sunset tour with a taxi and a tour in the monasteries with Meteora Thrones the following day. Both was booked with the help from our hotel staff where we stayed in Kalampaka. Other things you can do to explore the area is hiking, biking, climbing at the rocks among others. More inspiration can be found here.

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Kalampaka
Kastraki village
Roussanou Monastery
Varlaam Monastery
Holy Trinity Monastery