Home » Travel » Meteora, Greece Travel Guide: Exploring the Surreal Monasteries

Meteora, Greece Travel Guide: Exploring the Surreal Monasteries

Meteora, Greece, is one of the most breathtaking destinations I have ever visited, and it’s hands down my favorite place in Greece. Today’s travel guide will share everything you need to know about this incredible area, from what it is to how to plan your visit, what to wear when you visit, where to stay, and more. I also hope I convince you to visit this magical place for yourself! (I’ll end this post with a photo gallery, too, as I took an absolute ton of photos while I was here!)

A monastery is perched a top a rock formation in Meteora Greece in the morning hours

*Disclosure: some of these links are affiliate links. Meaning, if you click a link and make a purchase, Have Clothes, Will Travel gets a very small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting the brands that make this blog possible!

Quick Tips Before You Get Started

  • Meteora is hard to do as a day trip – It’s best to plan to spend at least one night in Kastraki or Kalambaka. (Two nights, ideally!)
  • This area gets a lot of rain – Dress accordingly. Bring a rain poncho and wear shoes with some grip. This can also make for dicey driving conditions. Entire roads were washed away when we visited in September, and we had to get very creative with our route!
  • Meteora is not wheelchair friendly, unfortunately – There are a lot of stairs at most of the monasteries, and it is difficult if you have mobility issues.
  • There is a dress code for men and women – You are asked to dress modestly before entering the monasteries. Knees and shoulders need to be covered. Women should also avoid leggings and pants and should wear a maxi skirt or dress.
  • Photos are not allowed inside the churches and museums – And don’t take photos of the monks or nuns without their permission.
  • It currently costs 3 euros to get into each monastery – So be sure to bring cash to pay for this.
  • Tours are the easiest way to get here – I know tours get a bad rap, but they will really make your life a lot easier, especially if you are on a time crunch. Check out some of the highest-rated tours.
My Meteora Youtube video:
The grand monastery in Meteora Greece

So, What is Meteora?

Meteora is derived from a Greek term meaning ‘suspended in the air,’ which is a fitting name for this surreal landscape. Here, you’ll find huge sandstone pillars soaring toward the sky, topped by ancient monasteries that seem to defy gravity. It is a spiritual sanctuary that has drawn monks, nuns, and pilgrims for centuries. Now, these monasteries also welcome tourism.

Meteora monasteries on a cloudy day

The first monastery was built in the 14th century, and over time, 23 additional monasteries were built. There were no roads, as there are today, so the monks used a series of ropes, pulleys, baskets, and ladders to transport themselves and their supplies to the monasteries.

Now, there are 6 active monasteries for people to visit today. Each monastery is a treasure trove of Byzantine frescoes, precious relics, and architectural marvels, preserving a significant chapter of Greek Orthodox history.

A view of a monastery in Meteora Greece on a bright sunny day

Best Time to Visit Meteora

You can visit Meteora at any time during the year. However, the milder temperatures and fewer crowds of late spring (March-May) and autumn (September-November) offer more pleasant conditions. During these times, the monasteries and trails are going to be much less crowded! Summer is absolutely bananas in terms of tourism, as is the case throughout Greece during the summer months.

I personally visited Meteora during September of last year, and it was much quieter than I was expecting. Now, I didn’t have the entire place to myself by any means, but it was still a great time to visit, and the weather was very pleasant.

Meteora, Greece in the winter with a dusting of snow
Photo credit: Brendan van Son / Shutterstock.com

Visiting Meteora during winter is now on my bucket list, too. This area looks even more magical with a dusting of snow, and tourism is at an all-time low from December to February. Of course, winter comes with its own set of issues, from dangerous driving conditions to chilly temps and fewer public opening hours.

Where is Meteora?

Meteora is located near the town of Kalabaka in northwestern Greece. It is 220 miles from Athens (or 354 kilometers) and 142 miles (228 km) from Thessaloniki. There are a few different ways to get here.

How to Get to Meteora from Athens

  • Take the train—This is perhaps the most popular way to get from Athens to Meteora, as you won’t have to deal with traffic and the route is very scenic. (This post has a lot of great information about the train from Athens to Meteora.) This journey will take a little over four hours. The train will take you to the town of Kalabaka, where you will then need to take a cab. This is a good site to use for purchasing tickets.
  • Take the bus—You can also take a bus from Athens to Meteora. This costs 32 euros one way or 56.50 for a return*. Prices are subject to change; check the website.
  • Book a tour—This is the easiest way to go about it, in my opinion. There are many tours leaving from Athens for you to choose from. GetYourGuide also has a ton of options.
  • Rent a car—For the most freedom, you can rent a car and drive yourself to Meteora. It’s mostly highway driving and will only get dicey in Athens and once you get to Meteora. The roads are pretty narrow, and parking can be a real pain at the monasteries.
  • Book a private driver—This is personally what I did, and I loved it. It is, however, the most expensive way to go about this. But it sure was nice to have the freedom of a car without the hassle of trying to park on the side of the cliff. Sakis was the name of my driver through PGT, and he was amazing!
  • There are no flights to Meteora!
A monastery in Meteora in the distance

How long should you stay in Meteora?

While day trips to Meteora are a popular option, I highly recommend spending at least one night in Kalabaka. This way, you have plenty of time to see all that Meteora has to offer. (Two nights would be ideal.) You can even check out Delphi on your way there.

The ancient city of Delphi on a sunny day with tall stone pillars and mountains in the background

Many tours also combine visiting Delphi with Meteora from Athens, as it is not too far out of the way. Delphi was an ancient religious sanctuary dedicated to the Greek god Apollo. Developed in the 8th century B.C., the sanctuary was home to the Oracle of Delphi and the priestess Pythia, who was famous throughout the ancient world for seeing the future and was consulted before all major undertakings. If you have the time, I do think combining Delphi and Meteora is worth it! But if you only have time to visit one, then I recommend choosing Meteora.

Visiting the Monasteries

If you are visiting the monasteries on your own and are not planning on doing a tour, it is important to check the hours they are open. Hours vary depending on the time of year, and each monastery closes on a different day of the week. Unless you plan to dedicate two days to exploring the monasteries here, you will only be able to visit five of the six monasteries, as one will be closed.

Hours of operation sign in Meteora at a monastery

Each monastery costs 3 euros to enter. There is also a dress code for both men and women, which I’ll get into a little more in-depth in the next section.

There are buses and taxis that will take you from Kastraki and Kalabaka up to the monasteries. Another option is to hike up to the monasteries.

Great Meteoron Monastery

The grand monastery in Meteora

The largest and oldest of Meteora’s monasteries, the Great Meteoron Monastery, was founded in the 14th century. Its expansive grounds house a church, a museum, and various ancillary buildings. The museum showcases a fascinating collection of religious art and historical manuscripts.

I highly recommend visiting this monastery. The museum it houses is incredible, and the views of the surrounding area are unparalleled.

Varlaam Monastery

Varlaam Monastery
Varlaam Monastery flowers and interior
I loved all the flowers and plants here!

The second-largest monastery in Meteora is Varlaam, which offers a compact museum that provides valuable insights into the region’s history. It offers stunning views of the sprawling landscape. I was also very impressed with all of the flowers growing here. I could have admired the gardens and flower pots for hours! This was my personal favorite of all the monasteries.

This is another monastery that should not be missed. It’s absolutely stunning, and the views are unreal.

Rousanou Monastery

This charming nunnery is dedicated to St. Barbara and is home to 13 nuns. It is at a lower elevation and close to the road, so it is relatively accessible compared to some of the monasteries listed here.

There are 2 entrances to this nunnery. The one above will require hardly any walking. However, parking can be limited. The hike from the bottom is actually really beautiful and peaceful. I personally liked visiting from the bottom.

Holy Trinity Monastery

Holy Trinity Monastery

Perched on a cliff, the Holy Trinity Monastery is a bit of an adventure to get to. Its secluded location away from the main tourist trail makes it nice and quiet to visit, and again, you’re rewarded with breathtaking views.

St. Nikolaos Anapafsas Monastery

Though smaller in size, St. Nikolaos Anapafsas Monastery is worth a visit for its unique multi-story architecture and beautiful frescoes. However, if you are limited on time, this may be the one to skip…

St. Stephen Monastery

The monastery of Agios Stefanos, or St. Steven

The monastery of Agios Stefanos, or St. Stephen, is by far the most accessible monastery. You simply have to cross a small bridge to get to the entrance, no climbing of stairs is required. This monastery has 2 chapels, beautiful views, and also a really lovely garden area.

End your Day at Sunset Rock (aka Psaropetra lookout)

The view from sunset rock in Meteora Greece

Watching the sunset from the Psaropetra lookout is a must-do for your Meteora trip. You’ll be treated to unobstructed views of the Meteora Valley and the monasteries.

However, the lookout is quite popular (for good reason). Be sure to arrive a bit before sunset to find a spot to park and get situated before the sun goes down.

If you are afraid of heights, though, Sunset Rock may be a little terrifying for you. Personally, I am not a fan of heights, and I’m not very coordinated. I did not venture too far out onto Sunset Rock, but I was still able to get some great photos.

Guidelines for Visitors: Dress Code and Etiquette

It’s important to respect the religious customs when you visit Meteora. A modest dress code applies to all visitors. Women should wear long skirts or maxi dresses, while men should wear pants. (Again, leggings and pants are not considered acceptable for women at some monasteries; I did see some women asked to cover up if they were wearing leggings.) Shoulders need to be covered in all scenarios.

Scarves for sale for 3 euros outside a monastery in Meteora Greece

Most monasteries provide wraps and shawls for visitors who might not be appropriately dressed. Some monasteries let you borrow the wraps/shawls, but some do charge for this. However, I prefer to come prepared and dress accordingly.

Speaking of what to wear to Meteora, make sure you are wearing comfortable walking shoes when you visit Meteora. There is a ton of walking and a ton of stairs!

A sign in Meteora that says "This is a Holy place. Please, show respect."

Photos are prohibited inside the monasteries themselves. Please do not take photos of the monks or nuns without their explicit permission—they are not tourist attractions and should not be treated as such.

Where to Stay: Embrace the Local Charm

Several accommodation options are available in Kalabaka and Kastraki, the two towns closest to Meteora. We stayed at Dellas Boutique Hotel and absolutely loved the hospitality. The free breakfast was wonderful, and everyone here was very kind and accommodating, and the views from the hotel were amazing. Plus, it costs less than $100 a night. The only regret I have about staying here is that I wish I could have stayed longer!

A view of the homes from a monastery in Meteora

Meteora: A Must-Visit

Visiting Meteora is like stepping into another world, where time seems to stand still, and earthly worries fade into insignificance. Exploring its monasteries and marveling at its sunsets is one of my favorite travel travel memories. This mystical land, with its towering pillars and hanging monasteries, truly is a testament to the enduring human spirit and its quest for spiritual transcendence.

Whether you’re a history enthusiast, a nature lover, or a spiritual seeker, Meteora has something for everyone. I cant recommend visiting Meteora, Greece enough!

If anyone has any questions about this Meteora, Greece travel guide, please reach out in the comments at the end of the post.

Meteora, Greece Photo Gallery


Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.