The Meteora is a rock formation in central Greece hosting one of the largest and most precipitously built complexes of Eastern Orthodox monasteries, second in importance only to Mount Athos. Meteora is included on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
While Greece is known as a beach holiday destination, few know that it’s also perfect for a "green" holiday. You can enjoy sunshine-filled days in the countryside amid green pastures, rugged mountains and verdant valleys.
The name Meteora means "lofty", "elevated", and is etymologically related to meteor. "Meteora" also means "lifted into heights" or "afloat", means emotions there are in limbo between belief and desire.
The 6 (of an original 24) monasteries that's now are Byzantine monastery complex Meteora, a series of structures built on natural sandstone pillars whose tops often disappear into the clouds and dominate the local area.
Beside the Pindos Mountains, in the western region of Thessaly, these unique and enormous columns of rock rise precipitously from the ground. But their unusual form is not easy to explain geologically. They are not volcanic plugs of hard igneous rock typical elsewhere, but the rocks are composed of a mixture of sandstone and conglomerate.
This type of rock formation and weathering process has happened in many other places locally and throughout the world, but what makes Meteora's appearance special is firstly the uniformity of the sedimentary rock constituents deposited over millions of years leaving few signs of vertical layering, and secondly the localized abrupt vertical weathering.
Meteora are mentioned neither in the Greek mythology nor in the Ancient Greek literature. The first people to inhabit Meteora after the Neolithic Era were an ascetic group of hermit monks who, in the 9th century AD, moved up to the ancient pinnacles. They lived in hollows and fissures in the rock towers, some as high as 550m above the plain. This great height, combined with the sheerness of the cliff walls, kept away all but the most determined visitors. Initially, the hermits led a life of solitude, meeting only on Sundays and special days to worship and pray in a chapel built at the foot of a rock known as Dhoupiani.
As early as the 11th century, monks occupied the caverns of Meteora. However, monasteries were not built until the 14th century, when the monks sought somewhere to hide in the face of an increasing number of Turkish attacks on Greece. At this time, access to the top was via removable ladders or windlass. Nowadays, getting up is a lot simpler due to steps being carved into the rock during the 1920s. Of the 24 monasteries, only 6 (four male, two female) are still functioning, with each housing fewer than 10 individuals.
The exact date of the establishment of the monasteries is unknown. By the late 11th and early 12th centuries, a rudimentary monastic state had formed called the Skete of Stagoi and was centered around the still-standing church of Theotokos. By the end of the 12th century, an ascetic community had flocked to Meteora.
In 1344, Athanasios Koinovitis from Mount Athos brought a group of followers to Meteora. From 1356 to 1372, he founded the great Meteoron monastery on the Broad Rock, which was perfect for the monks; they were safe from political upheaval and had complete control of the entry to the monastery. The only means of reaching it was by climbing a long ladder, which was drawn up whenever the monks felt threatened.
At the end of the 14th century, the Byzantine Empire's reign over northern Greece was being increasingly threatened by Turkish raiders who wanted control over the fertile plain of Thessaly. The hermit monks, seeking a retreat from the expanding Turkish occupation, found the inaccessible rock pillars of Meteora to be an ideal refuge. Due that, more than 20 monasteries were built, and six remain today.
In 1517 Theophanes built the monastery of Varlaam, which was reputed to house the finger of St John and the shoulder blade of St Andrew.
Access to the monasteries was originally difficult, requiring either long ladders lashed together or large nets used to haul up both goods and people. This required quite a leap of faith – the ropes were replaced, so the story goes, only "when the Lord let them break". In the words of UNESCO, "The net in which intrepid pilgrims were hoisted up vertically alongside the 373 meters cliff where the Varlaam monastery dominates the valley symbolizes the fragility of a traditional way of life that is threatened with extinction".
Until the 17th century, the primary means of conveying goods and people was by means of baskets and ropes. In 1921, Queen Marie of Romania visited Meteora, becoming the first woman ever allowed to enter the Great Meteoron monastery.
In the 1920s there was an improvement in the arrangements. Steps were cut into the rock, making the complex accessible via a bridge from the nearby plateau. During World War II the site was bombed and many art treasures were stolen.
At their peak in the sixteenth century there were 24 monasteries at Meteora in Greece. They were created to serve monks and nuns following the teachings of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Much of the architecture of these buildings is Athonite in origin. Today there are 6 still functioning, while the remainder are largely in ruin. Perched onto high cliffs, they are now accessible by staircases and pathways cut into the rock formations.
Of the 6 functioning monasteries, the Holy Monastery of St. Stephen and the Holy Monastery of Roussanou are inhabited by nuns while the remainder are inhabited by monks. The total monastic population of the Meteora monasteries in 2015 was 56, comprising 15 monks in four monasteries and 41 nuns in two monasteries. The monasteries are now tourist attractions.
While Meteora and its boulder-top monasteries are often visited as a day trip from mainland Greece, the region is worth more time. Travelers who stay longer will discover central Greek culture, visit beautiful little villages, enjoy the local cuisine and get the chance to enjoy a plethora of outdoor activities.
How to visit Meteora
We at Monterrasol Travel welcome you to see Meteora during multiday private car tour. Contact us if you would like to customize your tour to Meteora.
We have developed several tours that visiting this beautiful place. But, if you have a special conditions or any from these tours fit you, please do not hesitate to contact us, we can organize a tour exactly as you would like. And remember, we have no problems to take you from almost any place where you stay, hotel or private accommodation.
tour destinations: Arta, Ioannina, Meteora, Parga, Preveza, Trikala
Discover Greece from Igoumenitsa: round trip via Parga, Delphi, Meteora. Ancient towns, beaches, castles and monasteries. See Parga castle and enjoy Parga beach, walk in Arta fortress, refresh in Mesolongi beach, take image of Antirrio bridge, climb on walls of Nafpaktos fortress and swim down on the beach, visit UNESCO Delphi and Hosios Loukas monastery, take evening in medieval old town Livadeia, say hello to Leonidas in Thermopylae, wonder on Meteora monasteries.
Discover Greece from Igoumenitsa: round trip via Parga, Delphi, Meteora. Ancient towns, beaches, castles and monasteries. See Parga castle and enjoy Parga beach, walk in Arta fortress, refresh in Mesolongi beach, take image of Antirrio bridge, climb on walls of Nafpaktos fortress and swim down on the beach, rest in Galaxidi, visit UNESCO Delphi and Hosios Loukas monastery, take evening in medieval old town Livadeia, say hello to Leonidas in Thermopylae, wonder on Meteora monasteries and return back via Ioannina with large castle.
Greece discovery round trip via ancient towns, beaches, castles and monasteries from Igoumenitsa via Parga, Patras, Corinth, Delphi, Meteora. Visit Parga castle and enjoy Parga beach, walk in Arta castle, see Mesolongi sea lake and ancient Makinia, climb on Nafpaktos castle and touch statue of Cervantes, take an images of Antirrio fortress and longest bridge of the fully suspended type, walk in Patras fortress and pray in St Andrew cathedral, wonder on Corinth canal and old Acrocorinth fortress, walk the passages of medieval town Livadeia and next day morning visit in mountains old Hosios Loukas UNESCO monastery, ask Delphi oracle and see the place of the feat of Leonidas, and next day visit unique UNESCO complex of monasteries in Meteora.
This off-season tour is for people who would like to get to know deeply the history of Greece and walk that ancient historical places where are roots of culture of our civilization. Around the world such places are on the list of UNESCO. And many other places now expecting to be on UNESCO list; such places are prepared, available for public for fraction of cost, and are on so called UNESCO tentative list.
During this tour we going to visit main UNESCO places and UNESCO tentative list places, located in Greece mainland. Greece is so rich with history that visit all UNESCO places in one tour will take very long time. Because of that we, Monterrasol Travel, created this tour to be able to visit the main UNESCO places in one tour.
Discover Greece in big 15 days tour. During this all seasons Greece tour from Igoumenitsa, we will visit most of main attractions of Greece mainland and Peloponnese peninsula. Prepare yourself for beautiful beaches, old castles and monasteries, , and ancient archaeological places. Visit Delphi oracle, say hello to Sparta and king Leonidas.
This off-season tour is focused on people who would like to get to know deeply the history of Greece and walk that ancient historical places where are roots of culture of our civilization. Around the world such places are on the list of UNESCO. And many other places now expecting to be on UNESCO list; such places are prepared, available for public for fraction of cost, and are on so called UNESCO tentative list.
During this tour we going to visit most of UNESCO places and UNESCO tentative list places, located in Greece mainland. Greece is so rich with history that visit all UNESCO places in one tour will take very long time. Because of that we, Monterrasol Travel, created this tour to be able to visit the most of UNESCO places in one tour.
From 1 Feb 2019 we load on our site the description of new place: Monemvasia, Greece. We have visited this beautiful place few times and we definitely like to be there, and we are welcome you to have a trip there with us!
Monemvasia is a town and a municipality in Laconia, Greece. The town is located on a small island off the east coast of the Peloponnese. The island is linked to the mainland by a short causeway 200m in length. Its area consists mostly of a large plateau some 100 meters above sea level, up to 300 m wide and 1 km long, the site of a powerful medieval fortress. The town walls and many Byzantine churches remain from the medieval period.