The word Meteora literally means ‘hovering in the air’…which is a slight hint about what you can expect to find on a visit to the star attractions of this UNESCO World Heritage site.
The spectacular rocks of Meteora are perched above the town of Kalambaka in Greece. The 1,200ft high sandstone pinnacles are seen as a geological phenomenon that have survived weathering from earthquakes and water over millions of years. Although there are many theories about how they came into existence, none have been proven.
Atop these summits sit monasteries that date back to the 14th and 16th centuries. In a region of almost inaccessible sandstone peaks, monks settled on these ‘columns of the sky’. Years of work went into the building of the structures which were put together using ropes, folding ladders, nets and baskets, huge amounts of determination and literal leaps of faith. The monks had previously been hermits in the area and were the first ones to start building.
In the 14th century there were no steps and the main access to the monasteries was by means of a net that was hitched over a hook and hoisted up by rope and a hand-cranked windlass to winch towers overhanging the canyon below. Monks descended in the nets or on retractable wooden ladders up to 40m long to the fertile valleys to grow grapes, corn and potatoes. Over time, each community developed its own resources and by the end of the century, the Grand Meteoron emerged as the most dominant. Its wealth included landed estates, flocks of sheep, and herds of cattle.
From the early Christian times, the Meteora vertical cliffs were regarded as the perfect place to achieve absolute isolation and to discover peace, harmony and spiritual elevation. To this day the monasteries remain a popular pilgrimage for Christians around the world.
There were initially thought to have been around 24 monasteries, however today only six remain. They survive as museums and are sparsely occupied by a few monks and nuns while offering a rare glimpse into traditional Orthodox monastic life.
Meteora Monasteries, Greece
The Monasteries of Meteora can be visited all year round and a small entrance fee applies.
What you need to know:
As with many religious sites, appropriate dress code is required and a variety of tours are available from Visit Meteora that encompass many of the unique highlights of this fascinating area.