The term Meteora means high up in the air and refers to the tall pillars of the rock formation that overlooks the plains of Thessaly in ancient Greece. The tranquility of the place despite the teeming tourists gives a clear idea of how serene the place was when the first hermits arrived in search of seclusion and peace.
What it is all about
The first hermits of the Orthodox monasteries made the caves in the sandstone columns their homes. This has made Meteora only second as a place of faith importance next to Mt Athos. Subsequent monasteries were built on the summit of these rocks and are totally isolated. The only way that they were accessible were by tall ladders, ropes or nets. Six of these ancient monasteries still remain standing and intact today.
All of this information was more than enough to get me packing to head for this place high up in the air to get a true feel of what drew the ancient and still draws scores of people to it. A UNESCO World Heritage site, I was blown away by the breathtaking views that it offers.
Basics of reaching there
The best way to access Meteroa is from Athens. There are regular transport buses to all the six monasteries all of which remain open to visitors from mid-March to the end of November. These however remain suspended during the cold winter months. The buses stop at all six monasteries for tourists to explore the place in depth for a reinvigorating experience.
The bus timings however are known to vary each year and also there are limited options available. I was told that it may not be possible to visit all the monasteries if I were to rely only on the bus service. So I did what most people do – took the first bus to the last monastery and explore the whole place on foot.
A soul-stirring journey indeed!
I set out to see three monasteries a day as it is impossible to visit all six in a single day. Those that try doing it end up not being able to savor the true taste and feel of even a single one and end up being stressed out. After all, one has to take the last bus to Kalambaks to be able to return!
Each monastery also has its own closing day and so I was told to plan my visit accordingly so that I could pair synchronize my visit to them accordingly. If you are planning to visit it next year, you should ask with the hotel officials about the details as the hours and days may vary.
The stunning views of the monasteries made every effort worth it visiting it. There is plenty to see and explore within the monasteries as well. The Great Meteoron Monastery and Varlaam Monastery are the two biggest and also the most popular among all the six. The Great Meteoron Monastery depicts how the Orthodox Church played a key role in the Greek history even during World War II. Monastery of St. Nikoloas Anapafsas has a rich display of frescos that were created by Theophanes back during 1527. Roussanou Monastery and St. Stephen’s Monastery and are the easiest to access and I left them for my second day’s visit when I was more tired.
Despite the place being accessible to anyone on their own, I opted for professional guide to be able to enjoy the minutest details during my visit. This surely made my trip to Meteora not just enjoyable but truly enlightening.
Some adventure packed in too!
Apart from visiting the monasteries I set apart an adventure day when I set out to explore the iconic Great Saint Rock. 400 meters above the ground, it was a good climb, and plenty of hiking for which I had prepared myself both physically and mentally before setting out for Meteora! Having come to this corner of the world, I could not give the famous Kastraki village a miss. It is one of the two villages situated at the foot of Meteora with a picturesque setting stashed away between two colossal rocks.
Visiting the Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary
Edged on by the soul stirring beauty and serene spirituality of Meteora I could not give this age-old Church a miss! It is among the oldest churches built in Greece and dates back to the 7th A.D. Since it is not perched on the rocks, this Byzantine Church is often overlooked by most visitors. The three aisles with its frescoes are dated back to the 14th century pre-dating the church’s structure. Also, it was thrilling to find the relic of what used to be an older Greek temple inside the existing church still preserved to trace the course of history that the place has witnessed over the centuries.