Monks and Monasteries in Meteora

You’ve decided to go to Meteora, Greece…

And now you just want to browse posts and blogs to see where other people went.  Good idea 🙂

I came in from Litochoro having walked up Mount Olympus the day before. The train wasn’t very busy, ran on time and was clean. There were no beggars, scammers or touts.

The train station is on the edge of town (Kalambaka) but it’s only a small town really so it’s only a short walk to the centre. I stayed at Hostel El Greco which isn’t very well signposted but is a simple, busy place in town.  There isn’t a kitchen as such (most food preparation happens in the hallway inside or the balcony just outside. The dorms are quiet, have lockers and windows and a shared shower. There’s a small fridge, a sink, some cutlery and crockery, plenty of information about Meteora and a person who leads walks around the hills for “free” – and you can pay him if you want…

About three minutes walk up the hill, there are a dozen kebab / gyros / souvlaki cafes in the main part of town.  Beer and wine is affordable and available.

I arrived at lunchtime and stayed in Meteora for a full two days and a morning (before catching the bus to Ioannina) which was OK for me because I didn’t need to visit all the monasteries.  I went to two of them that were open on the days I was there – they’re not all open to the public and those that ARE open are not open every day.  I’ve heard of people approaching you and telling you “you can’t go to that monastery, it’s closed today; let me take you on a tour of the best places…” Just do your own research here and know what’s happening. Here are a couple of other sites which are for a mix of purposes.

Jaytravels  Meteora Monasteries   Grrrtraveler

You can probably get a map of the cliffs from your hotel, but there are maps in the streets near the base of cliffs on the path / road that you can photograph for reference too.

There are only a couple of maintained walking trails among the ‘mountains’. The rest are animal trails or “I got lost” trails, or circuit trails (not going to the top) amongst the granite cliffs. I walked down from the sunset lookout one evening and spent most of an hour scrambling past vertical cliffs, jumping across creeks, slipping down gullies and pushing through bushes as it grew darker. Ooops.

The cliffs are close to town but it’s only when you walk up the tracks or walk/drive along the road to the tops that you get a feel for the lay of the land. The stretch of granite cliffs is not huge – you can easily walk from one end to the other in a couple of hours (non-stop) via the road – but there are a hundred angles and spectacular views of the various monasteries along the way. With a lunchbox of provisions, plenty of water (in summer) and clothing to protect you from sun and other weathery things, you can spend a pleasant day visiting the monasteries that are open, finding the lookouts and sunset viewing points (everyone goes there) and see most of the monasteries from most angles.

    

I was lucky with the weather (there in July 2017) which allowed me to get around in reliable warmth and sun. On the other hand, you’ll see pictures on the net of the clouds that hang around the cliffs and other images with snow everywhere. If that’s the image or “feel” you want, take your pick 🙂

At lunchtime, there are plenty of restaurants in town (Kalambaka and Kastraki) that will feed you souvlakis, roast lamb, chips and chicken. I found the quality pretty ordinary but I am from Melbourne where we have some of the best street food around (including souvlakis which I have been eating since 1974!)

If you are on foot and want quickest access to the monasteries, take the path out of town and up to Holy Trinity monastery.  It’s steepish in places but passes the entrance to the Monastery and reaches the road (taxis, entrance to the nunnery, mobile shop) from where you can start your walk.  The road has a narrow shoulder so it’s potentially dangerous when the buses get busy but you can duck in between the concrete bollards. The road itself undulates but not steeply on the way to the Varlaam monastery and Holy Monastery of Great Meteoron at the other (northern) end.

You can see the place in many ways: join large or small tour groups, get a taxi to the top, hire a scooter or a bicycle or hitch-hike.  I am a walker so walking’s my preferred method.

SO – get out and do it.  Enjoy the scenery and visit the local churches as well. The Byzantine church of The Virgin Mary (4th Century) is up the hill near the start of the path to Holy Trinity. You pay a small fee and the lady turns on the lights for you to see the paintings and the decoration of the church. It’s truly original and very interesting. There’s a fascinating and very engaging mural near the entrance showing the devil and his works. No photography is allowed.