When I was researching where to go in mainland Greece, I was immediately drawn to Meteora (pronounced ma-tay-or-a) and it’s beautiful mountaintop monasteries. I’d never seen a place like it except maybe the Eyrie on Game of Thrones, but I knew we had to add it to our itinerary. Here’s everything you need to about visiting the monasteries of Meteora, Greece.
A Brief History
When you pull up to Meteora, you’ll notice that the sides of the mountains are dotted with caves. The caves of Meteora were initially inhabited by hermits in the 9th century. By the 11th century, monks started living in the caves and the first monasteries were built in the 14th century. At its peak, there were 24 Eastern Orthodox monasteries in Meteora. Today only six monasteries are operational with 56 monks and nuns living in them as of 2015.
I ended up visiting two of the six monasteries, but it is possible to visit most in one day. The monasteries open at 9am and close at varying times in the afternoon. Entry to each monastery is 3€ so you’ll need 18€ per person to visit all six monasteries. I don’t necessarily recommend visiting them all, but I think it’s worth checking out 2-4.
Great Meteoron – Great Meteoron is the largest monastery and one of the most popular. It was built in the mid-14th century. Great Meteoron is closed on Tuesdays in the summer and Tuesdays and Wednesdays in the winter.
Varlaam – Built in 1541, Varlaam is the second largest monastery. It’s closed on Fridays in the summer and Thursdays and Fridays in the winter.
Roussanou – Rousanou was founded in the mid-16th century. It’s one of the most breathtaking when viewed from afar. Rousanou is closed on Wednesdays.
St. Nicholas – This monastery was built in the 16th century and is one of the smallest. It is closed on Fridays.
St. Stephen – St. Stephen was built in the 16th century and is now a nunnery. It is one of the busiest because it is the most accessible; it doesn’t require any stairs to access it. St. Stephen is closed on Mondays.
Holy Trinity – Holy Trinity was built in 1475 and was featured in the James Bond movie For Your Eyes Only. Holy Trinity is closed on Thursdays.
A Few Tips
Spend the night – Meteora is about four hours from Athens, so while you could technically do a day trip, I recommend spending the night in Kalambaka or Kastraki and visiting the monasteries early the next morning. You can even stop in Delphi on the way to or from Athens.
Getting around Meteora – We booked a tour that took us to Varlaam and St. Stephen. It is possible to visit the monasteries on your own, but I’d recommend renting a car or scooter.
Be prepared – Men will need to wear long pants to enter. Women need a skirt and to cover their shoulders. Skirts are provided at the entrance free of charge if needed.
Consider the offseason – Greece can get hot and crowded during the summer so consider visiting in April, May, September, or October for less heat and shorter lines.
Meteora is one of the most breathtaking places I’ve ever visited. The islands are great and all but if you want to add something different to your Greece itinerary, consider taking the trip to Meteora for the beautiful monasteries and the otherworldly views.
Have you had the chance to visit Meteora?