Athens Greece Guide
The Complete travel Guide to Athens and Greece

Central Greece



Meteora Monasteries in the clouds

Meteora is a group of monasteries built on huge natural sandstone pillars up to 600 metres high, giving the impression that they are floating in the air. The name Meteora means 'suspended in the air' in Greek, it is situated above the Peneas valley near the small town of Kalambaka in Thessalia. The monasteries are the second most important in Greece, the monastery complex of Mount Athos in the Halkidiki is the first, Meteora is also in the UNESCO World Heritage list. Although Monks and nuns still live at Meteora it is more of a tourist attraction these days.

Up until modern times the only way of reaching the monasteries was with very long ladders, all supplies were brought up in baskets on rope or in nets.

History of Meteora

The rocks of Meteora were first inhabited by hermit monks during the 11th century, they lived in caves and cut outs in the cliffs. It wasn't until 1344 that the first proper monastery was built at Metora when a group of monks from Mount Athos lead by Athanasios Koinovitis came and built the Monastery on road rock. The monks were completely safe from the world, the only way up was with a set of ladders, and these were pulled up whenever the monks felt threatened.

Due to the security of Metora another 20 monasteries were built on the rocks during the 14th century, especially as Byzantine Greece was slowly being absorbed into the Ottoman Empire.

Steps were carved into the rocks during the 1920's, before this the only access to the monasteries were ladders. The monasteries had many priceless artwork and artefacts, but a lot of this was looted during World War Two, Meteora was also bombed during this period.

Monasteries of Meteora

Out of the many monasteries that once perched on Metora's rocks only six survive today.

Agios Nikolaos Anapafsas Monastery

This monastery was founded in the 14th century and nobody is quite sure who the monastery is named after. This Monastery is most famous for its frescoes by the famous Cretan artist Theophanes Strelitzas in 1527. Some of these frescoes include the passion of Christ and the Virgin Mary praying.

The monastery fell into disrepair and was completely abandoned for 60 years from 1900 to the 1960's when the Greek government repaired the monastery.


Agia Triada Monastery (holy Trinity)

You may recognise the monastery of Agia Triada as it was used in the James Bond movie 'For your eyes only' Roger Moore scales the cliff face. Out of all the monasteries of Meteora Agia Triada has the most dramatic location, the rock face is a sheer drop and the rock itself is a lot more slender.

The monastery was built in 1458 and had many treasures, but most of these were looted by the Germans during the Second World War, most of the frescoes are from the 18th century.

Great Meteoron Monastery (Monastery of the Transfiguration of Christ)

Not only was the Great Meteoron Monastery the first to be built at Meteora it is also the largest and highest and probably the best to visit. The founder of the monastery was St. Athanasios Meteorites a monk from Mount Athos, legend has it that an eagle carried him to the highest summit where he built the first monastery, originally a small church in about 1340. After the death of St. Athanasios the leadership of the monks was taken by St. Iosaph who was once a Serbian king but gave it all up to become a monk. The actual rock that the monastery sits on is about 2,000 feet (615m) high and is called Platys Lithos which means broad rock in Greek.

The monastery has a very pleasant courtyard and there are many amazing frescoes to see dating back to the 1400 century, some depicting the life of the two founding monks Athanasios and Iosaph. Probably one of the most interesting parts of the monastery is the sacristy which contain shelves of the skulls of the monks who have lived there over the years. This monastery serves as the main museum for visitors to Meteora.

Agios Triada

Agios Stefanos Monastery

The 14 century Agios Stefanos is the closest monastery in Meteora to the main town of Kalambaka, and so the easiest to visit, although out of all six monasteries at Meteora this is probably the least impressive . The Katholikon at the monastery is dedicated to St. Charalambos who's head it contains, as it is believed to prevent illnesses . Much of the monastery was destroyed during World War Two and the Greek civil war that followed, the monastery is run by Nuns.

Roussanou Monastery

The Roussanou Monastery was was built in 1545 by Maximos and Ioasaph of Ioannina, it is unclear who the actual monastery is named after, but it is dedicated to St.Barbara. Like other monasteries at Meteora the Roussanou monastery was looted during the Second World War.

The monastery is reached by a bridge that has some dramatic drops. Nowadays the Monastery is run by Nuns.

The Varlaam Monastery

The Varlaam Monasteryis named after the first monk who built the first church on the rock. This was in 1350 and Varlaan built three churches, a room for himself and a water tank. Unfortunately no other monks joined him, after his death the site was abandoned for 200 years.

In 1517 two monks from Ioannina, Theophanes and Nektarios Apsarades , re-founded the monastery. Nowadays the monastery can be reached by a bridge and has a small museum, there are a lot of impressive 16th century paintings to see as well.

Visiting Meteora

Agios Triada

The monasteries have a strict dress code men must wear trousers and long sleeves, women must wear a long skirt. If you do turn up in shorts trousers and shirts will be provided.Each Monastery has a 2 Euros entrance fee and each monastery has different opening hours, see the sidebar for details.

When visiting Meteora take in to consideration that the Monasteries are not all in one complex and there is a distance between each of the monasteries. Agios Stefanos which is nearest to the town of Kalambaka is over two Kilometres away from the Great Meteoron which is the furthest from the town.

Information about Meteora

Metora is a group of medieval monasteries built high up on sheer rocks, originally as protection against the invading Turks. The monasteries were only accessible by long ladders.

Location - Meteora is in central Greece in the region of Thessalia, next to the town of Kalambaka.

Travelling to Meteora:Many tours are provided in Athens to Meteora. There are also regular buses from Athens to the region. You can rent a car from anywhere in mainland Greece and drive to Meteora. Meteora is about a five hour drive from Athens

Entrance fee: Each monastery in Meteora costs 2 euros to enter.

Opening hours: Each monastery has different opening times.

Varlaam - 9:00-13:00 and 15:00-17:00 during winter.
9:00-13:00 and 15:20-18:00 during summer
Closed - Thursdays in the winter and Friday all year round.

Great Meteoron - 9:00-13:00 and 15:00-17:00 during winter.
9:00-13:00 and 15:20-18:00 during summer
Closed - Wednesday in the winter and Tuesday all year round.

St.Nikolaos Anapafsa - Closed during winter.
9:00-18:00 during summer

St.Stefanos - 9:00-13:00 and 15:00-17:00 during winter.
9:00-12:30 and 15:20-17:00 during summer
Closed - Monday all year round.

St.Triada - 9:00-12:30 and 15:00-17:00 during winter.
9:00-13:00 and 15:20-18:00 during summer
Closed - Thursday all year round.

Rousanou - 9:00-13:00 and 15:00-17:00 during winter.
9:00-17:45 during summer
Closed - Wednesday in the winter.

Tips: When visiting Metora give yourself plenty of time as all six Monasteries are spread out. If you only have time to see one, visit the Great Meteoron. Visit Meteora appropriately dressed as there is a dress code - men must wear trousers and long sleeves, women must wear long skirts. These can be borrowed at the Monateries.