The word Meteora means literally ‘hovering in the air’ and of course brings to mind the word meteor. Meteora is a geologically peculiar rock formation formed by stone, sand, and mud deposited at the bank of the ancient Thessalian lake by rivers flowing into it over a period of millions of years and dried after the geological break-up of Olympus and Ossa the mountainous masses, which let the water to the Aegean Sea.
The area had been continuously inhabited by Neanderthals and current humans for tens of thousands of years. The oldest man-made structure found in the area is a 23.000-year-old stone wall which partly blocks the entrance of a cave.
As both religious and natural symbols of Greece, Meteora and its monastery-topped pinnacles are high on the list of the country’s most visited sites. Meteora is the biggest and most important group of monasteries in Greece after those in Mount Athos. During the Turkish occupation it was the monasteries which kept alive the Hellenic culture and traditions and were not only religious centers but academic and artistic as well. It is believed that were it not for the monasteries, Hellenic culture would have disappeared and modern Greece would be a reflection of the Ottoman empire with little knowledge of its roots and history. The monasteries attracted not only the deeply religious, but the philosophers, poets, painters and the deep thinkers of Greece. Today only six of the monasteries are active.
The Holy Monastery of Great Meteoron. It is the biggest of the Meteorite monasteries Founded by Athanasios the Meteorite, one of the most well-known figures in Orthodox monasticism. The church ‘Katholikon’, honoured to the ‘Transfiguration’ was erected in the middle of 14th c. and 1387/88 and decorated in 1483 and 1552. Because the Serbian Emperor Symeon Uros gave the monastery all his wealth and became a monk it became the richest and most powerful of all the monasteries and contains some of the most beautiful wall paintings and post Byzantine Mural art that can be found in Greece as well as a museum collection in the refectory. The old monastery is used as a museum, nowadays.
The monastery is open from 9 to 1 and from 3 to 6. It is closed on Tuesday and Wednesday.
– The Holy Monastery of Varlaam is the second, after the Great Meteoro, big in size monastery, it was founded in 1517 by Theophanis and Nektarios Apsaradas from Ioanina though the first to establish a monastery here was an ascetic anchorite named Varlaam. The church, honored to the three Bishops, is in the Athonite type (cross-in-square with dome and choirs), with spacious esonarthex (lite) surrounded by dome as well. It was built in 1541/42 and decorated in 1548, while the esonarthex was decorated in 1566. The old refectory is used as a museum while North of the Church we can see the parekklesion of the Three (Bishops) built in 1627 and decorated in 1637.The monastery houses an important collection of relics, intricately carved wooden crosses, icons, embroidered epitaphoi and many other ecliastical treasures. It also contains frescos by the well-known post Byzantine iconographer Frangos Katelanos.
The monastery is open from 9am to 1pm and then from 3:30 to 6pm. It is closed on Fridays.
– The Holy Monastery of Rousanou. It is dedicated to ‘The Transfiguration’ but honoured to Saint Barbara. The ‘Katholikon’, in the Athonite type, was founded in the middle of 16th c by Joasaph and Maximos, two brothers from Epirus who built it on the ruins of an even older church and decorated in 1560. In 1988 the monastery was converted to a convent. Both, the Katholikon and the reception halls are in the ground floor while the ‘archontariki’, cells and subsidiary rooms are scattered in the basement and the first floor.
To get to this monastery you cross a small bridge from another peak. The church contains outstanding wall paintings, wood iconstasis, panel icons and icon stands. The monastery is open from 9am to 1pm and then from 3:30 to 6pm. It is closed on Wednesdays.
– The Holy Monastery of St. Nicholas Anapausas. It is the first to meet on our way from Kastraki to Meteora was built in the 16th Century by Dionysious, the Metropolitan of Larissa and named after an old Patron. The ‘Katholikon’ dedicated to St. Nicholas, is a single – nave church with small dome, built in the beginning of 16th c. It was decorated by the Cretan painter Theophanis Strelitzas or Bathas, in 1527.
This monastery is open every day from 9am to 6 pm.
– The Holy Monastery of St. Stephen. It is one of the most attainable as we don’t have to cope with innumerable stairs to reach it. Is the only convent in Meteora and has an unimpeded view of the plain towards Kalambaka. The small single-nave church of St. Stephen was built in the middle of 16th has a timber roof and wall paintings by the priest Ioannis from Stagoi painted in 1545 or a little later. The ‘Katholikon’, honoured to St. Charalambos, was built in the Athonite type, in 1798. The old refectory of the convent is used as a museum nowadays.
The monastery is open from 9 to 1pm and 3 to 5 pm every day.
– The Monastery of Holy Trinity is very difficult to reach. The visitor has to cross the valley and continue high up through the rock before we arrive outside the entrance. The church is in the cross-in-square type with the dome based in two columns, was founded by the monk Dometius and built in 1475-76 and decorated in 1741. The spacious barrel – vaulted esonarthex was founded in 1689 and decorated in 1692. A small skeuophylakeion was added next to the church in 1684. It was the monastery that used for the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only
The monastery is open from 9am to 1pm every day except Thursday.
Many travelers race through the area in a day or stay overnight in the villages of Kastraki or Kalambaka.
The name Kalambaka comes from the Turkish word Kalembak which means beautiful fortress. The Cathedral of the Dormition of the Virgin, a three-aisled basilica built in the time of Justinian and rebuilt in 1309 by Andronicus Paleologus is worth the visit. The town itself was destroyed by the Germans in World War Two so it is pretty modern with apartment buildings and a downtown that looks like a small city. Nearby is the Theopetra, a cave inhabited from Palaeolithic times.
The village of Kastraki in the shade of the rocks of Meteora is a popular destination for the rock climbers who can walk out the door of their hotel and be climbing in a few minutes. It’s a great place to take walks to and from. Because of the popularity of Meteora this little town can get pretty busy in the summer.
Meteora is featured in a number of tours offered by Gr4Tours.com and Akron Travel which combine comfortable and easy travel with efficient use of time and correct prices. Their PRIVATE TOUR: METEORA MONASTERIES (Departure from Halkidiki), the 5 DAYS NORTHERN GREECE, 4 DAYS CLASSICAL TOUR and the 7 DAYS GRAND TOUR OF GREECE are a great way to visit two of the most important sites on the mainland in a short period of time. Other programs that include Meteora (and Delphi) are the 2 DAYS DELPHI – METEORA, the 3 DAYS DELPHI – METEORA, the 4 DAYS CLASSICAL WITH OVERNIGHTS IN NAUPLION – OLYMPIA – AND DELPHI and the 5 DAYS CLASSICAL WITH OVERNIGHT NAUPLION – OLYMPIA – DELPHI AND KALAMBAKA, all of which are worth looking into and can be combined with various programms.