The Practical Guide to Visiting the Mystical Monasteries in Meteora, Greece – Yoga, Wine & Travel

The Practical Guide to Visiting the Mystical Monasteries in Meteora, Greece

Meteora in Greece is hands down the most jaw droppingly unreal and otherworldly destination I’ve ever visited. Hands. down. Its name means “suspended in the air”, and once you have explored the area you will understand how that came about. Located in the central region of Greece, Meteora is home to 6 monasteries and nunneries precariously perched atop massive rock pillars. What’s truly amazing is that these 6 monasteries are still active sites of worship, and while car parks and stairways now replace baskets and ropes, visiting Meteora feels like taking a giant leap back in time. If you’re visiting Greece, Meteora is one destination that shouldn’t be skipped.

If you’re short on time, it is possible to explore Meteora in 1 to 2 days. Is it exhausting? Yes. Is it doable? Also yes. Can you do it on your own without joining a tour? Heck yes. Read on for practical travel tips to help plan your trip to the hanging monasteries of Meteora!

What you need to know about Meteora

The best time to visit Meteora

The best time to visit is in late spring or autumn when the crowds are less hectic. However, Meteora is manageable in the summer months if you start early and visit the largest monasteries before the tour buses arrive.

Getting to Meteora and getting around

We drove to Meteora after a night in Olympia (itinerary for Mainland Greece to follow soon, stay tuned!) and that was the easiest, most pleasant way for us to stick to our own schedule; the drive was fairly leisurely and took approximately 7 hours, but as you approach Meteora the roads become more narrow as you make your way through the mountains. In general, driving around Greece is extremely easy (if I can do it, so can you) and cities are well-connected by brand new highways and plenty of rest stops. Just don’t be surprised if every other car zooms past you at 20 kilometers over the speed limit!

If you don’t plan on renting a car, there are public transportation options from major cities like Athens and Thessaloniki but I would recommend staying at least 1 night in Kastraki or Kalabaka. Once you are in the area, there are plenty of day trip operators that can drive you around in a private car, or alternatively you can rent a scooter from Kalampaka. Just make sure you book a scooter ahead of time, especially if you’re visiting during the peak season (summer). If you do not plan on driving and would prefer to walk/trek between the sites, I would recommend giving yourself a full 2 days in Meteora.

You could choose to walk to get between the monasteries, but it is sweltering hot in the summer months and there is a lot of ground to cover between the different sites. I remember driving past some poor souls who were schlepping up the hilly roads in the heat and thinking, “I’m so glad that isn’t me right now”. I would recommend that you do a mixture of driving and hiking to make the most of your time in Meteora. Each monastery has space for parking on the side of the road, and it only takes a few minutes to drive between the monasteries. There are also a few different gas stations in the area so make sure you compare prices as they vary a fair bit.

What to bring to Meteora and dress code

Bring: Sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, water, a snack, a good camera that can capture photos in low light as the sunsets are spectacular. Also bring cash as you will need to pay €3 to enter each monastery.

Wear: Good walking shoes. The monasteries have strict dress codes so women will need to wear a long skirt, dress or sarong. It’s not enough to keep your knees covered so no trousers or shorts. However, all the monasteries have wrap skirts at the entrances that you can borrow. Shoulders should also be covered but I noticed that they are far more strict about the long skirt. Men should wear pants but I saw a few people who got away with wearing shorts that hit below the knee. Remember that the monasteries are places of worship, so be respectful and conduct yourself properly.

The hanging monasteries of Meteora

In its heyday, there were a total of 24 monasteries. Today, there are 6 standing: St. Nikolaos Anapafsas, Great Meteoron, Roussanou, Holy Trinity, Varlaam and St. Stephen’s. They all vary in size and have different visiting hours that change depending on season. They are also closed on different days of the week, so it’s important to check the schedule ahead of your visit. The largest and most popular monasteries (Great Meteoron and Varlaam) fill up quickly with busloads of tourists, so its best to start your day early. 

Here is the rough order in which I would recommend seeing the monasteries: Great Meteoron/Varlaam, Roussanou, Holy Trinity, St. Nikolaos/St. Stephen’s.

How to make the most of your time in Meteora

Start by visiting Great Meteoron monastery and Varlaam in the morning

Here’s where the walking/hiking part kicks in. Drive past St. Nikolaos (the first monastery you will hit on your way up) around 100 metres and park the car on the side of the road (see map below). This is where the trail begins to hike up to the Great Meteoron and Varlaam. The hike will take approximately 45 minutes and is mostly shaded, but the path is uneven and uphill. About 3/4 of the way through you will reach a fork in the road – take the left path to head up to Great Meteoron.

Tour the Great Meteoron and after you’re done there, walk a few steps over to Varlaam, the neighboring monastery. You can easily spend 30-40 minutes wandering around each monastery and exploring the chapels, courtyards, cellars and so on. My advice? Soak it all up and bask in the incredible panoramic views. Once you have explored Varlaam, take the path on your left (as you’re exiting) to walk back down to where you parked your car. Bonus points for buying a popsicle outside Varlaam to cool yourself off.

Drive on to Roussanou and Holy Trinity

Roussanou is a working nunnery and is easily accessible; the monastery covers the entire surface of the rock and houses a church, reception halls, guest quarters and a lookout spot from outside the building.

Holy Trinity is not easy to get to as it sits high up on cliff, so pace yourself as it is only reachable only by nearly 150 steps. Because of its location and accessibility, few tour buses stop here so it may be perfect for those looking for a more peaceful opportunity to explore the grounds. In the past, the Holy Trinity also relied upon pulleys and baskets for supplies, but a small funicular is now used to carry supplies to the main building.

Once you have visited these two monasteries, head back towards Kalabaka for lunch as St. Stephen’s is shut from 1:30-3:30 pm (1-3 pm in the winter months). On your way back, you can stop at St. Nikolaos as it shuts earlier than the other monasteries.

Next, head over to St. Stephen’s

St. Stephen’s is the most accessible monastery as all you have to do is cross a bridge. It suffered a lot of damage during WWII and was abandoned until the 1960s when it was restored as a nunnery.

As you drive from point-to-point, there are plenty of lookout areas that you can stop and take pictures at, just make sure you park safely and out of the way of other vehicles.

My ultimate tip for Meteora

End the day with a stunning sunset at Psaropetra look out. Most people swarm to watch the sunset from another viewpoint next to Varlaam, so this one tends to be relatively uncrowded. Psaropetra is just past the Roussanou nunnery parking lot. On a clear night you can expect the most mind blowing sunset!

“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.”

Where to stay in Meteora, Greece

We spent 2 nights at the family-run Pyrgos Adrachti hotel in Kastraki. The hotel is only 1 kilometer from St. Nikolaos should you wish to walk, or a 5 minute drive away from where the monasteries are located. If you make your way to Meteora by car, there are plenty of parking spaces but I would recommend hiring a small sedan as there are some tight corners and narrow pathways to navigate in order to get to this hotel. The rooms are spacious and comfortable, and the owners are helpful – they are the ones who told us about the Psaropetra look out! The best thing about staying at the Pyrgos Adrachti is the view from the balcony – make sure you ask for a room with this view! Click here to book your stay at the Pyrgos Adrachti hotel!

Have you visited Meteora? What are your tips to travelers visiting the area?

Planning a trip to Greece? Check out my other destination guides!

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Yogawinetravel.com: The Practical Guide to Visiting the Mystical Monasteries in Meteora, Greece

Yogawinetravel.com: The Practical Guide to Visiting the Mystical Monasteries in Meteora, Greece

Yogawinetravel.com: The Practical Guide to Visiting the Mystical Monasteries in Meteora, Greece

Yogawinetravel.com: The Practical Guide to Visiting the Mystical Monasteries in Meteora, Greece

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72 Comments

  1. Fantastic post and very useful tips! Pinning it as I go to Greece next summer!

  2. Sally says:

    Ooh I’m hoping to go to Greece this year and I’m def going to add this to my list! Looks amazing ?

  3. Cristina says:

    Stunning pics for a great destination! Thanks for all those useful tips… This must be a great experience!

  4. Katie says:

    I really want to visit Greece but there seems to be just so much to see that I get so overwhelmed and put off planning it! Thanks for sharing this because it helps me narrow down a place and your advice is helpful!

  5. I’ve never heard of these monasteries before, thanks for sharing! I love the views, they are quite spectacular nestled on the rocks.

  6. Penny says:

    Definitely pinning this post. Greece is on my to do list

  7. Melissa says:

    Omg, this was actually somewhere I was considering this year! Now you have me absolutely dying to go! You got some great shots 🙂

  8. I love Greece and your pictures are amazing. Great practical tips too, the combination of driving and hiking sounds perfect.

    • Flo says:

      The monasteries aren’t that close to one another (with the exception of Great Meteoron and Varlaam) so hiking between them in the heat = no thank you!

  9. I haven’t been to Meteora, but after seeing your photos of the spectacular scenery, I can see why you’ve made it a priority. What a fantastic way to see and experience the world! I haven’t seen anything quite like these mountains and hillsides.

  10. Natalie says:

    Meteora looks awesome! I was in Greece this past summer, but just in Athens and the islands, I’d love to go back to check out the monasteries. The photos are awesome!
    #flyawayfriday

  11. I’ve never heard of this before, but now I must go!! So beautiful!

  12. Meghan says:

    I am going to Meteora in April (as part of my trip to Greece) and will have to save this post! Thanks for the notes about dress code. I haven’t heard about that on any other post and I will definitely need to pack accordingly!

    • Flo says:

      Although they have wrap dresses that you can borrow at each monastery, I would highly recommend bringing your own shawl/sarong to wrap over your shorts or skirt!

  13. Such a comprehensive guide and one worthy of a bookmark for future reference. I have not been to these monasteries but knew there were some on Crete that could not be visited by women. So good to know that these are open for everyone. Nice post.

  14. Sara says:

    I’ve always wanted to go to Greece but majority of the time I just think about the islands. Reading this made me want to go to Meteora, so much history is there!

  15. This place is so beautiful. And i see you know the secret with these locations that are always filled with tourists – always be there very early 🙂

  16. Elisamartinez says:

    Woow! Need to go there. Only went to santorini, ios, paros, and mykonos. Thanks for sharing! Putting this on my list.

  17. Mandy says:

    You sold me on wanting to visit here! Such stunning photos. I will definitely pin this for my travel bucket list destinations.

  18. Felicia says:

    Your photos are so gorgeous! I’ve never heard of Meteora but it looks amazing! I’ll have to add it to my list! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  19. Taís says:

    Amazing guide!! How to read all of this and not wanting to book the next flight there? Greece is absolutely stunning! I watched a vlog about Meteora not long ago, and reading your experience and tips there just make me want to go there asap.. its definitely high on my list now! 🙂 and I pinned it for later.

  20. Oh, these looks lovely! I have never been to Greece, but when I do I will definitely want to check out these monasteries! The photos look beautiful, and this guide will be super helpful- thanks! 🙂

  21. Alex says:

    I absolutely love this article and beautiful photos! I’ve never heard of these monasteries in Greece before but definitely adding them to the list now. I had the chance to backpack around the Balkans last year and fell in love with the area but sadly never made it down to Greece. I’m hoping to do a Balkan road trip in the future that will focus on Greece so I’ll be sure to keep checking back for your Mainland Greece Itinerary 🙂

  22. annette says:

    Great post! I’d never even heard of this place. It’s absolutely stunning! Thanks for sharing and putting this on my radar. Greece is now added to my wanderlust list!

  23. Leslie says:

    I had never heard of these monasteries before but they do look quite magical! I’ll have to add this to my Greece bucket list. Thanks for the tips and great photos!

  24. Thanks for practical advice and colourful photos, Flo!

  25. Agnes says:

    Wow, the monasteries are impressive and your pictures of Meteora are just awesome. Confirms that I need to go back to Greece. You’ve also written a very handy guide to visit the place. Can say nothing but amazing work:)

  26. Adriana says:

    I loved that you shared your experience and provided an itinerary for lazy people like me haha. Thanks for sharing your photos and your time in Meteora.

  27. Sarah says:

    Wow! This place looks awesome! I really want to explore Greece more, I have only been to Kefalonia but I plan to see more of the country next year – this place is definitely on my bucket list.

  28. MG says:

    This is incredible – Greece is definitely on my bucket list, but I had no idea there were so many Monasteries there! Your photos make it look so magical!

  29. Julie says:

    Wow this place looks so amazing! A lot of trails to check out too! I definitely want to go to Greece one day so I’ll add this to my list!

  30. Ivy says:

    Meteora looks insane! And perhaps not for the faint-hearted haha, I got vertigo from some of these pictures 😛 But I still want to go! How are the road conditions to and from each monastery? I’d assume the winding roads can be pretty steep? Also good call on the Psaropetra lookout- that sunset is to die for! Bonus points for a smaller crowd

  31. Kana says:

    An amazing, informative, beautiful post as usual Flo! That sunset is to die for (since we all know I love a good sunset, haha!) along with all those other stunning photos! Thanks for joining Fly Away Friday, hope to see you again this weekend! xo

  32. Nick says:

    Hello, can you tell me what is near Psaropetra? I don’t see it on a map. Thanks!

  33. david says:

    Wow these monasteries look amazing – great pics ms.

  34. Wow, Stunning photography! You have inspired some serious wanderlust. I have always wanted to visit Greece for the scuba diving and beaches, but now you gave me a new reason. Really appreciate the practical tips as well.

  35. The monasteries on the mountain have been on my list for a while! Now you’ve motivated me to go visit there!

  36. Renata says:

    Wow! I’m so impressed! I didn’t know much about Meteora and your post made me dream about it! I’ve been to Athens a few years ago and was totally amazed. This is the type of trip I’d absolutely love.

  37. Chloe says:

    Awww I remember learning about this place in High School history and have wanted to go ever since!! I”m so jealous you’ve been!! And girl, your pics of it are just amazing!! So magical!!

  38. Cassandra says:

    These photos are amazing! I also loved all the tips (: Can’t wait to make it to this place one day. And when I said it looked like Ronda, Spain – it kindof does, but this is a bit more intense hahaha!

  39. Natalie says:

    I’m super duper thrilled to find this! The photos….stunning! We are headed there with the kid and what an adventure it will be!! The tips on driving between monasteries is valuable…I don’t know why I thought they were closer together. Perfect example….research!!!

    I’m so enjoying your website.

  40. I’m planning to go to Greece later this year and didn’t even know about these, so I’m excited you’ve provided so much detail on how to visit them! Thanks for the beautiful photos and the tips!

  41. Guess I gotta add Meteora to the list as well. Such spectacular shots and that view at Psaropetra look out is absolutely unreal. Ughh so many awesome places that you’ve shared that I wanna travel to. Now if only I had more vacation days lol!

  42. Amy says:

    Hola! I’ve been following your blog for a long time now and
    finally got the courage to go ahead and give you a shout out from Huffman Tx!
    Just wanted to tell you keep up the fantastic work!

  43. Meteora is just unreal — such a unique destination. Glad you experienced and had amazing weather to take great photos.

  44. Hey Flo, Greece is on my bucket list but have kept it after I get hitched 😉
    Pictures have turned super fantastic.
    Flo, have you visited those white houses with blue strips all around which we usually see in pictures. I really love it.
    Hope to get there soon 🙂

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