The Metéora (Greek: Μετέωρα, lit. "middle of the sky", "suspended in the air" or "in the heavens above" — etymologically related to "Meteorite") is among the most impressive regions in Greece, with huge rocks in the middle of a valley.
Located on the northern side of the country, the rocks of Meteora Greece are actually miracles of nature. Studies suggest that these rocks were formed 60 million years ago, when weathering and earthquakes gave them their present shape. On top of these impressive pinnacles, many monasteries were constructed in the Byzantine times.
Although today only six of these monasteries operate, they form the second largest monastic community in Greece, after Mount Athos. The view from the top of the rocks to the valley below is just breathtaking.
The Metéora is included on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The area of Meteora was originally settled by monks who lived in caves within the rocks during the 11th Century. But as the times became more unsure during an age of Turkish occupation, brigandry and lawlessness, they climbed higher and higher up the rock face until they were living on the inaccessible peaks where they were able to build by bringing material and people up with ladders and baskets and build the first monasteries. This was also how the monasteries were reached until the nineteen twenties and now there are roads, pathways and steps to the top. There are still examples of these baskets which are used for bringing up provisions. Back in the days when these baskets were the only way to get to the monasteries a nervous pilgrim asked his monk host if they ever replace the rope. "Of course we do" he re plied. "Whenever it breaks", which I am sure put the guy at ease. But now you don't have to worry about ropes breaking since the monasteries are all connected by a series of pathworks that if you begin early enough you can see them all in one day. They are also connected by roads so if you are coming by car and don't have all day to wander around you can also get close enough and then continue on foot.
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.
A visit to the Monasteries of Meteora is highly recommended. Each monastery charges a small admission fee.
Distance: 2h by car from Villa Amanti.
Clothing/Gear: Appropriate clothing is required to visit the monasteries. Sleeveless clothing and shorts are prohibited. Skirts and shawls are available at the entrance for those who are deemed to be unacceptably dressed (including guys wearing shorts and tanktops).
Planning Tips: Plan to spend a full day at Meteora. You will delight in the play of light on the rocks and their changing moods. On sunny mornings, the red roof tiles of the monasteries glisten in sharp contrast to the weather-stained grayness of the rocks while the late afternoon sun bathes the landscape with a golden glow. At nighttime, the rocks are dramatically illuminated by spotlights while autumnal mists shroud them in an ethereal mysteriousness that must have appealed to the hermits and monks who sought refuge from the things of the world.
Explore the paths between the rock towers but be careful because they are not all intact and some scrambling over uneven ground is required.
Remember to carry bottled water, especially if you are visiting the monasteries by foot. There are refreshment vendors along the road by the monasteries but their prices are excessive.