Meteora

A great cultural treasure, an important monument of Orthodoxy, a landscape of incomparable beauty for lovers of wildlife and natural beauty.

Meteora is, after Mount Athos, the largest and with continuous human presence monastic area in Greece, since the settlement of the first ascetics till today.

Today there are six monasteries visited by thousands of pilgrims. Also, there are many smaller abandoned monasteries.

In 1989, UNESCO inscribed Meteora in the list of  World Heritage Monuments, as a cultural and natural monument of great significance.

The Theopetra caves 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) south of Meteora had inhabitants fifty millennia ago.[4] The oldest known example of a man-made structure was found within a prehistoric cave in central Greece, according to the Greek culture ministry. The structure is a stone wall that blocked two-thirds of the entrance to the Theopetra cave near Kalambaka on the north edge of the Thessalian plain. It was constructed 23,000 years ago, probably as a barrier to cold winds. “An optical dating test, known as Optically Stimulated Luminescence, was applied on quartz grains nested within the stones. We dated four different samples from the sediment and soil materials, and all provided identical dates,” Nikolaos Zacharias, director of the laboratory of archaeometry at the University of Peloponnese, told Discovery News. According to a statement by the ministry of culture, “the dating matches the coldest period of the most recent ice age, indicating that the cavern’s inhabitants built the stone wall to protect themselves from the cold.” Excavated since 1987, the Theopetra cave is well known to palaeontologists as it was used and inhabited continuously from the Palaeolithic period onwards (50,000 to 5,000 years ago).[5] In the 9th century, an ascetic group of hermit monks moved up to the ancient pinnacles. They were the first people to inhabit Metéora. They lived in hollows and fissures in the rock towers, some of which reach 1800 ft (550m) above the plain. This great height, combined with the sheerness of the cliff walls, kept away all but the most determined visitors. Initially the hermits led a life of solitude, meeting only on Sundays and special days to worship and pray in a chapel built at the foot of a rock known as Dhoupiani. As early as the 11th century AD hermit monks were believed to be living among the caves and cutouts in the rocks.[1] The exact date of the establishment of the monasteries is unknown. By the late 11th and early 12th centuries, a rudimentary monastic state had formed called the Skete of Stagoi and was centered around the still-standing church of Theotokos (mother of God).[1] By the end of the 12th century, an ascetic community had flocked to Metéora. In 1344, Athanasios Koinovitis from Mount Athos brought a group of followers to Metéora. From 1356 to 1372, he founded the great Meteoron monastery on Broad Rock, which were perfect for the monks; they were safe from political upheaval and had complete control of the entry to the monastery. The only means of reaching it was by climbing a long ladder, which was drawn up whenever the monks felt threatened.

At the end of the 14th century, the Byzantine Empire’s 800-year reign over northern Greece was being increasingly threatened by Turkish raiders who wanted control over the fertile plain of Thessaly. The hermit monks, seeking a retreat from the expanding Turkish occupation, found the inaccessible rock pillars of Meteora to be an ideal refuge. More than 20 monasteries were built, beginning in the 14th century.Six remain today. There is a common belief that Athanasios (founder of the first monastery) did not scale the rock, but was carried there by an eagle.

In 1517, Nectarios and Theophanes built the monastery of Varlaám, which was reputed to house the finger of St John and the shoulder blade of St Andrew.

Access to the monasteries was originally (and deliberately) difficult, requiring either long ladders lashed together or large nets used to haul up both goods and people. This required quite a leap of faith – the ropes were replaced, so the story goes, only “when the Lord let them break”. In the words of UNESCO, “The net in which intrepid pilgrims were hoisted up vertically alongside the 373 metres (1,224 ft) cliff where the Varlaam monastery dominates the valley symbolizes the fragility of a traditional way of life that is threatened with extinction.” In the 1920s there was an improvement in the arrangements. Steps were cut into the rock, making the complex accessible via a bridge from the nearby plateau. During World War II the site was bombed. Many art treasures were stolen.

Until the 17th century, the primary means of conveying goods and people from these eyries was by means of baskets and ropes.

Six of the monasteries remain today. Of these six, four were inhabited by men, and two by women. Each monastery has fewer than 10 inhabitants. The monasteries are now tourist attractions.

Tours in Meteora

  • Quick View
    The absolutely unique destination all year round that enchants even the most demanding visitor. Guided tour in the Sacred area of Meteora The guided tour lasts 4- 5 hours. Departure time 09:00 am . We pick you up and drop you off at your hotel. Stops at different points for taking photos and visit – [...]
  • Quick View
    The unique landscape, as well as the formation of the massive rocks that the visitor faces when arrives to Meteora, can challenge everybody. It is one of the best climbing destinations for nature lovers, combined with the peculiar and incomparable rocks. More than one hundred massive rocks and seven hundred climbing routes thrill from the [...]
  • Quick View
    Children up to 5 years old are free From 6 years old to 12 years old pay 55% of the price Mysterious landscapes, hidden monasteries and old hermitages, traditional trails and isolated places, away from the large tourist flow, are the key elements of our hiking tour.The circular route brings us from the Doupiani rock [...]