Meteora, Greece is perhaps one of the most beautiful places I’ve been to in this world so far. Seriously! Every time I look at my photos from my 36 hours there in May, I have to pinch myself because I still can’t believe this place is real. Hiking through the valley and up the rocks to the monasteries with Visit Meteora was incredible and rewarding (I needed a little exercise after drinking on a yacht for 7 days straight!), but seeing the sun set over the monasteries, rock cliffs, and distant mountains was absolutely stunning. I’m pretty sure the only thing I could utter during the sunset was “wow” over and over again.
The old cliché, a picture is worth a thousand words, is absolutely true. Not to pat myself on my back, but I am proud of the photos I took in Meteora, but they still don’t do this place justice. I actually planned my whole Europe vacation around visiting Meteora after seeing posts from Alex in Wanderland and Journey Wonders. I knew I had to see this magical place. Thankfully Meteora is about a 5 hour train ride northwest of Athens. If you find yourself in Greece, please may sure you build Meteora into your trip as you won’t be disappointed.
First Stop: Holy Monastery of St. Stephen
Our first stop of the Sunset Tour was the Holy Monastery of St. Stephen, which was about to close in a half hour so we were a bit rushed to drive up the long windy road and visit the monastery for at least a few minutes. The Holy Monastery of St. Stephen was built during the 12th century of the rock of Agios Stephanos. The original monastery was renovated several times throughout the centuries and the present day monastery dates back to about 1545. St. Stephens contains two cathedrals including the 16th century cathedral that was severely damaged during WWII and the 18th century main cathedral dedicated to Saint Charalambos. Photography is not allowed in the cathedrals, but they are unbelievably beautiful with every inch of the walls and ceilings painted with saints and religious frescos.
The Holy Monastery of St. Stephens was abandoned by the monks in 1961 due to the extensive damage from WWII and the Greek Civil War. Shortly after the abandonment, a cloister of nuns moved in and repaired the monastery back to its former glory. Today the monastery is an active nunnery with 28 Orthodox Greek nuns led by Abbess Agathi Antoniou.
Second Stop: Scenic Outlook
After being shuttled out of the monastery at closing by the friendly nuns, we drove just down the road to a small outlook point where you have 180 degree views of the valley below. From the lookout point you have stunning (I know, totally cliché, but how else are you suppose to describe such an amazing place?) views of the Holy Trinity Monastery. The Holy Trinity Monastery is the most difficult monastery to visit as you have to climb 140 steps to the top. Challenge accepted!
Third Stop: The Byzantine Church of Virgin Mary
We descended down the windy roads to the town of Kalambaka to explore the Byzantine Church of Virgin Mary. The church dates back to 6th or 7th century and contains 11th century Byzantine frescos from wall to ceiling. While the inside of the church is a show-stopper, the real beauty is the external walls of the church that contain relics and pieces of an old Greek temple dedicated to the God Apollo.
Fifth Stop: Hermit Caves
If you thought the monasteries were incredible, check out the old hermit caves! Monks began coming to Meteora around the 9th or 10th century and moving into one of the numerous caves found in the sandstone rocks of the region. Many of these monks built their homes in the caves and then cut the ladders so they could never go back to the ground again. The monks spent their days in isolation praying and devoting themselves to God. They survived on the kindness of the locals who would provide them with fresh water and food daily.
Seventh Stop: Scenic Lookout Point in Kalambaka
Our next stop was a scenic lookout point on a nearby hill that offers views over the towns of Kastraki and Kalambaka up towards the 1200 foot (400 m) sandstone cliffs of Meteora. We had a few minutes to snap photos before being rushed into the bus to climb back up to Meteora to experience the sunset.
Last Stop: Scenic Lookout Spot for the Sunset
Obviously viewing the sunset is the highlight of the Visit Meteora Sunset Tour. The bus dropped us off at another scenic lookout spot that is popular for watching some of the best sunsets in Greece. The spot offers about 270 degrees of panoramic views of the valley below with several of the monasteries framed nicely between the rocks. Enjoy the photos! But trust me, they don’t do the sunset justice. Go!
Thank you to Visit Meteora for hosting me during my short 36 hours in Meteora, Greece. I will absolutely be back to experience more of this beautiful region of Greece. Like always, my opinions are 100% my own.
Have you been to Meteora? Where is your favorite sunset?