Where: Pindos Mountains, Greece
History: Skyward rocky retreat for artists, philosophers and monks during the Ottoman period
Go there for: Breathtaking ariel architecture and authentic monastic life
History of Meteora
An extraordinary location under the Pindos Mountains and a World Heritage Site, “Meteora” literally means “suspended in the air”. Its’ name refers to the 24 monasteries built on top of gigantic rocks rising towards the sky in a variety of shapes. One of the most breathtaking sites in the country, these miraculous rock formations are still a scientific wonder and a mystery of nature. During the 9th century monks started off by living in caves. Gradually they started to form monastic communities, building the first monasteries by the 14th century.
Due to the inaccessible rocky peaks, this is where during the Ottoman Empire, Greek culture managed to keep to its roots. The monasteries were not only religious places, but artistic and academic ones as well, offering a refuge to religious people, artists, and philosophers. Until the 1920s the monasteries were accessed by rope ladders, and baskets were used for the provision of goods.
What is there to See and Do?
Today, only five monasteries are inhabited and open to the public, accessible by fine paved paths. Visitors have the chance to experience these remarkable wonders, taste monastic life, walk along the original paths and admire religious treasures and local art. Dress code restrictions apply, though, and inappropriately dressed visitors are not allowed entrance. Men are obliged to wear long trousers and long sleeve tops, and women have to wear long skirts and have their shoulders covered. Skirts may be provided at the entrance of the monasteries. Start your visit early in the morning and be prepared for exhausting walking. Note that the monasteries are closed from 1pm to 3pm in the afternoon.
Meteora is also an ideal location for trekking and rock climbing for those who would like to follow in the footsteps of the first monks, climb one of these dramatic rocks and enjoy stunning views. The area is very popular and can be very busy especially during the summer months. For those wishing to stay overnight, the closest towns are Kalambaka and the village of Kastraki both charming places to explore surrounded by the glorious mountainous vistas.
By Villy Ioannou