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UNESCO World Heritage Site

The monastery Agia Triada (Holy Trinity) viewed from the east.
State Party  Greece
Type Mixed
Criteria i, ii, iv, v, vii
Reference 455
Region** Europe
Coordinates 39°42′N 21°37′E / 39.7°N 21.617°E / 39.7; 21.617
Inscription history
Inscription 1988  (12th Session)
* Name as inscribed on World Heritage List.
** Region as classified by UNESCO.

The Metéora (Greek: Μετέωρα, "suspended rocks", "suspended in the air" or "in the heavens above") is one of the largest and most important complexes of Eastern Orthodox monasteries in Greece, second only to Mount Athos.[1] The six monasteries are built on natural sandstone rock pillars, at the northwestern edge of the Plain of Thessaly near the Pineios river and Pindus Mountains, in central Greece. The nearest town is Kalambaka. The Metéora is included on the UNESCO World Heritage List under criteria[2] I, II, IV, V and VII.[3]



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 or early 12th century 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.[1] Six remain today. There is a common belief that St. Athanasius (founder of the first monastery) did not scale the rock, but was carried there by an eagle.[4]

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".[5] 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."[6] 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 and 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.[7]

Only six of the monasteries remain today.[6] Of these six, five are inhabited by men, one by women. Each monastery has fewer than 10 inhabitants. The monasteries are now tourist attractions.


Studies suggest that the pinnacles were formed about 60 million years ago during the Tertiary Period.[8] Weathering and earthquakes then shaped them into their present shape.

Beside the Pindos Mountains, at the western region of the Thessaly plain in the middle of northern Greece, these sandstone rocks rise from the ground. The rocks are composed of a mixture of sandstone and conglomerate. They were formed about 60 million years ago. A series of earth movements pushed the seabed upwards, creating a high plateau and causing many fault lines to appear in the thick layer of sandstone.

Continuous weathering by water, wind and extremes of temperature turned them into huge rock pillars, marked by horizontal lines which geologists maintain were made by the waters of a prehistoric sea. Greek historian Herodotus wrote in the 5th century BC that local people believed the plain of Thessaly had once been a sea. If this was accurate, there was most probably an inundation at the end of the last Ice Age, around 8000 BC. However, he failed to mention the rocks of Metéora, and nor are they recorded in the writings of other ancient Greek authors. This has led to the belief that the pinnacles did not exist 2000 years ago; a theory dismissed by modern geologists.


The climate in the region varies greatly according to the time of year. It may be sweltering during summertime, but extremely cold in wintertime. Rainfall is generally heavy all year round, especially at higher altitudes, but the driest time of the year is during summer [8].

List of Monasteries

All of these monasteries are located at Metéora in Greece, and most are perched on high cliffs and accessible by staircases cut into the rock formations. They were created to serve monks and nuns following the teachings of the Greek Orthodox Church. Much of the architecture of these buildings is Athonite[9] in origin. Of the 6 intact monasteries, only the Holy Monastery of St. Stephen is inhabited by nuns.

Monastery Photograph
The Holy Monastery of Great Meteoron - This is the largest of the monasteries located at Metéora. It was erected in the mid-14th century AD and was the subject of restoration and embellishment projects in 1483 and 1552. The building serves as the main museum for tourists. The Katholikon (main church), consecrated in honour of the Transfiguration of Jesus was erected in the middle of 14th c. and 1387/88 and decorated in 1483 and 1552.[10]
The Holy Monastery of Varlaam – The Holy Monastery of Varlaam is the second largest monastery in the Metéora complex. It was built in 1541 and embellished in 1548. A church, dedicated to All Saints, is in the Athonite type (cross-in-square with dome and choirs), with spacious esonarthex (lite) is surrounded by a dome. It was built in 1541/42 and decorated in 1548, while the esonarthex was decorated in 1566. The old refectory is used as a museum while North of the Church we can see the parekklesion of the Three Bishops built in 1627 and decorated in 1637.[11]
Meteora Varlaam IMG 7800.jpg
The Holy Monastery of Rousanou/St. Barbara[12] - This was founded in the middle of 16th century AD and decorated in 1560.
Meteora Rousano IMG 7766.jpg
The Holy Monastery of St. Nicholas Anapausas - Built in the 16th century AD, this is a small church. It was decorated by the Cretan painter Theophanis Strelitzas, in 1527.
Meteora Agios Nikolaos Anapafsas IMG 7817.jpg
The Holy Monastery of St. Stephen - This small church was built in the 16th century and decorated in 1545. This monastery rests on the plain rather than on a cliff. It was damaged by the Nazis during WWII who believed it was harboring insurgents. It was abandoned. Nuns took it over and reconstructed it.[13]
Agiu Stefanu Meteora 1.jpg

The Monastery of Holy Trinity - This monastery is on top of the cliffs. It was built in 1475 and was remodeled many times in 1684, 1689, 1692, 1741.


Literature, music and film inspired by Meteora



  • Reader's Digest. Strange Worlds Amazing Places (1994), 432 pp. Published: Reader's Digest Association Limited, London. ISBN 0 276-42111 6


External links

Coordinates: 39°42′51″N 21°37′52″E / 39.71417°N 21.63111°E / 39.71417; 21.63111

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

View of Meteora with Agias Varvaras Rousanou monastery in the foreground
View of Meteora with Agias Varvaras Rousanou monastery in the foreground

Meteora (Greek: Metéora) is one of the gems of Greece. Located near the towns of Kalampaka and Kastraki in northwestern Thessaly it consists of a number of rock pinnacles topped with a total of 24 monasteries.

Get in

By ground transportation

From Athens you can take either a train or a bus up to Meteora. The trains servicing the northern part of Greece leave from the Larissa station, while the buses serving that part of the country leave from Terminal B, at Liossion Street. Train schedules can be obtained from OSC website and buses usually leave once every two hours. Both rides are long (about 4.5 to 5 hours) so make sure to bring a good book.

By plane

You can fly from Central Europe to Volos, Central Greece airport [1] which is located in Nea Anchialos and then travel by car for approximately two hours to Meteora.

Get around

You can hire a taxi right at the train station to take you to all the monasteries for about 30-40 euros(in 2005). However, reaching the spires by foot gives visitors a much more tangible feeling of the Meteora's majesty. It is a difficult hike, but experiencing the sanctuaries like the monks did a few hundred years ago only increases its wonder. In the summer, be prepared for the Greek heat, and as the hike takes a whole day, bring a few liters of water.

Meteora view from the Town of Kalambaka
Meteora view from the Town of Kalambaka


The following monasteries can be visited and are located nearby the road circuiting Meteora. Clockwise you'll find:

  • Agiou Nikolaou monastery (St. Nickolas Anapausas)
  • Agias Varvaras Rousanou monastery (St. Barbara)
  • Varlaam monastery
  • Megalou Meteorou monastery (Great Meteoron)
  • Agias Triados monastery (Holy Trinity)
  • Agiou Stefanou monastery (St. Stephen, the only monastery for women)

An entrance fee is expected by some monasteries which might be about € 2. Inexpensive, mass produced icons may be purchased in the monasteries for as little as € 1. They do not have the variety of the factories, however.

The opening hours for visiting are (as of 2009):

  • Varlaam monastery: 09:00 - 16:00
  • Megalou Meteorou monastery: 09:00 - 17:00
  • Agias Triados monastery: 09:00 - 17:00
  • Agias Varvaras Rousanou monastery: 09:00 - 18:00

The monasteries were not originally built for tourism. Tourism, essential to the monasteries survival, has also destroyed their character. They are no longer contemplative.

Town of Kalambaka view from top of Meteora
Town of Kalambaka view from top of Meteora
  • Walk along the paths leading to the rocks and monasteries.
  • Climb the rocks.


The nearby towns of Kalampaka and Kastraki both offer different kinds of accommodation. Choose Kastraki if you want to stay close to the rocks

  • Hotel Odysseon, in Kalampaka, 00302432022320 (, fax: 00302432075307), [2]. Just on the foothills of Meteora with panoramic view to the rocks, you can find this charming and cheap hotel on the way from the center of the town towards Meteora and Kastraki Village just before you exit the town. checkin: 12PM checkout:12PM price from 50.00 euro for a double room breakfast included.  edit
  • Archontiko Mesohori, in Kastraki, +30 24320 77125 (, fax: +30 24320 77164), [3]. Mobile: +30 6936786418. In the old habitation of one of the most impressive picturesque villages of Greece, this old mansion of the 19th century has been renovated to become a most attractive luxury small hotel. price from 110.00 euro per suite.  edit
  • Totis (and Totis Theano), (A few blocks off the main square, towards the Meteroa footpath in the back of town). The owner of this place is pushy, irritating, and fraudulant. He is well known in the town for this behavior but for unsuspecting tourists, he can be a problem. Usually, he will lure you in with a good deal, bartering with you if you try to leave or hesitate. If you still refuse, he will follow you on his motorbike yelling at you to look at his daughter's hotel or accept another offer. As soon as you get inside, he will often change the prior agreement or find little things to charge you for. Do not stay here. Even if it seems a better deal than other places in the area, in the end you will not come out ahead.  edit
  • Also's House, 5 Kanari St. 422 00 Kalampaka (Head towards the back of town with the footpath to Meteora. It is there alongside two other places, Elena and Koka Roka), 00302432024097, [4]. A quality establishment at decent prices, cheaper than most places in the area. If it is not busy, price may be reduced if you don't want breakfast or AC. Great view of the rocks, free internet and wifi. Clean, comfortable, and nice. You will get your money's worth here. The owner is a great guy as well, speaking excellent English and offering good advice. single private is 35 euro.  edit
  • Hotel Rex, Patriarhou Dim St 7, 00302432022042 (), [5]. 3 Star hotel in Kalambaka. Don't forget to take your coffee or drink at the rooftop bar with views over the Meteora. All rooms have A/C and there is free breakfast and Internet Singles: €40, Twins: €55, Triples: €75.  edit
Pants for hire
Pants for hire
  • Women are required to wear skirts covering the knees and have their shoulders covered, too. Most of the monastaries do provide wraps for women who come unprepared, but if you bring your own, especially one with bright colors, you'll get a smile from the monk or nun at the entrance.

Along the same line, men are required to wear trousers covering the knees. This too can be borrowed from the stock at the entrance but that clothing isn't washed after every user so it may cause a bad feeling to you wearing these skirts. One size fits all for man!

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

METEORA, a group of monasteries in Thessaly, in the northern side of the Peneius valley, not quite 20 m. N.E. of Trikkala, and near the village of Kalabaka (the ancient Aeginium, medieval Stagus or Stagoi). From the Cambunian chain two masses of rock are thrust southward into the plain, surmounted by isolated columns from 85 to 300 ft. high, "some like gigantic tusks, some like sugar-loaves, and some like vast stalagmites," but all consisting of iron-grey or reddishbrown conglomerate of gneiss, mica-slate, syenite and greenstone. The monasteries stand on the summit of these pinnacles; they are accessible only by aid of rope and net worked by a windlass from the top, or by a series of almost perpendicular ladders climbing the cliff. In the case of St Stephen's, the peak on which it is built does nor rise higher than the ground behind, from which it is separated by a deep, narrow chasm, spanned by a drawbridge. Owing to the confined area, the buildings are closely packed together; but each monastery contains beside the monks' cells and water-cisterns, at least one church and a refectory, and some also a library. At one time they were fourteen in number, but now not more than four (the Great Monastery, Holy Trinity, St Barlaam's and St Stephen's) are inhabited by more than two or three monks. The present church of the Great Monastery was erected, according to Leake's reading of the local inscription, in 1388 (Bjdrnstahl, the Swedish traveller, had given 1371), and it is one of the largest and handsomest in Greece. A number of the manuscripts from these monasteries have now been brought to the National Library at Athens. Aeginium is described by Livy as a strong place, and is frequently mentioned during the Roman wars; and Stagus appears from time to time in Byzantine writers.

See W. M. Leake, Northern Greece (4 vols., London, 1835); Professor Kriegk in Zeitschr. f. allg. Erdk. (Berlin, 1858); H. F. Tozer, Researches in the Highlands of Turkey (1869); L. Heuzey and H. Daumet, Mission archeologique de Macedoine (Paris, 1876), where there is a map of the monasteries and their surroundings; Guide-Joanne; Grece, vol. ii. (Paris, 1891).

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Simple English

UNESCO World Heritage Site
State Party
Type Mixed
Criteria i, ii, iv, v, vii
Reference 455
Region Europe
Coordinates 39°42′N 21°37′E / 39.7°N 21.617°E / 39.7; 21.617
Inscription History
Inscription 1988  (12th Session)
* Name as inscribed on World Heritage List.
Region as classified by UNESCO.

The Metéora (Greek: Μετέωρα, "suspended rocks", "suspended in the air" or "in the heavens above") is the name for a number of monasteries in Greece. Several Eastern Orthodox monasteries are part of the complex, located in Kalambaka, Greece. The site is almost as important as Mount Athos.[1] The monasteries are built on natural sandstone rock pillars, at the northwestern edge of the Plain of Thessaly near the Peneios river and Pindus Mountains, in central Greece. The Metéora is home to six monasteries and is included on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Metéora's criteria[2] for the UNESCO World Heritage Site are I, II, IV, V and VII. [3]



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