Visiting Meteora monasteries and rock formations in Greece

Although October sometimes comes with cool weather, rain, trampled leaves, and post-summer blues, there is no denying that the month has its own beauty and is perhaps even one of the best months to travel. Especially in places where it gets too hot in summer. In October 2020 we had the chance and the opportunity to organize two great trips in Greece – one to the rock monasteries and formations of Meteora, and the other – to the island of Lesbos. In this article, we will tell you about our experience visiting Meteora.

2020 has definitely reduced travel in quantity, but lately, we are starting to think that it has increased travel in quality. And what we mean by that will become clear in a moment. Fewer people everywhere, more personal attitude, raising standards in accommodation and attractions, and travelers appreciate more the moments and experiences in the journey because not everything is as easily accessible to us as it was before.

Visiting Meteora monasteries and rock formations in Greece

Arriving in Meteora

As we were driving down the road to the town of Kalabaka, out of nowhere appeared a huge rock giant – tall, very tall. It looked a bit like the rocks in the Avatar movie, and in addition, there was a monastery built on top of it. Not long after, other such inaccessible and high rock formations appeared, and then we were convinced that what we saw in the photos from Meteora did not lie and we really found ourselves in a very beautiful and interesting place. We are still wondering what effort and motivation it took to build monasteries in these impossible-to-reach places. Meteora is the second most religiously significant place in Greece, right after Athos.

We quickly checked in the hotel, enough to see that there is a view of the rock formations, and immediately hit the road to go around in search of beautiful views. Since it was already noon, the sun was in a very unfavorable position for photography, and you know how we want to have great photos.

Holy Trinity Monastery

We decided to visit the Holy Trinity Monastery first. It is said that there is a lot of climbing to get there, but we did not feel so bad. First, there was a lot of walking downhill and then we started climbing the stairs. They are about 200 of them, but most of them low. Unless, of course, you don’t feel like someone is chasing you, otherwise you can deal with them up at your own pace. This definitely shows a big plus of traveling at a time when people generally avoid traveling. Just because there aren’t many people around you, you don’t feel the pressure to hurry, get there fast, and get out of there as soon as possible, just because you’re mostly alone and can enjoy every sight for as long as you want.

After we reached the monastery and paid the entrance fee of 3 euros per person, we looked at the frescos inside and passed the altar, went outside and there was a great view of some of the other monasteries on the massive rock formations and the nearby town of Kalabaka. We got carried away in photography, but we still managed to talk to another traveler who was not afraid to talk to strangers (nowadays that’s a thing). It turned out that he came from Germany on a ten-day trip to Greece and could not wait to get to know different places in the country and that he did not care if he would have to isolate himself on his return.

On the way back down the stairs, the views were even more beautiful (especially when you could easily catch your breath), except for the last part, when we had to climb again to get to the road where we had parked. The interesting thing about the Holy Trinity Monastery is that there is a small lift, which provides supplies to the monastery, not otherwise accessible by any vehicle.

St. Stephen’s Monastery

There are currently 6 active monasteries in Meteora, which are all so beautiful and interesting and most of which are difficult to access. We decided to visit another monastery at the end of the day and then see what we would do next. We chose the monastery of St. Stephen’s, which is almost next to the road and is the most easily accessible of all the monasteries in Meteora. Maybe that’s what makes it the most visited, too.

Thanks to the fact that we visited it in October 2020, there was no need to worry about crowds, although there were significantly more people than in the Holy Trinity Monastery with its 200 stairs. At St. Stephen’s Monastery, we (only women) now had to use long scarves to cover the lower part of our bodies, no matter how long clothes we were wearing, at the discretion of the man at the entrance. We walk around the courtyard, the nice garden, looked at the olive trees around and the views from the outside and we decided to head down to the town.

A drone over Meteora

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We really wanted to fly the drone, but of course, it is a no-fly zone around the monasteries, and we did not want to disturb the peace, privacy, and sanctity of the place. So we decided to look for a place farther away, where we could fly the drone and photograph the rock formations from far enough. And this was a great adventure because navigating the map with the no-fly zones and with sunset approaching, we had to drive quite crazy and fast on the streets, stop at small detours and launch the drone from off-road places. Not that it is something new for us, but hurrying and worrying about anything was definitely in contrast with the vibe of calmness and solitude of autumn Meteora.

Dinner in Kastraki

After we finished droning, we decided to go back to the hotel and get ready for dinner, which meant leaving the camera equipment and possibly putting on another layer of clothes. Without the sun, it was getting cold. We walked down the alley at the top of the village of Kastraki, where we were staying, and a restaurant caught our eye. The other guests were only locals, the tables were full of food and we had no choice but to follow their example and order a bottle of red wine (for warming up) with the name Meteora, with the grapes grown in the area.

We stayed at Guesthouse Papastathis and we are very pleased with the proximity to the formations and the view from the terrace!

Visiting Meteora monasteries and rock formations in Greece

Sunrise over Meteora rock formations and monasteries

This bottle of wine turned out to be a bit more for us in the morning when we had decided to get up early to wait for the sunrise on one of the rocks. We wanted to photograph the sunrise over the whole valley, the rocks, and the monasteries. We parked the car and climbed a rock, from which yesterday we realized how beautiful the view was. Some of the other active monasteries could be seen, such as Rousanou, Varlaam, the Great Meteoron, and even St. Nicholas Monastery could be seen in the distance. We had high expectations and waited for the sun to shine its rays on the monasteries and the rocks, wrapped in all possible clothes.

There was only one more crazy photographer on our rock, and there were five or six photographers on a rock five minutes down the road – probably the better one for photos, we’ll know for the next time. After a certain amount of shivering, the first rays of the sun appeared. They began to illuminate the rocks, they gradually turned from red-orange to beige-brown. The sun reflected in the higher monasteries, such as the Great Meteoron, and was even about to reach the Holy Trinity, which was the last to receive sunshine. The morning song prayers heard from the Rousanou nursery contributed to this beauty and harmony. In general, getting up early and freezing a little while waiting for the sunrise usually pays off in beautiful views and memorable moments. And this time was no exception.

Before we go

On the way back from the sunrise we stopped in a very beautiful place with a nice view, to have breakfast with the cookies we had bought the night before. This was Meteora’s most delicious breakfast. Nace climbed some railings and curbs to steal another shot. When we returned to the hotel, the rocks opposite the terrace were well lit, unlike the terrace itself. It was definitely cool in the shade.

There was no way to let the cold autumn mornings scare us, so on the way back, we decided to go along the seaside and stop for a walk along the promenades of Neoi Poroi and Paralia Katerini to catch some sun.

Visiting Meteora monasteries and rock formations in Greece

We are very glad that we visited Meteora in the fall, of 2020, so that we can fully feel the pristineness of this natural and human wonder. We recommend this time of year for the best balance between weather, amount of other visitors, and a comfortable experience!

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