Meteora Monasteries in Kalambaka

The Meteora are rock formations formed as a result of the erosion of wind and rain over time creating separate pillars of various height and width. Centuries ago, monks seeking quiet solitude for their devotions created small places of prayer by making cells inside caves that had eroded from the side of the rocks, and the area came to be known as a holy place. Amazingly, around the 14th Century, many monasteries started to be built at the very top of the rock pillars, access being gained only by removable ladders and winch systems used to haul up baskets and nets – for goods and people!!.In 1988 Meteora was recognized for its outstanding value as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today, 6 of these monasteries remain in central Meteora, housing organised monastic communities, and are open to the public for viewing. Fortunately for us, stairs were carved into the rocks in the 1920’s allowing easier access for visitors, and a decent bitumen roadway services the entry points for each of the monasteries, a short drive from the town of Kalambaka. The monasteries appear to cling to the tops of the rock pillars, visually fascinating, and you wonder how the monks ever managed to create these beautiful sanctuaries. As you enter each monastery you gain a glimpse into the lives of the nuns and monks who maintain these works of devotion. Inside the monasteries you will find small museums, chapels open for visiting, beautiful frescoes, illuminated manuscripts, sacred vessels, early printed books, gorgeous gardens, magnificent views out over the valley below, and daunting entrance platforms with winch areas showing the perilous method of ascent and decent that was previously used by the occupants and visitors. Varlaam has a barrel store that contains a massive oak barrel with a capacity for 13,000 litres! There is also a beautiful stone courtyard with a rotunda on the edge of the terrace, which overlooks the valley below. The Great Meteoro is the highest and the largest of the remaining monasteries, and its construction was a truly remarkable achievement. There is an old kitchen with its original artefacts on display here, as well as a small room where the bones and skulls of former monks are kept neatly stacked on shelves. The Monastery of St Stephen allowed easy access via a bridge across to the entrance. Entry to the other monasteries involves a serious amount of stair climbing, however they are also truly wonderful and well worth the hard work. Out of respect for the nuns and monks, there is a dress code to be worn: long pants men, long skirts for women - there are sarongs available for use while in the monastery if required. Check here for the opening hours before you visit. Contact: Holy Monastary of Great Meteoro +3024320 22278 immmeteoro@yahoo.gr Holy Monastary of Varlaam +3024320 22277 imvarlaam@yahoo.gr Holy Monastary of St. Nicholas Anapafsas +3024320 22375 paterpolykarpos@gmail.com Holy Monastary of Rousanou +3024320 22649 i.m.roussanou@gmail.com Holy Monastary of Holy Trinity +3024320 22220 Holy Monastary of St. Stephan +3024320 22279 Βy: Fiona Whiley