One Day in Meteora

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To go to Meteora or not? This was a question that we constantly re-visited almost right upto the day of our flight from Chennai to Athens. Honestly, visiting Meteora did not make sense logistically. It was really out-of-the-way, about 5 hours one way from Athens. It was a UNESCO World Heritage site, but then, Hello! In Greece, pretty much every old column is. Eventually though, FOMO won. We decided that we would take the 8.30 AM train to Kalambaka and return by the 5.30 PM train to Athens.

Now, if you have already read Part one of the itinerary I have written for Greece, you will notice that I have mentioned a slightly different plan – visiting Delphi and Meteora as a two-day trip from Athens. This is because, one day in Meteora is utterly ridiculous, something we did with no other choice. I would like for you to have more time than we did there and learn from our mistakes. 🙂

Alright then, fast forward to the day of the trip. The train service will drop you off at Kalambaka. You will need to arrange transportation to take you up to the monasteries. Ideally, you should do this in advance. We booked a round trip with Meteora tours and I cannot recommend them highly enough. Nikos and Mary were the quintessential Greeks, all warmth and heart, and we felt like old friends at the end of the day. We picked up sandwiches from across the station and we were off to see what all the hype was about. 🙂

meteora

Half-way up, I was already eating my words!!!! The rocks of Meteora rise over the valley of the Penaeus river, majestically, mysteriously. The name Meteora, literally means suspended in the air, and you actually need to be there to understand how fitting this name is. The origins of these cliffs have fascinated geologists since the nineteenth century. The scientific explanation is that, an earthquake about 60 million years ago pushed the sea-bed upwards, creating a plateau that was then weathered over several centuries more to create the unique striated rocks we see today. Or, we could pass over all these explanations, gape at the visual feast in front of us and acknowledge that some things are better when they retain their air of mystery.

The slow regard of silent things is the title of a book that I once read. At that time, I did not really understand what it could mean. After all, how interesting could silent things be? When I stood in Meteora looking through the lens at this panorama, the title finally spoke to me. Silence, my friends, can be deafening. It can speak to you, entice you, invite you to contemplate things long forgotten, philosophize and what not. Have you ever been to a place that did this to you? What speaks to you more – the mountains or the sea? . . . #travel #traveler #greece #wanderlust #globetrotter #latergram #blogger #blog #view #greek #sightseeing #landscape #beautifulmatters #ig_europe #europe_vacations #travelingtheworld #meteora #mountains #travelblogger #travelblog #passionpassport

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Try to imagine the scene as I experienced it. Crisp mountain air that still had the nip of winter playfully tugged at my clothes, birds chirped as a testimony to the onset of spring and the hillside was splattered with a canopy of wildflowers, a further ode to the turn of seasons. All this against the backdrop of those awe-inspiring mountains, these craggy rocks that have been witness to the passage of time itself. Do places have memories? If yes, what stories these mountains would tell! As I sat there, I had this otherworldly feeling of being suspended in time. Imagine if one single perfect moment was frozen and put into a glass cube for you to keep going back to. I felt like that was the moment I was in.

meteora caves
Anyone up for some rock climbing?

The caves in Meteora were occupied as early as 50,000 years ago. Monks occupied these caves from the 11th century onwards. The first monasteries were built around the 14th century, when the monks wanted a safe sanctuary from the Turkish invasions prevalent in Greece at that time. Why did the monks want to live up here? Perhaps they thought that high up on these mountains, nearly suspended in clouds, they would be closest to God. So fervent was their belief that they built 24 monasteries, all precariously perched on these cliffs, in a time when modern construction equipment was unheard of. The only way to reach the monasteries was by rock-climbing, and supplies were laboriously hoisted up in baskets!!

varlaam meteora
The Varlaam Monastery

Today, out of the 24 monasteries, 6 monasteries survive and you can visit them year round. Do check the schedule of the monasteries before you go. One monastery is closed each day of the week, while the other 5 remain open. You definitely do not want to miss Great Meteoron. It was the first monastery established by Athanasios Koinovitis and apart from its spiritual appeal, is also home to several interesting museums today. You do not need to visit all the 6 monasteries, in fact I would strongly advise against it. Visit one or two – The Great Meteoron and one more that is open on the day you visit.

meteora
Can you spot the rock shaped like the face of a gorilla?

While at the monasteries, definitely linger. Take in the atmosphere. Imagine the monastery as it was in its hey day, full of monks going about their chores, listen to their chants, as they pray to their God. If you are so moved, pray to your own. Regardless of your religious belief, I would be very surprised if you do not feel even a little moved. I struggle with words to describe the ethereal, spiritual feeling of the entire region. There is but one thing for you to do now. Go there! Experience it. You will know what I mean.

PS: You could easily spend 2-3 days in Meteora. Apart from visiting the monasteries, there are several hiking trails up to 35 km, that take you to various hermitages in the region. Go with a local guide and the legends of the region will come alive in their stories.

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4 thoughts on “One Day in Meteora

  1. Hello:

    I’ll be going with my sister to Southern Europe and will spend 4 days in Greece. I have set two days for Athens, a single day trip to an island (which will be Zakynthos) and the remaining day our plan is to go to Meteora. We will be staying in an AirBnB in Athens the entire time.

    While the prospect of using 5 hours each way to get to Meteora seems daunting, we really want to see the place. Our options are either taking the bus or the train, both arriving 1:00 PM. The train back leaves @ 5:20 PM, while you can take a later bus @ 1:00 in the morning the next day.

    I wanted to ask you how exactly you spent the four hours you had in Meteora and in the case we decide to take the bus from 1:00 in the morning if there are things to do between Monastery Closure @ 5 and that time.

    Thanks!

    1. Hello Joaquin. Thanks so much for writing to us. We actually took the train arriving at 1pm and got back to Athens on the train returning at 5 pm. We visited Great Meteora and Varlaam. Id say visiting one monastery and spending more time there is a better idea than running around several. If you would like, I can give you the name of the agency that picked us up and took us around. They are really good. 😊

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