The Magical Monasteries of Meteora

The breath taking landscapes of Meteora
The breath taking landscapes of Meteora

A few hours north of Athens, you will find a place like no other in the world: Meteora.

Have you ever imagined building a house on the top of a mountain? Well, here in Meteora you will find many of them.

These monasteries were built by Greek Orthodox Monks in the 14th in order to escape the religious persecution of the then-ruling Ottoman Empire who ended up abolishing the Byzantine Empire and conquered parts of Greece.

Photographing the culture and nature of Meteora
Photographing the culture and nature of Meteora

Naturally, the top of the limestone cliffs of Meteora, Greece became the perfect place to hide in plain sight in order to defend their own faith. Today, the monasteries are a living proof of the many wonders that mankind can accomplish with the right motivation and perseverance.

This is the story of the Magical Monasteries of Meteora and its impact on the local economy of the people that inhabit the area. Are you ready to embark on this new Journey of Wonders with me?

Exporing Meteoria despite the cold temperatures
Exporing Meteoria despite the cold temperatures

Meteora: Seriously, what were the monks thinking?

Meteora is the name of the region where the monasteries are located. Its name in Greek means “in the middle of the sky” and the modern astronomy word “Meteorite” is derived from it. The unique geology of Meteora is often compared to the one of Cappadocia in Turkey (more on that later) but the two couldn’t be more different even if they tried.

Instead of building religious sites inside caves, the monks of Meteora built them on top of the cliffs, risking their lives in the process by performing leaps of faith from one safety net to the other. It is not known how many monks died during the construction process but I guess we can all assume that the number was not a low one.

Inside the Monasteries of Meteora
Inside the Monasteries of Meteora

20 monasteries were built in total of which only 6 remain to this day, all of them with incredible artwork, gardens and frescoes. Unfortunately, photography is restricted in certain areas which is why you’ll only see here photographs of the exterior of the monasteries plus a few outdoor frescoes.

You know, before coming to Meteora, I always wondered how did the monks managed to create such perfection above the clouds. After visiting Meteora? I still have the same question: How did they do it? Seriously!

The gardes of the magical monasteries of Meteora
The gardens of the magical monasteries of Meteora

The reason why you probably haven’t heard about Meteora

“Whoa Raphael, those photos look stunning!!!! How come I didn’t know about it before?” you’re probably wondering. The reason? Despite the fact that the unique landscape of Meteora is a top-notch location for any sort of film, there is one small little problem: The monks control access to the region and they don’t like filmakers making movies here.

The last time a big Hollywood production took place here was in the 80’s for the James Bond movie “For Your Eyes Only” after which the monks became discouraged by the materialism, sexuality and violence of said productions. Ever since, they have denied access to big productions, which have ended up hurting the local economy.

If you’re a big fan of A Game of Thrones, you probably remember the Vale scene in Season 1 where Tyrion gets captured and almost falls down from his cell to the ground. The landscape? Inspired by Meteora but not the real Meteora since the monks didn’t grant permission.

Can you imagine how much money and incoming tourism would Meteora had if the monks had chosen to grant permission for filming A Game of Thrones here?

The breath taking landscapes of Meteora
The breath taking landscapes of Meteora

Should the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few?

In the end, Meteora has two big obstacles when it comes to becoming a top-notch tourist destination similar to Cappadocia (its closest equivalent in the eyes of travelers). One is a problem of recognition since not many people know about it (which I hope will change after they read this awesome article).

The second? People treat Meteora as a daytrip and normally end up spending only one night here since the area is fairly small and there are not as many activities to do other than trekking and exploring the monasteries. You see, all activities that might involve in a potential disrespect of religion are banned in Meteora by the monks.

That means no hot air ballon rides, no paragliding, no skydiving and no helicopter rides which are all expensive once in a lifetime activities that would greatly improve the economy of the locals because in the end, that’s all that should matter when it comes to making a decision: How will this improve the local economy?

Will the needs of the many (the local people of Meteora) outweigh the needs of the few (the monks of Meteora)? That’s up for the people to decide but I would definitely love to hear your point of view.

Believers making a pilgrimage to Meteora, Greece
Believers making a pilgrimage to Meteora, Greece

Practical information about Meteora: How to get there

From Athens you can take a train or a bus to reach the town of Kalambaka (5 hours) and use it as your base of operations for exploring the region. Trekking Meteora on your own is a possibility if you have plenty of time to spare since some of the monasteries are located quite far from the main town.

Alternatively, you can do as I did and go with Visit Meteora, a tour company run by locals and who can share amazing stories about the region with you.

They offer many different half-day tours to the Monasteries and to the natural landscapes that make Meteora one of the most incredible places to visit on this Earth.

The landscapes of Meteora
The landscapes of Meteora

Last but not least, don’t forget to use our Booking.com Affiliate Link of Wonders for making hotel reservations.

Same price for you and a small pocket money commission for this website of yours.

Sweet deal, uh?

Have you ever been to Meteora? Would you like to? What do you think about the dilemma of the monks and the local population? Share your thoughts and let me know what you think!!!

Disclaimer: I was invited by Visit Meteora to explore the region with them in order to bring you this incredible tale about the Magical Monasteries of Meteora. All opinions are my own.

 
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30 Comments

  • My husband and I visited the Meteora in the 1980’s. The landscape was awesome and we respected the history of the Monastaries and their desire to continue to exist. When Cappadocia exists for people to visit for its activities ( I’ve been there too) and has been commercialized why do the same in Meteora? It reminds me of people in my community who complain about an ever increasing deer population that ravishes gardens. It is us, humans, who have encroached on their habitat. We set aside nature reserves to protect nature. Perhaps we need to set aside populated areas to preserve history and a way of life in some special parts of the world like the Meteora. Would we advocate for more tourism to support local economy if it was to travel to a remote area inhabited by a small indigenous population? I hope not! Perhaps the locals can modernize and improve the traditional economy of the area around the Meteora rather than encouraging the expansion and commercialization of tourism.

    • You’re forgetting the most important element: The local economy. The well-being of the people should always come first. Would hot air ballon rides really affect the religious integrity of Meteora? Nobody seems to think so except for the 8 monks that control the permissions of what to do in the area.

      Remember, responsible tourism is not about the sights, it’s about the people and the wildlife.

      • Yes, the local economy is important but does it need to rely mainly on tourism? Could tourism be developed away for the monasteries? Do the monasteries actually want to be “tourist sites”? The area was settled by hermits and monks because they could practice asceticism there without interference from the outside world. Whether it is 8 or 80 monks, this has been their tradition for centuries. As more people travel and look for unique experiences (and there is nothing wrong with this), respecting and protecting those who don’t want to be a part of our world becomes more complicated.

  • I’ve read a lot about Meteora since TBEX- looks amazing! I like that they discourage films and media- makes it that much better in real life :)

  • What a gorgeous place. I really can’t decide if it’s a good thing or a bad thing that they don’t allow major movie productions and many activities there. I think it’s kind of nice that it hasn’t been commercialized and has stuck to its traditional roots, as you won’t find too many places like that anymore. I wonder if the local economy doesn’t rely on tourism as much then?

  • I really wanted to visit Meteora, but we didn’t have enough time to make it up there! Hopefully next time we are in Greece we can make it there. The are looks so gorgeous and unique. Great photos!

  • Phenomenal photos! I had never heard of Meteora before however I’m now inspired to book a trip! My parents are actually heading to Greece next week so I’ll have to tell them to do a bit of a detour when they get to Athens!

  • I’ve never been to Greece and Meteora too and it’s a real shame considering how incredibly beautiful it is. It’s definitely somewhere I’d love to go.. the more I travel, the more my list of places I want to see gets longer instead of shorter, how is that possible? ;)

  • What a really wonderful sight!!! I haven’t heard about Meteora until today. It really interests me a lot. I think and hope they get more tourists! This magnificent view should be seen!

  • Absolutely beautiful pictures. I dream of traveling to Greece someday and stuffing my face with all the Greek food I can while taking in the beautiful sights.

  • My mouth is open in awe. This place is truly beautiful and I the colors are so vibrant. This is where I need to be.

  • Looks absolutely beautiful! I have yet to get to Greece (pretty gutted that I ended up missing TBEX there actually) but when I do, I’ll totally be heading to Meteora!

  • I can’t wait to visit this area on my ATW trip next year. I just discovered your blog and enjoy it. I personally am glad they don’t allow big productions to film there. The reason people want to visit sacred places like this is because of how they appear: peaceful, serene, untouched, like they are something to be discovered. It’s good they are regulating it. If they didn’t, I think some of the majesty would disappear. When places lose their wonder for a bottom dollar, it’s sad. I remember hiking the Inca Trail in Peru to Machu Picchu. I was so eager to see such a magical place after our hard trek. When we finally arrived, we had to wait in long line of tourists just to have our photo taken from a good vantage point. The whole site was swarming with tourists. It wasn’t at all how I had pictured it. Allowing people to explore these places is wonderful, but some boundaries need to be made to preserve them and keep them from losing the magic that enticed us to see them in the first place.

  • I am so excited that I can say I will be traveling to Greece in 25 days and we booked two nights to see Meteora. I am sure the pictures do not do it justice! I personally like the fact that they have kept it private and a little untouchable. However with that said as soon as we decided to go there I researched helicopters as my husband and I both wanted to see the view from an ariel view. That is when I discovered that none of that type of activity is allowed. And I can understand possibly about copters and the noise etc. But I do not see where there could be harm for something like hang gliding. And as far as movies and production…absolutely not. I think you should go and experience it…not have it brought to you sitting in a theatre with a bag of popcorn and a soda. Just my thoughts….Who knows …I might change my mind totally in a month or so when I am there “in person” :)

  • Proudly informing you that we have started our Commercial Air Transport – Balloons, at METEORA Greece.

    Our company is the 1st worldwid EASA licenced Air Operator for Commercial Transport for passengers with big hot air balloons .

    You welcome to fly at Meteora at any time !

    • Visiting in August this year. Please can you give me an idea of cost for a balloon flight over meteora?
      Kind regards.

  • Cannot wait!!!
    Despite being terrified of heights, my hubby and I have just booked to stay in kalambaka for two nights to allow us to visit meteora.

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