Meteora is the region, but Kalambaka is actually the main, and nearest town to visiting the attractions. It is a small town, with a pretty backdrop of mountains against it. You will first see it when you arrive via train. Most tourists come here to visit the famed Monasteries of Meteora. Long ago, numerous monks inhabited the area and built their own monasteries at the top of the mountains. They will live in these monasteries for their entire life, devoting their time spiritually, only going down to collect food and water occasionally. As these monasteries grew in size, more people travelled here to stay in the monasteries. When the Romans arrived, they razed everything to the ground, but somehow left the monasteries intact. Today, it has become a less-travelled tourist destination, but still one worth seeing. I would suggest putting it into your itinerary to make it more unique.
There are currently 6 monasteries in operation now. 4 of them are operated by monks, while the remaining 2 are operated by nuns 🙂 Each has an entrance fee of 2-3 Euros.
Price: 2-3 Euros/ monastery (entrance fee)
Getting to Meteroa
The easiest way to get to Meteora, and the one that is used most frequently, is the train from Larissa Station in Athens. Trainose is the company that operates the train system in Greece. There is a direct train every morning that takes around 5 hours from Athens to Kalambaka.
Price: €14 online (reduced), €12 at Larissa station in person
Other alternatives include taxi and a complicated bus ride (if you are coming from Delphi, you might consider taking the bus.)
Some people arranged for a tour to bring them from Athens. This is convenient as well but really expensive. However, some people might still consider it so I’ll add the link as well. Besides transport, they arrange your accommodation at Kastraki (and Delphi if you book that portion as well). However, I heard from my friends that they would have rather booked an accommodation themselves as they would rather have stayed in Kalambaka (the closer town to the monasteries).
Tour Transfer Link: here
Price: €350 (includes accommodation, transfer, entrance tickets for attractions etc.)
Tip: Buy the ticket at Larissa station in Athens. I originally wanted to purchase my ticket online (€14 with the reduced price ticket). However, there was something wrong with the Trainose website. Thus, I had to go to the station itself to purchase a ticket. The price was €12 at the station itself.
Meteora Central Hostel
I stayed at the Meteora Central Hostel, which was located on the main strip in Kalambaka. It was a nice place, with great amenities (air-conditioning, bathrooms), and capsule beds that were super comfortable! The air-conditioning was much-needed during the hot summer in Greece. It was quite quiet during my stay there, there were only 2 people in my 6-bed dorm.
Besides this, they also provide useful information for tours including the popular Monastery tour, Sunset tour and Hiking tour. The lady even gave instructions for those who want to walk up to the monasteries themselves without a guided tour. The accommodation has a garden and a common area for breakfast. However, the only negative thing about this hostel was the atmosphere. It was good place to rest (perhaps a wise pick if you’re travelling with a group of friends), but not a place where solo travellers could easily make friends. For a good atmosphere, look at the next accommodation below.
El Greco Hostel
Another place that I would recommend would be El Greco, which is owned by this really nice lady known as Mama Doro. She prepares great homemade breakfasts and sweet treats in the morning. It has a fantastic atmosphere and you get to meet many people while you’re there. In fact, even though I was staying at Meteora Central Hostel, I was always in El Greco every morning for the hearty breakfast and friends that I’ve made 🙂 Mama Doro even gives you wine at night, even though I was just visiting friends! She’s a really kind lady and I’m sure she will make your stay in Meteora a fantastic one.
Besides offering a really good spread of homemade goodness, Mama Doro’s hostel also offers information about tours, and other exclusive experiences that only her guests are entitled to. Send me a message if you want to know more about these as I only got lucky because my friend was residing at El Greco.
The only downside to El Greco would be the lack of air conditioning. In the hot Greek summer, the presence of air-conditioning really makes a difference. And that was the main reason why I chose Meteora Central Hostel over El Greco during my search for accommodation in Meteora.
Meteora is generally a place for hiking and general sightseeing. Although there are some places open at night, these are generally for eating and you would have literally no nightlife at all. However, the beautiful scenery does make up for it. Of course, the main reason why people visit, if at all, is to appreciate the 6 main monasteries that are still functional.
The tour operators here like visitmeteroa do offer more intense trips like rock climbing (where you actually get to climb up to the rocks that the monks seemed refuge in the past) , cave exploration and even mountain bike up the monolithic landscape surrounding the town of Kalambaka. However, the most common activities would be hiking and viewing the sunset, which I will go into more detail after this.
For more outdoor activities by visitmeteora: here
- Great Meteora Monastery : This was the biggest monastery, and is most likely to be included as a stop is most of the tours that the operators offer. If you book the sunset tour, it will really have a different experience than in the day, as there will be very few people present. This is acutely different from what you will see in the day, where throngs of day trippers from Athens/Delphi swarm the monastery, sometimes leaving you feeling very annoyed.
- Varlaam: included in the Sunset Tour as it is the only monastery with opening hours that fit with the tour. Not as popular as the GMM, but still worth a visit especially due to the fewer crowds in the evening.
- Rousanou: A picturesque nunnery that most tours do not actually visit (unless you are on the Half-Day Meteora Monastery tour [HDMM] ), but most do a viewpoint stop to let guests take a picture of it from afar.
- Holy Trinity: Really beautiful monastery that has only 4 monks attending to it, similarly photographed from a distant viewpoint (unless on HDMM)
- St Stephen: A nunnery whose numbers are really flourishing (some have theories that the nuns are going to take over Meteora, as the number of monks have been dwindling recently due to lack of disciples)
- St Nicholas: Not much info on this as I did not visit it.
Hiking Trail Tour
The hiking trail is must-do for first-timers in Meteora, especially more if you’re still young and active (the trail will be a little strenous) You meet your group at 8.30am in the morning to start the hike up into the mountains. Along the way, you will pass by various unique sights, one would be the scarfs and country flags that line a particular cave. It is apparently to pay tribute to the monks who live on the monasteries. The interesting thing is that people actually rock climb to this spot, as there is no way of getting to it via usual transport. As of now, no one has actually died from this (yes, our group asked.).
You will walk past some deserted and abandoned monasteries which are not part of the remaining 6 monasteries currently open to the public. There are some really good photo spots that the guide will bring you to. At one point, you will reach a viewpoint with a giant cross with a monastery at the background. This monastery was apparently built by an isolated monk who was ostracised by the rest of the monks. How hardworking but sad is that!
After that, you head to the Great Meteora Monastery to get a better look at the interior of a monastery. However, it is gigantic so you probably will not have time to explore the entire place. But, I still managed to get a brief glimpse of most activities in the monastery.
Tip: Do check out the cellar and the outdoor garden if you are running out of time.
Tip: There is a water refilling station at 2 spots in the Great Meteora Monastery. One would be at the entrance to the monastery and the other will be inside the monastery, near a fountain.
After your tour of the Great Meteora Monastery, you will hike down towards the town of Kalambaka. We passed by some cool nature spots on the way down, and even saw a random turtle. After a long day hiking, you arrive in Kalambaka at around 1.30pm just in time for a good lunch 🙂 (with your new friends!)
Price: €25 each (reduced: students, small groups (>4 people), family (2 adults, 2 children under 18)), €35 each (normal). I did this for free though, message me if you’re interested 🙂
Duration: 5 hours
The sunset tour must not be missed while youre here at Kalambaka! It involves a round trip around the various monastries, specifically the monastery of St Stephen (which you get to enter, because it has the latest closing time), and the other monasteries which you get to look from the outside as they would have already been closed for the day.
The tour starts at 4.30pm and ends about 8-8.30pm just in time for dinner. You travel around in a minibus with around 12-13 other people as the guide explains in English the history of Meteora and the various landmarks that you will be visiting.
At first, we travelled to a small little church that had something like a pedestal in it. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take photographs inside or I would have taken nice pictures of the saints and angels on the walls. There were still some paintings and words inscribed on the walls outside the church. The guide will explain to you why the paintings on the walls had a certain order, and give more information on the throne at the back of the church, where the bishop will sit. Apparently, he wanted some privacy (of course), thus they eventually created a partition between his throne and the commoners.
We also travelled to the Great Meteora Monastery, where I personally felt that it was the best time to visit. Although the monastery was already closed by the time we got there, the view was just majestic, and you could take as many photos as you wanted without being photobombed by the numerous tourists that visit during the day.
Our guide for this tour was just wonderful. He was well-versed in English, and he provided detailed introductions about various monasteries and the history of Meteora. Tipping is optional and based on your experience.
The sunset was the defining moment of this tour (of course…) It was epiclly glorious. It was one the best land sunsets that I had ever seen.
Price: €25 each (reduced: students, small groups (>4 people), family (2 adults, 2 children under 18)), €35 each (normal)
Duration: 4 hours
Tip: Some friends of mine did the sunset tour themselves to save money. This meant that they went straight to the viewpoint and bypassed the rest of the sights. They walked a good 40 minutes up. I paid for the tour because I would get to enjoy more of Meteora in comfort with a English-speaking guide. In the end, they shared the cost of a taxi down as it was already dark. It cost €10. I think that it would be more worth it to go for the tour since you get to enjoy better lesser-travelled sights of Meteora, just for an extra €15.
Tip: The minibus will stop at various viewpoints for picture moments. At one point, the minibus will stop at a viewpoint that allows you to capture an image of a distant monastery with the town of Kalambaka in the foreground. It is a really good spot and if you are too tired because of the walking, do not miss this viewpoints.
Tip: Be careful when you walk about the rocks during the sunset viewpoint, some parts were pretty slippery and close to the edge, but these parts were the best spots for getting a great photo. Some people might be sitting down at the good positions for the sunset, just gently tell them that you will be taking a photo and they will more often than not leave.
Food in Meteora
Meteora Central Restaurant
TripAdvisor Review : here
This was one of the highest rated restaurants in Meteora on TripAdvisor but I actually ate at this restaurant without knowing this! It was the night after the Sunset Tour ended, I had made some new friends, and we grabbed seats in this random restaurant that happened to serve really good Greek food, as I discovered later. Most people sit al fresco here, there were almost nobody in the air conditioned portion of the restaurant. One reason could be that it was pretty cold at night, even in summer.
I ordered the Veal with Red Wine (€12) which was really good, my friends had the moussaka (€8), pork souvlaki (€8) as well as the feta cheese starter (€4 ). A moussaka is a traditional Greek dish that consists primarily of eggplant put together with other sauces and minced meat, although variations of these do exist. The prices are not budget-friendly but the quality was really good. I guess you do get what you pay for here.
Food Factory TripAdvisor Review: here
Chicken Time TripAdvisor Review: here
The cheapest meal you could grab in Greece was a gyros. One of these cafes was called Food Factory. It was located in central Meteora and it served decent gyros (pork/chicken) for €2.50 which was really reasonable for a budget meal. A gyros, to me, is basically an open kebab. And its usually what backpackers eat on a budget. Another alternative would be to grab a gyros along the Main Street at Chicken Time. Though the name says Chicken in it, it does offer pork gyros as well. It is a little cheaper at €2.30.
Meteora has a strange charm to it. As it is currently not yet as well visited as Athens, Santorini or Mykonos, you can experience the quiet in this town, especially at night. One reason could be the 5-6 hours journey it takes to get here. The streets are still generally empty, and you can take your time to stroll about the city centre. I felt safe in Kalambaka at night, as the streets were well-lit, unlike those in Athens. In general, most people still do not really know where Meteora is, and that gives you the chance to explore the place before it gets too crowded with mainstream tourists.