You might have already read my highlights on what there is to do and see in Meteora. In my long weekend in Kalambaka, I managed the Monasteries, I survived the hike and I had amazing food, including a truffle hunt. I had so many photos, I just about managed to process them all. The best of my snaps are gathered here along with some tips on sight-seeing in case your are heading up to Meteora, too.
There is quite a bit of sight-seeing to do, both in the town of Kalambaka and up on the Meteora cliffs.
The town of Kalambaka is small and very easy to walk around. Nested under the most visited monastery complex of Eastern Orthodoxy, the town is dotted with churches, both old and new. The most remarkable amongst them is the church of Virgin Mary, a bit up the hill. The site itself used to be an ancient Greek temple dedicated to Apollo. The first church was built in the 4th century, many elements of the ancient Greek temple are still visible in its architecture, most notably the marble pillars. The temple envelopes more than 20 centuries of history, check out the mosaics and the amasing frescos. You can actually see them develop through time.
This museum is a true gem. The exhibition alternates the seasons and the species of Greece and Europe in the most exemplary manner. Wild birds rarely spotted in the wild, but for the brave and patient, can be found in state of the art displays and with excellent guides to walk you through. Spoiler alert: amongst the most treasured exhibits there are some original Victorian specimens!
There is also Asproparis, the egyptian vulture an endangered species still nested in the areas of Meteora unfortunately hard to observe in the wild as its population has significantly diminished. I was relieved to hear that the museum is collaborating with the Hellenic Ornithological Society in a variety of actions to preserve the population of the species.
My highlight of course was the mushroom museum, so many mushrooms! Check out their special events. There are unique gastronomic experiences such as the truffle hunt that I joined.
The last weekend of August, 26-28 (2016) there is the mushroom festival with many free educational and tasting experiences.
Up on the cliffs
Undoubtedly, the monasteries are the highlight of Meteora. Pardon me the cliché, but the beauty of the cliffs is simply breathtaking. Being in the town of Kalambaka you already gaze at the imposing heights, spotting a couple of tiny structures in the distance, being up there it will simply leave you gasping at the views.
I definitely recommend a long stroll inside a monastery. I started by visiting the Great Meteoro and finished at the nunnery of Agios Stefanos, with lots of breaks in between to admire the view. For the Great Meteoro, there is a bridge crossing along and then 250 steps stone carved steps up to the monastery complex, much less daunting than you firstly think. The monastery museums hold some of the most treasured holy books with great hand illuminated texts, some of the first letterpress printed volumes and of course exemplary byzantine iconography. The temples are indeed very old, dating back to the 14th century and extremely rich with woodcarvings and religious frescos. No matter what your soft spot is you will find something to entice you. My favourite bit was of course the kitchens.
There are fractions of the old monastery kitchens and the cellars. Traditionally, each monastery was completely autonomous, from wood and metal working to candle-making and of course food production, holding in their cellars produce to be consumed throughout the year. Along with the old wood working instruments at the entrance of Great Meteoro, you can get a glimpse of their handy work, both wooden and metal bowls that served in the kitchen, a little to the side the brick oven where everything was baked.
I also visited the nunnery of Agios Stefanos, on the other edge of the trail. A much smaller but very beautiful space, it is actually the first one you see from the town of Kalambaka. Beautifully trimmed gardens and again a beautiful museum with great prints and religious artefacts.
I went up independently, as it is my preferred way of travel. If you would like to fit in more sight-seeing, I would advise to join a guided tour for the Monasteries. Guided tours normally lasts the whole morning and includes most of them. No matter what you choose, independent or guided tour, the best bit is the view. Staggering no matter where you are standing or which bit of the monastery trail you decide to follow.
On my way back to the town I met this flock, peacefully grazing.
Of course one cannot possibly do all this sight-seeing on an empty stomach or without rest. Have coffee at Ekkedron, you can chill outdoors and gaze across to the cliffs as the city flows by or actually grab a coffee on the go. They do serve great coffee!
I also stopped for a light lunch at Paramithi, lovely selection of mezze accompanied by great local wine. If you are after evening views, I would definitely recommend Meteoron Panorama. I had my first mushroom tasting there, the service is excellent and there is excellent variety of modern Mediterranean dishes. For true and trusted traditional Greek cuisine head to Panellinion.
We felt like having a cosy heart-warming meal after the visit to the monasteries, so we went for some of the great Greek classic dishes. We had youvetsi, soutzoukakia, fried liver with thyme and a great beef steak on the BBQ! We couldn’t be happier: generous portions, excellent quality, as good as home made!
If you are in a car and fancy going a little further out, there is Maglaras, a great family tavern less than 10 minutes away from Kalambaka. If you go in winter, you will enjoy the huge fire place and see your grill being cooked in front of you. As for the summer, there is a huge garden outside to chill out. Excellent food, excellent service.
For Drinks, I had a lovely time at Aerino, just at the turn from Kalambaka to Kastraki. They have a live stage too, so look out who is playing.
The practical side
When to go to Meteora?
It’s a great destination throughout the year. Spring is always my favourite time of the year as everything blooms, but if you would like to see a bit of snow head there for winter time, the scenery is even more dramatic.
How to get to Meteora?
Meteora is a little closer to Thessaloniki than Athens.
Where to stay in Meteora?
There are two options, the small village of Kastraki, which is quiet and very picturesque or down town in the modern town of Kalambaka where there is also plenty of choice of bigger hotels and you are in the heart of town, walking distance from all the restaurants, cafes and evening entertainment.
Visiting the monasteries of Meteora
For monastery visits check with your hotel for accurate opening hours. Even if certain parts of the the monasteries operate like museums, there is a more restrictive schedule, and it tends to change with the seasons.
There is dress code! Ladies, you cannot enter in shorts or tank tops or anything that doesn’t recall medieval clothing. Jokes aside, clothing is provided at the entrance so that you can cover that ankle.
Believe it or not, I have still more photos as I did a lovely hike from Kastraki. There is a mushroom recipe coming too, so stay put!
from Athens with love
[Sources: Municipality of Kalambaka (only in Greek) ]by