The Meteora or 'columns of the sky' are a group of monasteries built on spectacular natural sandstone rock pillars in central Greece. Monks settled on these peaks from the 11th century onwards. The site was made a WHS both for its cultural (frescoes, monastic life, construction method) and natural qualities.
The Meteora group consists of six working monasteries:
- Agia Triada or Holy Trinity
- Varlaam Monastery
- Monastery of Agios Nikolaos Anapafsas
- Megalo Meteoro
- Roussanou Monastery
- Agios Stefanos
John Booth - October 2015
This was my third visit to the site since 1970.I was horrified to find how this once quiet, idyllic site had become overcrowded and congested.
I reached Kalambaka by train from Athens, having picked my way through the crowds of refugees occupying the Athens railway station. From Kalambaka I continued by train northwards to Thessaloniki.
Clyde - June 2014
I visited this WHS in June 2014. I was based in Kastraki, just a stone's throw away from the monasteries of Meteora proper, where I spent 2 days exploring the monasteries on foot. I visited all the 6 monasteries even though they cost 3 euros each. The interior frescoes and sense of tranquillity inside the monasteries early morning and late in the afternoon when the tour groups are gone is equally outstanding as much as the surrounding natural setting. My favourite interior was that of St Nicholas although smaller than the other monasteries. My favourite exterior is that of the Holy Trinity as it's perched on the highest rock next to the most accessible monastery. There are several panoramic viewpoints to visit and the best time for photography is late in the afternoon. Meteora is undoubtedly my favourite non-classical WHS in Greece and I really hope to visit again in the near future.
"Columns of the sky" is an accurate description for Meteora, one of the relatively few sites in the world inscribed on the WH list for both cultural and natural criteria. The landscape of this region in central Greece is just stunning, with its majestic spires reaching high into the sky. This would probably be reason enough for inscription, but the monasteries on top of the spires are just mind-blowing. I´m not sure whether the obvious question of why these monasteries were built in these locations in the first place has yet been satisfactorily answered, but it doesn´t really matter. The monasteries are almost as interesting from the inside as from the outside and will give you a good overview of Byzantine architecture and painting, as well as of the Orthodox church. Some can only be reached on foot, via many, many steps, but it´s definitely worth the effort. Obey the clothing rules!
Meteora is easy to reach on one of the numerous daytrips offered from both Athens and Thessaloniki, but the driving makes you shudder and suspect that the bus will fall off the cliffs at any moment. Don´t look down, but if you do, you won´t see any buswrecks littering the slopes, so I guess it´s all very safe after all..
The geographical features at Meteora are spectacular. It's reported to be an ancient seabed. Towering limestone pilars rise out of the earth, much like what little children make with sloppy sand at the beach. The views are awe-inspiring and one can see why hermits and ascetic monks would choose to live their lives there. Contemplation of un-earthly matters is inevitable the longer you spend there.
The monastaries are lovely, though it's unfortunate that one can't be raised up in the nets they used in the past. Women, be sure to wear long skirts or have some kind of shawl to wrap around yourselves. You will not be permitted to enter wearing pants, and certainly not if your legs aren't covered. I used a sarong and it worked out just fine.
Metéora consists of about 60 huge columns of rock, up to 984 feet high, many large enough for a monastery to be built on the top. Starting about the year 1000, and extending into the 1500’s, 24 monasteries were built, but now only four are inhabited. Since the monks wanted to be alone, until recently access was by means of very long ladders or a basket or net suspended on a rope. Now they have added staircases with hundreds of steps, but for a tourist, it’s well worth the climb.
The large monasteries look tiny on the tip of these peaks. Drove up the steep twisty hairpin roads stopping to take pictures, and stopping for breakfast overlooking The Varlaám monastery, a little below the Megálo Metéoro, the largest of the group of monasteries. We later walked up hundreds of steps to visit these two ancient sites.
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Full name: Meteora
1988 - InscribedReasons for inscription
The site has 19 connections. Show all
- Damaged in World War II The area was bombed during WWII e.g The 14 century Agios Stefanos .... Much of the monastery was destroyed during World War Two and the Greek civil war that followed
- Built in the 14th century Earliest monasteries, including the Great Meteoron
- Paleocene Chemical analysis and geological evidence suggests that the pinnacles were created some 60 million years ago in the Tertiary period, emerging from the cone of a river and further transformed by earthquakes (AB ev)
World Heritage Process
- Mixed sites inscribed on 5 or more criteria Criteria: i/ii/iv/v/vii. 5- 4 Cultural, 1 Natural