Riding to The Sunset In the Middle Of The Sky
\The majesty of Meteora may strike one as unscalable, but it is really easy to get around. For starters, there are tours just like the Sunset Tour we joined on our first day in the area. There were 2 minibuses waiting for us as the tour commenced, though both vehicles were not full to capacity. The Visit Meteora management (the people who run the tour) intentionally keep the groups small, which was just how I like it!
Despite two groups going around at the same time, I only saw the other bus twice — first at the monastery of Agios Stefanos (near the closing time at 5:30) and second at the sunset spot. We felt like we were the only people touring at each place we visited, which gave us more room to explore! Here are the places we went to:
Agios Stefanos. This is among the many monasteries situated on top of the rocks of Meteora. Dedicated to St. Stephen (from which the name was derived), the monastery had become a nunnery in the 20th century. This is the only monastery visible from Kalambaka (also known as Kalabaka or Kalampaka), and contains the old frescoes, relics, and a small museum. The entrance fee is 3 EUR.
After the visit to Agios Stefanos, we also drove around the different viewpoints in Meteora where the rest of the monasteries are visible. We went to a spot in the middle of the Monastery of Grand Meteoron and the Monastery of Varlaam, and it was a nice experience. Our guide also briefed us on the history of these monasteries as we rounded all six, even though we only managed to glimpse some from a distance.
Byzantine Church of Virgin Mary. This is a beautiful church, dating back from the 11th century. It has some Christian relics, including an old scripture and an old pair of paintings portraying the Crucifixion and the Assumption. There is a temple with more important relics, and an impressive bell tower on the north side.
I particularly like this one because of all the history in the place, which our guide explained along with the elements of the Byzantine structure. This helped us understand the significance of the Church. However, like in many other places, we weren’t allowed to take photos or videos within the Church. The entrance to the Church is 2 EUR.
Sunset. This was, after all, the main point of the tour! The sunset spot was spectacular, and we saw the kind of sunset you only see in movies or in paintings. It was magnificent! Too bad the day is cold and windy, but the view was amazing nevertheless. The area we went to was also wide enough so you can find your own spot.
Throughout our travels, we also learned more about the history of Meteora. The name meant “suspended in the air”, and came from the same root word as “meteors”. We were also treated to some science as we were briefed on the geological history of the rocks, dating back from their formation. The height and isolation of these rocks were main reasons why the monks chose them for their monasteries. They didn’t have them as easy as we did, though — it turns out they had to be hauled up in baskets and wait for their fellow monks to pull them up! The process can take up to an hour, which is an acrophobic torture.
We were also regaled with a story of the last hermit ever to seek shelter in Meteora. Our guide took us to the place where he was found. These hermits laid the foundation of the faith in Meteora, and it was them who first erected the Church of Theotokos (also known as the Chapel of Doupiani). Now, instead of hermits, there are monks. One of them, an 83-year-old monk, serves as the counsel and confessor of the local community.
There were great picture spots all along the area, and there are also lots of things we learned about history. This makes the tour much more preferable to driving around on our own! In the end, we were able to better appreciate just how awesome Meteora is, making it a place we aren’t likely to forget anytime soon.
If you have more days in Meteora you can visit the following for more guides on what to do :