Meteora is one of those places you’d never hear about until you come to Greece. It’s quite strange that that’s the case, especially after you gaze across the valley of monastery-topped monoliths and become filled with the same spiritual, enigmatic feeling you sense upon taking in any other natural wonder of the world. There once were 20 monasteries dramatically perched atop the spectacular rock pinnacles, but now only 6 remain and are easily accessible with an entry fee of €3 per monastery. After having briefly glimpsed into one of the smaller monasteries, I realized that for us they would be more enjoyable from outside and afar so I saved my euros and time and spent my day in Meteora taking long walks instead.
Due to its location near Albania, we were able to cross the border into Greece in the late afternoon and make it to the viewpoints just in time for sunset. Even as we approached Meteora from the highway, we quickly became wowed by the rock formations that came into view.
Driving through town before climbing up the road meant passing by homes, shops, mosques, and churches with the wonderful backdrop of rocks.
As we climbed up we were immediately rewarded with breathtaking views, each view becoming more epic as we climbed higher. It all seemed too unreal.
It wasn’t difficult to find the most popular sunset viewpoint, perhaps THE best viewpoint of the whole Meteora panorama. Buses and cars filled the tiny “parking lot”, and some cars even temporarily blocked the road. No one minded. Everyone had the same goal–to witness sundown behind these rocks.
We didn’t stay long, as it was crowded and we still needed to find a place to spend the night. Despite running out of sunlight, we continued to pull over to the side of the road to take pictures. St. Stephen’s Monastery below:
We eventually parked at Taverna Arsenis, a restaurant/hotel that advertised free motorhome parking with the obligation of a meal purchase. Luckily, because we arrived after sundown and kept our lights off inside the motorhome to prevent bugs from coming in, the hotel staff assumed no one was inside our motorhome and didn’t bother checking on us. Rather than paying for an unnecessary dinner to park in their lot, we got away with free overnight parking. Yay!
It also helped that we left at 6am the next morning for sunrise over the rocks. We weren’t the only crazy people up so bright and early; there were a handful of other people as well. With the epic viewpoints facing west, I’ll admit that sunset was better than sunrise. Still, it was worth getting up early to get a head start on the dreadful heat and crowds.
After sunrise we drove up to The Holy Monasteries of Great Meteoron and Varlaam. From the Great Meteoron’s parking lot, we saw gorgeous views of Varlaam.
Then we drove back to St. Stephen’s Holy Monastery, where we parked the motorhome, had breakfast, and prepared for a full morning of walking. Most people only need a mode of transport + the overlooks to enjoy the wonders of Meteora, but I knew I would prefer to slowly take in the views by foot. We ended up walking down the entire road (and its adjacent footpaths) back into the small town of Kastraki, revisiting the same overlooks we already visited under different light.
From Kastraki, we even walked upon a trail that took us alongside the giant rocks.
We then proceeded into Meteora’s major town of Kalambaka, where there was a steep foot path at the northernmost edge of town that took us all the way back up into the rock formations, right to the foot of the Holy Trinity. This trail, by the way, was the most direct route from town to the top by foot. Once at the top, it was a gentle stroll back to our motorhome parked at St. Stephen’s Holy Monastery. By the time we returned, it was disgustingly hot and crowded, and definitely time for us to leave. Looking back, I realize how fortunate we were to have experienced Meteora during sunset, sunrise, and the early morning and afternoon before the heat became too brutal.
But, one final shot before we bid farewell to magical Meteora:
Those views seem unreal! It’s like a scene from a movie. What a place!