I heard whispers of a magical place north of Athens in Central Greece. Mainly from other travellers like Shelley and my favourite travel bloggers that I follow. Other travellers in the islands hadn’t heard of Meteora before. But that’s because they were beach bum travellers only interested in places with sunshine and sand. Rather than wanting to see the true beauty and culture of Greece. You know the kind I mean.
Before I knew it, I was on a bus heading north to a small town called Trikala. I knew I would like Trikala immediately as the directions to my hostel started with: Look for the peeing boy foundation in the central square. Who couldn’t be amused by that?
I got to Trikala and settled in with a bit of a wandering walk. I went to the local zoo which contained chickens, goats and llamas. More of a farm really. But then on the way back, I found a hillside filled with tortoises. Must be a Greek thing to have so many running about?
This little fellow was very shy. I had to sit with my camera for almost five minutes before he popped his head out for a look
I went to bed that night feeling rather excited about my plans for the next day in Meteora.
When heading to Meteora, you can stay in closer town called Kalambaka which is right at the bottom of the famous Meteora rocks. Trikala is further away with a fifteen minute bus ride required, but much less touristy and considerably cheaper. My Trikala hostel was also particularly awesome which made the extra €3 bus ride worth it to me. And now I guess you’re wondering what all the fuss about Meteora is about. Well it’s a UNESCO site consisting of six different monasteries built on top of tall isolated rock pinnacles. It is insanely beautiful and moving to see. You can visit the sites by bus tour, or catching another bus from Kalambaka to the top, but I decided to do it by hiking. A harder option of course but I wanted that sweaty sense of achievement and satisfaction when I reached the top on just my two little feet.
Image from flickr.com, this is the fantastic map my hostel gave me. I was very impressed with the amount of detail!
It only took me about one hour to walk the distance of 6 kilometres and 366 metres elevation from the Kalambaka bus stop to the Great Metero monastery. Definitely very achievable and special.
The first pinnacle. One of the shorter ones
Walking through Kastraki
There were regular signs so it was easy to not get lost
I could see my target in the distance!
It was a very hot day. But the trail I took was quite foresty and shady
The second monastery I planned to visit in the distance
Fantastic views over Kalambaka from the Great Metero (the biggest and most popular monastery)
One of the many monastery cats. This one was quite friendly
Varlaam monastery. Reachable by a bridge from another pinnacle
The view grew better and better as I walked along the road linking most of the monasteries. This monastery is called The Holy Monastery of Rousanou
Looking back at the final monastery I visited while on a trail leading back down to Kalambaka. It was staggering how high I had climbed
My feet were pretty darn sore by the end of that day. Almost nubs after a good six hours walking. I also don’t want to think about how I smelled after so much hiking and heat. But I do know I felt amazing after my shower that night. It was one of those showers where you feel re-born and actually human again afterwards. That shower was certainly counted in one of my top five showers of all-time.
Some tips for visiting Meteora:
- I strongly suggest hiking the whole way. It may look daunting from the bottom but is most definitely achievable. The sense of achievement is quite spiritual and satisfying. There is a great trail to get up to the Great Metero Monastery from the road which is shaded and pretty. It is unmarked, but also the only trail so hard to miss. On the return to Kalambaka, I used another good trail from the St. Nicholas Anapausas Monastery which was cleared marked with a Kalambaka sign.
- Do wear decent shoes
- Don’t worry too much about wearing trousers as the monasteries provide wrap-around knee-length skirts to make you ‘decent’. You do need to wear something that covers your shoulders though. Also try not to think about how many other sweaty strangers have also worn that skirt that day.
- It does cost €3 to enter each monasteries. I only had €10 cash with me which limited the number I could visit. No ATMs or eftpos up on those remote rock pinnacles.
- There are snack stands by the Varlaam monastery with the usual crap tourist food and souvenirs. I suggest stopping by a bakery in Kalambaka to stock up on tasty snacks.
- Water is a great idea.. But don’t feel you have to bring a massive bottle. There are water taps in the monasteries.
- Be aware that all the tour buses full of tourists seem to arrive at lunchtime causing massive queues. They were all gone by two-ish and only visit the two biggest monasteries.
Where I stayed: Hostel Meteora
Price: €12.50 per night in a 5 bed dorm
Overall: Excellent hostel. I would highly recommend. The staff give you a brilliant map of Meteora and talk you through all the steps of visiting it. I only decided to hike the whole thing after feeling so inspired by their speech and reassurance that it was indeed very doable. The hostel itself is clean and tidy with a great cozy atmosphere.