Visiting Meteora, Greece: A Practical Guide

The whole time I was walking around Meteora, I felt like I was in a computer screensaver. Looking out over the valley, at the giant rock formations topped with tiny monasteries, I almost couldn’t believe my eyes. How could something be THIS photogenic?

Meteora is only a couple hours north of Athens, making it a prime destination for day-trippers from Athens on air-conditioned coaches. But I urge you to spend at least a night there (I spent three), to really be able to explore the area and see it from all angles. Both sunrise and sunset are incredibly impressive, so it’d be crazy to just go there for a couple of hours in the middle of the day.

I found it hard to plan my trip before I got there – online info can be scarce and it’s the sort of place you’re supposed to just figure out when you get there. But my type-A personality wanted to have it all mapped out before I go. Just in case you want some solid info, here’s everything you need to know.

Getting to Meteora

The closest town to Meteora is Kalabaka (sometimes called Kalampaka or Kalambaka), and there’s a direct train there from Athens once a day (18 Euro). You can get tickets here, just click “en” in the top left corner for English. The train leaves at 7am – the later trains aren’t direct and cost double.

Staying in Kalabaka

There are tons of hotels and guesthouses in Kalabaka. I stayed at Host El Greco for 13 Euro a night. It was clean and friendly and right near the train station.

Getting info

There’s an information office at the main roundabout in town where you can get maps, trail info, and bus times. Private tour companies offer guided hikes and bus trips, but it’s really easy to get around on your own.

Seeing Meteora itself

From town, there’s a bus up to the monasteries, and back down. It goes three times a day, here’s the timetable info for when I went, June 2019. You can get on at the big fountain near the town’s roundabout, you can’t miss it.

I never caught the bus, I just walked up. From the Old Town part of Kalabaka, there’s a trail that leads up to Holy Trinity Monastery. It takes about 40 minutes – it’s uphill but easy. I did it in the dark one morning to get up there for sunrise.

Once you’re up there, there’s a main road that connects all the monasteries. It’s easy to just walk along the main road between them all. You can go into each monastery for 3 Euros. The only one I went inside was Varlaam but they all have great history and incredible views. Be sure to check the schedule, a different one is closed each day.

I recommend you grab some food in town to pack and take with you – there aren’t any shops up there (though I did find a van selling iced coffee in the parking lot of Varlaam which was a lifesaver at 10am when it was 30ºC). Kalabaka has a ton of bakeries with sandwiches and rolls. This olive bread (from here) was so frickin delicious I wish I’d bought two. 

Hiking trails

If you want to get off the main road, there are a bunch of great trails that wind around the rocks. I spent my second day exploring this way, and hardly bumped into anyone else out and about – a very different story to the crowded monasteries. The map you’ll get at the info desk has the trails marked on them, but they’re pretty vague and can be hard to follow. I really recommend using the app maps.me. If you download the map of the area when you’re on wifi, you won’t need internet and it’ll really help you follow the trails. Here is some basic trail information that I got from the tourism desk, I just had to use Google to figure out what these things were and where they started.

This map shows all the hiking trails (red dotted lines), and is great for planning what you want to do, but I would recommend using maps.me while you’re actually out there. There’s not much signposting and it’s good to have that arrow to pinpoint where you are. I took one from the Byzantine church in Kalabaka, which rejoined the main road to Kastraki. From there I tried to follow the one from Agios Nikolaus, but got lost because I didn’t have a digital map downloaded. Then I walked up to Agion Pnevma which was amazing.

The winding trail from Varlaam down to Kastraki is also amazing.

History

If you’re interested in the history of the area, maybe take a half-day hiking tour. I didn’t know anything about what I was looking at or where I was exploring, and it would have been beneficial to know a bit more. Some tours also take you to hermit caves embedded in the rock faces. I walked around these on my own but was pretty much just like “huh cool, a cave”. If your budget allows, I think it’s a good idea to do! But if not, you’ll still have an amazing time roaming around on your own. 

Sunset

Unfortunately there are no buses to take you up to the rocks at sunset. If you don’t have a car, you can walk up and you’ll definitely be able to hitchhike back down. It’s very safe to hitchhike in Greece, and probably 90% of the people up there watching the sunset will also be staying in Kalabaka or nearby. The absolute best sunset view is from a rock just off the main road. It’s between __ and __, you can’t miss it as there’ll be quite a few other people gathered there to watch. I also visited this rock around 7am, and it was amazing. I was the only person there and it gave me a great vantage point over the town, rocks, and monasteries.

Guys, I can’t stress this enough: GO TO METEORA. The pictures don’t do it justice. It’s stunning, it’s one of those places that I won’t forget for a while. I’ve visited a lot of beautiful places in Europe and this one really took my breath away. I promise I’m not exaggerating.

Have any specific questions about Meteora? Leave them in the comments below or slide into my DMs on Instagram @jemimaskelley.

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