Meteora: Greece’s Surreal Monasteries on the Rocks

Meteora, Greece
The area of Meteora is located near the town of Kalambaka, Pineios River, and the Pindus mountain range in the central region of Greece.

The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Meteora near the town of Kalambaka in Central Greece takes thousands of tourists every year a little closer to heaven. The fabled monasteries were built on the edge of sandstone peaks in the 14th century by monks wanting to escape invading Turks.

Six of the total 24 Eastern Orthodox monasteries are still in place hosting a small number of nuns and monks; the Holy Monastery of Great Meteoron, the Holy Monastery of Varlaam, the Holy Monastery of Rousanou, the Holy Monastery of St. Nicholas Anapausas, the Holy Monastery of St. Stephen, and the Monastery of Holy Trinity.

The best-known of the Meteora monasteries is the Holy Monastery of Great Meteoron. It is built on the highest rock in the valley, 613 meters above sea level, while it hosts an impressive collection of monks’ skulls.

Great Meteoron Monastery, Meteora, Greece
The Ossuary at the Great Meteoron Monastery in Meteora, Greece.

A little lower from the Holy Monastery of Great Meteoron, you can find the Holy Monastery of Varlaam and its small museum. The magnificent late-Byzantine frescoes that you can admire there are attributed to the famous iconographer Frangos Kastellanos.

The Holy Monastery of Varlaam in Meteora, Greece.
The Holy Monastery of Varlaam in Meteora, Greece.

The Holy Monastery of St. Stephen is now a nunnery and a place where you can find religious souvenirs. The Holy Monastery of Rousanou, founded in the middle of the 16th century, is home to around 15 nuns. The 1527 fresco “The Naming of Animals by Adam in Paradise” is a true highlight at the Holy Monastery of St. Nicholas Anapausas. The Monastery of Holy Trinity was the one featured in the 1981 James Bond film “For Your Eyes Only.”

Monastery of Holy Trinity, Meteora, Greece
The Monastery of Holy Trinity in Meteora, Greece.