Panagia Kakaviotissa: Greece’s Open-Air Cave Church

Where the heavens meet the earth, Panagia Kakaviotissa offers a glimpse of the divine on the stunning island of Lemnos

Do you think all churches are stuffy and dull? Think again! You’ve got to check out the awe-inspiring Panagia Kakaviotissa – an open-air church that will leave you breathless!

This hidden gem located on the Greek island of Lemnos is one of the most incredible Greek Orthodox churches you’ll ever lay eyes on.

The church gets its name from the mountain, “Kakavos,” on which it was built. It was constructed inside a partially open cave with an unrestricted ceiling, suggesting that the church was designed to give faithful members direct contact with the heavens.

The church’s location suggests it was a place for monks and hermits to call home during the Byzantine era. Since 1305 AD, Panagia Kakaviotissa has belonged to Megisti Lavra Monastery. Monks settled there to protect themselves from the Ottomans.

Eventually, the monks decided to leave and reside in the monastic community on Mount Athos. The last monk to go found a local shepherd and entrusted him with the icon of the Virgin Mary. He asked the shepherd to deliver that icon to the church every Tuesday after Easter.

The Tuesday after Easter is still one of the most popular days at Panagia Kakaviotissa. The family returns the icon to the church each year on this day.

Besides being a sacred worship place, this church is also a popular tourist destination. Because of its difficult-to-reach location, though, only people who are willing to walk up a dirt road and climb several sets of stairs can reach and experience it.

Visitors should anticipate a roughly 20-minute walk to reach the church. However, most travelers say the journey is 100 percent worth the effort because it provides some of the most stunning views of the entire island.

For those who can’t visit in person but want to see footage of Panagia Kakiviotissa, check out the following drone video: