Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Monasteries in "the middle of the sky"

Volos was our first cruise stop.  The Meteora monasteries, in Thessaly, Greece, were just a couple of hours away by car so we booked a cab to drive us to see these amazing havens hung in "the middle of the sky" or "suspended in the air" (meteora in Greek).  The monks built them on top of rock pillars in the 14th century so they could be safe from political upheaval.  Now they are invaded by tourists who could brave the climb up to the entrance.  In the case of the Holy Monastery of Great Meteoron,  it was 750 steps up - not for the faint of heart!

There are six of these monasteries remaining from the original 20.  We visited the two largest monasteries, the Holy Monastery of the Grand Meteoron and the Varlaam Monastery.  You can see below the pictures of the monasteries and the surrounding landscape of rock pillars that remanded me of places like Yosemite in California and Zhangjiajie in China, except these places don't have monasteries built on top of their rocks. The Tigers' Nest Monastery in Bhutan, once on my bucket list, also comes to mind but I've never visited that one and likely never will because it is even harder to reach from what I gather - a lot more than 750 steps!  Wrap around skirts are available for women wearing pants - if they want to go into the churches, which are so gorgeous they are worth putting on someone else's skirts for.  

First glimpse of the Meteora monasteries

The Holy Monastery of Great Meteoron - the highest, largest and oldest of the Meteora monasteries.  The rock on which it stands rises 2000 feet about sea level.  The monastery was built around 1340.

The entrance, after you've climbed the 750 steps (there are more inside!)

The Church of the Transfiguration with icons from the 14th and 16th centuries

The kitchen with the original bread oven and soup hearth

An idyllic courtyard in the monastery

Mural of the 12 apostles

The rocks are an obvious attraction for rock climbers

The Varlaam Monastery - the pulley system for delivering supplies is still being used

The main entrance

Inside the chapel

Original water barrel from the 14th century could hold 12 tons of water

The Meteora landscape



  1. I agreed. The views are truly breathtaking.

  2. Thanks, Connie. We were there in the middle of the day. I can imagine it would be better early in the morning or later in the afternoon. The last photo was taken at the end of the day, around 4 pm so has better light.