I’m so excited to share my 2 week trip to Greece with you! If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve already seen what I was up to. But I’d love to share more in depth about the locations we went to and my insider tips! First up is Visiting the Meteora Monasteries.
The reason why I went to Greece (during a pandemic) is that my husband had already been there for work for 4 MONTHS. I decided to come out to visit right when he finished work so that we could have a much needed vacation (we haven’t been on a vacation like this since our honeymoon 10 years ago) and come back to the states together. His plane tickets were already taken care of thanks to his work so we only needed to buy mine! It definitely wasn’t ideal to have to travel with all the Covid restrictions but we felt like this was a great opportunity that we couldn’t pass up.
Don’t forget to check out this post: What to Pack on an International Trip During the Summer!
In my travel diary I’ll be sharing about Athens, visiting the Meteora Monasteries, Santorini, and Naxos! First up I’ll be sharing about our quick visit to the Meteora Monasteries in Kalambaka, Greece.
Visiting the Meteora Monasteries
A friend of ours suggested that we check out the Meteora Monasteries and after looking at photos online I definitely put it on our Must-See list. It looked STUNNING – like something out of a fantasy. The Meteora Monasteries are located about 4 hours northwest of Athens in the small town of Kalabaka (or Kalambaka).
Meteora means “suspended in air” and that’s exactly what these Greek Orthodox monasteries look like perched on the towering rock formations. Out of the original 24 monasteries, only 6 are still functional and active.
How to get to the Meteora Monasteries
Originally, I thought we could just take a bus from Athens to Kalabaka but people who were more familiar with Athens said the 4+ hour bus ride would NOT be comfortable. So we ended up renting a car and drove ourselves (just make sure you have an International Drivers License!). Once you get out of Athens it is a relatively easy drive.
I guess technically you could do this trip in one day but in order to not have to drive back to Athens in the dark we decided to stay overnight. We stayed at Guesthouse Lithos in Kastraki which is a 5 minute drive outside of the main town of Kalabaka. I really loved the small town feel of Kalabaka and Kastraki. It felt like an authentic Greek town.
I highly suggest booking a tour and not trying to drive up to the monasteries yourself. During peak travel season the windy roads get VERY crowded with tour buses and there’s limited parking. The alternative would be hiking there (but that seemed like too much work for me!). We booked a sunset bus tour and the bus picked us up right outside our hotel. First we visited St. Stephens monastery and were able to go inside (for a small additional entrance fee). The views were amazing and it was really cool to be inside an active monastery. Next, we drove around to see some of the other monasteries (including the famous Monastery of the Holy Trinity). We didn’t get to go in any of the other monasteries but I feel like one is enough for me.
Our tour also included a visit to the 1000 year-old Hermitage of Bandovas and a Byzantine Church in Kalabaka. I thought these were nice additions to the tour because it mixed things up a little. The history in the Byzantine Church was incredible! (No pictures were allowed so I can’t show you). But it’s just crazy to think that you are standing in place that’s been around for hundreds of years.
The tour concluded with a stop at huge rock (Meteora Observation Deck on Google Maps) with an amazing view of the sunset. It was absolutely incredible (and kind of scary). You are literally on a huge rock with no rails and a loooong drop to the bottom. I also got stung by a bee on that rock! But overall, it was an incredible experience. Our guide was also very informative and we learned a lot of history on the tour as well.
The bus dropped us off right at our hotel and we got a recommendation from the tour guide to visit a local restaurant right across the street. It was one of those small town European restaurants and it was probably my favorite place to eat out of the whole trip. The staff at Taverna Gardenia were super nice and the food was amazing. They also brought out dessert and drinks on the house (which is something that happened quite often in Greece).
Tips for Visiting Meteora Monasteries
- Wear Modest Clothes – The Monasteries have a dress code and knees and shoulders must be covered for both men and women. I believe women need to wear skirts as well.
- Wear Comfortable Footwear – If planning on visiting the sunset rock and the Hermitage wear shoes with traction. The rocks and paths can be slippery so sneakers are the best footwear choice.
- Bring water! It’s hot in the summer and the tours are around 4-5 hours long. Our tour bus wasn’t that well air conditioned so it was rather hot in the bus as well.
- Bring Cash – You’ll need to pay a small admission fee for the monasteries and churches that you visit.
- The Meteora Observation Deck gets VERY crowded at sunset. If you want less of a crowd try going at sunrise instead!
- You really don’t need to visit ALL of the monasteries that are open to the public unless you really love monasteries. Visiting 1 or 2 and then making sure to get a view of the Holy Trinity Monastery (which is not open to the public) is really all you need to get a feel for Meteora.
Even though Meteora is a little bit out of the way if you are planning on sticking around Athens and going to the islands, I really think it’s worth it. It’s such a unique place with so much history. I also really loved the little towns that were around Meteora. Besides maybe renting the car, this trip is not that expensive either. The tour, hotel, and food were all relatively inexpensive. We went during the month of July which I think is typically very touristy. However, since we were traveling right around the time that Greece had opened up for tourism after the pandemic, it really wasn’t that busy at all. If you are planning a trip here during “normal” times I would try to go during the off season.