Savoring the Sunset at Greece’s Meteora Monasteries

Meteora

“When I admire the wonders of a sunset or the beauty of the moon, my soul expands in the worship of the creator.” – Mahatma Gandhi 

As we looked out into the sea of dramatic rock formations being gently highlighted by the lemon chiffon-colored setting sun, our Greek host George asked the five of us to observe two minutes of silence.

Up until then, we’d been oohing and aahing about the monasteries perched atop the sheer rocks, perpetually clicking our cameras’ shutters, and continuing conversations started while dining together al fresco with our new Greek and Italian traveling companions.

Now the moment was more serene and contemplative. I noticed the birds dancing in the sky, high above the monasteries’ terracotta rooftops. My attention was drawn to the contours of the rock formations, and the gentle gusts of wind, tickling my cheeks. I was again reminded of how lucky we were to be in such a special place, and I understood why the name Meteora means ‘suspended in air’ in Greek.

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The double-headed eagle – a symbol of the Byzantine Empire

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Monastery of the Holy Trinity interior.

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To escape persecution and to provide privacy, the monasteries were deliberately built to be inaccessible to intruders. In an age before today’s staircases were built there, this made it even difficult for the monks to access the structures.

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Care for a ride? Monks were originally hoisted up in rope baskets to access the monasteries (similar to the one pictured above). Today, entrances such as this one are still used for the delivery of supplies. We even saw a large appliance being delivered to one of the monasteries. However, today, the monks take to the stairs, or ride a cable car.

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Monastery of the Holy Trinity courtyard. This monastery was featured in the 1981 James Bond film, For Your Eyes Only.

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A scene from the movie was filmed near this lookout at the Monastery of the Holy Trinity.

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The town of Kalambaka, as seen from the Monastery of the Holy Trinity.

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Where Kalambaka’s rooftops and the rugged formations meet.

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The fruit of an almond tree – not yet ready to harvest.

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The St. Stephen Monastery – damaged during WWII, and later restored by nuns.

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The monasteries have a collection of long skirts available for women to allow them to respectfully enter, since pants aren’t allowed.

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Mallet and sounding board used to call nuns to prayer.

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A rose and its shadow in the St. Stephen Monastery courtyard.

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Horses grazing on the road leading to the village of Vlachava, where we enjoyed wine and appetizers.

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A prayer shrine. They’re often filled with oil lamps, Eastern Orthodox icons, and a bottle of oil (to light the lamp).

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A pre-sunset appetizer. The olives and tzatziki were divine!

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Toasting to a beautiful sunset. Can you spot the now-dwarfed Meteora rock formations off in the distance?

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One of several hermit caves around the Meteora monasteries. Incredibly, some of the wooden ladders have survived (see below).

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Photo courtesy of Angelina Srebrić.

Photo courtesy of Angelina Srebrić.

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Where in the World?

Planning Pointers:

  • It got a bit chilly as the sun began to set during our weeklong May visit. Please dress in layers as necessary.
  • Be sure to check the opening hours for the monasteries that you’re hoping to visit on a particular day. A different monastery is closed each day to allow the monks a workday without visitors. Visit Meteora is a useful planning resource, and we also enjoyed stopping by the agency’s office in Kalambaka. With a helpful team of staff members on hand, free Wifi, great reading material about the local attractions, and cozy chairs available to the public, it’s a one-stop shop.
  • Finally, if you’re looking for a cozy place to stay (one at which our hostess surprised us with Greek culinary treats), do consider the Guesthouse Patavalis in Kastraki.
  • Need more inspiration? This link contains an index of all my posts from Greece.

 

Disclosure & Thanks: 
 

Visit Meteora hosted us for this Meteora-at-sunset excursion.

Many thanks – ευχαριστώ πολύ - to Angelina and George for hosting us on this beautiful evening. We enjoyed meeting fellow travelers, as well as making it out into the countryside to enjoy a delightful glass of wine and conversation. We were also  pleased to be taken to more remote spots like the hermit caves and inactive monasteries about which many visitors to Meteora are unaware.

Photography & text © by Tricia A. Mitchell with the exception of the photographs noted above. All Rights Reserved. Video footage is courtesy of my husband, Shawn.

 

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50 Comments on “Savoring the Sunset at Greece’s Meteora Monasteries

    • Thanks, Andrew. Aside from liking the quote’s message, I also appreciated the blend of religions melded by including it (Gandhi = Hindu and the monasteries = Eastern Orthodox). :)

    • You’re a lucky lady to see this beauty all the time, Angelina! Thanks again to everyone for a splendid evening.

      On a side note, I was wondering if you’d seen the highliners/tightrope walkers climbing there yet? Or do they only do that in the springtime?

    • Mekala, we were indeed lucky to spend just about one week in Meteora – hiking to the monasteries three times, relaxing on a swing on our guesthouse’s balcony looking up at the monasteries, and enjoying local treats made by our Greek mama for a week. :)

    • It does exude a very unique beauty, Jo. It was such a feeling sitting on those formations, watching as the rocks gradually fell into darkness.

  1. Spectacular photographs Tricia. The monastery clinging to the side of the mountain made me rather nervous. I’m not great with heights. XX Virginia

    • Virginia, I also have a phobia of heights, but surprisingly walking around the monasteries isn’t as precarious as it appears! Of course, I’m referring to just hiking/walking not actually climbing these formations as we saw so many climbers attempting. These Meteora ‘highliners’ (tightrope walkers) are another story though! :) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Woo6qDGkCQ8 If you don’t have time to peek at their video, just imagine tightrope walking from top to top.

      • I could only watch the highliners video because I knew that nothing bad happened … but golly gee Miss Molly, are they out of their cotton picking minds,
        When I am in Toronto – there is a big park across the street from my son-in-laws home. I often see young men practicing with a rope tied between two trees but they are only about 2 feet off the ground. This has to be the ultimate adrenalin rush. Have a wonderful week-end Tricia. XX V.

      • Virginia, certainly you saw headlines about the Grand Canyon tightrope walker this past weekend? That feat even made the Meteora highliners look tame. I’m not sure how far I’d even get with the line a mere 2 feet above ground. We saw college students doing that in a German park last summer for the first time. Guess I’ll need to do more yoga to improve my balance first. :)

        Hope your week is off to a wonderful start, Virginia.

    • Flattered by your kind words, Vera. Now, something tells me that there must be a beautiful, lyrical phrase for “transparency and brilliance” in Italian, similar to the artistic phrase you shared the other day?

      • Di you know that English is the language with the richest vocabulary? there are more words in English than in any other western languages – maybe worldwide considering the many dialects-pidgins-creoles etc. of English that have arisen.
        So, “transparencey and brilliance” for AIR is different from the same for flat images such as art produces.
        So “aria brillante” will have to do for air…I won’t give you any operatic vocabulary or Italians might laugh at you if you used it out of contest…;-)

      • If I had a few lifetimes, it would be fascinating to study linguistics, Vera!

        ‘Aria Brillante’ – I like that. :) I studied piano as a child, learning some of the Italian musical terms. The other day while I was practicing, I realized how I really need to revisit them.

      • I know no music, alas!! but if you encounter a term you’d like to understand better in terms of the language itself I’d be happy to help.
        Languages have been my passion since I was 12 ( my first French lesson). Then I was lucky to work in that field for many years. Thank you for your reply!

      • Vera, how lovely to have worked in the linguistics field. Do you still get much of a chance to practice your languages (and how many have you studied)? And, mille grazie for your kind offer to assist. That’s quite kind.

  2. Beautiful! Though I was getting woozy just looking at some of those photos. I could never have stood in some of those places you were, so thank you!

    • Ha Sid. :) I’m actually pretty frightened by heights, so these pictures must be a bit deceiving. Either that, or some of these experiences are helping me conquer my fear. How’s your summer going?

  3. Spectacular pictures! So different to what I imagine Greece to be…another place for my travel list. Yay!

    • Megan, isn’t it funny how the travel wish list never seems to get shorter? :)

      We easily spent one week in Meteora, just relaxing. Unfortunately I think many tourists only jet off to the Greek islands, missing this beautiful part of the country.

      • True. We’re going to said Greek Islands in August because the lack of sun here is going to make me lose. my. mind. That said, flights from London to Volos are only 5 hours and I don’t have to go through Athens. What’s it like in Sept/Oct? hmmmm

      • I don’t think Volos is that far from Meteora – two hours perhaps?

        We just got back from Santorini. Touristic, yes, but for a reason because it is stunning! Some of our highlights? Trying Santorini wine, and taking a tremendous cooking class that allowed us to learn about Santorini’s unique growing conditions and products.

        We’ve always said we thought it’d be fun to live in the UK, but just wondered if the lack of sunshine would be challenging. How long will you be an expat there? Such a lovely place to call home! :)

      • We’re headed for Mykonos. I really need some sun. I haven’t decided on our “things to do” while we’re there. As always, we’re traveling with a herd of family and friends. Our Visas are good for 3 years and we’ve been here for one. Haven’t decided if we’ll try and stay longer.

        Some people don’t mind the dark and gray, some people do. I think you have to time your getaways to get some sun. I lived in Seattle for almost 5 years and that really was too much dark and gray for me. I guess you can’t have the green and beautiful without the wet and rainy tho. London is a fabulous city and a great jumping off spot for the rest of the world.

      • Megan, I agree about squeezing in some sun-drenched holidays. I lived in Germany for ten years (and although I haven’t lived in Seattle, I’ve often heard Germany’s weather compared to Washington State’s) and did some short getaways to Morocco, Tunisia and Spain to harness some sunshine.

        Haven’t yet been to Mykonos, but heard it’s lovely with its windmills and scenic landscape. We can’t wait to explore more Greek islands. :)

    • That makes two of us then, Ruth. :) Just the islands alone could keep me occupied for at least one lifetime. What destinations are most calling your name?

    • Dorothy, I was in Cyprus several years ago, and am wondering if we visited some of the same monasteries. I recall having gone to a monastery in the Troodos Mountains, and perhaps Ayia Napa. Such a pretty country! I purchased a beautiful, hand-painted icon at the second location, which still reminds me of the serenity of the area. How long ago were you in Cyprus?

  4. I agree. the best part of the sunset is the waiting and savoring the experience, the peace that comes while enjoying the moment. Another beautiful post of a lovey region with some pretty dramatic landscapes.

    • Lynne, we were lucky that Mother Nature cooperated too; on other days Meteora was enshrouded in cloud cover. This was perfect timing for this excursion.

    • Happy you enjoyed it, Gerard. It was a beautiful evening – just one of many that we pinch ourselves and say how lucky we are. :) Thank you for your kind comment.

    • I can relate to the feeling. With a rainy summer here in Germany, I could easily welcome a dose of Greek sunshine. :)

      Have you been to Greece, Annette? I know that you’ve lived on so many continents!

      • The Mediterranean spots are definitely some of our favorites. Do you recall which cities you visited in the former Yugoslavia?

      • I was a young teenager and my family mostly spent time along the beach, no towns I remember… would love to go back to that part of the world and explore on my own…

      • We also hugged much of the Croatian and Montenegrin coastline during our time in the Balkans. I’d like to return and see more of the coastal areas. The landscape is certainly dramatic, making for some gorgeous bus rides!

    • Glad to hear that you enjoyed it, Cornelia. Meteora was a stunning place – by afternoon or sunset. So – which side of the Atlantic are you on now? :)

      • Tricia, I got back home to California a few days ago…still in “culture shock” and jet lag, but went swimming in the ocean today heavenly…..Germany was beautiful even the weather oh it is so lush and green there….the wedding of my brother in a little “Gasthaus” was so unique and beautiful….. being in Italy was the most relaxing time….in a little village Mercatale in Tuscany…went again after many years to Assisi and to local markets in other little towns…very rural and authentic…..oh this Italian ice cream every day….capuccinos…..olives…. cheese and wine…and more….lots of pictures are waiting to be edited before I will post them on my blog. enjoy your time in Greece the turquoise water of the ocean…. what will be your next destination I wonder????

      • Cornelia, I’m happy to hear that your trip to Europe was a grand success! Your mention of all the culinary goodies you encountered in Italy make me yearn to take a trip there now. (We’re really not that far from there, here in Oberammergau.) I’ve never been to Assisi, but loved what I saw of Tuscany.

        We’re not sure where we’re off to next. For now we’re enjoying all the sunshine, and tomorrow we may just hike Oberammergau’s Kofel.

        I’m much looking forward to seeing your images. Until then, have a wonderful week.

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