Savoring the Sunset at Greece’s Meteora Monasteries
“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.
The double-headed eagle – a symbol of the Byzantine Empire
Monastery of the Holy Trinity interior.
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.
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.
Monastery of the Holy Trinity courtyard. This monastery was featured in the 1981 James Bond film, For Your Eyes Only.
A scene from the movie was filmed near this lookout at the Monastery of the Holy Trinity.
The town of Kalambaka, as seen from the Monastery of the Holy Trinity.
Where Kalambaka’s rooftops and the rugged formations meet.
The fruit of an almond tree – not yet ready to harvest.
The St. Stephen Monastery – damaged during WWII, and later restored by nuns.
The monasteries have a collection of long skirts available for women to allow them to respectfully enter, since pants aren’t allowed.
Mallet and sounding board used to call nuns to prayer.
A rose and its shadow in the St. Stephen Monastery courtyard.
Horses grazing on the road leading to the village of Vlachava, where we enjoyed wine and appetizers.
A prayer shrine. They’re often filled with oil lamps, Eastern Orthodox icons, and a bottle of oil (to light the lamp).
A pre-sunset appetizer. The olives and tzatziki were divine!
Toasting to a beautiful sunset. Can you spot the now-dwarfed Meteora rock formations off in the distance?
One of several hermit caves around the Meteora monasteries. Incredibly, some of the wooden ladders have survived (see below).
Photo courtesy of Angelina Srebrić.
Where in the World?
- 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’s website 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.
Thanks & Disclosure:
ευχαριστώ πολύ/ A big thank you to Angelina and George at Visit Meteora for hosting us on this beautiful evening. We enjoyed meeting fellow travelers on the excursions, 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 which many visitors to Meteora are unaware.
These words, experiences, images, and opinions are entirely my own, with the exception of the photographs noted above. Video footage is courtesy of my husband, Shawn.
Photography & text © by Tricia A. Mitchell . All Rights Reserved.