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 into the sea of dramatic rock formations being illuminated 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 beauty of Meteora’s monasteries perched atop the sheer rocks, perpetually clicking our cameras’ shutters, and continuing conversations started earlier in the evening.

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 better appreciated why Meteora (Greek for “suspended in air”) was a fitting name for these structures that appear to be floating above the void.

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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 they 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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Our Video of This Experience:

Where in the World?

Planning Pointers:

  • Meteora is about 4 hours northwest of Athens. To get there, we traveled by bus from Skopje, North Macedonia. (We departed Skopje before sunrise, then journeyed to Thessaloniki, Trikala, and Kalambaka, all in one day. We bought separate bus tickets for each leg of the journey.)
  • It got a bit chilly as the sun began to set during our weeklong May visit. As a result, we were glad to have dressed in layers.
  • Be sure to check the opening hours for the monasteries that you’re hoping to visit. 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.
  • Visit the Kalambaka Tourist Center website for information about the monasteries, as well as other activities that you can do in Meteora.
  • Accommodation wise, we stayed at the cozy Guesthouse Patavalis (affiliate link) in the village of Kastraki. The hotel’s owner, Marina, whom we dubbed our ‘Greek mama’, even surprised us with samples of tasty, home-cooked Greek food like spanakopita, candied figs, and milk custard pie. In total, we spent about a week at the Guesthouse Patavalis, staying in its Purple Room. We enjoyed the property’s terrace views of the surrounding rock formations, and its convenient location. It made a great hub for exploring Meteora’s monasteries.
  • 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 © Tricia A. Mitchell with the exception of the photographs noted above. All Rights Reserved. The video is a creation of my husband, Shawn.

Published by Tricia A. Mitchell

Tricia A. Mitchell is a freelance writer and photographer. Born in Europe but raised in the United States, she has lived in Valletta, Malta; Heidelberg, Germany; and Split, Croatia. An avid globetrotter who has visited more than 65 countries, she has a penchant for off-season travel. Tricia has learned that travel’s greatest gift is not sightseeing, rather it is the interactions with people. Some of her most memorable experiences have been sharing a bottle of champagne with distant French cousins in Lorraine, learning how to milk goats in a sleepy Bulgarian village, and ringing in the Vietnamese New Year with a Hanoi family. She welcomes any opportunity to practice French and German, and she loves delving into a place’s history and artisanal food scene. A former education administrator and training specialist, Tricia has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in international relations. She and her husband, Shawn, married in the ruins of a snowy German castle. They’ve been known to escape winter by basing themselves in coastal Croatia or Southeast Asia. Her writing has appeared in Fodor’s Travel, Frommer’s, and International Living.

51 thoughts on “Savoring the Sunset at Greece’s Meteora Monasteries

    1. 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). :)

    1. 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?

    1. 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. :)

  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

    1. 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! :) If you don’t have time to peek at their video, just imagine tightrope walking from top to top.

      1. 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.

      2. 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.

  2. Another magnificent post. You render the transparancey and brilliance of Greek air very very well. I thank you.

    1. 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?

      1. 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…;-)

      2. 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.

      3. 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!

      4. 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.

  3. 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!

    1. 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?

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

    1. 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.

      1. 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

      2. 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! :)

      3. 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.

      4. 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. :)

      1. No, but a lot of the people that we met in Macedonia (the country, not the Greek region) headed there for the Eastern Orthodox Easter holiday and had very favorable things to say about it.

    1. 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?

  5. 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.

    1. 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!

      1. 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…

      2. 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!

      1. 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????

      2. 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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