In the heartland of Thessaly in central Greece, the clifftop monasteries of Meteora rise high into the heavens. Perched a bit precariously atop stone pinnacles, these engineering wonders are as iconic as they are historical, reflecting the solitude sought by the monks who built them between the 14th and 17th centuries.
Whether wishing to get closer to heaven, protect themselves from the expanding Ottomans, or simply desiring to dedicate their lives to God and continuous prayer away from this world, the Greek Orthodox monks constructed sanctuaries “as compact as shallow’s nests” by climbing retractable ladders and winching up building materials by basket. Today, a small number of monks and nuns call the six (of the original 24) remaining monasteries home.
Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Meteora is the second largest monastic community in Greece and one of the holiest areas in the country, with the art and architecture of the monasteries fascinating every visitor regardless of their religious beliefs.
Near the monasteries, early monastic cells are hidden in crevices throughout the otherworldly landscape, making Meteora a popular destination for hikers. Trails connecting the monasteries attract trekkers and nature enthusiasts who engage in mushroom picking and bird watching as Meteora is home to the endangered Egyptian vulture.
Modest accommodation and great dining opportunities near the Meteora rocks are abundant at Kastraki, one of the most beautiful small towns in Europe according to Condé Nast Traveler magazine.