Meteora is an area in Thessaly (Central Greece) and Kalampaka is the city under the rock towers of Meteora. The thing that makes Meteora so special is the monasteries on the top of the rock towers. The monasteries, the amound of peaks to climb and the paths for hiking brings in Meteora the whole year many tourists.
The prevailing theory about Meteora creation, is that one of the German geologist Philipson, who came to Greece in the late 19th century. According to his theory, a large river had his estuary in this area which for million of years was covered by a narrow and deep part of the sea. The river waters place matter, stones and generally several materials that were transferred by its waters at the estuary from Northern parts of primordial central Europe. From the accumulation of these materials deltaic cones were formed.
25-30 million years ago, after some geological changes took place during the centuries, the central part of today’s Europe was lifted. That’s how the opening of Tempi was created ,having as a result the pouring of the waters in today’s Aegean sea.
During the tertiary period ,at the time of the alpine orogenies, the solid volumes of the “rocks” were cut off from the mountain chain of Pindos that was created and as the centuries went by, the plain of Pinios river was formed between them.
With the continuous corrosion by the wind and the rain as well as by other geological changes, these rocks took their present form through the passing of million of years.
At the cavities, fissures and peaks of Meteora rocks, the people of that place found protection from the raids of several conquerors and of those who passed from the area.
Also, several bold hermits and anchorites found shelter at these rocks, seeking for mental calmness, tranquility and while praying they saught for Christian perfection.
Monasteries – Meteora
Today, the tradition of Orthodoxy is continued uninterrupted for over 600 years by the Holy Monastery of the Great Meteoro (or the Transfiguration of Jesus), the Varlaam Monastery, the Saint Stephen Monastery, the Holy Trinity Monastery, the Saint Nicholas Anapafsas Monastery and the Rousanou Monastery. All these monasteries are on the top of Meteora rocks.
Meteora means ‘suspended in space’. Your first, second and third sight of these impossibly tall, vertical rocks will have you gasping in disbelief. But it’s not just the incredible geology that stretches your imagination. It’s the monasteries balanced on these pinnacles. How did they get there? The monks who built them were the original rock climbers, lifting the materials up with pulleys, nets and their naked hands.
Today, fans of the sport come to Meteora from the world over, to pit themselves against these gigantic rocks. Unesco has declared Meteora a World Heritage Site. The Greek state calls it a sacred spot, inviolate and immutable. You’ll no doubt come up with other adjectives to describe Meteora, this wonder of the world.
What to do in Meteora
Monstrous columns and humble hermits
In Thessaly, a forest of mind-blowing rocks rises perpendicular to the flat valley north of Kalambaka, south of the Pindus Mountains. Monasticism here began in the 11th century with the first hermits arriving in Thessaly from Mount Athos to retreat to niches in these heavenly pillars. In the 14th century, the Blessed Athanasios of Meteora came to the area and founded the first monastic community in the monastery of the Great Meteoron. Other monks followed from other corners of Greece, creating a total of 20 monasteries.
At present there are six active, flourishing, restored monasteries and convents, which welcome each visitor hospitably to their lofty realms. These are: Agios Nikolaos Anapafsa, Metamorphosis tou Sotiros or Megalou Meteorou, Varlaam, Roussanos, Agia Triada and Agios Stephanos. All the others, whether restored or abandoned, are empty.
A place for rock climbing enthusiasts
From the earliest days of the monasteries, rockclimbing was a necessity, not a sport. There was no other way to get to the top except by using ropes, nets, bare hands or long rickety ladders. Nowadays, the challenges of these divine columns attract climbers from all over. They enjoy the classic rock-climbing routes, of great length and without excessive safety precautions. All the routes have been cut in the traditional way from down up. To the eyes of the initiated they look impossible, some going virtually straight up to a height of 500m.
Kastraki, a village nestled among the rocks
By far the prettiest village in the area, Kastraki fits snugly in the base of the giant rocks and welcomes climbers, who can take their pick of cozy hotels, rooms in private houses and camping sites, tavernas and shops. Palio (Old) Kastraki has been declared a protected traditional settlement.
Kalambaka: the gateway to the higher realm
Kalambaka opens the door to Meteora. The commercial and tourist hub of the region, it has lots of hotels, rooms to let and good restaurants – all the makings of a dreamy holiday. Take a stroll in the old part of town, called Spotos, which has been given a tasteful facelift. Don’t miss Greece’s only woodworking school here and a traditional foundry, where you’ll find rare hand-crafted bronze wares.
Hidden gems of Meteora
The multi-arched bridge of Sarakina
Heading from Kalambaka towards Trikala, you’ll come to the historic hamlet of Sarakina 8km outside town. It’s worth the trip to see the largest stone bridge in Trikala prefecture, the famous six-arched bridge, which went up in the 16th century. It is one of the most interesting attractions in the area.
The Theopetra Cave
Just 4km outside Kalambaka, another surprising sight awaits you: an enormous cave, whose main chamber measures about 500 sq. m. Scientists calculate that the formation of the limestone Theopetra (or god-rock) Cave occurred during the late Cretaceous period, 137 million to 60 million years ago. It was inhabited as early as 50,000 years ago.
Hiking and mountain biking in Meteora
Hiking in Meteora is relaxing and exciting at the same time. You can join a group through one of the many adventure tourism agencies in the area. Mountain biking is another enticing option.